Review: Leatherman ARC MagnaCut Multi-tool

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More than even making exemplary tools, Leatherman is a company about legacy and longevity. Did you know that the original Wave, one of their most iconic and popular tools, and still one of the best multi-tools you can buy right now, came out 25 years ago in 1998? Pair that with a considerable 25-year warranty, and you’re all but guaranteed a lifetime of service from their tools.

This post was last updated on 12/22/2023.

On the one hand, Leatherman making such long-lasting tools means they don’t make new ones very often. Conversely, when they do, it usually means generational leaps forward for multi-tool technology and functionality. Such was the case with the one-handed magnetic FREE series, which is the case for the FREE’s successor, the new Leatherman ARC, the production model of their recent Garage #005 project.

Leatherman isn’t always on the cutting edge of contemporary and trendy materials for their tools–after all, if a tool isn’t broken for 25 years, there’s no need to fix it–so popular everyday carry mainstays like higher-end steels or titanium and carbon fiber scales rarely make an appearance on the brand’s flagship models. That was, until Leatherman decided to dive headfirst into arguably the most significant alloy of the past decade: Crucible Industries’ MagnaCut. MagnaCut is THE steel at the moment, devised by metallurgist and prolific steel geek Dr. Larrin Thomas to be “the best” knife steel: a powder stainless steel that had incredible toughness and edge retention while still having amazing corrosion resistance, second only to specialized corrosion-impervious steels like Vanax or LC200N.

Long story short, it’s the best of the best, and headlines the ARC’s functionalities with its use on the primary 2.8” blade. It’s also PVD-coated for even more corrosion resistance and comes with a redesigned geometry for a stronger tip (but please, don’t pry with it, the pry tool is right there). Sharing the spotlight is a function many, myself included, wanted the most out of the original FREE tools: a bit driver. It was the one thing that held back the FREE from actual one-tool-to-rule-them-all status, and why the Wave+ remains neck and neck with the FREE as its true competition. With the bit driver on the ARC and the inclusion of additional bits in the package, it may very well be the multi-tool to beat moving forward.

Underneath these two pillars remains the familiar magnetic platform that debuted with the FREE P2 and P4. You get a two-tone color scheme with outer tools deployable and lockable one-handed (the knife, unfortunately, only with a right-handed stud), with 20 functions that include a new diamond-coated file, mini bit driver (for things like eyeglasses repair), ever-useful scissors, a redesigned bottle opener, and even an impact surface on the bottom of the handles.

So what’s the verdict? It’s been a long journey for Leatherman and their timeless tools, but this tool’s story arc is the one I’ve been anticipating the most. The only thing of interest that could have made this better for my tastes was some titanium detailing like on the Charge TTi. Still, it’s not a deal breaker, especially considering what I’ve gained with the MagnaCut blade (which saves me from buying a knife with the same steel) and the bit driver my FREE P4 sorely lacks.

Even the much steeper asking price of $230 is, in my opinion, worth saving up for, as you get three seriously strong features in the FREE’s magnetic system, an endgame knife, and a bit driver to cover nearly every daily task you could run into. Whether all of that is worth starting a new journey of your own with a new tool, at the very least, like all Leatherman tools, the ARC is in it for the long run.

The ARC is now available on Leatherman’s site at the link below.

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