The Center-Drive is one of Gerber’s latest in a long line of specialized multi-tools and one that attempts to address an age-old problem with multi-tools: the lack of a useful screwdriver. Screwdrivers may be a staple on almost every multi-tool, but few have worked well. The drive itself is usually stubby and the tip so tiny it is almost impossible to use. Also, because it is usually so close to larger tools, it is difficult to reach into tight spots with it. By extending the length of the drive and angling it so the user can achieve more torque, and do so more naturally, Gerber is aiming to make the screwdriver not only more useful, but also one of the main features of this multi-tool.
Anyone who regularly shops for or uses knives, multi-tools, or similar items knows the name Gerber. Gerber is a legendary American knife company that started selling kitchen knives through the Abercrombie & Fitch Catalog in 1939. Its products quickly became popular, and by 1987, the company had been purchased by Fiskars of Finland. By 2003, Gerber had become the second largest maker of multi-tools, behind legendary Leatherman. Today, Gerber is famous for its fixed blades, folders, and, of course, multi-tools.
Construction of the Center-Drive
The Center-Drive is constructed with durability in mind. This means it is solid, and each of the tools is designed to be used, not just to fill a spot in the handle. Although it is stripped down to the essential, most-used tools, it is still a bit larger and heavier than many of its competitors. In fact, it is doubtful that “small” was ever a consideration when this multi-tool was created. The screwdriver is longer and uses standard bits (i.e., it’s the same one you are already using in your drill), the knife is 30% larger, and the pliers are the full-sized ones Gerber is known for.
Unlike many multi-tools, the pliers, screwdriver, and utility knife (the three main tools) can be used without unfolding (and then refolding) the entire tool. The pliers are deployed by a thumb-operated slide (or a simple flick of the wrist), and both the knife and screwdriver are folded into the outside of the handle. Not only are the bits standard size, but they are also magnetic, which comes in handy when you’re trying to avoid losing screws outdoors. Each tool does come with two bits, a Standard and Philips, but a pack of 12 additional bits is also available.
The main housing is constructed of stainless steel and matted to reduce reflection, and the main tools are black painted steel. The pliers are also black, but cast metal. The only plastic on the tool is the lock/unlock device. Overall, the multi-tool is constructed well and ready for use out of the box.
As mentioned earlier, the Center-Drive has been stripped off many of the unused tools found on similar models by other manufacturers. But this does not mean you are settling for less; there’s just more of what you actually need. The Center-Drive includes:
Heavy-duty tapered pliers with cutter and wire stripper
- ¼-inch magnetic bit driver
- Serrated blade
- Utility knife
- Course file
- Can opener with pry bar
- Standard and Phillips bit with storage for extra bit in the handle
- Optional 12-piece bit set
- Lanyard attachment point
- Nylon sheath
Gerber is known for its sliding plier design, which allows deployment with a single thumb or even a flick of the wrist. This is a feature the Center-Drive includes as well. The difference between this and other Gerber multi-tools is the shape of those pliers, which are a combination of needle-nose and wide-grip pliers. Plus, there is a carbide wire cutter that can be rotated. A small notch also allows you to use the cutter as a wire stripper.
The main feature of the Center-Drive is the screwdriver. Rather than simply unfold from within the handle, this unit uses a larger, longer drive that is stored outside the main compartment, so it can be more easily accessed. When deployed, the larger, longer drive allows the user to reach tighter, recessed spaces and apply additional torque if needed. This makes the screwdriver a functional tool, rather than one that’s only for show.
The utility knife is another focal point of the Center-Drive. The drop point design is more functional than many competitor’s choices and is 30% larger as well. It is also stored on the outside of the main housing, allowing use without the need to open the handle, unfold the knife, and close the handle. All in all, this is a knife and design that is far more functional than you would expect from a multi-tool.
