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Leatherman ARC Review

ARC is the multi-tool world's top dog. Combining premium materials and tool selection with the innovative FREE Tech system for one-handed use, the ARC is almost impossibly useful
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Leatherman ARC Review (ARC is a full-sized multi-tool, and will fit comfortably in (nearly) every hand.)
ARC is a full-sized multi-tool, and will fit comfortably in (nearly) every hand.
Credit: Kyle Hameister
Price:  $230 List
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Manufacturer:   Leatherman
By Kyle Hameister ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 25, 2024
86
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 22
  • Functions - 40% 9.0
  • Construction Quality - 25% 9.0
  • Ergonomics - 20% 9.0
  • Portability - 15% 6.0

Our Verdict

ARC is the crown jewel of Leatherman's lineup in many ways, and certainly its most innovative. Drawing on years of development time and extensive user input, Leatherman has an absolute beauty of a product on their hands here. You'll pay dearly for the privilege of owning it, top of the charts of all our tested multi-tools, but it demands to be used out in everyday life instead of stored among the eye candy in your trophy case. Top-tier materials at every turn, innovative FREE technology, outside access to all tools (except the pliers), reliable tool locks, and swappable bits make the ARC among the most impressive products we've had the opportunity to review in a long time. See how the rest of the products stand up to this one in our best multi-tool review.
REASONS TO BUY
Impact surfaces
One-handed operation
Swappable bits
Fantastic knife blade steel
REASONS TO AVOID
Play in the hinges
Too big for everyday carry

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Leatherman ARC
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Price $230 List$189.95 at Amazon
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Bottom Line We couldn't be more impressed with Leatherman's job in design and engineering of the ARC. The premium price tag is absolutely justified in our mindsThe sky-high standard by which other traditional multi tools are comparedClever and clean, with only a few tools, all of which are executed well for everyday carryAll you should need, with proven pedigree, at a palatable price pointA compact budget tool with excellent construction and a reasonable set of features for daily use
Rating Categories Leatherman ARC Leatherman Charge+ TTi Leatherman Skeletoo... Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Wingman
Functions (40%)
9.0
9.0
5.0
8.0
5.0
Construction Quality (25%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
Ergonomics (20%)
9.0
7.0
10.0
7.0
8.0
Portability (15%)
6.0
6.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Specs Leatherman ARC Leatherman Charge+ TTi Leatherman Skeletoo... Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Wingman
Number of Functions 20 + bits 19 + bits 5 + bits 18 + bits 10
Closed Dimensions (Measured) 4.3"L x 0.7"D 4.0"L x 0.8"D 4.3"L x 0.6"D 4.0"L x 0.7"D 3.8"L x 0.7"D
Weight 8.6 oz 8.8 oz 5.0 oz 8.5 oz
(9.5 oz w/ case)
6.8 oz
(7.8 oz w/ sheath)
Blades and Type 1 straight drop point 1 serrated gut hook type, 1 straight drop point 1 straight drop point 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 hybrid serrated/straight drop point
Full Length w/ Primary Blade Open (Measured) 7" 7" 6.8" 6.9" 6.4"
Primary Blade Effective Edge Length (Measured) 2.5" 2.8" 2.6" 2.8" 2.4"
Pliers type Needlenose, standard with 2 replaceable wire cutters Needlenose with wire cutters, crimper Needlenose with 2 wire cutters Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Spring-loaded, regular, needlenose
Full Length w/ Pliers Open (Measured) 6.4" 6.2" 6.2" 6.3" 6.2"
Locking Tools? All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers Scissors and blade
Scissors? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Number of screwdrivers 4 1 integrated, many bits included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 5 included/integrated, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 3
File? Yes Yes, wood/metal & diamond-coated No Yes, wood/metal & diamond-coated Yes
Saw? Yes Metal and wood No Yes No
Openers Can, bottle Can, bottle Bottle Can, bottle Can, bottle, a unique box opener
Tools Accessible Without Deploying Pliers? All Blades, saw, file Blade Blades, saw, file Blade, scissors
Other Important Features One-handed operation, extra included swappable bit drivers, replaceable wire cutters, impact surface Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper None Ruler Very small ruler
Sheath Included? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Other Carry Options Pocket clip, sheath with extra bits Pocket clip, key ring Carabiner style clip, pocket clip Pocket Pocket, pocket clip

