Gerber Air Ranger Folding Pocket Knife Review
“A Skilled Operator in the Outdoors”
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ARMY Rangers are a lethal, proud and agile force capable of efficiently executing high-risk missions. They are among the most well trained soldiers in the world, so the title “Ranger” is not to be taken lightly.
Aside from being highly trained war machines, Rangers are the disciplined, reliable and skillful operators of the wilderness.
Coincidentally, Gerber has taken it upon themselves to adopt the title “Ranger” and apply it to one of their own knives: the Gerber Air Ranger.
Gerber is famous for designing knives made specifically for the avid outdoorsman, and the Ranger is no exception.
Gerber’s classic Air Ranger was designed by the well-known knife maker Bill Harsey, and the value this knife maker brings to the table with the Ranger is undeniable.
Overall, it is a well-designed budget blade that falls into my top 5 folding knives in the sub $30 price bracket.
It’s honestly a fantastic little folding knife that has proven its worth by demonstrating practicality, durability and value. For a knife of such a modest price point, it’s an affordable winner in my book for sure.
WHO IT’S FOR?
In my humble opinion, this knife is for someone who is knife shopping on a thin budget yet doesn’t want a complete piece of trash. Look, I’m honest in all my reviews, and I’ll never hold my punches…
This knife is far from perfect, but what knife isn’t? So I have one request of you: view this knife for what it is: a budget knife that works impressively well. I mean really, what more can you ask for?
Let’s be frank for a second: if you’re a snooty steel snob, this knife isn’t going to be for you. However, if you’re looking to spend under $30 and get some real bang for your buck, the Air Ranger is a solid, value-packed option for you that won’t fail to meet your basic needs.
The Air Ranger, while not a stylish, innovative head-turner by any stretch of the imagination, is still a reliable, practical, lightweight, well-constructed and inexpensive EDC folder that delivers.
The G-10 handle scales give this knife extra pop, the matte gray blade is bold in style and the thumbstuds allow for a vigorous and snappy deployment. There’s no flipping mechanism or spring assisted opening, but the Ranger manages perfectly fine without it.
This is definitely a niche knife, meaning, it excels in one particular area: tackling minor survival tasks in the rougher natural elements.
Its dual purpose nature (in that it also functions well as a practical EDC) gives it a considerable edge and one up on other knives at this attractive price point.
The Air Ranger is a pretty plain looking knife. Nothing extraordinary stands out about it in the looks department, but while it might not ‘pop’, it still maintains a rugged persona with the matte gray blade and black G10 scales.
As you can see, the blade is coated in a handsome titanium grey oxide. It’s a simple look, but it’s a simple knife, so it fits.
Some of the other Air Rangers I’ve seen have a black oxide coating, and obviously that’s gonna completely change the overall look of the knife. (for better or worse is up to you… I personally prefer the gray blade- hence why I’m reviewing it)
When you first reach for this knife and pick it up, you’ll realize it is perfectly sized for the roll of ECD carry. It fits snugly in the hand and isn’t too light or too heavy… It lies right in that perfect goldilocks zone.
The G10 scales also make for a fine first impression. Not only do they give the handle a nice, satisfying grip, but they also make the overall design of the knife seem clean-cut and simple.
Of course, it’s only my opinion, but I think that a pair of nice G-10 scales can make even the ugliest of knives look attractive. Somehow, G-10 can make a knife simultaneously look classy and rugged.
Ok, let’s not kid ourselves here… it’s time to be clear about what this blade is and what it isn’t… 7Cr3Mov is the steel this blade is made of, which is basically the equivalent of 440A.
This is a steel that is by no stretch of the imagination the best steel, but it IS a pretty good budget steel. For a knife in the sub $30 price bracket, it’s certainly a steel I can work with.
One of the nice characteristics of 7Cr13Mov steel is that it’s able to take an edge extremely quickly and easily… It is not, however, the best at holding that edge.
I was never too concerned with that however, as when you’re outside in natures harsh elements, having an outdoors knife that can take an edge easily is a godsend.
