Cowan’s Great Multitool Throwdown

Today Cowan! does a throwdown between three popular multitools. Read up.

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The Great Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Tool Overview

Multitools have been popular among the hands-on community for decades. This whole class of implements was arguably started by Tim Leatherman’s first multi-tool, the PST from the 1980s when the convenient Swiss Army Knife just didn’t fit his needs. Since then there have been continual refinements to the concept and a few front-runners in quality tool design. A multitool is a field expedient toolbox that sits on your belt, in your pocket or in your kit. They’ve been general in nature for a long time, just a collection of tools to address common problems.

When I was a budget conscientious E-2 in the Army I purchased a Gerber multitool. I honestly didn’t know why I needed one, I just knew everyone else had them, so  I knew I must need one as well. I don’t remember the model, but it was the one with the slick flip out pliers that made you look cool when deploying it to break an ammo seal or get down to business on an MRE bag. Unfortunately, the pliers weren’t very durable and it wasn’t long before I broke them and had to hunt down a new tool to replace it.  So I snatched up a used Leatherman, the Supertool 200 at a pawn shop. It was made out of bare steel, and being silver in color it wasn’t very tactical, but it served me well and I still have it.

For some reason, even though the idea had been around a long time, a gun-specific tool didn’t exist until recently. In the first decade of the 2000s, a few companies put out weapon- and/or AR-specific tools to meet the demands of shooters everywhere. The Multitasker, Leatherman MUT, Gerber EFECT (and later the Gerber MP1 AR-15) hit the market at their respective times and finally options were available for anyone who needed functions a regular multitool didn’t provide.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Leatherman MUT

My first AR specific tool was the MUT, a gift in 2010.  A few years later I happened upon the Multitasker, but the Gerber tools exist as well, so the question always remains, which AR-centric tool is best?  Well, I wanted to find out for myself.  The Multitasker, the MUT, Gerber eFECT and now the Gerber MP1-AR are the most popular (the eFECT is also an NSN item for military issue) so they seemed to be the best choices to look at.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber Efect

I normally don’t like to write comparisons between products, as each should be given the chance to stand on its own merits. Sometimes though a side-by-side is a good way to go. So, as objectively as possible, I did a rundown on the Multitasker Series 3, Leatherman MUT, Gerber eFECT and Gerber MP1-AR.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber MP 1

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Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Multi Tasker Series 3

First things first; all three have the AR series of rifles in mind with their design but go about it in different ways. The Multitasker and the MP1 come with small bit toolkits for weapon/optic and general task servicing, whereas the eFECT stands on its own as a self-contained tool with the option to use OTIS tool ends. The MUT offers a number of on-body stored tool bits.

The MP1’s tool kit is probably the best provided; more bits means less need to hunt down additional bits or another tool altogether. The Multitaskers tool kit is sufficient, but its bit holder doesn’t function as well as that from the MP1. The eFECT doesn’t come with additional bits, so unless you have an OTIS kit or pick one up, you are limited to what is supplied. The MUT’s stored tools are limited but cover the basics; flathead, crosstip, torx and hex tips.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber MP 1 Tool Tip

For construction, the Gerber MP1 is stainless steel, forged steel (plier head) and plastic for grip surface. The pliers are spring loaded and rest in the open position, with pressure applied there is plenty of leverage supplied by the long handles/body but an uncomfortable amount of flex in the handles. The plier heads have the usual wire cutter blade and a useful wire stripper for smaller gauge wires. Unlike the Multitasker and MUT, the cutting blades on the MP1 are not replaceable. The thin profile of the plier teeth doesn’t lend them to tougher tasks such as larger nuts or bolts but for general purposes they get the job done.

The eFECT is stainless steel and plastic as well and made very compact by the lack of pliers; it functions more like a multi-blade pocket knife, except it doesn’t include a knife blade, either. Just performing general tasks with the eFECT tools, the construction feels solid and there is little flex even with heavy pressure applied. Quality steel and the small size of the eFECT are responsible for this.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber Efect Sight Tool

The Multitasker is made of D2 tool steel with g10 grip covers. The Plier heads are manually opened as opposed to the spring loaded MP1, are wide and have both coarse and fine teeth to cover multiple uses. The pliers house replaceable carbide steel cutters and because of the wider plier heads, the Multitasker is much better suited for harder tasks. Minimal handle flex under pressure and the positive adjustment provided by the CNC-machined (not cast or forged) D2 pliers gives the impression that the Multitasker is built for hard work.

