By JustSurviving (Volunteer firefighter and keen USG blade tester)
The Gerber Gator Junior is a 47.3cm long, 445 gram compact machete that can survive brutal bush bashing punishment and the finer tasks of whittling and sharpening. The machete itself has been subject to a mass recall due to a laceration hazard but more on this later.
The blade on the Gerber Gator Jr is 27.3cm long, 1/3 tang and is made out of a high carbon steel with a black oxide coating. Coming out of the packet the blade was relatively sharp but didn’t take long to lose its edge after clearing some medium to small scrub and branches.
The style of blade is typical for a machete as it has a long straight cutting edge with a nice belly that comes to a slight drop point. The drop point feature does give it some piercing ability but has no real bearing on how the blade is used, as it is a machete and used as such and not as a spear. On the spine of the machete is a 24.1cm saw blade with rather thick and aggressive cutting teeth. The saw blade is a good addition to the machete as it enables the user to saw through thick ropes, branches and material where swinging the blade isn’t an option. The teeth themselves aren’t the sharpest after a little bit of use and hence it takes a commitment and a large amount of fortitude to saw through any branch that you can’t hack through.
Overall the blade is hard wearing and useful; however there are a couple bits of advice for the user to take note of. The first bit of advice has to do with the fact that the blade is a fine edge. On the Gerber Gator Jr. the blade begins to taper 1.2cm in from its edge. This means that the thickness of the blade is reasonably reduced on the cutting edge. Thus you have to be careful when hacking at branches and such like, as the blade might stick into a branch and may potentially warp the blade’s edge. I may be speaking from experience on this matter. The second I would recommend is to use a glove when hacking at scrub. Since the blade is small, you have to use the machete at a closer distance to the scrub. At any time during use, a branch or dense scrub could easily smash into your hand on the grip, stinging or potentially breaking fingers.
The grip on the Gerber Gator Jr. is made out of some sort of rubber with a ‘gator skin pattern on it. It is very ergonomic and comfortable for prolonged use. The ’gator skin pattern on the grip does make it slip resistant when working in sweaty or wet conditions. However, I have found that after some continued use over a few days, the texture on the grip has started to wear off. Thus, the slipping factor has been increased but not to dangerous levels. At the base of the handle is a lanyard hole which did come with a lanyard. There is really nothing to be said about the lanyard other than the fact that it does its job. The top of the handle is made out of some molded plastic and was the subject of a product recall. In the initial design, at the top of the handle there was nothing to stop the hand from slipping off the handle onto the blade. This laceration hazard was brought to Gerber’s attention where there were reported incidents of users accidentally sliding their fingers onto the blade slicing their fingers open and requiring stitches when the machete sticks into wood during use. Gerber fixed this design flaw by installing a molded plastic quillon at the front of the handle. The quillon will stop a hand from sliding onto the blade and has been used for this specific use for hundred of years.
The weight and general feel of the machete is very appealing. Gerber placed the balance of the machete at the base of the blade. Placing the weight at the base of the blade just above the user’s hand enables the machete to be wielded with certain dexterity. This gives the user confidence when wielding the machete in tight spaces and for finer uses such as whittling and feathering. However, overall weight of the machete need for hacking purposes hasn’t been lost and is still there when you need it.
The nylon sheath that accompanies the Gerber Gator Jr. Machete is a real let down.
The light weight sheath has an inner plastic lining, belt loop and a Velcro strap to secure the machete. The inner lining covers the entire inside apart from where it counts. After some use pulling the machete in and out of the sheath, it becomes apparent that the blade runs up the unprotected seam producing a rather large gap.
The gap runs almost the entire length of the sheath and is easily large enough for the blade of the machete to fit through. The belt loop and Velcro strap are pretty standard low quality features and just capable to do the job.
The Gerber Gator Jr. Machete is a great compact machete. The weight, feel and style of this ‘younger brother’ machete enable it to hold its own when compared to its larger competitors. The price is also an appealing feature as the average cost of this machete is approximately $15. Therefore, for the Gerber Gator Jr. Machete we give a generous 4 out of 5 stars. A full star was taken off due to the poor quality and design of the sheath and the overall wear of the product over time.