For a beginner in particular, nothing is more troublesome than a knife that has a high degree of difficulty when sharpening. Nothing will discourage someone faster than not being able to sharpen their own blade.
When out surviving in nature, it is extremely helpful to be able to easily sharpen your knife in any situation. Luckily, the high hollow grind on this knife makes sharpening a far less stressful task.
As far as the blade goes, it’s shaped as somewhat of a mix between a drop point and a clip point. You get the best of both worlds here.
Drop points are practical designs for all-around usefulness, and clip-points are good at providing the blade with sufficient piercing power. Put two and two together and you’ve got a great blade shape.
In addition to the slight clip point, the blade has a swedge that runs up about half the length of the blade.
While this reduces the overall strength of the spine and makes the tip slightly more fragile, it also increases piercing ability, reduces overall weight of the knife, and simply looks nice.
There are moderately aggressive serrations on the blade. As I always say, serrations vs. no serrations is entirely a personal preference.
One knife user will love serrations and another will hate serrations. You can take em or leave em. They definitely have their place in nature survival though. They stay sharp longer and they cut through rougher, more fibrous material much better than a plain edge.
The blade is covered in a nice light matte grey titanium nitride coating. Truthfully it is a pretty boring color, to me at least, but it does its job.
What’s pretty cool is that I haven’t experienced a lot of scratching with this coating, so that’s a plus. I beat my knives up pretty badly, especially my outdoor knives, so that’s a real compliment actually.
An admirable yet easily overlooked feature is the jimping on the thumb ramp. It really is one aspect of this knife that Gerber managed to absolutely master.
It’s only moderately aggressive jimping, but I’ve found that it is more than enough to make a considerable difference in overall grip control.
A lot of times, jimping on knives like this is superfluous- it’s just for show and serves no practical purpose. Even worse, it can actually get in the way and form some nasty hotspots.
Luckily, that isn’t the case at all here. The jimping on the Ranger is mild and non intrusive yet still highly effective at locking in your hand. Way to go, Gerber. My hat goes off to you for that one.
The handle features black G-10 scales, a thick steel liner lock, an open-back design and a hefty pocket clip.
To say it not so elegantly, the G-10 scales on this knife provide an above-average amount of grip.
This G-10 is nothing special, and it doesn’t produce nearly as much grip as some of my other G-10 knives (like the Spyderco Tenacious), but it’s still grippy enough to instill confidence that it won’t slip out of my hand while cutting.
When it comes straight down to anti-slippage, I would still take a sub-par G-10 handle over a good stainless handle any day. It’s all relevant, I guess.
One nice feature of the handle is that it has an open-back design that allows for easy cleaning. There are 3 pillars in between the scales as well as a 550-friendly lanyard hole in the bottom of the handle.
There’s a lot of good to say about this clip… unfortunately, the pocket clip is single-position only… what a bummer, right? It’s strictly right-hand tip-down carry only. Sorry lefties…
It’s funny, because normally that factor alone could be enough to turn me off to a pocket clip, but the simple truth here is that they actually did a great job with this clip- enough to redeem the infinitely stupid decision to make it only one position..
Looking at this clip, you’ll realize just how thick and beefy it is. I can honestly say I’ve never had any doubts about its durability or reliability. This thing is actually sturdy as hell. I’m surprised how good the clip is considering how inexpensive the knife is.
SO, it may only have one position, but it’s a great clip overall, and I wouldn’t question its functionality when taking this knife along for my crazy hiking adventures. I know it could endure whatever I had to throw at it.
Believe it or not, the impressive speed of deployment is what initially sold me on the Air Ranger when I first got it…
The funny thing is, it doesn’t even deploy using some fancy flipper mechanism or anything like that. It deploys manually using rounded thumbstuds. Yup, no assisted-opening mechanism whatsoever, but believe you me, it’s a fast opener when you flick it open.
That being said, this knife was not the fastest opener when I first got it. It did take a couple days of consistent blade deployments to really break it in. Once broken in however, it was a lot faster than I initially assumed it would be.
