How many times have you ever been out and about on your daily business and found yourself needing a screwdriver or a pair of pliers? No? So it’s just me then?
Yeah, I find myself in need of a tool of some sort several times throughout the day, but then, I do a lot with my hands. Some people never touch any type of tool at all their whole entire lives.
Multi-tools aren’t the perfect tool for every job, by any means. But a multi-tool is “A” tool for “A” job that happens when you least expect it. A multi-tool is a tool that is actually many tools, all in a neat, compact package that is intended for emergencies. Let’s take a look.
A multi-tool is not particularly intended to be used around the house. A multi-tool is more intended for when you are AWAY from the house, and in need of a tool for something unexpected. But if you had a good multi-tool, and you were at your friend’s house or the like, and they needed that switch replaced, then you are golden.
Say for another example, you and some friends are out on some land shooting guns and putting a scope on one of your rifles, and zeroing it. Or maybe you need to field strip as gun and it requires a screwdriver or a punch. A good multi-tool can handle a couple of tasks like that with no problems at all.
Or let’s say that you are out mudding or hunting using four wheelers, and something breaks down on one of the all terrain vehicles. You do have a decent sized travel tool box in your truck, but the truck is five miles “back that way” where you parked when you took off on the four wheelers. Now what do you do? Simple, you break out the multi-tool that you have on your belt and get that thing fixed (ideally).
What can a multi-tool be used for?
If they need their oil changed in their car, they take it to the 20 minute oil change place. Well, that actually is better than doing it yourself, so that’s a bad example. If you do take it to one of those places though just make sure they actually filled it with oil and put the oil pan plug back in. I have heard stories from people about negligent workers in those places destroying their engines because of little “oopsies” like that.
Maybe a better example would be that if they need a light switch and an outlet changed in their bathroom they just call the electrician. That can easily cost $200-300 for a job that takes ten minutes and costs $6-$10 for a ground fault outlet and a dollar for the switch. All they needed was a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a tiny bit of knowledge, and they could have done it themselves. Two of those three things can be found on a multi-tool.
What are the drawbacks of a multi-tool?
There are a ton of different types and makes of multi-tools on the market, from the practically useless to the amazingly useful. Multi-tools are priced from less than ten bucks for a cheap generic no-name brand, to well over 100 bucks for brands like Leatherman multi-tools.
Some multi-tools are actually quite useful while others are border line, if not full on outright useless. Like this moose thing here. It just looks like something some stoner “bro” type hiker would carry to open his micro brewery seasonal beers with (or whatever you call them).
Another one that looks kind of cool, but is probably pretty useless, is this one with a hammer and a hatchet on it:
I just can’t see this one really being much use for anything really except decor. The hammer and hatchet makes it too bulky and unwieldy to be able to use the screwdrivers. Since the hammer and hatchet heads are also the plier’s jaws I can’t see those being very functional either. It’s like a good idea gone wrong.
Then there’s the fact that it’s only nine inches long. That’s too small to really be of any use for a hatchet. If you have a good sturdy bowie knife or a kukri, it will chop wood better than this little hatchet I would wager. It is cheap, so a good gag gift.
Original multi tool
In my opinion, the original multi-tool, and still one of the most useful, is the Victorinox Swiss army knife (see below).
This is a small, pocket sized item that has multiple functions, hence, it is a multi-tool. All other multi-tools came after and so, even if they look different, they borrowed the idea from Victorinox.
However, since they make the multi-tools based on a pair of pliers rather than a pocket knife, the multi-tool took on a look and design all it’s own. Take some of the extremely expensive models from Leatherman, the Mut EOD (see below).
This multi-tool can comes in at a very steep price for a multi-tool. Let’s see what it is exactly that this multi-tool boasts that warrants such a price. They claim that this particular device was built with the AR 15/M4/M16 platform rifles specifically in mind. I watched the video and one of the features was a tool that you are supposed to reach in the ejection port of the rifle to clear a jam.
But I’m having trouble figuring out why they think that:
- disengaging your target
- reaching down to your belt and getting the tool out of the pouch
- accessing that particular function of the tool
- removing your magazine from the rifle
- then sticking the tool in the ejection port to pull back the bolt
Is better than, well, you know, pulling back on the charging handle to clear the jam?
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but I think that’s just silly. If you are really in a combat situation and your rifle suffers a malfunction (and boy those ARs, M4s, and M 16s do malfunction, and usually at the most inopportune moment, like when your life depends on it), the last thing you want to do is start fumbling with some bulky, clumsy multi-tool to do something that the rifle already has a function to do already.
