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Keychain multitools are small, so they won’t keep pace with the overall utility of larger multitools, but they bring a lot of functionality that is easy to carry. The best multitool is the one you have with you, and these multi tools virtually disappear on your keychain. Today we are testing two of the best keychain tools head to head, the Gerber Dime and Leatherman PS4.
The Gerber Dime and Leatherman Squirt PS4 perform nearly identically for the pliers and screwdrivers. The Dime has package opener and tweezers tools that are not on the Squirt, and a better bottle opener. The Dime is also half the cost of the PS4, making it the obvious choice. The Squirt PS4 has a better knife and a superior file.
The Gerber Dime and Leatherman Squirt PS4 are both high quality tools with solid performance, but they each excel in different areas. Where the Dime really distinguishes itself is with its bottle opener, package opener, and value. No other keychain tool has the bottle opener always available on the handle, nor one that works as well. When you really need a cold drink after working in the yard, the Dime is the tool you want in your pocket.
When we carried the Dime, the package opener was nearly tied with the bottle opener for our favorite tool. Even when we opened the knife blade first, we always found ourselves closing it and using the package opener instead. Finally, you can find the Gerber Dime for ~$15! (compare prices on Amazon), that is less than half the cost of a Squirt and you still get Gerber’s lifetime warranty and solid build quality.
Leatherman produced a solid multi tool with the Squirt series, and you won’t be disappointed if you get one. But the Leatherman Squirt normally sells for around $30 which makes it expensive for a keychain tool.
The two areas where the Squirt PS4 shows its value are the knife blade and file. The pen knife blade on the Squirt performs like a pocket knife blade. It starts out sharper than the Dime and does double the cutting before it needs sharpening. The file is 1.4 in long with a single-hatch fine side, double-hatched coarse side and a grooved edge for cutting. You can use it on your nails, but it is a real tool made for work.
Specifications: Gerber Dime and Leatherman Squirt PS4
L x W x H
|2.4 x 0.8 x 0.5 in
|2.25 x 0.8 x 0.5 in
(Base – Tip)
|0.14 – 0.09 in
|0.14 – 0.08 in
|Small & Medium
|Coarse & Fine
|Coarse & Fine
|On flat screwdriver
|Scissors Blade Length
Knife Length: Measured as length of sharpened edge (manufacturer specs frequently include the ricasso)
Pliers Reach: Measured from the pliers tip to the shoulders of the handle
Jaw Opening: Measured at pliers tip at max extension
Jaw Length: Measured from wire cutters to pliers tip
Jaw Width: Measured at widest point with jaws fully closed
Scissors Blade Length: Length of sharpened edge measured with jaws at 90°
The Dime and Squirt PS4 look like full-sized multitools in their marketing photos and they have features of full-size multitools, but don’t be fooled. These are full-sized multitools shrunk down to keychain size and are not much larger than a 9V battery when closed. Customer ratings are full of comments from buyers who were surprised by their small size when they arrived.
Gerber Dime: We bought our first Gerber Dime soon after it launched in 2012 and liked it immediately. It brings the functions we use everyday in a convenient form factor that is easy to carry.
Gerber multitools overall are bulkier than their peers so maybe we are biased, but the Dime seems larger than the Leatherman Squirt. At least until we brought out the calipers and measured. Both tools are 0.5 in thick by 0.8 in wide. Handles on the Dime are slightly longer and the bottle opener extends even more. Keychain tools are notorious nail breakers, but the deep thumbnail grooves make the Gerber Dime implements easy to open.
Our Gerber Dime Red has the knife blade and package opener on the red handle. Sheepsfoot blades are a good choice for keychain tools, the design provides a good usable edge that is easy to control. The slipjoint is nice and tight, so even though there is not a locking mechanism we are not worried about the knife blade closing on our fingers. On the opposite side, the gray handle has the scissors and screwdriver blades.
