Asada Micarta, Sedulo, and Fastball in the past few years, as well as the innovative Dual-Force Multitool. And while all of these tools (well, except the Asada Micarta) have been likeable, well-designed tools, none of them have really been high-end EDC pieces. The Sedulo sort of comes close in terms of function, but certainly not materials – it’s a working man’s knife, with textured polymer handles and a stonewashed S30V blade – hardly pocket jewelry. I really liked the reach upmarket the Sedulo made, though – comparing favorably to perennial fan favorite, the Benchmade Griptilian.
With the Savvy, it’s clear that Gerber is trying to go for the throat of makers selling mid-range priced premium products in the $100-$250 range. Anthony Sculimbrene at Everyday Commentary said it pretty well when the Savvy was announced: “the 600lb Gorilla is doing a bit of chest thumping.” The Savvy is an unusually expensive folding knife for Gerber, ringing in at $250 for this carbon fiber version but a still considerable $200 for the aluminum handled variant. While most knife enthusiasts agree that we’d like to see Gerber get back to making the Legendary Blades that their namesake implies (and they’ve certainly made strides in that direction), at $250 the Savvy Carbon Fiber is up against some real heavy hitters in the EDC market. Which begs the question – is it any good? Is it worth the price? What are they doing up here in this rarified air, and should they be? Let’s find out.
Key Specs: Gerber Savvy
The blade on the Savvy (both this Carbon Fiber variant as well as the regular aluminum ones) is a utilitarian modified Wharncliffe blade shape, measuring 3.5” long with a 3.375” cutting edge. The grind, like the Fastball, is a medium flat grind, coming up about 2/3 of the way up the height of the blade before transitioning into a broad flat. That flat intersects with the point of the spine where it turns down towards the tip to create the Wharncliffe shape. The plunge line is diagonal with a radiused edge towards the pivot, and the sharpening choil is very short, leaving just a tiny “beard” at the trailing edge of the blade. Blade stock on the Savvy is 0.125” thick, coming down to 0.041” right behind the edge bevel, according to my calipers. The blade measure 0.875” tall at its widest point, so it’s a relatively long but narrow blade profile.
Blade steel on the Savvy – both this CF version as well as the aluminum version – is Crucible CPM-20CV, a modern powdered metallurgy “supersteel” which is chemically similar to Bohler M390 as well as Carpenter CTS-204p. While CPM S30V is still an excellent steel for EDC purposes (which is what is used on the Sedulo), a glance at the composition chart shows why 20CV performs better than S30V – it has almost 50% more carbon (which is the primary determinant of edge retention and hardness), much more chromium (corrosion resistance), the same high dose of Vanadium (wear resistance, hardness/toughness, and smaller grain size for cleaner edges), and also has inclusions of silicon and tungsten (which increase strength and toughness.) 20CV is widely considered to be the “it” steel for EDC knives these days, along with 204p and M390, although state of the art in stainless steels seems to change at a pace more comparable to computers than metal. Still, for a folding pocket knife, it’s hard to beat.
Deployment & Lockup
There are several noteworthy things about deployment and lockup on the Savvy. Most noticeable is the lock itself – Gerber calls it a Pivot Lock, but it works the same in principle as Benchmade’s AXIS lock. The pivot lock was also used on the Sedulo, and it’s similarly successful here – a bar, propelled by two springs, holds the blade closed (acting as a detent) and also open, with the springs pushing the bar forward on top of the blade tang to lock it in place. Bar-style locks like the Pivot Lock have a lot of inherent advantages: they’re safer, as your fingers never cross the closing path of the blade to unlock them, they’re fully ambidextrous (action is the same whether you’re right or left-handed), and they’re highly conducive to fidgeting. Lockup on the Savvy is good, with just the tiniest bit of side-to-side play and no vertical play. While side to side play is mildy aggravating, it seems to be pretty common on bar-lock knives that don’t use ball bearings for a pivot, and careful fiddling of the pivot tension can dial it in almost perfectly.
