One Hand Multi Tool: Gerber Center Drive vs Leatherman OHT


Leatherman took aim at the number two multi tool manufacturer and had the OHT design ready to go as soon as Gerber’s patents for the sliding pliers expired (US 5,142,721 and US 5,212,844). Gerber fired back with the Center-Drive design with a shot at Leatherman in their Wave Goodbye ad campaign. We pit these two heavyweights head to head to find out which comes out on top for the best one-handed multi tool.

Gerber delivers with the Center-Drive design; the pliers, knife blade, and bit driver are accessible with one hand. The Center-Drive is perfect for the home handyman with the thoughtful additions of a pry bar and nail puller. By contrast, the Leatherman OHT is a medium-duty tool with the size and weight of a heavy-duty multi tool. The OHT one-hand design makes too many compromises with short tools that don’t have the capability expected of a full size multi tool.

We really wanted to like the Leatherman OHT, after all a completely one-hand tool is the ideal multi tool – if you can pull it off. Unfortunately Leatherman used 22 gauge sheet metal (1/32 inch) to form the handle scales and the hinges. When the pliers are deployed the main pivot takes most of the load but we could feel the scales flex under our thumb. With the pliers retracted, the screwdriver bits are on the same end as the hinge and again we could feel the scales move when applying torque.

Except for the MP600 product line we’ve been skeptical of Gerber multi tools, for years they have produced tools that look good on paper but don’t fulfill their promises in real life. Low grade materials combined with Chinese manufacturing gave a sloppy finished product. Hopefully Gerber is turning a corner with Center-Drive because the production quality is first rate. Gerber touts the Made in USA label on both sides of the handle and on their website, without the typical disclaimer of USA Built w/Global Parts so the components are also USA manufactured.

Specifications: Gerber Center-Drive vs Leatherman OHT

FeatureGerber
Center-Drive
Leatherman
OHT
Size
L x W x H
4.7 x 1.97 x 0.96 in4.6 x 1.8 x 0.9 in
Weight9.5 oz9.9 oz
Main Knife
Blade Length
2.982.1 in
Main Blade StyleDrop point
Straight edge
Clip point
Straight edge
Main Blade Steel420HC420HC
Serrated Blade Length2.25 in2.2 in
Serrated Blade StyleSheepsfootSheepsfoot
Serrated Blade Steel420HC420HC
Pliers Thickness
(Base – Tip)
0.28 – 0.17 in0.30 – 0.09 in
Pliers Reach1.80 in2.07 in
Jaw Opening1.58 in1.62 in
Jaw Length1.34 in1.35 in
Jaw Width1.23 in0.92 in
Wire CuttersBypass style
w/replaceable blades
Bypass style
w/replaceable blades
Phillips DriverBit driver#2
Flat DriversBit driverSmall, Medium, Large
FileFine & coarse sided fileNone
SawNone2.1 in
OpenersBottle openerCan/bottle opener
Other ToolsRuler
Pry bar & nail puller
Awl
Strap cutter
Oxygen tank wrench
8-32 Cleaning Rod/Brush Adapter
Design Date20162012

Knife Length: Measured as length of sharpened edge (mfg specs frequently include the unsharpened 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°

Gerber Center-Drive Tool List

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Gerber-Suspension-tool-diagram-1024x561.jpg

1.  Spring-loaded needlenose pliers
2.  Spring-action regular pliers
3.  Rotatable carbide wire cutters
4. One-thumb opening System
5. 3.25″ fine edge blade
6. Magnetic 3.25″ Center-axis bit driver
7. Bit driver
8. Extra bit holder (flathead bit included)

9. Ruler in/cm
10. Bottle opener
11. Pry bar & nail puller
12. Awl
13. Fine & coarse sided file
14. Serrated blade
15. Lanyard hole
16. Tool lock

Gerber doesn’t publish many details for most of their multi tools, but they include actual specifications for the Center-Drive including the steel used in the knife blades and the length of the main blade.

However, our own measurements show that Gerber is inflating the numbers: the actual sharpened length of the main knife blade is just under 3 inches (Gerber lists 3.25 inches) and the usable length of the bit driver arm is 2.6 inches. Gerber specs the bit driver arm at 3.25 inches, but the total length of the arm (from the tip all the way to the other side of the pivot) was 3.1 inches on our tool.

