Ever walked through a store, spotted an item and immediately understood its functional value? While walking through a Dick's Sporting Goods store, such was the case for me when I saw the Gerber Crusader folding knife hanging on a display rack in a bubble pack. The knife's robust blade and curved grip configuration immediately caught my eye, but I could not get my hand around it. Fortunately, the store had one in its display case, so I was able to handle the knife. What looked like a heavy-duty knife was actually thin and lightweight.
Even though the Crusader features a substantial gripping surface, it weighs only 4.2 ounces, making it easy to carry in a pocket or waistband, both on and off-duty. The blade measures just 2.75 inches, but the 1"-wide drop-point blade is beefy enough to stand up to the most extreme tasks and give the appearance of a much bigger blade. Made with 440 stainless steel, the knife will maintain a sharp edge and remain easy to care for.
The Crusader is available in straight and partially serrated blade styles. The serrated model is more desirable for law enforcement and emergency services due to the enhanced sawing ability, but the fine-point straight edge I bought at Dick's is more than sharp enough to handle routine police cutting chores. I tested the knife by cutting rope, leather, nylon and thin wire without any problems. The knife edge was restored with a few swipes across a sharpening stone.
The Crusader features thumb studs as well as an index-finger flipper, offering two methods to open the knife quickly with one hand. The top of the blade's lip is serrated to give the thumb a solid pushing position and locks open with a spring-loaded liner lock. I tested the liner lock by opening the knife and smacking the spine against my workbench. The lock stayed engaged.
The polymer handle is slightly textured to enhance grip, but I added a few strips of skateboard tape to my knife to give it an even more solid grip. The polymer is backed by metal liners and held together with thick allen-style screws. The heel of the grip flares out at the end, which combines with the finger flipper once the blade is open to lock the knife firmly in your hand. The flipper keeps your hand from sliding forward onto the blade, while the downward cant of the grip keeps your hand from sliding off. While this feature may not seem like a big deal when using the knife with a bare hand, it's huge when you're wearing a thick cold-weather or fire-retardant glove.
With all of the great features this knife offers, I think its one downside is the pocket clip. While it is both functional and tough, it just looks, well . . . chintzy. It makes this top-quality knife look like a copy made in some third-world country. A serious knife should feature a serious clip something solidly constructed in a dark color. Not the split, contoured, silver-colored version currently attached to the Crusader. It's also my humble opinion the clip should attach to the knife at the other end to provide a top-down carry.
I removed the factory clip from my Crusader and replaced it with a solid black clip from another knife. I attached it at the heel end of the grip and within 10 minutes, I was able to train myself to remove the knife from my pants pocket and open it with one fluid motion by inserting my thumb behind the knife body and extending my index finger down the spine. As I remove the knife from my pocket, I engage the finger flipper with the index finger and flick my wrist outward so that the blade opens quickly and easily. I then slide up on the grip and take a firm grasp.
The ability to open a folding knife with one hand is very important for public safety professionals. There is no telling what your other hand may be doing when you need to open a knife during a crisis situation. You may be holding an accident victim in place while you open your knife to cut a seatbelt, or you may be fending off an attacker while you remove a knife to use as a secondary weapon. While I realize the Crusader was designed for outdoorsmen, it can be an outstanding cop knife, especially if the clip were mounted at the other end.
This is all good stuff, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I paid for the Crusader less than $30 retail. An Internet search reveals you can buy the Crusader online for as low as $25. I remember clearly being a young cop trying to make ends meet (including feeding and clothing small children and paying a mortgage) and wanting the best duty equipment I could get. After all, no agency issues everything a street cop will find useful, and a folding knife certainly falls into this category. In a world where high end, name-brand knives rule, it's good to know you can still find quality at a reasonable price.
The Gerber Crusader