Deployment is via a single-sided thumb stud – which Gerber’s website says can be reversed for left-hand use, but I did not attempt it. There is a hex fitting below the rounded thumb stud itself which suggests it can be unthreaded, but a 5mm hex is too large and a 4mm is too small – ditto SAE sockets, where a 3/16” touches the corners but a 5/32” won’t fit over the top. Maybe it’s a 4.5mm hex? Of more interest is the pivot system, which Gerber describes as a “frictionless pivot” with “anti-rotation washers.” How does that work? Well, if you peek through the liners you’ll see washers standing proud above and around the pivot area. These oddly shaped phosphor bronze washers are held in place by the stop pin, and provide a broad contact surface for the blade to ride on. Frictionless? I don’t think so; while the Savvy is pretty smooth for a knife on washers, it isn’t as liquid-smooth as bearing pivot bar lock knives like SOG’s XR lock, which uses caged bearings. But the captured washers are a neat idea, shared with the Chris Reeve Sebenza, so there’s that.
One oddity I found while using the knife was a clicking noise when you pull the lock open, which after inspection I found was due to the bar lock springs hitting the metal liner. These springs have a full loop for extra tension, and the loop contacts the trailing edge of the liner when you depress them, popping out when you apply more force. I don’t know what effect this has on longevity of the springs, but I doubt it’s a good one. I like the unique pivot system on the Sedulo better, with washers that are built into the blade itself(!) allowing much easier disassembly and less fiddling with pivot tension to get a good action. You can still get the knife to flick open smoothly and swing shut with little effort while dialing in the blade play, but it’s not perfect. And at $250, it should be on bearings, if you’re asking me.
Features, Fit & Finish
While Gerber might have skipped the ball bearings on this knife, they really didn’t skip a lot of other stuff. While the regular Savvy has machined aluminum handles and comes in at a svelte 2.9 ounces, the carbon fiber version uses forged carbon fiber scales – rather than traditional woven carbon, giving it a random pattern and a deep, lustrous appearance. This also brings the weight down to 2.4 ounces, which is very light for a folding knife with a 3.5” blade. The Savvy is also part of Gerber’s custom program, meaning you can spec one out in a number of different ways to your preferences – black oxide blade, three different color aluminum or carbon fiber handles, custom laser etching on the blade, and six different color choices for all the hardware on the knife. This can get expensive quickly, but it’s nice to see them offering the option.
The carbon scales on this one are very nice, featuring chamfered edges all the way around for a comfortable grip, and the metal liners are nested inside. Construction is interesting – the two rear standoffs are screwed into place while the front one presses into the scales, and the center body screw passes through the scales to thread into the rear tang of the liner, stabilizing it. The pocket clip is an attractive bent steel clip secured by two vertical screws set in a channel to prevent it from rotating, and the opposite side has a blanking plate with a single screw – which can be swapped around for right hand carry. It’s configured for right hand tip up carry from the factory, and can be swapped to left hand tip up but due to the pivot lock it cannot be carried tip down. A deep carry clip would be a nice inclusion here.
Fit and finish on the Savvy is very good, with the exception of the factory edge – which while sharp and symmetrical could have used another step higher grit belt before it got put in the box, looking a little rough and toothy. But standard hallmarks of quality control are there – the blade is centered between the scales when closed, all of the screws are flush with the scales when tightened down, the liners that peek out at the bottom are flush with the scales – this is a well-built knife.
Branding is minimal, with a tiny Gerber shield behind the thumb stud, “Made in USA” and the steel type and serial number etched on the opposite side, and Gerber on the clip. It’s classy but not overdone, attracting compliments from those who notice.
This knife carries great in the pocket. The light weight and slim profile mean it virtually disappears when it’s clipped in place, with no protrusions or sharp edges to bump into when you’re reaching past it to grab your keys. As mentioned earlier, my only gripe with carry is the lack of a deep carry clip, but the clip mounting base is at the very end of the knife, so it could be worse.
In use, the modified Wharncliffe style blade is very useful, just like it’s most obvious competitor – more on that later. It offers the utility of a drop point with a lower blade tip making it easier to precision cut packaging, with less wrist angle needed to get the blade situated where you want it, but it still has a nice acute tip for piercing – the blade stock thinning down past where the tip turns down on the spine. Improvements can always be made, though, and I think this knife would benefit from a full flat grind rather than this high flat grind to thin the profile of the blade out more since it’s relatively narrow from top to bottom. The Sedulo does this, and I think the knife cuts better overall. Ergonomics leave no complaints – this is a very neutral shaped handle, with a forward finger guard for security and a flat spine to rest your thumb on. There is no jimping, and nor does it feel necessary – the handles feel planted in your hand, and there’s plenty of space for a full grip. The clip is fairly low profile and does not present a hot spot when in use. Despite the minimal steel liner, there is zero flex to the handles when gripping hard – benefits of carbon composites, to be sure. This is a great sized knife for EDC use provided the 3.5” blade is legal in your particular jurisdiction.