Leatherman OHT Tool List

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Leatherman-Wingman-tool-diagram-1024x672.jpg

3.  Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
4.  Spring-action Regular Pliers
6.  Replaceable Spring-action Wire Cutters
7. Replaceable Spring-action Hard Wire Cutters
13. 420HC Knife
14. Saw
15. 420HC Serrated Knife
19. 8-32 Cleaning Rod/Brush Adapter

22. Phillips Screwdriver
23. Large Screwdriver
24. Medium Screwdriver
25. Small Screwdriver
30. Cutting Hook
33. Can/Bottle Opener
38. Oxygen Tank Wrench
39. Jaw Lockout

If you have a cleaning rod, but didn’t pack the handle, you can use the Leatherman OHT. With the plier jaws retracted, one handle has the jaw lockout and in the same location on the opposite handle you will find the threaded hole for the cleaning rod.

Leatherman also inflates their numbers, we measured the sharpened edge of the main blade at 2.1 inches – not the 2.37 inches from Leatherman specs.

Gerber Center-Drive Product Description

CENTER-DRIVE Gerber’s new multi-tool offers uncompromising performance through revolutionary design. The innovative center-axis driver opens to align like a real screw driver, yielding maximum torque and rotation. No productivity is sacrificed with the addition of a 30% longer outboard blade and one-thumb opening sliding jaws. Full size, real tools – the multi-tool just got a reality check.

Gerber Center-Drive

The Center-Drive stays true to its identity and has the three main tools front and center. The driver arm is the most noticeable with a prominent place alongside one handle. In fact, the driver arm is the only tool on that side of the handle other than the sliding rail for the pliers.

The pliers deploy smoothly with a quick flick. At first we thought Gerber had a mistake in their specs because they state the pliers are spring-loaded. After working with our Center-Drive we found the spring is just very weak. Even after the pliers loosened with use the spring can barely open the handles again. The pliers head is large, it compares to heavy-duty pliers like the Surge and SwissTool. Typical of all Gerber’s sliding designs the pliers have sideways play, we measured the Center-Drive at ±1/16 in.

The third major tool on the Center-Drive is the knife blade. Gerber boasts A single flick of the thumb gets you access to a full-size outboard knife that is 30% longer than the competition. A large thumb hole makes the drop-point blade easy to deploy one-handed and a liner lock holds it in place.

A Note on Knife Blade Length: For practical reasons we measure and report the straight-line length of the sharpened edge because it represents what the user experiences when using the blade. The legal definition varies by locality and is not standardized, although they typically concern the stabbing depth of the knife.

The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) recommends measuring from the tip to the forward-most aspect of the hilt or handle, but law enforcement agencies are not compelled to apply this method.

For our own personal decision process, we lay a string from the handle to the tip and follow all the curves in the blade, then measure the length of the string. Then we add 10% to the number for measurement error and use that blade length to compare to legal requirements.

Leatherman OHT Product Description

OHT® One hand operates everything on this multi-tool including the strap cutter, oxygen tank wrench and more.
For years multi-tool users could choose from two distinct options when it came to a “one-hand-operable” multi-tool: one-hand-opening pliers OR one-hand-opening blades. Today, Leatherman has taken these two well-loved ideas and fused them into the first ever, 100% one-hand-operable multi-tool, the Leatherman OHT. This industry-first tool features spring-loaded pliers and wire-cutters so you don’t tire your hand adjusting and readjusting your grip. Handles with visual imprints of the tool beneath make for quick identification. A lifesaving strap cutter and oxygen bottle wrench, threading for common-size cleaning rods and much more make this a one-handed workhorse of a tool.

Leatherman OHT

Leatherman set out to make every tool on the OHT one-hand opening and they succeeded, with a little practice we were able to open everything with either hand.

Pliers and Wire Cutters

Center-Drive vs OHT – Pliers: Both pliers deploy with a quick wrist flick. There is some technique to how you hold the handle to get the pliers out on the first try. You have to hold the handles with a soft grip so the rails stay parallel: too tight and the rails are too close together, too loose and the rails are too far apart. Once you know what to do it becomes second nature, and even in the beginning all it takes is a second or third try to get the pliers out.

Leatherman includes a lock mechanism to prevent accidental deployment on the OHT pliers, simply twist a small knob below the release button. The Gerber Center-Drive doesn’t have a lock, but frankly we never used it on the OHT and don’t think its necessary.To retract the pliers on the OHT, simply press both release buttons and slide the handles back inside the handles. The Center-Drive simplifies the action into a single release button that makes it easy to push with your thumb and slide the plier jaws back in one motion.

The handles on both tools are positioned close together when the jaws are fully closed, this makes for a good strong squeeze when you need it. However, the Gerber engineered the bit holder to act as a spacer between the handles and we are not sure why, possibly to prevent pinching your hand when cutting wire. It was clearly intentional because the lip fits into the groove on the opposite handle, but this does limit the force you can apply when gripping very thin items. You fold the bit holder fully open to move it out of the way and get a full squeeze if needed.

