Gerber is a knife and tool maker well known for pushing the envelope of what a multi tool can do and be. With the Center Drive they’ve taken a crack at creating a really useful tool for contractors, builders, and other folks who work with their hands. Our Gerber Center Drive review will explore the features, tools, and build quality of this interesting tool and see if Gerber has achieved something great.
- 1 Gerber Center Drive Overview
- 2 Gerber Center Drive Tools
- 3 Gerber Center Drive Review
- 4 Gerber Center Drive accessories and extras
- 5 Gerber Center Drive Vs Comparable tools
- 6 Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Gerber Center Drive
Gerber Center Drive Overview
The Gerber Center Drive is a made in the USA multi tool built with a purpose. Unlike most of its competitors that advertise their ability to do just about anything, the Center Drive is focused on building tasks. It’s a heavy duty tool, coming in at 4.7 in long closed and weighing a hefty 9.6 oz. This isn’t a generalist tool that you’d bring with you on a camping trip.
Gerber made several important design choices in pursuit of this goal. The biggest is probably the use of a slide out plier system instead of a standard butterfly design. Much like their flagship MP600 the pliers are one handed open and lock out once extended. The bit driver in the Center Drive is even more customized than the pliers. It’s what gives the Center Drive its name and Gerber claims it will give you the reach and ergonomics of a standard screwdriver.
Let’s dig in a little deeper to see how the Center Drive lives up to the hype.
Gerber Center Drive Tools
The Center Drive isn’t as packed full of tools as some other heavy duty multi tools. Gerber is clearly going for a quality over quantity approach with this one. Despite this, there are still fully 15 different tools/functions included. Three of these tools are outside accessible and lock open to give you a more secure ability to use them.
The rest of the Center Drive’s tools are located inside the handles and only accessible after you extend the pliers. Gerber used its patented SA-T-LOK system for all the internal tools. It does a great job of locking them in place when you need them and freeing them when you don’t.
Needlenose and Regular Pliers, Wire Cutters
The Pliers on the Center Drive use a unique design that combines the snub nose of regular pliers with the accessibility of needlenose pliers. Gerber claims this gives you the gripping strength of full size pliers with the ability to get into nooks and crannies. As far as we can tell these work pretty well. The shape seemed like more of a novelty at first but it does allow you to really grip down and apply torque.
We love that they’re also one handed opening. It’s nice not to have to fold out your multi tool just to turn a bolt. The slide feels a lot sturdier than others we’ve used and locks into place well. Gerber advertised that you can just flick the pliers out and we mostly found this to be true.
The wire cutters on the Center Drive use Gerber’s triangular and replaceable carbide blades. We’ve covered these in other reviews and were just as unimpressed with them now as then. The blades are good in theory but we found them to chip and break very quickly when you actually try and use them. As wire cutters are one of the primary tools you’ll use on a multi tool we think Gerber should really put some work in to improve these.
In keeping with the rest of the tools on the Center Drive Gerber decided to go big with the knife blade. Made of 420HC stainless steel, the main blade on the Center Drive is a 3.25 in long straight blade that opens externally. This is a serious blade. It comes sharp from the factory and is large enough to replace your current folding knife without issue.
Gerber also included a smaller serrated knife blade for cutting plastic and other irregular materials. It opens out from the interior of the handle and is nicely sized for its role. It has a rounded blade style and does a good job powering through thin to medium thickness plastic and other things.
Center-axis Bit Driver and Holder
Arguably the most important piece of the Center Drive, the outside access bit driver on this tool is much longer and larger than on similar multi tools. It extends fully 3.2 in from the body of the Center Drive and has a curving shape to it that allows the bit to sit right on the axis of the tools body.
This lets you to get a better purchase on stubborn screws and, in theory, use your multi tool as a full replacement for a screwdriver. Gerber also took the step of making the bit driver magnetic to help prevent you from losing bits.
You’re provided with two bits standard and it also has a neat little holder that attaches between the two handles. This lets you carry two standard ¼ inch screwdriver bits wherever you go. We love that Gerber went with the industry standard sizing instead of a proprietary bit size. It makes the Center Drive much more usable as a replacement screwdriver since you can use all the bits you already have on hand.
After trying out the driver we found it to work just about as well as a regular bit driver. You really notice the extra length when getting into those hard to reach places and the central bit orientation is a very nice feature. The only real downside we noticed was that holding the multi tool handles was still less comfortable than a round screwdriver handle.
Bottle Opener, Pry Bar, Nail Puller, Awl, File, Lanyard Ring and Ruler
The rest of the tools on the Center Drive are all contained in the interior of the handles. The bottle opener, pry bar, and nail puller are all made up of a single piece. The bottle opener works well in that it opens bottles.
The pry bar is alright for its size but for a tool marketed at the construction trades you’d think they would have upped the strength a bit. The nail puller actually worked better than we expected. Most multi tool nail pullers are good enough for staples but don’t pull nails very well. Not so with the Center Drive. It was able to get underneath a standard nail and lever it up no problem.
The awl on the Center Drive has a more triangular shape than many you’ll see on most multi tools. It’s better for puncturing and scoring building materials than leather or other materials. The ruler only runs along one side of the handle so it’s a bit too small to be really useful.
There are two files on the Center Drive, a fine and coarse one. Gerber went with two standard metal files instead of a diamond file because of the intended use of the tool. Diamond files are great for backcountry camping. They let you put an edge on your main knife or axe blade. They aren’t nearly as useful on a job site where you’re more likely to need a way to sand down a rough cut piece of wood or plastic piping.
Finally, Gerber counts the lanyard ring on the Center Drive as a full tool. We don’t always agree with this but attaching a string or other item to your multi tool is quite handy on a jobsite. It prevents it from falling to the mud or dirt while you’re working hard.