The lock and deployment are just excellent, though, able to be flicked out with your thumb or whipped open via releasing the lock and a wrist flick, and after a break-in period and a little oil, drops shut when closing. Axis Lock fans will immediately feel at home with the Savvy, which has the same addictively smooth action you’re used to.
Servicing and maintaining the Savvy can be tricky. You definitely need diamond abrasives to sharpen this knife properly; 20CV steel is no joke and standard stones really won’t make a difference on it in any reasonable amount of time. The shape of the edge at least makes it sharpener-friendly, as does the flat surface below the spine (great to mount a clamp on) but sharpening this steel is a chore. Maintenance only requires a single bit – a Torx T6 – to remove the clip and body screws, but any teardown of a bar-lock knife is always going to be more complicated than a liner lock or similar, with many small moving parts and springs to keep track of, so approach disassembly with caution.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.
With a 3.5” blade with a downturned tip made from super-premium steel, a bar lock, carbon fiber handles, and US construction, the Savvy Carbon Fiber reminds me very clearly of the Benchmade 940-1 Osborne. The resemblance is frankly uncanny; Gerber’s 3.5” wharncliffe isn’t far from the Benchmade’s 3.44” reverse tanto. Both of them weight 2.4 ounces and stretch out about 7.8” when open, both use similar locks, both have open back construction with hourglass standoffs, ambidextrous tip-up steel clips, thumb studs, phosphor bronze washers, full carbon fiber handles, etc. The Benchmade uses CPM S90V steel, which is another exotic alloy steel with super high carbon (2.3%) and a huge inclusion of vanadium (9%) and both steels hold an edge for a long time. The Benchmade’s MSRP is $70 higher, though. You could say that you have a better chance of getting one with perfect QC from Benchmade, but my experience in that department has not shown that to be true. I do like the contoured carbon fiber scales on the 940-1 better, but neither is a bad choice. With the Sedulo targeting the Griptilian and the Savvy aimed at the 940 Osborne (the aluminum Savvy is priced identically to the aluminum base model 940), it’s clear who Gerber is benchmarking these products against.
Coming in at nearly half the price of the Savvy, the SOG Terminus XR LTE is worth considering. It has a shorter blade – a 3” drop point – and a less premium blade steel, CPM S35VN, but it features full carbon fiber construction like the Kiku XR LTE we reviewed recently, adapted onto the design of the Terminus XR we liked so much when we reviewed it several years ago. It’s even lighter at 2.35 ounces thanks to carbon fiber liners(!), while also packing a flipper tab as well as a thumb stud, and using caged ball bearings in the pivot. SOG’s XR Lock is their take on the sprung bar lock like Gerber and Benchmade are using, and I’ve had great experiences with all of the ones I’ve tested, having excellent detent strength and action. For half the price, it’s hard to go wrong – unless you order the gold PVD blade, although that’s a matter of taste.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Doug Ritter RSK Mk1 G2 – seen here with carbon fiber scales and a CPM Magnacut blade. I absolutely adored the full-sized Hogue Ritter RSK when I reviewed it, and since then the new variants have kept on coming, including a Mini with a sub 3” blade, and arguably the king of them all, the carbon fiber/Magnacut version. At $210 it undercuts the Savvy by $40, it’s made in the USA by Hogue Knives, and although it’s heavier (4.1 ounces), the upgraded steel promises even better edge retention and corrosion resistance than 20CV. The ABLE lock is Hogue’s take on the bar lock style, and it deploys via thumb studs. A deep carry clip is set up for ambidextrous tip up carry, and it has the same great blade profile and ergonomics of the regular RSK.
I was cautiously optimistic about this knife when it was released, because while it had all the right ingredients – materials, lock, weight, dimensions, looks – I was hesitant to assume that Gerber could pull off a high-end product. I’m sure people felt the same way about the Hyundai Genesis, and those are still doing quite well, so maybe pre-judging a product by its brand is going about things backwards. We should judge brands by their products, and the Savvy is really quite nice. I have some minor complaints about it, but overall, as a high-end EDC tool you won’t go wrong with the Savvy.
- Beautiful forged carbon scales, super lightweight, solid and fidget friendly bar lock, premium steel, great in the pocket, nice to see Gerber making high-end stuff!
- At this price it should be on bearings, tricky to dial in the action, difficult to disassemble, should be full flat ground, rough factory edge, could use a deep carry clip