When Congress made assisted-opening knives legal in all 50 states in 2009 — previously they fell within the same stringent definition as the still-banned switchblade — manufacturers scrambled to meet anticipated demand. For anyone who has fumbled with trying to open a knife blade with one hand while holding onto a rope or other item with the other, assisted-opening knives are a savior — just a slight flick with one’s thumb on the blade and the knife blade swings all the way open and locks into place.
Always eager to test new technology, the SNEWS® test team got its hands on several Gerber AO (assisted opener) F.A.S.T. knives — one drop point blade full edge and the other partially serrated. Our official tester for the knife is an outdoorsman and full-time contractor/craftsman. In other words, the knife has had serious daily use as a contractor’s tool since March 2010…and is still being used regularly.
The AO F.A.S.T. 3.0 features a 3-inch drop point blade and a hefty handle with deep finger grooves to provide secure grip. A carabiner-style clip doubles as a bottle opener — or there is a belt clip for securing to, umm, a belt or pocket. It weighs just under 5 ounces, so it is certainly not a lightweight knife, but that is the point — this knife is built to last, feel very well balanced, and take years of abuse, we were told.
So how did our official tester like the knife? In his words:
My sole maintenance effort with this Gerber was to powder the action, when new, with dry graphite. This lube is perfect for mechanisms such as this, and I highly recommend it. I sharpened a lot of carpenter pencils during this time, and it was quite sharp enough for this task. Many knives won’t do this no matter how well sharpened. I haven’t noticed any dulling as yet, and I would have expected it by now. I’ve opened boxes, shaved wood and pried crystals from stones. No problems, and no chips missing.
The worst insult was the time I left it on the workbench directly adjacent to bricks being drysawn. This is brutal to mechanisms, and the saw itself is considered disposable because of the incredible clouds of grit surrounding the operation. The knife’s safety button did get arthritic, but when blown with compressed air, it cleared up.
The blade has some play, but that would be expected for a slick operation, which this knife delivers. It is functionally positive and confident. It favors a right hand as it has a safety for the right thumb, but my clumsy left did just fine using my left forefinger on the button. The pocket clip sculpted out of the way of the left thumb, and had a good shape and spring for easy on and off the pocket.
There are a series of scallops on the thumb brace on the backside and a deep scallop for the thumb flick in the blade. The blade has a concave swoop on the backside, which reduces weight and gives a more spare shape when closed. The assisted flick seems to trigger at the right time, and its power seems well modulated.
This knife could be easily tied onto a pole in order to convert to a spear, with all of its holes and scallops. I actually wanted this feature once in the Tetons. We were two families camping with four kids — and animals with attitude in abundance. Forget the black bear that bluff-charged the 12 year olds, we had a four point buck in our camp for three days, and for some odd reason, was demonstrating weird hostility the whole time. I really wanted a spear…
Although the spear theory wasn’t officially tested, we thought the AO F.A.S.T. 3.0 knife performed well for a variety of outdoor and work-related tasks, and is still holding up after months of use and abuse.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $75
For more information: www.gerbergear.com