I mean seriously, that’s it, pull back the charging handle, clear the jam, let the bolt fly and keep rocking. There is no reason to take a magazine out just to clear a jam in combat. Most of these types of “tools” are gimmicky things that you don’t really need but they make these all serious sounding ads with the dramatic music to get you all amped up and think, “Hey, MY AR jams”, because they all do. I honestly think I have had more jams with my AR’s that ALL of the other guns I have ever owned combined, forever.
Then they show you the bronze “carbon scrapers” that are on the tool for scraping the buildup off of the bolt and firing pin. That’s actually a thing that has to be done diligently when cleaning an AR. But I always just used a flat tip screwdriver to reach down in there and scrape the gunk out, then go at it with a 12 ga bore brush and lots of powder solvent.
It works great and costs very little, but you will look ultra cool at the gun range when your AR jams and you bust out that fancy tool that costs bank, rather than pulling back on the charging handle.
More “awesome” functions of the fancy tool
The tool also boasts specific functions for the bomb squad/EOD team. A punch for poking a hole in a block of C4 just the right size for the det cap and some snips specially designed for cutting fuse wire, and EVERYONE needs those tools. No, wait, we don’t.
Although it has all these specialized features, about a half dozen different driver tips, wire cutters and pliers, it just seems really expensive to me. But, if you are the kind of guy that likes to buy the most expensive thing because a high price must mean the best, then I would say this Leatherman tool is the one for you.
Admittedly, it is kind of cool, but again a few hundred, I just can’t see it when you can buy a lesser priced tool that does pretty much the same thing. Like cutting wire, does your cheapy multi-tool have a knife blade on it? Then it will cut wire too.
Okay, well I guess I will stop bashing the Leatherman Mut EOD ultra super duper cool multi-tool and move on to something more reasonably priced. Let’s be realistic. How many of you will spend more than a few tenners on a multi-tool? Raise your hands. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8… okay, I see, so a lot of you will spend more than $25 on a multi-tool. So, how many of you will spend more than $50 on a multi-tool, raise your hands. 1,2,3,4….fewer than will spend more than $25.
So, with my little test there I think it’s safe to say that most people will spend between $25 and $50 on a multi-tool. Well, Leatherman can cover that for you too. Not ALL of their multi-tools are ridiculously priced. There are other brands too Here’s a Leatherman that’s pretty economic:
A couple of good multi-tools that fall in this price range are the Gerber Suspension multiplier 11 function multi-tool for under $50 and the Leatherman Wingman 14 function multi-tool for less than $50. Both of these offer sturdy construction and quality manufacturing with names that are known to make quality products with a price that won’t break your wallet.
Then there is this one that is sold under the Cabelas brand name and it only costs just a few bucks! No, seriously. I’m sure it’s probably made in China, but it has like seven functions, that’s less than $1 per function. And realistically, it has everything you might need. A knife blade, a couple of screwdrivers, scissors, a couple of other things that I’m not sure what they are.
The Lowes brand Kobalt offers a 13 function multi-tool that comes with a separate razor knife and an LED flashlight. I own a few Kobalt tools, never had any problems out of them and they seem well made. That’s probably a decent multi-tool for a good price.
Function over form
What it really comes down to with multi-tools is, what do you think you will need it for? Is this the only item you plan to carry? If it is then I would buy the biggest, best one that you can afford.
Do you just intend for it to be a little emergency backup tool? Well, then you can most likely get by with a multi-tool that has 15 or 20 functions on it. They all have knife blades on them, they all have pliers (of course), and they all have screw drivers on them.
Those are really likely the most important tools that you need to have on you. Let’s be serious here, you just don’t have to buy the most expensive item to get a serviceable product. You can buy a modestly priced tool of decent quality and it will serve you well.
This video actually gives a good look at ten different multi-tools:
I am 100% sure that if a rich man were writing this same article, he would tell you that unless you buy that fancy Leatherman you might as well not buy anything. But I am here to tell you that a multi-tool, being a very handy item to have, is like any other tool (including firearms).
Buy the best item that you can afford that best suits your needs. Go out and shop, put your hands on them, feel them, look at them. See how well (or poorly) each one is made and then you can make an educated decision based on real world knowledge. And that, my friends, is the best multi-tool for EDC carry.