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Gerber MK-I and MK-II’s

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by rcmodel, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    If a knife could represent a war to me?
    The M-1918 Mark I brass knuckle trench knife would be WWI.
    Perhaps the M3 Trench knife & Ka-Bar would best represent WWII & Korea.

    But for me at least, the Gerber MKII just screams Vietnam.


    They were introduced in 1966, and every GI I knew then wanted one.
    The problem was, there just were never enough of them to go around.
    Every time a shipment came into a PX, they were all sold before they got done putting them on the shelf.


    Initial production was only 1,000 knives in 1966, 3,999 in 1968, and never exceeded 4,500 to 5,000 per year from 1969 until 1975.
    By then the Vietnam war was over.

    Also by 1970 or so, the Peaceniks had firm control of the news media and the country's thought process, so Gerber added serrations, and changed the advertising from a deadly Combat knife to a more acceptable Survival knife.

    Gerber continued production several more years, reaching a high of 12,000+ in 1978, and another high of 15,809 in 1980.

    In all, there were so many variations made the Gerber MKII has become a collector “specialty” for some knife collectors.
    Since they were all serial numbered, the year of manufacture can be pinned down exactly, and that adds interest to collectors.

    Early knives were made with a sprayed molten steel grip surface called “Cats Tongue” in Grey & black.
    Later models had something called “Armor Hide”, also in Grey & Black.
    Divers models were made with orange & yellow handles.

    Early knives had a canted blade angle to the grip of 5° , 10°, and 15° degree to one side at various times.
    It was purported to be for a better blade angle when held in a fencing grip.
    But Gerber got so many complaints about the blades being "bent", they soon stopped doing it.
    They also all had the signature wasp waste blade shape with no serrations.
    Later "survival" knives had serrations, and later still became straight blades without the wasp waist shape.
    And IMO, they just lost all the visual appeal of the early knife.

    Blade serrations were at first 14 Teeth per inch but clogged easily.
    They were later changed to a courser 8 TPI that worked much better.
    Some of the Divers knives were fully serrated on one edge.
    These older Gerber MK’s were made from L6 tool steel until a change to 440C in 1979.

    Sheaths were oiled brown or died black, or green leather from 1966 to 1986.
    They were made from black nylon after that.
    Early sheaths had the retainer strap crossing over the rear guard. They often got cut off by accident, and all later sheaths had the strap crossing over the front guard.

    Some leather sheaths had a pocket for a steel sharpening hone.
    The divers sheath had slots top and bottom for leg straps and a rubber flap handle retainer.

    In all, 16 variations of sheaths were used at different times.

    There were also 5 different “Presentation” models offered at different times.
    All of those have a serial number preceded by either XX, or CS to prevent anyone faking an earlier, rarer, and more desirable early knife.

    During the 90's production was off again, on again until finally, the MK-II was dropped from the line in 2000.
    Finally Gerber added the MK-II back to the line in 2008 with a 420 HC steel blade.

    6 3/4” - MK-II made in 1977
    Black blade, Black sheath, Armor Hide handle.


    6 3/4” - MK-II made in 1978
    Polished blade, Armor Hide handle.
    Oiled reproduction sheath I made for it.
    I bought it cheap at a gun show, without the sheath.

    MK-I - 5” Boot Knife made about 1977.

    I bought it cheap from the guy that bought it new.
    He then proceeded to cut himself bad at work that night, while scratching it all up on a sharpening stone.
    The night nurse taped his finger back on, but it scared him so much he was afraid to take it out of the sheath again.
    So he sold it to me at a big loss the same day he bought it!!

    Gerber 5” Folding Hone

    The folding steel hone is 5”x7/8”x1/4”.
    If the blade is already sharp, it makes it really sharp!
    If it isn’t already sharp, it doesn’t do anything.
    Wedge on end can supposedly be used to split wood, etc.
    But I wouldn’t try it.
    It is so short I think you would just get it stuck in the wood, then need to find something else to split wood with to get it out.