I will say this however: this blade may deploy quickly, but it’s definitely not the smoothest opener. For the price point though, I would expect just as much. You can’t get it all. So the deployment is a little jerky, who cares?
It’s not a huge deal, because when you flick the blade open that quickly you can barely even tell. You only really notice the lack of that glossy deployment when you open the knife slowly and draw it out.
The locking liner is relatively thick and chunky on the Ranger- just how I like it. It manages to hold the blade in place quite sturdily. There was absolutely no blade play in any direction. That’s extremely impressive for a knife at this price point…
However, I decided to push this knife to its absolute limits and really, REALLY bang up the locked blade (intentionally, of course…)
After harshly banging the opened blade on a hard surface a couple dozen times, I was able to expose some horizontal blade play. Still, that fact that it even held up as well as it did is surprising to say the least.
Even though I would consider this an outdoors knife, I still wouldn’t pry with it, and I definitely wouldn’t baton with it. Keep in mind that this isn’t a full tang blade. You can’t do the same things with this knife as you would with a TRUE fixed-blade outdoors knife like, say, my Buck 119.
In case you didn’t already know, you should NEVER baton with a folding knife unless you absolutely needed to, and even then I wouldn’t recommend it.
That’s how you push a lock to failure- and that’s dangerous as hell, so not only does that leave you with a broken knife, but it could leave you with a real nasty injury. In a true survival setting, that could spell the end of you.
All in all, I’m actually very impressed with the lock simply because the liner is so thick and meaty. I just don’t trust liner locks that look they could be bent like a paper clip.
I’ve beat up this knife pretty hard and not once has the liner lock showed signs of coming close to failing on me. All things considered, I definitely got a beefier lock than I though I would for this amount of money. I really can’t complain.
Here’s another winning category- the ergonomics! The ergos of this knife are surprisingly awesome.
As soon as you wrap your hands around the handle you feel a sense of recognition- almost like you’re reuniting with a long lost friend. It’s hard to believe the level of comfort this handle provides is from a $30 knife.
There are some minor hotspots that form around the index finger, but I only noticed them when I was doing heavy cutting. They were minor though, so all in all this knife was relatively comfortable for hours on end use.
I’ve taken the Air Ranger out with me on many long, arduous hikes into the woods, and it has performed favorably for a knife of its caliber.
I’ve used it to cut some decently sized rope, and the serrations ripped right through with little effort. I’ve even used this knife to cut and prepare thick some steaks before, and the slicing ability was satisfactory. The hollow ground blade slid right through the meat adequately enough.
As for sheer penetration, the piercing ability of this knife is definitely to my liking. The drop/clip point blade shape really lets you puncture tougher materials without exerting too much effort.
I will say that I’ve found myself re-sharpening this blade after each hiking trip I take it on. The ability of this knife to hold an edge simply can’t compete with knives in the next price brackets up. Of course, that’s to be expected.
Whether you want to use this knife as a main EDC or a backup outdoors knife, the quality and performance are quite impressive given the low price point.
Thick, Strong Liner Lock
Satisfying Piercing Ability
LEAST FAVORITE FEATURES
Tip-Down Carry Only
7Cr13Mov Steel not the best
The Ranger is a clear and obvious choice for the economical price point. As I said before, this one’s definitely in my top 5 value knives in the sub $30 price bracket.
Time and time again I find this to be a knife I like to throw into my tackle box when I go out fishing. It’s not too big, it’s lightweight, it sharpens quickly and it’s easy to clean. (That last one’s a big deal when it comes to fishing…)
It’s a great little backup knife to have in your pocket when you’re out and about in the wilderness. It’s even a good choice for a simple EDC knife that you carry around for day-to-day tasks.
There are other good value knives around this price point too, but this one’s definitely a solid choice. For the modest price, you’re really getting a lot of value out of the Air Ranger. At the end of the day, this one’s another hit by Gerber, and it’s definitely a bargain, to say the least.
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