Leatherman Surge Review

May 5, 2014
Leatherman Surge
Construction & Materials
Design / Ease of Use
Edge Retention

The Good

  • Bomber Needlenose Pliers
  • Large scissors
  • Replaceable Wire Cutters
  • Large Knife Blades

The Bad

  • She’s a wee heavy
  • Lock on internal tools prone to accidental disenagement

Many people will find the Leatherman Surge too big and bulky for their day-to-day needs–those folks would be happier with the Leatherman Wave. Based purely on its size, I let the Leatherman Surge sit on my workbench for a couple of months before I put it in my pocket and began using it daily. After I started using it I quickly found this tool smaller and lighter than the toolbox I would need to carry around otherwise. I think I’ll leave this in my pocket a little while longer.


Construction & Materials
Like their other full-sized tools, Leatherman has built the Surge to withstand some serious abuse. By adding in the option to replace some of the key tools (saw, wire cutters, Philips head screwdriver) they’ve eliminated a couple of my pet peeves found on other tools in this price range.

During some cutting and stabbing exercises, the frame lock that secures the blades, saw and files performed exceptionally well. Because of the close quarters where the lock itself is, the mechanism tended to get jammed up with grit or pocket lint. I was able to simply blow on the channel behind the lock and clear the small grit, freeing it easily.

The lock for the internal tools is also solid, but its placement allowed my hand to easily slide forward and accidentally disengage it. This wasn’t an issue once I became aware of it, but recessing the button more into the frame would really improve it overall.

The use of 154CM steel on anything is a plus, but in the case of the Surge that steel would have been better suited for the knife blades (kicking the 420HC to the curb) instead of the wire cutters. The 154CM steel has many great features, but shearing and trauma-type cutting is not one of its strong suits as it is prone to chipping in those situations. Thankfully, the wire cutters can be replaced.

Visually, the Surge will start showing signs of wear within a couple of weeks. However, this doesn’t impact the function. Like anything mechanical, you just need to keep the Surge free of debris and its edged tools sharp.

I threw this thing at a rock the other day and besides a couple of gouges there’s no signs of damage. I’ve had other tools dent, bend, or snap on me for lesser acts of violence. Although I like that the saw blade can be replaced, the Blade Exchange device made me a little uneasy on initial cuts as it allows the blade to flex more than I like.

The pliers on the Surge are some of the strongest in the market today. And because no pair of wire cutters will last the lifetime of a tool, it’s a bonus that Leatherman made the ones of the Surge replaceable. As is common with many Leatherman tools, the Surge sports two bit holders. For the Surge, they replaced one of those bit holders with their Blade Exchanger and a medium sized Flat Head. I think this was a fair trade-off overall, because saw blades are the first tools to show signs of abuse in this setting.

Design & Ease of Use
The Leatherman Surge is a large tool, no doubt about it and because of that, folks with smaller hands might find this tool almost too much for them. The size of the arms is a bit larger than what’s found on other tools. That quickly proves to be a fair trade when I used the pliers to their full potential– putting to use that extra torque on a stubborn bolt–but it’s worth testing the Surge out in a controlled setting before fully relying on it.

Edge Retention
The nice thing about 420HC steel is that it will hold an edge for a decent amount of time, which is a blessing when considering the serious chore it will be to re-sharpen the wildly serrated blade on the Surge.

Although they are competitively priced, some people find Leatherman tools to be a little expensive. In some cases I would agree but the Surge provides a great use of materials and a variety of tools that can be maintained easily in the field. So I think the value of this tool is worth the retail cost.

What’s Included

  • Needlenose Pliers
  • Regular Pliers
  • 154CM Replaceable Wire Cutters
  • 154CM Replaceable Hard-wire Cutters
  • Stranded-wire Cutters
  • Electrical Crimper
  • Wire Stripper
  • 420HC Knife
  • 420HC Serrated Knife
  • Saw
  • Spring-action Scissors
  • Awl w/ Thread Loop
  • 8” Ruler
  • Can Opener
  • Bottle Opener
  • Wood/Metal File
  • Diamond-coated File
  • Blade Exchanger system
  • Large Bit Driver
  • Large Screwdriver
  • Small Screwdriver
  • Nylon Sheath


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