Gerber Dime Tool List
1. Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
2. Standard Pliers
3. Wire Cutters
5. Bottle Opener
6. Fine Edge Blade
7. Package Opener
9. Medium Flat Driver
10. Coarse & Fine File
11. Cross Driver
12. Lanyard Ring
Leatherman Squirt PS4: Pick up a Squirt and the first thing you notice are that it is small and solid – 2.25 inches and 2.0 oz. Combined with the feel of the aluminum handle scales and you know instantly that this is a real quality tool and not some junk from the dollar section. However, the single grind edge on the knife makes it look cheap – we will see how it performs.
The tools fold into the handle and are outside accessible with thumbnail grooves. We were happy to see they opened smoothly even the first time on a brand new tool – no nail breakers here! You only need to unfold the butterfly handles to access the spring-action pliers/wire strippers and wire cutter.
Leatherman Squirt PS4 Tool List
1. Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
2. Spring-action Regular Pliers
3. Spring-action Wire Cutters
6. 420HC Knife
7. Spring-action Scissors
8. Metal/Wood File
10. Medium Screwdriver
11. Small/Phillips Screwdriver
12. Bottle Opener
Field Test Results
A note about our testing: We use real-world scenarios to compare the relative performance between multi tools. Laboratory testing is great, but multi tools are not used in controlled environments. Each multi tool has its own set of design features and we want to predict how it will perform when we carry it everyday. Learn more about our approach to testing and detailed procedures.
Both the Gerber Dime and Leatherman Squirt PS4 were factory fresh for our tests. On the initial passes the Dime sliced through 15 sheets of paper while the Squirt PS4 cut through 20 sheets per pass. Starting sharpness was 33% higher for the Squirt and you can see the gap remained constant throughout the test.
As the blade wears you can see the performance drop off for each, until they reach 50% of their starting result (what we consider dull). The Dime was dull after 300 passes when it was only cutting 7 sheets, the Squirt was dull after 400 passes when it cut 10 sheets.
The second chart shows how much cutting gets done before the knife is dull. The Dime was able to cut 2175 feet of paper before it was dull, the Squirt nearly doubled that result at 4000 feet cut.
Boiling the testing down to the main takeaways:
- The Leatherman Squirt PS4 blade starts sharper and stays sharper longer.
- The pen blade design on the Squirt PS4 has a longer usable edge
- Even though the Dime underperforms compared to the Squirt, the Dime blade is solid for a keychain multi tool.
As is normal on keychain tools, neither the Dime nor the Squirt PS4 knife blades have locking mechanism. The slipjoint springs on both are strong enough the we are not concerned about accidentally closing the blade on our fingers during normal use.
Gerber Dime: Just like on its big brother Crucial, Gerber went with a sheepsfoot knife blade for the dime. It has a gentle sweep to the edge and is beveled on both sides. The basic 3Cr13 blade steel is softer than 420HC and you won’t want to use the Dime for serious cutting, but it works fine for small tasks.
Read our plain-English conclusions about stainless steel grades in this article. We did the research to compare the technical specs and test results so you know what to expect in the real world.
Leatherman Squirt PS4: Leatherman lists 420HC steel for the knife blade and it comes sharp out of the box. It is a very basic pen blade with a single grind edge. Calling it a chisel edge gives Leatherman too much credit, I’m sure they did it because the single bevel is cheaper to produce. Using the knife sharpness reminds me of a 9mm snap off utility knife – it is sharp.
Tip: Don’t buy the cheap snap off knives with the flimsy plastic handles or just the metal blade guide. Our favorite is the Dewalt 9mm snap off knife that has an all-metal handle, but don’t buy it on Amazon, you can find it for around $5 at Home Depot.
The blade on the Squirt works well for opening boxes and other general purpose needs suitable for a small blade. We appreciate Leatherman’s decision to go with the classic blade shape with a moderate belly for deeper cuts and is easier to us in most situations. For difficult to cut material, the Squirt PS4 knife blade gives far superior experience compared to the Dime.
The keychain ring on the Squirt PS4 can rotate around the pivot joint and can interfere with the knife blade closing. We don’t like the metal on metal contact that will dull our blade, but there is also a safety issue. A couple of times we noticed the blade closed on the keyring and wasn’t fully closed, you don’t want an exposed blade in your pocket…
The needlenose pliers on the Gerber Dime have buckteeth. The very tip of each jaw has a flat section 0.09 in long that is the only part of the jaws that make contact when closed. Most needlenose pliers have a taper design to ensure the tooth at the end doesn’t have a gap, but it is pronounced on the Dime with a visible gap between the rest of the jaws. Because the large tooth on the end section is flat and not serrated it does not grip as strongly on smooth items like zip ties.