OHT vs Center-Drive – Wire Cutters: Both tools use bypass-style wire cutters with replaceable blades that have sections for soft wire and hard wire, but the similarities stop there.

On the Leatherman OHT, the wire cutter blades are 154CM steel with a blade edge shape that both cuts the wire and wedges it apart at the same time. Cuts in 12 AWG copper wire are repeatable and fairly clean. Using the hard wire cutter we were snipping through clothes hanger wire (approximately 12 gauge) with the OHT relatively easily.

The Gerber Center-Drive uses carbide cutters that are thick with only a slight angle and rely on shear force to cut wire. They worked fine cutting soft copper wire with comparable results to the OHT. Cutting hard wire is where we ran into significant problems. The carbide wire cutter blade on the Center-Drive failed when we tried to cut the same 12 gauge clothes hanger wire that the OHT breezed through.

When we say failed, we mean the Center-Drive carbide cutter broke into three pieces, luckily the small shard flew into our glove and not toward our face (PSA – always wear safety glasses when using tools). Full disclosure, the nails are thicker than what Gerber specs for the cutters, but who references the tool specs when you need to cut something? The weak point should be my grip strength, not the tool.

The fatal flaw in Gerber’s engineering is how they configured the triangular cutters with the main support coming from the fastener instead of from the v-shaped cutout. Tungsten carbide is hard but also brittle and stress risers from the fastener cause it to fracture. We loosened the fastener on the other side to see if there was enough play to properly seat the cutter blade but the design appears to be self centering on the fastener.

Knife Blades

Gerber Center-Drive: Gerber’s marketing shows that they really understand what users want – a real knife blade on a multi tool. The Center-Drive delivers with one of the longest knife blades available on any model multi tool and it opens with one-hand. The action is smooth and we are able to open it with our left hand using this trick for lefties. The liner lock gives feedback when it engages and releases easily with a natural thumb motion.

Leatherman OHT: Rather than putting a full-length knife blade on the OHT, Leatherman decided to share the space and put the medium flathead driver on the same handle. We would prefer a longer knife blade, even if that means dropping the cutting hook or saw from the OHT. The clip-point blade is classic Leatherman and gives solid performance for what it is – a 2.1 inch knife blade.

Center-Drive vs OHT – Knife Blade: Both tools use 420HC blade steel that comes sharp and have good edge retention, showing that both Gerber and Leatherman have figured out the right heat treatment process for their knife blades. Both the OHT and Center-Drive use sheepsfoot serrated blades that are approximately the same length and they both use classic drop-point or clip-point designs for the main knife blade.

The difference is simple, the main blade on the Leatherman OHT is too short, especially when compared against the class-leading Gerber Center-Drive. At just longer than 2 inches, the OHT clip-point blade is shorter than many EDC pocket tools and inadequate for a full-size multi tool. The Center-Drive runs away with this comparison.

Screwdrivers

Gerber Center-Drive vs Leatherman OHT – Screwdrivers: Not surprising, but Gerber runs away with this comparison since they build the Center-Drive to feature a large, functional bit driver. It comes with a #2 Phillips and medium flathead driver and the bit kit adds a selection of 12 common bits (Torx, square, Phillips, flathead and hex drivers).

Gerber is correct – having the screwdriver centered on the tool body does make it easier to use. It doesn’t replace a good ratcheting screwdriver (see our favorite on Amazon) but I’ll stick with the Center-Drive for small to medium jobs and not make a trip back to my toolbox.

The OHT has a standard load of small, medium, and large flathead drivers with a #2 Phillips driver. At least the Phillips driver is a full 3D driver and not the 2D flat version. The small and large flatheads are on 1 inch shanks and the body of the OHT limits your reach to any recessed screws. Leatherman put the medium flathead on the end of the strap cutter which gives more reach as long as there is open space around the screw head.

Can/Bottle Openers

Center-Drive vs OHT – Can and Bottle Openers: Gerber dropped the can opener from the Center-Drive and just included a bottle opener on on the pry bar tool. Most homeowners will reach for a cold beverage after finishing a project and the Center-Drive will make sure you get it open.

The OHT brings the standard Leatherman combination can/bottle opener. Leatherman would have made a better multi tool if they left off the openers and used the space for a full-length knife blade.

Additional Tools

Leatherman OHT – Saw and Strap Cutter: The saw and the strap-cutter are niche tools that won’t see much use. I’ll bring my Wave+ or Signal when I’m camping or hiking, long before I would reach for the bulky OHT. We did use the strap cutter to slice some packaging straps and the cutting edge is sharp but it is very infrequent that we need to do this type of work.