The remaining tools each offer the functionality and quality construction you look for in a multi-tool that will be used rather than simply hung on a belt. The file offers a large, coarse surface that will attack any job with gusto. The serrated blade is slightly smaller than the utility blade, but it is still heavy enough to provide real cutting power. The awl is super sharp and strong enough to help make some serious holes into a wide range of materials. Finally, there is the can opener. This is a feature that most users take for granted, but Gerber has upped the stakes by incorporating a small cat paw pry bar.
The Center-Drive is heavy, weighing more in the hand than many similar models, but that is not a problem when using it. The larger size allows for ease of grip and solid control. All the tools are easy to deploy, and the outside placement of the screwdriver and utility knife is especially nice, as these are likely the tools you need most often. Of course, thanks to the standard Gerber slide deploy, the pliers are also easily accessed. The combination of a tapered, almost needle nose and a standard wide grip shape allows the pliers to be used in a variety of scenarios and in tight locations. Although the carbide cutter is not a unique feature, the fact that it can be removed or rotated when damaged or dull is new. This is a feature that will not only increase the functionality, but also the life of the multi-tool.
Although it is difficult to tell if the offset screwdriver really performs better than other designs, it sure is easier to use. Plus, it feels a lot more comfortable in the hand while doing so. Although not every user will have a need for the additional 12-bit kit, it is nice to have the option. Should you opt not to purchase the kit, you can always dig through your toolbox for spare bits from other tools and use those without any problems.
Each Center-Drive comes with a dual compartment nylon holster capable of holding both the multi-tool and the optional drive kit. The head of the holster includes a large vertical snap strap for attachment to a belt, MOLLE gear, and a host of other location. There are also three smaller horizontal straps for attachment in different positions or to additional gear. Overall, the holster is well constructed and promises many years of hassle-free use. It was good to see the new additional snap strap that allows you to connect the holster to a wider range of packs, belts, etc. Unfortunately, the holster is not as secure as it could be, especially when the tool is removed. It always seems as if the bit kit will just drop out, never to be seen again.
Who Should Own the Gerber?
There was a time when everyone wanted a multi-tool. Things have slowed down a bit, but multi-tools appear to be making a comeback. Still, that doesn’t mean that every multi-tool is right for every user. One of the biggest changes made to multi-tools over the years is a focus on specific niches with specially selected tools. The Center-Drive is a return-to-the-roots multi-tool that focuses on the tools the average DIYer will find most useful.
Those looking for a quality multi-tool with improved pliers and screwdriver will appreciate the new approach to both. The carbide cutter and wire stripper are a bonus, as is the larger utility knife. The pry bar is simple, yet at the same time extremely useful. Given the current popularity of tiny EDC pry bars, it is hard to believe it took this long to include one in a multi-tool. Although this may not help you defuse an IED or clean an M-4, it will help you accomplish a wide range of everyday tasks.
The Gerber Center-Drive retails between $110 and $132, depending on finish and whether you select the optional bit kit. While this is certainly not the cheapest multi-tool on the market, that does not mean it is not a good value. After all, you get what you pay for, and with the Center-Drive, you get a well-constructed, redesigned multi-tool with accessories you will actually use. Plus, it is made by one of the most experienced and trusted names in multi-tools. Given what you would spend to purchase a knife and EDC toolkit(s) that include everything the Center-Drive places in a single package, it is worth the investment.
Overall, the Center-Drive is another example of the quality you expect from Gerber. The redesigned pliers, larger knife, and center drive allow it to be useful in a wide range of applications and easier to use as well. The focus on the most popular tools and placement of the knife and screwdriver on the outside of the handle pays off. It is a well thought-out design, and the optional bit kit allows those who need it to easily upgrade. Unfortunately, the holster is not as secure as it could be, and you may risk losing the bit drive when left on the holster by itself.
Based on the overall design and field test, the Gerber Center-Drive gets 4 stars.
Get yours here: https://uspatriottactical.com/gerber-center-drive-multi-tool-with-bitset-and-molle-compatible-sheath/
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.