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Bear Grylls AO Knife Review

The range of Gerber Bear Grylls products continues to expand in 2014, with another, more compact fire starter, a tinderbox, multi-purpose ‘card tool’, updated Compact knife and what we’re looking at today – the Bear Grylls Survival AO Knife.

This new model brings the Gerber Bear Grylls range of blades up to around 15 with them now selling hatchets as well as parangs and sliding saws. Unlike every other knife they’ve released so far, this is the first to feature an assisted opening, which helps the blade to engage after force is applied to the thumb stud.

The Bear Grylls AO features a three inch blade with partial serrations using a steel designed for daily use and high corrosion resistance. The 7Cr17MoV steel won’t hold a razor sharp edge as long as some premium knives but out-of-the-box it was incredibly sharp. In comparison to the Compact Scout, the Gerber Prodigy and even the Ultimate Pro, the AO was on another level. I was able to shave arm hairs without the slightest drag or effort and even after a lot of testing, I could cleanly cut through a single piece of A4 paper held in my hand. Of course, these tests don’t relate to every day usage or the intended purpose of the knife but they do give an insight into just how sharp it is.

Every day carry, if the law allows.

Every day carry, if the law allows.

Using the pocket clip in casual clothes.

Using the pocket clip in casual clothes.

Made of 30% glass-filled nylon, the handle is 4.2” long and when open the AO is 7.4”, with a not unsubstantial weight of 93 grams. The body is coloured in Grylls’ signature orange with black, over moulded rubber grips which give you a significant amount of feel, which is needed when trying to flick the knife open.

Assisted opening does not mean automatic and it’s also not a switchblade. Assisted opening knives also work with a spring that is tensioned as the blade is folded away but they require force to be applied to push the blade out rather than a simple button that shoots the blade out automatically. Switchblade knives are illegal in the US and of course the UK too so this every-day-carry item ought to be legal, right? Wrong.

The problem isn’t with blade length or the automatic opening but with the fact it’s a locking knife. In the US, locking knives are legal only when the blade is shorter than or equal to two inches and in the UK, locking knives are illegal to carry full stop. That also makes the tiny Compact Scout technically illegal to carry. These laws apply unless of course you have good reason (that is accepted) to be carrying them. Remember, these laws do not apply to ownership, just to carrying. You can read about the UK knife law in full by clicking here.

The spring tension is fairly high, so once you apply enough pressure to the thumb stud the blade will be rotated into place quickly and sharply – excuse the pun. To apply enough pressure was sometimes a task however and while the mechanism is super-smooth, it is certainly not easy to open, at least at first. I found manually opening and closing a handful of times eased everything up a bit and made the action more consistent. The AO allows for one handed operation so if you’re busy holding something down with one hand, you can grab the knife, open it and get to work with the other.

The blade was incredibly sharp out-of-the-box.

The blade was incredibly sharp out-of-the-box.

Once open, the AO has a safety lock thanks to a metal plunger which will prevent it from closing until the pin is released. This also gives you the option to fold the knife and then lock it closed, giving it zero chance of ever accidentally coming open. Closing the knife is dealt with using a circular, sprung metal pad that releases the main lock and allows you to fold it closed.

Compact Scout, AO, Gerber Prodigy, Ultimate Pro.

Compact Scout, AO, Gerber Prodigy, Ultimate Pro.

Pocket clip being used in the wild.

Pocket clip being used in the wild.

On the back side of the handle is a pocket clip, which I found I wanted to remove. Thankfully it is only held in place with two very small star screws. You’ll need a high quality set of screwdrivers though, because these things are in very tight! I rounded the heads on what I thought was a half-decent set before I gave up with the clip still attached. In the field, the pocket clip is useful, allowing you to attach the knife to your waistband, belt or a pocket for quick access but if you want to carry it inside a pocket, you’ll probably want to remove it for extra comfort and a bit of weight saving. Fortunately the clip doesn’t get in the way when you’re using it which came as a bit of a surprise, though the story may be a little different for any left-handers out there.

The knife also features a small lanyard hole punched through the top corner of the handle. With a weight of 93 grams, I think it’s too heavy to be wearing around the neck and along with the pocket clip, I certainly wouldn’t want to.

Wood shaving - so much easier with a sharp edge.

Wood shaving – so much easier with a sharp edge.

The sharpness of the blade made every cutting task far easier and the solid build quality gave me confidence when applying more pressure. For a knife costing around £35, I am massively surprised at just how good it is. It retails for only £12 more than the Compact Scout, which feels almost flimsy in comparison and has a much smaller blade.

At present, the knife isn’t available in the UK at all – even months after release in the US. The only way to get hold of it here is through Amazon with free shipping from the US. If you’re looking for a folding knife that’s brilliantly sharp out of the box, maintains an edge well, needs little maintenance and comes in a fairly compact, rugged and well built body then the Bear Grylls Survivor AO is a good a choice as any.


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