Our Analysis and Test Results

If Leatherman's own marketing claims are to be believed, the ARC has been a long time coming, building on their long history and robust user base to build the best multi-tool the world has ever known. Truth is, they may be right. The ARC isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it's perhaps the best multi-tool available to actually slice that metaphorical bread. The knife itself is going to appeal even to many knife enthusiasts in a way we haven't really seen in a MT product… and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Performance Comparison



leatherman arc - leatherman's free tech is one of the major reason to consider the...
Leatherman's FREE tech is one of the major reason to consider the ARC. Everything is accessible one-handed, including opening to access the Pliers.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

Functions


The tool set seen on the ARC isn't revolutionary itself. We see pretty much the same tools on LM's other top-end offerings and throughout the multi-tool market. No one's inventing another “screwdriver” anytime soon. That said, many tools are noteworthy in a variety of ways.


The saw is standard fare; it'll get the job done in a pinch. The scissors are pretty decent actually, though, like many multi-tool scissors, it's anyone's guess as to how long the spring action lasts before a major cleaning needs to be done. The large flat screwdriver/ pry tool is also proving to be quite useful - it's pretty darned beefy (a full 1/8 inch as confirmed by calipers), so we feel comfortable torquing on it pretty heavily. The bottle opener included on it works without fail (nearly) every time, too.

You won't want to tackle bigger tasks with the ARC's included saw tool, but for cutting out a jammed fallen branch after the latest snowstorm you could do worse.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

A few tools we don't see much of a frequent need for. There is a can opener, which Leatherman has commented publicly that they get major push back on whenever they release a multi-tool without it, so it sounds like we're stuck with it on most future releases too. The other one is the awl/ scraper(?) tool. Awls are primitive sewing tools which, as far as we can tell, are still included on modern products mainly for heritage purposes. Bafflingly, the ARC's awl (which Leatherman does call out on the ARC product page as an "awl") doesn't have a sewing eye, making it useless for that task. There is an included wire stripper function near the base, but overall, we wish Leatherman would do away with both the awl and can opener and save some space.

leatherman arc - leatherman's proprietary squashed bits are polarizing, but the extra...
Leatherman's proprietary squashed bits are polarizing, but the extra utility of the included bit set can't be denied.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

Most everything else on the ARC, we love. The large and small bit drivers (think eyeglasses screwdriver) are both swappable, which is a great thing for two reasons: it effectively greatly increases your available tool set, and allows you to swap out a cheap bit when it gets worn out. On the other hand, they can be lost. One major gripe of our testing team, however, is that part of the hefty price tag attached to the ARC is tied up in the included Bit Kit accessory set. The actual bits included are a strange choice - most won't be useful for the majority of users - and what's worse is that they are made from a soft steel, so they strip out after just a few uses. We'd also be remiss not to mention that the large bit driver is in Leatherman's proprietary “squashed” bit format. To be fair, one can order a bit extender separately which allows you to use standard 1/4 inch bits, it just feels a bit like a solution to a made up problem.

The full-length included File is surprisingly useful, with multiple, effective file cuts
Credit: Kyle Hameister

The impact surface is a majorly underrated tool that turns your hand into a capable hammer (if you're careful). The pliers are also quite hefty, and though we wish they were spring action like some other LM offerings, that would mess with the FREE tech function a bit, so we can live with it. The replaceable wire-cutter jaws are a true longevity win worth mentioning. The multi-cut surface file is pretty stellar. It has a fine diamond coating on one end that is just right to take the edge off of all sorts of materials, with a more aggressive cut on the flip side for medium-to-hard woods. They nailed this one.

The most notable tool on the ARC, though, is undoubtedly the MagnaCut alloy knife blade. MagnaCut is one of the best knife steels available today. It was invented by Larrin Thomas in 2021 here in the US in partnership with Crucible Industries. It has an unprecedented combination of edge retention and corrosion resistance and is relatively easy to sharpen. That corrosion resistance is further improved (slightly) by the DLC coating, which is more for looks than anything with how thin the coating is and how good MagnaCut is to begin with. But damn, does that black blade look cool.

leatherman arc - the knife's magnacut steel alloy is one of the best on the market...
The Knife's MagnaCut steel alloy is one of the best on the market today, period.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