Gerber Center Drive Review
Gerber built the Center Drive for construction workers and contractors. It was made to be beefier and more building oriented than most other multi tools on the market. Overall, we think they did a really good job with this one. The big feature, the centerline extended bit driver, works well. It’s a definite improvement on the smaller bit drivers found on most other multi tools.
The one handed opening pliers and knife blade are two other features we really like. If you’re already holding something up with one hand it’s nice to be able to quickly deploy the main tools on your multi tool. The build quality on the Center Drive reflects its purpose. It’s extremely sturdy, made with stainless steel throughout and locking points that attach without give.
All in all the Center Drive was a tool built for a specific audience that definitely meets the needs of that audience. Most of the features on it provide daily value and time savings for contractors and others in the building trades.
Gerber Center Drive Pros – Things We Liked
- Centerline Bit Driver
- Large Knife Blade
- Very Tough
- One handed Opening Main Tools
- Standardized Bits
- All Locking Tools
Gerber Center Drive Cons – Things We Didn’t Like
- Bulky Carry Sheath
- One handed open pliers limit interior tool space
- No pocket carry options
Who’s The Gerber Center Drive For?
Gerber is very clear on who they intend the Center Drive for: Contractors, electricians, plumbers, and construction workers in general. It’s a heavy duty multi tool with a focus on building specific tools. Many of the most common functions included on multi tools are missing from the Center Drive to make room for its main tools.
Is this the best multi tool out there? Definitely not. Gerber made some serious compromises in its overall utility to pack the building features in. For someone who works with their hands all day long though, the Center Drive is an excellent choice.
Gerber Center Drive accessories and extras
There are several different very useful add ons available for this multi tool. No Gerber Center Drive Review would be complete without at least a basic summary of them.
Sheath / Holster / Pouch – Like many of their other top level tools Gerber offers a number of sheath options with the Center Drive. You can get it with no sheath, a standard nylon sheath, or a Berry compliant sheath for members of the U.S. armed forces.
Many people report that carrying the Center drive on your belt is asking for trouble. It’s one of the largest multi tools we’ve yet reviewed and it takes up a lot of real estate on your belt. We think the Gerber sheaths do a pretty good job all in all. You’re going to have to make compromises no matter how you choose to carry a multi tool of this size.
Bit Kit – The Center Drive comes with two bits standard but Gerber also gives you the option of adding on a 12 piece bit kit. This includes many of the most common bits used today. Honestly though, anyone considering the Center Drive for their daily carry probably already has a drawer full of ¼ in bits.
Pocket Clip – Currently Gerber doesn’t offer any pocket clips for the Center Drive. The sheer size of it would make pocket carry difficult but we think Gerber should have provided the option.
Replacement Parts – Gerber offers a 25 year warranty on all their multi tools. This covers any defects in materials or manufacturing but doesn’t cover damage from use. It’s a good warranty overall and Gerber stands by it.
Different Colors –
There are currently two different color options available for the Center Drive. These are stainless steel and black oxide. Both work well though there have been reports of the black oxide flaking off after regular use.
Gerber Center Drive Vs Comparable tools
The Center Drive has a pretty unique design among multi tools but there are several big competitors for it. The heavy duty multi tool market includes a lot of very high quality tools, here are just a few of them.
Center Drive Vs Leatherman Wave+
The Wave+ is Leatherman’s current flagship multi tool. It provides you with 18 different tools in a slightly smaller and lighter package than the Center Drive. The Wave+ is built as an EDC tool with a general mix of tools. It’s honestly one of the best multi tools on the market today, providing you with a lot of value in a very compact package.
For its intended audience the Center Drive beats out the Wave+. It simply provides more specialized value than the Wave+ would for builders.
Center Drive Vs Leatherman Surge
The Leatherman Surge is another heavy duty multi tool that was designed to be the most rugged and dependable tool on the market. The Surge includes a full 21 different tools, all built to withstand any kind of abuse you can throw at them. It’s actually heavier than the Center Drive if you can believe it, coming in at a hefty 12.5 oz.
This one is just about a toss up. The Surge is one of the few tools out there that legitimately provides you with a tool box on your belt. It’s rugged, it can take a beating, and it lets you do just about anything. The Center Drive has a better screwdriver and includes a nail puller that the Surge lacks. We recommend you think about how you mostly use a multi tool and make your decision based on that.
Center Drive Vs Leatherman OHT
The OHT is one of the few multi tools made by Leatherman that includes a slide out pair of pliers. It’s a well built multi tool with almost the same number of tools as the Center Drive. Many of the tools included on the OHT though are focused on very specialized non builder needs. It’s still a great tool, but it isn’t as laser focused on contractors as the Center Drive is.
If you think you’ll miss having an oxygen wrench and strap cutter you should go with the OHT. If you’re planning on doing some serious construction work, check out the Center Drive.
Read our Leatherman OHT multi-tool review.
Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Gerber Center Drive
With the Center Drive Gerber tried to shake up the heavy duty multi tool market. From everything we’ve seen so far, they succeeded. The Center Drive is an odd looking tool there’s no getting around that. It also includes fewer tools than you would expect on a tool its size.
The tools it has though are well designed, sturdily built, and do exactly what they’re supposed to. The centerline screwdriver in particular is an excellent innovation on Gerber’s part. The sole exception to this is the carbide wire cutters. Gerber doesn’t seem to have figured out exactly how to get these to work without being overly brittle.
It’s a hefty, hard use tool that can stand up to heavy duty demands. If you’re someone who frequently needs a toolbox on your belt the Center Drive should get some serious consideration.