The MUT is made of stainless steel (420HC and 154CM) and is very well constructed; the plier heads are wide with needle nose and a jaw plier contour, wire cutters included of course. Pressure flex is nearly nonexistent. The grip surface is a little uncomfortable due to the design and lacks of creature comforts provided by grip panels, though this is a small issue. The bottom side of the pliers has cutter/crimpers built in.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Tool Overview Plier Heads

For body tools, the MP1 includes a knife blade, hybrid/serrated saw blade, scraper/takedown pin punch, pick, bit head for the tool kit and a threaded head with an included right angle scraper, probably threaded so the scraper can be replaced if you break it (which you mostly like will; I did). All the tools lock into place, allowing for great pressure if needed to be applied to any tool without the worry of them folding in on you. The safety mechanism on the MP1 is a slider switch, but it will not engage unless one or more tools are folded all the way out. If one tool is slightly folded out, another will not lock in place.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber MP 1 lock

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber MP 1 Scraper

Now the eFECT is all tools; flat end scraper, OTIS tool head (with a supplied nylon brush head) take down pin punch, front sight tool, flat head screwdriver and a second OTIS tool head with a supplied right angle pick (the same as on the MP1). All the tools lock into place, useful obviously.  The lack of a knife blade or any cutting edge and the lack of pliers limit the eFECT seriously in anything but weapon maintenance, or zeroing.  Of course Gerber may have not intended the eFECT as a competitor to the other tools, just as a self-contained tool kit and at least in that respect it is pretty good. It could have been made much better with a bit driver and tool kit, however.

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Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber Efect Scraper

The Multitasker comes with a cutting blade, spanner (castle nut) wrench/flat head screw driver, a ½” and 3/8” hex wrench, bit driver, angled and radiused scraper and a threaded head punch (compatible with OTIS tools). The cutting blade locks into place while every other tool is non-locking, which is a bit frustrating when applying pressure on the bit driver or scraper and realizing you are working towards the hinge rather than against it, but with a little more attention than usual it’s easy to deal with. As far as usefulness goes, the Multitasker tool complement is well thought out and includes options that the MP1 and eFECT don’t have (like the castle nut wrench and ½”/3/8” wrenches). The tool steel is thick, reducing flex and allowing much more pressure to be exerted than the MP1 or eFECT.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Multi Tasker Series 3 Wrench

The MUT provides a knife (partially serrated) blade and a saw blade, which both lock into place. Also provided is a bronze scraper. Bronze is softer than steel, meaning it won’t mar or scratch steel as easily as a steel scraper. At the rear of the MUT is a cutting hook/hammer/bolt over ride combo. The provided short bit flathead/cross tip and long bit torx/hex tools are useful, as is the folding (and replaceable) pin punch. But other than that, on-body tools are lacking.

Using all three tools over the past month (I’ve had 5 years with the MUT and around 4 months with the Series 3) for a variety of AR and general weapon maintenance/malfunction tasks I’ve gotten a feel for each. For day-to-day maintenance, any one of the tools will perform well. It might be arguable that the eFECT is better suited for weapon maintenance than the others because that’s it apparent purpose, but beyond being a decent basic cleaning device its utility isn’t much. The MP1, MUT and Multitasker fare much better because their designs make them much more versatile. When it comes to a rifle-specific tool, field repair takes precedence over basic maintenance and maintenance is generally something performed in an administrative fashion with (usually) no sense of urgency. A weapon malfunction, however, usually carries a sense of urgency and need and for that, the more tools the better. On the face of it, the MP1, MUT and Multitasker are closely matched.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Multi Tasker Series 3 Castle Nut Wrench

The biggest differences between the three are in construction.

The Multitasker is nearly overbuilt. Its construction is solid. This is mostly due to the D2 steel and overall thickness of the tools and plier head.  The Multitasker has a greater plier length than both the MP1 and MUT and while the plier nose isn’t as thin as the MP1, it works in and around the AR platform fine. Incidental and purposeful use of the tools lead to no breakage or malfunctions. The Tasker supplies more in the way of malfunction focused tools; being able to tear an AR lower down with just the included tools is a huge advantage. In fact the only thing you can’t do with the Tasker is remove a barrel nut.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Tool Overview Plier Length

The MP1 has too much flex in its body. I like the fact that all the tools lock in place but the thin steel allows too much movement for my liking. The toolkit is excellent, but the OTIS-compatible threaded tip is a weak point as I found out using the MP1 to clean. With enough pressure, the supplied scraper will break, but that’s to be expected from small instruments.

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Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Gerber MP 1 Scraper

The MUT’s bolt override tool is very useful, provided you can’t override the bolt with the plier heads (something I’ve been doing when occasion called for it for years). The plier head includes threaded sockets for use with cleaning rods and the body of the MUT can be used as a T handle, especially useful for punching a stuck casing out of the chamber if you have a rod on hand.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Leatherman MUT T Handle

The non-symmetrical design of the MUT handles is a bit cumbersome, which made me prefer my Super Tool 200 for many purposes even though it’s not AR-specific in design. I was also able to break the pin punch attachment punching a particular tight pin on a student’s rifle during a class a few years ago, which sort of goes against the design of that particular tool.

