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(1/22/11) The review for the Gerber Freeman fixed blade knife with s30v stainless blade, stag handle, and drop point tip was provided by Patrick R. from Kansas. Thank you Patrick for such a great review. If you have used the Gerber Freeman then tell us what you think of it by leaving a comment below.
I will preclude my review by making a confession: I am a steel snob. There, I said it. When it comes to knives, I prefer higher-end steel as opposed to the steel you find on most budget knives. For this reason, most Gerber knives do not even warrant my attention as they frequently use 440A stainless steel in almost everything. For my ”steel snob” tastes, if it isn’t 154CM or better, I don’t consider it.
The Gerber Freeman hunting knife has been around for quite a while, and while it is a great design made by a man with a lot of experience making good knives, Gerber chose what I consider to be an inferior steel in order to keep costs down and increase volume of sales. For this reason, I never bothered to look at the Freeman hunting knife.
All that changed when I received a gift card to Bass Pro and hopped on their web site to look for a good knife. I found the Gerber Freeman drop point knife with stag handles and s30v steel. Now this caught my attention, so I ordered one.
Upon inspection, I noticed the fit is very good, with the stag handles having an even thickness on each side. The blade is satin finished and came hair shaving sharp. HOWEVER, the edge bevels were very uneven, which makes sharpening a real pain in the… well, you get the idea. This is sad to see in a knife that costs $100+, and will make reprofiling the edge a necessity if you want to keep it sharp in the future. The clip point relief cuts on the spine toward the tip are uneven as well. The jimping on the spine and in the finger choils could stand to be more aggressive also.
I sent it off to have the bevels professionally reprofiled, and now it is easy to keep hair popping sharp. The main draw to steels such as 440A, C and 154CM for hunting knives are the ease of sharpening. The drawback is that you have to sharpen them much more frequently. S30V is harder to sharpen than typical 440A, 420HC, or even 440C or 154CM, but it also keeps it’s edge for considerably longer. Two seasons ago, I was able to use the knife to process two deer (that means from field dressing to freezer) before I needed to sharpen it. Even then it only needed some touch up on my Spyderco Sharpmaker to return the edge to hair popping sharpness. Don’t use it to try to cut bone and the edge should be fine. S30V is not a steel you want to abuse, however. Don’t try to use this knife as an axe, as the edge will chip instead of just roll. This might have something to do with the way Gerber heat treats their s30v, as other companies’ heat treatment of s30v yields a tougher, better result. S30V should be on par with D2 tool steel when it comes to edge retention, and I don’t feel that Gerber’s s30v comes close.
The handle fills the hand very well, and if you wish, you can attach a lanyard to the butt end to secure it to your wrist during camping work. The drawback to the stag is that it gets a bit slick when it’s wet with either water or blood. I may make a set of micarta handles for it to replace the antler and give it more grip.
In all, the knife isn’t bad for a higher-end steel. It isn’t all s30v can be, either. If I didn’t have the Bass Pro card, I’m not sure I would have spent the $100+ for this knife, as I had read a couple other reviews about Gerber’s heat treating of s30v. My out-of-pocket price was less than for a standard Gerber Freeman, however, so it was worth it.
If you’re going to spend this kind of money for a higher end knife, s30v steel is a good one to consider as long as the heat treatment is good. Buck Knives makes use of Paul Bos to heat treat their s30v, and there are few better at it than him. Cabela’s Alaskan Guide series of Buck Knives in s30v is superior to the Gerber, and Knives of Alaska with their D2 steel is also superior to the Gerber knife. If my gift card had been to Cabela’s instead of Bass Pro, I would not have gotten this Gerber Freeman, as the Buck and KoA knives are superior.
Manufacturer’s Specs for the Gerber Freeman:
- S30V steel blade
- Genuine stag handles
- Superior edge retention
- Drop point blade length 4-inch
- High quality leather sheath
- .83 pounds