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Old 01-30-2011, 17:36   #1
speedsix
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Gerber Big Rock review inexpensive camp knife

I first saw a Gerber Big Rock at Dick's Sporting Goods. It was in a blister pack hanging on a hook in the aisles not in the glass case. I saw it after giving the knives in the case a good look and I didn't see anything to my liking. I am VERY particular when it comes to knives at this point in my my life as I know what I want and what works and what is nonsense.

I have been looking for a good fixed blade to preform tasks that were too large for my EDC folding knives. My typical EDC knife is something like a Spyderco Delica (sometimes it is a Delica). I don't carry huge tactical folders because they are too heavy and often do not cut well. I carry a Centofante 4 or a Delica or maybe an Endura at most.

Knives of this size are actually pretty good for the vast majority of tasks I ask a knife to do. They will still cut a small sapling down and strip the bark and small branches off if you want to make a walking stick. I have done this with a hardwood tree and only had my Centofante 4 which is considered a "gents" knife by most. It stood you to the task and never got loose or damaged in any way. I was putting a lot of stress on the knife and half expected it to fail yet it didn't.

Still, there are tasks that a larger knife would be more practical at preforming. That is why I was looking a solid medium sized fixed blade. I was looking for something with a 5" blade give or take. I have a couple of large fixed blades like my superb semi-customized RTAK-II but I find I don't carry them and they are too much knife and not enough hatchet or machete.

I had no price limit in mind for this fixed blade and I was willing to spend $200+ to get what I wanted. I have owned many fixed blades of this type that just didn't work out for some reason. I have had knives such as the Benchmade Nimavarus, Buck 119, Scrapyard Scrapper 5, Bark River North Star, custom knives, etc. None have been quite right.

What I feel a common problem with higher end knives tends to be is weight and thickness of blade. Many of these knives are built like tanks but they weigh as much as tanks and often have hard slippery handles. There are exceptions but as a rule I find $100 plus knives to have weight problems.

I found the Gerber Big Rock and I knew that it would be a good knife without even picking it up. The design is inspired! It has a blade that is just over 4" but is fairly tall and almost completely full flat ground. It is a blade that can do light chopping as well as slicing and batoning. The handle is full tang with rubber over-molded soft rubber over harder plastic. Think Hogue stocks and you have an idea. They are held in place by torx screws so they can be removed or replaced if needed. They make for a secure grip.

The sheath is fairly basic yet has two features that make it better than it looks at first glance. It has a hard plastic or kydex insert to stop the blade from cutting through the nylon part of the sheath and it has a thumb snap strap instead of Velcro which will hold it more secure for longer. Velcro wears out fast. Also, the thumb snap is nice and tight so it keeps the blade in place well. I bought this knife thinking I was going to toss the sheath and make or have made a kydex sheath for use. I will still do this but the sheath is good enough for now. It is better than it looks at first.

The steel is 440A which is not a modern super steel by any standards. I am very familiar with 440A and while it is a lower grade steel, it makes sense in a hard use outdoor knife like this. The 440 range of steels (440A, 440B and 440C) are extremely rust resistant and 440A is the most most rust resistant of the three. It is also very tough and will resist chipping and breaking better than most super steels. It does lack hardness and edge holding ability but is easy to sharpen.

I find that when I am going to use a knife and abuse the edge, I don't want a diamond hard steel that takes forever to sharpen. I am going to dull the edge either way so might as well have a steel that is easier to sharpen.

440A gets a bad rep because a lot of cheap imported knives claim to be 440 when in fact they are not true 440 steels. They simply stamp "440" or "440 Surgical stainless" or some other nonsense on the blade. That has soured people on the entire 440 line but in fact it is a good steel in it's place.

Blade steel gets more press than it deserves. Properly heat treated, 440A steel is very good and nothing to laugh at. It is not a junk steel. I think Gerber has enough knife making experience that they know how to heat treat 440A by now. Blade design and edge profile have more impact on how a knife cuts than blade steel. I have owned many high end knives that had high end steels like BG-42, S30V or whatever but when the blade shape and profile are not right or the edge is not ground at a good angle, the steel fails to impress.

The Gerber Big Rock has a nice flat ground blade with a fine edge and it is a very good cutter and slicer. Here is a good example of being able to do more with less. This knife cuts and preforms MUCH better than my $140 Scrapyard Regulator Bowie knife. The Regulator was designed more as a fighting knife than a pure camp knife but I brought it into the review to show that a $140 knife with higher end steel can still be out preformed in some ways than a $30 knife if the maker of the $30 knife knows what they are doing. Gerber knows what they are doing.

I carry a diamond stone with me when camping so the idea that my steel has to stay sharp is moot. I know how to sharpen and would rather spend 5 mins getting a softer steel back into shape than 1/2 hour trying to hone S30-V everytime I chop down a few saplings or have to use the knife to dig in the dirt. I wouldn't want to abuse a high end super steel because of the time it takes to put an edge back on it. S30-V is much harder to sharpen than 440A.

There are a few cons with the Big Rock however.

The sheath would be better if it was kydex and had a quick release belt holder clip of some type. That would add cost to the knife however and I see that they had to cut expensive to make it work as a $30 knife.