Multi Tool Throwdown - Aaron Cowan - Sage Dynamics - Leatherman MUT Break

For the cost, the Multitaskers MSRP is about $25 dollars more than the MP1 and a little over $100 more than the eFECT.  The MUT is just a few more dollars than the MP1 so it falls into the same category.  For me, the eFECT isn’t even an option for a hard use tool.  Its usefulness ends at cleaning.  The MP1 can do the job, but only part of it.  The Multitasker can do everything the MP1 or MUT can do and for just a little more MSRP, I get a much better-constructed tool made of stronger materials.  With such a small difference in price, I would think that Gerber could have gone with a slightly higher price point just to use better materials.  The MUT is solid in its construction but falls very short in design; it has some innovative features (such as the ability to use it as a T handle on a cleaning rod) although some other features, such as the hammer/cutter/bolt override tool make using the MUT’s pliers cumbersome.

The MP1’s toolkit is a clear winner, but outside of that and the fact that all of its tools can lock into place, it can’t stand up to the durability and usefulness of the Series 3 Multitasker. The MUT takes second for me; its lack of tools (even though the supplied wrench is useful) and non-symmetrical design, added to the difficulty of removing the long bit from handle storage, makes it more aggravating than convenient. After 5 years of use, the MUT has been replaced as my go-to by the Series 3. The eFECT and MP1 are too light in construction for serious consideration.

As objective as I try to be, personal preference obviously factors into this so your opinion may vary. But for me, the Series 3 offers the best choices and its few cons are greatly outweighed by its positives. Makes me wonder what they will improve for the Series 4.

Addendum, a couple years later: Be sure to check out the Multi-Tasker TWIST; you’ll be glad you did. 

 

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COWAN!

Aaron Cowan is a patched Minion and an idiot savant of the tactical variety from a little place we like to call Hotlanta (though apparently no one from down there actually calls it that). COWAN! is the Lead Instructor and HMFIC of program development for Sage Dynamics who believes every article should be roughly the equivalent of a doctoral thesis, which is of course something we absolutely appreciate. To call him thorough would be to damn him with faint praise. We call him COWAN! because anything in all caps with an exclamation point after it must be awesome. A former infantryman turned PSC contractor and LEO, COWAN! has served in several SWAT and training billets. He also has an unseemly and disturbing fascination with horse head masks. Sage Dynamics is a reality-focused firearms and tactics training company that provides practical instruction for the civilian, police and military professional. An identical twin whose brother went on to become Agent 47, COWAN! is the author of twoRushing Winter novels and the designated fluffer on the set of numerous training videos here on the Sage Dynamics YouTube page. Sage Dynamics is on Facebook here; you can follow them on Instagram here and of course you can read his occasional informed and sagacious rumination here on Breach-Bang-Clear. Grunts: rumination.


COWAN! has 19 posts and counting. See all posts by COWAN!

3 thoughts on “Cowan’s Great Multitool Throwdown

  • June 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm
    Permalink

    I have a multitasker. I actually won it in a contest thru 702shooter.com and I love it. I’ve used it daily since I got it and haven’t had a single problem. I use it not only for my weapons, but for everyday tasks that you’d use a multitool. It’s extremely sturdy and well made. If you’re considering one of the tools in this blog, give the Multitasker a try. You will not be disappointed.

    Reply
  • June 10, 2015 at 7:16 pm
    Permalink

    Good writeup/review. I have a MUT and dig it, but I’ve considered going to the Multitasker. The main reason I don’t is that I use the hammer on the MUT too much to give it up. I got the Leatherman 40 bit kit (2 sleeves of 20 different bits) for $18 which made it much more useful to me. There’s also pocket for one of the sleeves in the case that comes with the MUT, so you can bring the 20 you use most without them taking up any additional space.

    The other thing is Leatherman’s customer service is great. I broke the pin punch on my MUT too (snapped the threads off exactly like you did), called them and explained what happened and they sent me a new punch and attachment screw at no charge. The only annoying thing is that it’s held on by a tamper-resitant Torx screw, so you’ll need one of those bits to replace it. Of course, their customer service wouldn’t have to be great if it didn’t break in the first place, but I’m still a happy customer.

    Reply
    • June 11, 2015 at 8:45 pm
      Permalink

      Leathermans customer service has always been amazing. I send mine in every other year or so just to have them go though mine. They clean it up sharpen blades replace lost bits and it looks almost new every time I send it in. They do it at no cost and return it without shipping or handling. All I do is send it in to them. I will always buy Leatherman over any other brand because of their warranty. Great quality. Awesome company! I have 3 of them by the way

      Reply

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