For the regular pliers section, Gerber went with a traditional rounded opening. We find this design is more effective at holding nuts and bolt or other round objects with the pliers. The round design is also easier to use with a rubber strip to prevent marring of delicate surfaces.
Given their size, the pliers on the Dime are effective for grabbing and twisting wire. They shine at doing precision work and are easy to manipulate with the large handles. As with other keychain multitools, it is easy to overpower the jaws with too strong a grip and especially when twisting or applying lateral force.
Leatherman Squirt PS4: The pliers on the PS4 match what expect from a Leatherman tool. The jaws meet precisely and stay aligned even after rough use. We especially liked how the in the needlenose section the teeth taper together so that only the last tooth on the end touches the other jaw. Cheaper tools try to mimic this and the result is they can’t grasp fine objects – we were able to tweeze hair with the Squirt PS4 pliers at the end of our testing.
Another minor note, the spring action for the Dime’s pliers holds the jaws all the way open. The Squirt PS4 springs engage when the jaws are about halfway shut.
As is typical for keychain multitools, the wire cutters for both the Dime and Squirt are bypass style. The both work well on solid copper wire up to 14 AWG before we started to see deflection in the jaws. The flat handle surfaces are almost too comfortable, it is easy to apply pressure that overpowers the jaws.
Bypass wire cutters will struggle to cut stranded wire if there is any slop in the pivot. Both the Dime and the Squirt were able to cut 16 gauge speaker wire.
Tip: Firmly hold the multitool and both sides of the wire is the most effective method. This prevents the bypass cutters from bending the wire and going between the blades.
Both Leatherman and Gerber included three screwdrivers on their keychain multi tools. A #1 Phillips driver with a flattened tip that is the small flat driver, and a medium flat driver. Shanks are equally short on both tools with only 1/2 in of reach. Because the Phillips head is just a flat tool tapered to fit into the screw head, it only makes contact with two channels. This is enough to get by in a pinch but is prone to stripping the head of stubborn screws.
The bottle opener is one of our most frequently used keychain tools and the opener on the Dime is one of our favorites. Its location on the end of the handle means it is always available – just take the Dime out of your pocket and you are ready to open your favorite beverage. The handle width works in favor of the Dime here as well, the opener design is very effective and we were able to open most bottle caps on the first try.
Considering that a bottle opener is one of our most frequently used keychain tools, the opener on the Squirt is disappointing. The throat of the opener is so shallow that the hook doesn’t reach when you put the opener flat across the bottle cap. Instead, the tool needs to be almost vertical to get the hook under one of the cap ridges and result in prying the cap ridge out instead of prying the cap up and off. After repeating multiple times we were able to get the cap off, but after more than a dozen attempts we were never able to remove the cap on the first try.
The file is a highlight of the Leatherman Squirt, it is a fully functional tool and not just for personal grooming. It is a full 1.5 inches long, with a single-cut surface on one side and double-cut on the other. Leatherman also cut ridges in the bottom edge of the file so it is capable of notching and cutting metal. Both sides are too aggressive for ladies to file their nails, but the single-cut side will be fine for guys to smooth a section of broken nail. You won’t find a better file on another keychain multi tool.
Officially the Dime has a coarse/fine file because its listed in the official documentation. Gerber put the file on the shank of the cross head screwdriver. One side has the double cut coarse file with the single cut fine file on the other. However, the file is so small that it is nearly unusable. The grooved surface is only 1/2 inch long, even less because the lanyard ring interferes with the coarse file.
The scissors on the Dime are above average. They work great for snipping threads and fishing line. The thumb pad on the handle is double thickness for comfort, a nice design touch from Gerber. The spring fully opens the jaws between each cut and the 1/2 inch blades are sharp. We cut 6 sheets of paper for the full stroke. During testing we were able to cut 550 paracord and even zip ties with a bit of sawing. But for regular use we would use the knife blade for these jobs, it is the main cutting tool on the Dime after all.