The handle is very comfortable in a normal grip but not so when you hold it edge up. I often use a knife in this manner so it is something I noticed right away. The scales are thin and will work well for people with small hands or while wearing gloves. They are borderline too thin for me. I would prefer a more oval grip that was slightly larger. I find oval with no finger grooves works best in all grips and while using the knife hard. The grip profile from a Falkniven S-1 would be much more ideal. Even the SOG Seal Pup would be better. It has shallow finger grooves but they are not that bad in a reverse grip. It could just have easily have been done with no added cost. It may have been slightly cheaper in fact as it is a more simple grip shape to machine.

The back of the blade has a thumb ramp that to me is not needed. It is a very minor problem but I find that if I want to place my thumb on the back of the spine, the ramp invariably gets in my way and is uncomfortable. Again, this is a case where less is more and a more simple design would have worked better. I think they were trying to design a knife that would sell and grab a little attention, hence the front finger groove and thumb ramp. Plain is functional but not as sexy as finger grooves and thumb ramps and complex grinds.

I paid $25 shipped for this knife. I didn't buy it at Dicks for $35 + tax, I got it online for less. I would consider $35 to be a bargain if I did pay it however and it is well worth it as there is nothing in that price range that is any better.


Some have compared this knife to the Mora which is confusing to me as the Mora is simply not in this class. The Mora is a good utility knife and outdoor knife but it can't do what the Gerber can do. I have owned Moras and they are too small and light for chopping or heavy use. They are more comparable to a folding knife like an Endura than a knife like the Gerber Big Rock. Why would I carry a Mora when I could just carry my Endura? That is why I don't even use a Mora anymore. The Endura made it pointless in my world.


So if I could change a few things about this knife without changing the cost too much or making it into a completely different knife I would do the following:

1. Make the handle similar to a Falkniven S-1 or SOG Seal Pup. More oval and slightly fatter. No added cost.

2. Include a kydex sheath with belt clip or snap strap that could attach to a pack or belt. Added cost but could be an option. Many knives come with various sheaths at different price points.

3. Shave down the thumb ramp. No added cost if you don't put it in there to start with.

4. VG-10 steel version. Much added cost but it could be an option like the sheath.

I would pay $80-100 for the knife with the small tweaks stated above in VG-10 and with the kydex sheath.
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Old 01-31-2011, 08:04   #2
Bilbo Bagins
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The Big Rock knife is a pretty good knife for the money and makes a decent survival/camping blade.

Like you said my biggest beef is the sheath.Its cheap and fugly. Also you can get a non- serrated version. I bought mine at Cabelas

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Last edited by Bilbo Bagins; 01-31-2011 at 08:04..
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Old 01-31-2011, 08:16   #3
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:26   #4
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I am putting the Gerber Big Rock as a "BEST BUY" for a fixed blade in the $25-35 range.

I don't know of a better knife for the money all things considered.

Also, the more I hold, handle and use this knife, the less the handle seems to bother me. Everytime I pick it up, it feels better to me.

If they made it out of VG-10 steel, tweaked the design just a bit to make it more like I stated above and supplied it with a nice kydex sheath they could sell this for $60-75 all day long and people would be happy to pay it because it would still be one of the best knives for that money.

The beauty of this knife is in the light weight, flat ground thin blade and grippy handle. There are plenty of knives that would be stronger and more robust but having owned most of them, I find they often suffer from being far too heavy and having too thick of a blade. Strength is well and good but I have never broken a fixed blade that I can remember and most of the knives I have owned until recent years have not been sharpened prybars.

I am a big fan of Scrapyard, RAT, Ontario and others but the trend of making 4" blade knives with 1/4" thick steel is annoying. This Gerber is under 3/16" and it is flat ground nearly to the spine so most of the blade is MUCH thinner. That makes for a knife that cuts far better than a thicker knife with less effort.

This Gerber with it's run of the mill 440A steel actually cuts better than most $200 knives I have owned due to the well designed blade. Compare this to the Rat-4 and you will see what I mean. The Gerber weighs half as much, costs 1/3 the price and IMHO cuts better than the RAT-4. Is it as strong? Probably not but it is still 3/16" 440A steel in a full tang fixed blade. This is still an incredibly strong knife that would take tremendous effort to break. You don't have to be careful or worry about using it, this knife is much stronger than even the best custom knives of the past. Look at an old WWII era Randall and compare the designs. My guess is the Gerber would be stronger.
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Old 02-02-2011, 14:28   #5
cosmose
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Awesome review! i have always been a big gerber fan, (they have several gems out there the lst and gator folders etc.) i have yet to see a Big Rock (except online) i might i have to give one a try. especially for the price.
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Old 07-29-2014, 18:17   #6
buckeye49
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Gerber Big Rock Camp knife

Quote:
Originally Posted by cosmose View Post
Awesome review! i have always been a big gerber fan, (they have several gems out there the lst and gator folders etc.) i have yet to see a Big Rock (except online) i might i have to give one a try. especially for the price.
I have 3 of these knives (2 plain edge and one with a serrated edge), I love each of them. They do the job, and do it well and at a really low price. They are easy to sharpen in the field and are durable. The are the perfect length for skinning and for camp chores. I have lots of much more expensive knives, but the Big Rock Camp knife is my favorite.

Last edited by buckeye49; 07-29-2014 at 18:21..
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