Submitted by Eric Daniel
Not to long ago, while rooting through our supply room, I happened across a pair of wire cutters. Not only were the cutters new (in the box new) but they clearly were not GI issue (at least they didn't look like the cutter's I'd always seen in the tank's BII tool bag.)
These were put out by Gerber, and as they were clearly not seeing much use in the supply room, I decided to "secure" them and take them out into the field with me. I've never though much about wire cutters beyond, "do they cut wire?" and so I really didn't know what I might do to put them through a shakedown, so what I ended up doing was chopping up loose bits of what ever we had lying about the motor pool. This included WD-1 commo wire, concertina wire, razor tape, galvanized nails and cyclone fence, and commercial copper and steel insulated electrical wire. The bottom line here was, unless it was aircraft cable, if you could fit it in the jaws, these cutters would cut it.
Compared to the issue cutters, the Gerber cutters had a number of advantages. The edges were harder and the tolerances tighter, which translated to easier cuts and a lot less binding, and the Gerber unit has two cutting edges (opposite each other on the cutting head) so you could cut "up" or "down.") The Gerber also has a pair of "horns" which makes it useful for extracting and leveraging staples or clips, and is can serve passably well as a pair of fencing pliers if you haven't got a real set to do the job (the Gerber cutters have no crimping capability and they don't have a flat pounding surface.)
On the downside, the Gerber cutters are spring loaded - they have a spring in the unit that pushes the handles apart. While this does make it easier to use the cutters one-handed, I was so unused to it that every time I pulled the cutters out of their little carrying bag, if I forgot to firmly grab both handles, which was often, the cutter handles would snap out with such force that I would drop them. Not a deal breaker, to be sure, but annoying when it happens in the dark (a locking "bail" on the back of the handles would be a nice addition.) In addition, if you weren't carrying them in their little carrying pouch, the deployed cutter handles take up a lot of space in the tool bag, to the point that they're something of an albatross. Also, given the layout of the cutting surface, there is an absolute max diameter to the wire you can cut; if the wire won't fit in the groove, you can cut it (while the issue cutters have significantly less cutting force than the Gerber cutters do, the issue cutters do have a larger maximum opening.) Finally, there is no way to sharpen or replace the cutting edges. While this was also true of the issue ones, for what you pay for the Gerber's, it would be nice if they had replaceable carbide cutting surfaces (which you see on a number of their multi-tools.)
All in all though, I have to say I'm impressed by them and I think I'll be keeping this pair.
Oh, and yes, they do come with an NSN (5110-01-539-6851.)
P.S. - In looking over the cutters, it looks like you might be able to replace the cutting portion of the tool, though you might need to do some grinding to get a cople of rivents out to remove the cutting head from the handle assembly. I'll give gerber a call and see what they say. ED