When Leatherman phased out the S4 they removed the option of having scissors as the central tool and relegated scissors to small thread cutters. The Squirt scissors are well made, sharp, and easy to use with the spring-action. They are just small with 1/2 inch cutting blades. For a solid keychain multi tool built with scissors as the main tool check out the Leatherman Micra or Leatherman Style CS.
Gerber Dime: Gerber use 3Cr13 stainless steel throughout the Dime, including the knife blade. In fact, the entire tools is made from 3Cr13 except for the aluminum handle scales and fasteners.
If you need to disassemble the Dime, the main pivots are T8 standard Torx fasteners, while the small fasteners use T6 Torx. Remember you will need 2 bits of each size, one for each side of the handle. We use Wiha bits.
Leatherman Squirt PS4: Leatherman uses 420HC stainless steel in the knife blade and 6061-T6 hard-anodized aluminum for the handle scales. Fit and finish is top notch as expected from Leatherman.
The Squirt tools use riveted construction at the pivots, unless you are lucky enough to have one from the very first batch produced that have Torx. This isn’t a big issue, if anything breaks or needs replacing you simply have to send it to Leatherman under warranty. It does mean that if you want to make any modifications or install custom tools you have a major task in removing the rivets.
Gerber put two additional tools on the Dime, a package opener and tweezers. The tweezers are basic spring steel with angled tips and a simple crimp and tack weld to keep them together.
Opening plastic clamshell packages can be downright dangerous with a knife blade but not the package opener blade. It is sharp and can still do damage, but the design makes it easier to control and we are comfortable opening the blade and handing it to our 12 year old daughter to open her own purchase.
Options and Variants
Gerber currently offers the stainless Dime in green or red handle colors as well as black oxide coated steel with black or purple handle scales. Various color combinations were previously offered, including Gray and Blue. The Gerber Travel launched in 2015 and replaced the knife blade with a zipper hook and replaced the package opener with an improved wood/metal file. Gerber is not consistent in announcing when models are retired but the Dime Travel appears to be discontinued.
- 30-000417 Dime Red
- 30-000469 Dime Black
- 31-001132 Dime Green
- 31-002937 Dime Purple
- 31-002777 Dime Travel (discontinued)
- 30-001079 Dime Travel Gray (discontinued)
Leatherman Squirt PS4 vs ES4: Leatherman offers the Squirt in two version, the PS4 and ES4. Both are available in red, blue, or black handle colors. Both have identical tools except on the central pliers. The Squirt PS4 has the needlenose/regular pliers and wire cutter configuration, while the Squirt ES4 replaces the regular pliers with wire strippers (20 AWG, 18 AWG, 16 AWG, 14 AWG, and 12 AWG).
- 831189 Squirt PS4 red
- 831192 Squirt PS4 blue
- 831195 Squirt PS4 black
- 831198 Squirt ES4 red
- 831201 Squirt ES4 blue
- 831204 Squirt ES4 black
Advantage to Gerber Dime
If the tweezers, bottle opener, or package opener are important functions for your keychain multitool then you should buy the Dime (get the low price on Amazon).
- Tweezers – The Dime includes a set of tweezers slid into the handle scale, the Squirt does not include tweezers.
- Bottle Opener – The Dime has the best bottle opener of any keychain multitool, while the Squirt has the most ineffective bottle opener.
- Package Opener – Only the Dime has a package opener blade and it works great for boxes and especially plastic clamshell packaging.
- Value – For the price of one Leatherman Squirt you can purchase two Gerber Dime multitools.
Advantage to Leatherman Squirt PS4
If you depend on the knife blade or count the file as a tool that you must have then you should buy the Squirt (get the low price on Amazon).
- File – The Squirt has the best file of any keychain tool we have tested. The file on the Dime is only 1/2 inch long and nearly unusable.
- Knife – The pen blade design on the Squirt has a longer usable edge and is easier to use. The 420HC steel blade starts sharper and will cut twice as much as the Dime.