Gerber Center-Drive – File, Awl, and Pry Bar: Gerber missed an opportunity with the file on the Center-Drive. One side of the file is single-cut for fine work and the other side is double-cut for coarse work, but Gerber didn’t put ridges on the edge of the file for grooving or cutting metal. The awl is a short punch-style awl without a sewing eye, but it is extremely sharp for puncturing.

Our favorite additional tool on the Gerber is the pry bar/nail puller. This short little powerhouse is reinforced and lets you apply serious force exactly where you want it. Once the pry bar is extended we liked to retract the pliers into the handle to keep other tools from flopping around as we jammed and twisted the pry bar to get the job done.

Weakpoints

Gerber Center-Drive Problems: The spring action on the Center-Drive pliers is weak and does not re-open the handles between squeezes. Instead of loosening up over time we noticed our pliers were even stickier after a month of regular use. We used our procedure to clean and lubricate the Center-Drive, but it wasn’t enough to get the handles moving smoothly. Gerber’s internal spring isn’t strong enough to work reliably.

The big concern with the Center-Drive is the failure of the carbide cutting blades when cutting a wire clothes hanger. Even though it is technically outside of Gerber specs, we think most users expect their multi tool to perform this level of task.

The blade failed without warning and created a small shard with very sharp edges that flew off – a dangerous situation. After our experience we researched the issue and other users report similar failures from their tools so this is a common problem with the Center-Drive.

Our recommendation is to use the Center-Drive for soft wire cutting and to avoid any hard wire thicker than a standard paperclip. If you need your multi tool to cut hard wire, check out our list recommended full-size multi tools.

Leatherman OHT Problems: The OHT also gummed up a bit over the first month of use, but unlike the Center-Drive a quick clean and lube restored the spring action. The handle scales are mainly present for decoration and to keep the rails aligned, so their thinness is not so much a structural issue but it affects how we use the OHT. It just seems weak in our hand when we feel the scales flex until the play in the sturdier rails and pliers joint provide resistance.

Except for the scales, our main issue with the OHT is lack of capability. All tools perform well for their size, but for a large multi tool we expect more capability from the knife blades and would really like to have a bit driver instead of dedicated screwdriver tools.

Variants of the Gerber Center-Drive

Since it launched in 2016 the Center-Drive comes in the base model and from 2019, the Center-Drive Plus. The Center-Drive Plus drops the serrated knife blade to make room for scissors, while also changing the main knife blade to a combo edge.

  • Gerber Product #30-001193 Center-Drive
  • Gerber Product #30-001417 Center-Drive Plus

Variants of the Leatherman OHT

Leatherman offers the OHT in two different colors on the handle scales, both models have the same tool configuration.

  • Leatherman Product #831624 OHT Coyote-Tan
  • Leatherman Product #831540 OHT Black

Advantage to Gerber Center Drive

Even though it is slightly larger, the Gerber Center-Drive is lighter than the Leatherman OHT. Gerber uses the space well and built the Center-Drive with the full size tools users want most: pliers, knife blade, and bit driver.

The Center-Drive gets its name from the bit driver that unfolds to put the head at the center of the handles. The positioning and magnetic tip makes it the best screwdriver experience of any multi tool we’ve tested.

Gerber has decades of experience with their one-hand pliers sliding mechanism and the Center-Drive opens smoothly with just a flick of the wrist. We put the pliers through some heavy use of the course of several months and the Center-Drive breezed through it all. The jaws kept their alignment and could still pull hairs at the end of testing.

Gerber put one of the largest knife blades available on any multi tool on the Center-Drive and did it right. The classic drop-point design is easy to control and the 420HC blade steel is sharp and holds an edge well.

All the positives don’t outweigh the fact that the tungsten carbide wire cutters failed in a dangerous way during testing. Tools fail, that wouldn’t be a problem if the jaws had deformed or simply not cut the hanger, but when the blades fractured it sent shards flying. Check out the best heavy-duty multi tools from our hands-on testing that perform better.

Advantage to Leatherman OHT

In this head to head competition, the OHT has functioning wire cutters but every other category goes to the Gerber Center-Drive. Despite its limitations the OHT performs like you expect it to without surprises. The OHT was Leatherman’s first attempt at making a truly one-handed tool and they succeeded in that aspect. Leatherman re-engineers and makes improvements to their designs and we have hope that the OHT will get updated soon.

For now, the OHT has the weight and size of a heavy duty multi tool but has shorter tools and capability that put it in the full-size category. Check out our recommended full-size multi tools instead.

Dan Sawyer

I'm the guy behind Multi Tool Mountain. I grew up in Wisconsin with a love for the outdoors. I currently live in Texas with my family where DIY home improvement projects keep my and my multi tools busy.

Recent Content