    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  2. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

    "Made to be deadly"

    They could never get away with saying that in an advertisment now!
  3. kBob

    kBob Well-Known Member

    I never saw one with no serrations. The NCOs I knew that carried one in VN all had the ones with a "bent blade" and the fine teeth and grey handle area with black guard and pmmel and bright blade. One bought in 1974 would not take 44-40 cold blue to make it less shiny even after heating it up. Every one I tried to sharpen was hard as a rock and a pain to sharpen, but stayed sharp pretty well.

    I always understood and it made sense to me that the blade cant was to allow the knife to fit your hip better so that unlike straight bladed knives it did not stick out away from your hip and snag as much.

    The knife that impressed me most from this period was the SF-SOG knife as some folks called it. Dispite assurances some of the odern copies are "correct" I have yet to see one like the ones I handled when allowed by their owners......and each was a bit different leading me to believe they were hand made.

    Biggest issue with the "goobber" was that stud of a tang. It is not more than about and inch long and barely makes it past the guard area into the aluminum handle on those early models ad not much improved over time.

    Neat looking knives though.

  4. Dave P

    Dave P Well-Known Member

    I got my MK II about 1973. I think I paid close to 100$ for it. Big bux for a college kid. Also got the sharpener and a couple of the boot knives over the years.

    What was the small boot knife with no guards? I lost that one someplace :(
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    My old army buddy still has his real MACV-SOG knife.

    It looks like the second one on this page, but is unmarked.
    And the sheath looks like the first one with the stone pocket.


    We kinda always thought Kiffe' japan made his, but who knows for sure.

    Bob Loveless designed Gerber Guardian I think.
    Or maybe it was Blackie Collins?

    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  6. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Well-Known Member

    I've been hankering for one of these since Gerber reintroduced it a few years ago. I have zero need for one. I already have daggers and stickers coming out of my ears, and my DAD was 3 months too young to be drafted during Vietnam...so needless to say I personally don't have a huge connection to the conflict.

    I have just always loved the look of those knives.

    For the longest time I shied away from them because of their mini-tang. However, over the years I have come to two conclusions: The Mark II was made for fighting and killing. It's not a knife I'm going to build a shelter with as I would never put myself in a situation where I might need a good utility knife and bring...that. If I carried a Mkii, it would be for defense. In this situation, you're not going to put enough stress on the blade/handle junction to bust it. Think about all the "hard use" folders out there that are pinned through the tang on plastic or G10 scales.

    I have also come to be very close to the Nepali Khukuri. Most khuks made by villagers and used day in and day out have tangs about 1/2 the way through their stubby handles which have been attached to the wood by burning them in and setting them with a natural epoxy. These large knives withstand chopping chores for years if not decades before they tend to work loose.

    I don't think I would ever break a Mark II unless I decided it needed to be broken. OK, now I really want one of these for Christmas:D
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    I always figured the Gerber MK-II was a heck of a lot stronger in the tang then the British Fairbairn-Sykes Commando knife of WWII fame.

    And they got by with that pretty well somehow.

    Like you said, they were designed for only one thing, and one thing only.
    And it wasn't for opening C-Rat cans of mystery meat stew.

    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  8. Gordon

    Gordon Well-Known Member

    The SOG people I worked with 1968-1971 had their Jap made and unit procurred various SOG knives, some were pretty nice and made by/in Seki. I was a Randall fan however!
    Lots of guys had the MKII Gerber and they were available in the Saigon and Da Nang PXs at least before they quickly sold out.
    I never figured out why the MK1 seemed to be introduced AFTER the MK2 .
    I carried a MK1 as a back up when undercover narcing in the mid 70s.
    The L6 tool steel was certainly the bomb !
  9. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    I think of the Gerber and Randal as iconic knives for the war in SE Asia. I briefly had a "cat tongue" a few years ago and should have kept it.
  10. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    The Guardian.
  11. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    How about the "judo-stick pommel that can cause death when driven against vital nerve centers." :scrutiny:

    Lynn Thompson got nothing on 'em!
  12. steveno

    steveno Well-Known Member

    I have a Mark I and the steel. unfortunately or (fortunately) no stories to go with them. they have been in the dresser drawer for the most part
  13. kBob

    kBob Well-Known Member


    Thanks for the link to the MACV SOG knives. The ones neare the bottom with the more pronounced sickle back were most like the two I handled pf which one I got to use a bit. The one I used a bit had an even more pronounced curved back and I did use it for clearing some wait a bit and here they are vines next to a road way on an excercise. The curved bit worked great as a sickle and by holding the vines above where I made the first cut and then near the gound I made a nice tunnel through a few yards of heavy stuff to get a good look at the road. OPFOR was pretty close and never heard or saw nothing.

    The blade in that one did seem a bit thin compared to say a kabar or survival vest knife, but not silly thin.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but on real live chicken track marked FS knives the tang is full length and not just a sub inch long stud into the guard and mayber a bit of the grip.

    I am not attacking Goobers by pointing that out.....I own one of the later goobers with the elongated m3 type blade (all I could get with but a few days notice before shipping out) and silly scalops in the false edge and I own one of the Taylor tanto types (a friend bought me in SOuth Africa of all places thinking it was special) that has the same sort of short tang cast into the handle. I just would rather have a knife I felt was sturdier if it was my only knife.

  14. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    No you are right.

    But the Fairbairn-Sykes full-length tang was hardly wider then the thickness of the ricasso where the guard ended and the blade started.

    There were many complaints of them breaking off right there under the guard early in the war.

    The same fate befell the V-42 Marine Raider stiletto made by Case in 1942.

    The British F-S went through at least three versions during WWII, with the culmination being the 3rd. Pattern with a thicker blade and slightly wider tang that would still fit through the hole in the small round handle.
    All to try to avoid breakage at the tang / ricasso transition point.

    The Gerber MK II was a modern version of the F-S, and addressed that knifes weakness with a wider stronger tang, and an oval handle shape so you could at least tell where the edges were pointed in the dark without coon-fingering the guard all the time..

    Even though it did not have a full length tang, The Gerber MKII was a much stronger knife then the F-S Commando.

    Oh! It is true.

    If the "Nerve Center" you pick happens to be someones jaw joint, temple, or Adams apple.

    If you use the other end of the knife while they are knocked unconscious, or just trying to breath but can't?
    Well, you can see how that could possibly cause them a serious problem staying alive.

    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  15. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    A colleague of mine's brother was in MACV-SOG and allowed him to bring his SOG knife to me to handle. It was of the early types and was in good condition for a knife carried through 2 tours in SE Asia.

    I told my colleague that if his brother ever wanted to let it go to a good home where it would be appreciated I'd be happy to oblige.
  16. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    I bet you did!!

    That was a very generous offer of you! :D

  17. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    I wouldn't want it to go to someone that didn't fully appreciate it.;)
  18. blindhari

    blindhari Well-Known Member

    I bought my Gerber MK 1 at the Ft Benning Px in 1967. I only stayed in 3 yrs and it went into the top of the closet in 1970. In 1983 a young man we had helped train In an Explorer Post, Search & Rescue, came by to visit us wearing Sgt. stripes and I brought out my knife. It rolled in his hand and came to guard. In 2005 He gave me a call and asked if I wanted the knife back as he was retiring from the Army. I told him to pass it on. It now rides in the boot of a female Rotary Flight Warrent Officer. Gerber MK 1, now on it's 12th or 13th deployment. It is now the best and last friend for a 3rd GI. I pray she never needs it.

    Absent Companions
  19. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Outstanding Sir!!

    Most Excellent in fact!!

    Thanks for sharing that story with us!


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