The blade shape is standard, with a straight edge, which is great. No combo straight/ serrated blade here, which are nigh impossible to sharpen. But the MagnaCut alloy is especially notable because, well… knife nerds are now taking notice of a multi-tool in a way not seen before. Leatherman is crossing markets here, which is sure to spawn many copycats in the industry.

leatherman arc - these are the only couple features we feel the arc could do without...
These are the only couple features we feel the ARC could do without, to save some space. The Awl and Can Opener.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

Construction Quality


The quality of engineering and construction is at the top of the charts here, too. Leatherman claims all ARCs and their included tools are made and built in the USA and are backed by their famous lifetime warranty. The ARC is not necessarily the most rock-solid multi-tool ever made to handle all of life's heavy-duty tasks. But it is winning in terms of utility. It's all about Leatherman's FREE technology, which we'll get into more detail on in the next section.


The four main hinges on the ARC have a near-flawless compromise of tight tolerances, meaning all tools feel solid while in use and have enough play to open easily with an easy thumb push. It's an engineering and quality control feat to consistently manufacture FREE multi-tools without anything binding or feeling sloppy.

We will note that the major drawback to FREE is that there is inherent play in the hinge of the pliers. This is really inevitable and is a trade-off with being easily opened. For this reason, some heavy-duty clamp and wrench tasks may not feel as secure as with a more traditional multi-tool.

One of ARC's only drawbacks - the FREE opening pliers are great for one handed operation, but there is some inherent play in the hinges to allow for that action.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

Ergonomics


So, what is FREE tech anyway? All tools can be opened with one hand (though the scissors and saw are tough for righties to access one-handed, in the same way the file and knife are tough for lefties). This INCLUDES the pliers, which are held snugly closed with some hidden magnets, but can be folded out like a butterfly knife with the flick of a wrist. The ARC is not LM's first offering to feature it, but it is notable in how much easier to use it can make products that employ it, compared with those that don't.


The other major ergonomic and utility win is that all tools (other than the pliers, of course) are accessible on the outside of the ARC while “closed”. And most of those tools pop out one-handed with the press of a thumb pad, an innovation we cannot rave enough about.

On top of all this, all outside features are locking, dramatically improving the safety of each tool while in use.

Nearly all the tools on the ARC are one hand operable, and accessible with the tool closed.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

Portability


Nothing is perfect in this world, though, and that includes the ARC. It's not the heaviest multi-tool on the market by a long shot (though 8.6 oz isn't light), but it is still full-sized. At a measured 0.83 inches across its thickest component (the lock levers), however, it's really too bulky for pocket carry, meaning it simply won't be suitable as most users everyday carry darling. It has a decent pocket clip, though, which is side-swappable, if you insist.


Leatherman does ship the ARC with their best belt sheath, which you'll probably want anyway to carry the accessory bit set holder. It has a few pockets on it, too, for something like a small pen or narrow vape. Our main gripe here is that it's vertically oriented. We wish belt sheaths were horizontal, in line with a belt, which would also allow a shirt or jacket to sit around or over it easier.

The ARC is a bit too big for comfortable pocket carrying. But even out of the included belt pouch, tools are quickly accessible.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

Should You Buy the Leatherman ARC?


We love the ARC, but if everything we've gone over hasn't convinced you to part with a stack of your hard-earned cash yet, then you've probably read some personal deal breakers. The ARC is fantastic in a myriad of ways, but it's not cheap, and it's also not for everyone. You may not need a high-end knife, or ten extra driver bits, and maybe you're looking for an everyday multi-tool and the ARC is slightly too bulky. That's ok, and there are many other great options out there in this ever-maturing market.

leatherman arc - the impressively useful impact surface means you effectively have a...
The impressively useful Impact Surface means you effectively have a hammer within reach at all times.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

What Other Multi-tool Should You Consider?


FREE tech and outside-accessible features mean you're not likely to find a more useful or easy-to-use option out there. There are other offerings that include top-end materials and function sets, though, like the also fantastic Leatherman Charge+ TTi and many other pricier options from top makers like Gerber and SOG. For a great everyday carry option, we like the carabiner clip and slim profile of the Leatherman Skeletool CX. The best-selling Leatherman Wave+ is probably your best value at roughly half the cost of the top-tier products but includes a comparable tool set. On the cost-conscious end, we like the unique tool inclusions of the Leatherman Wingman. On the smaller end, we like the Gerber Dime and the Geekey Multi-tool which will both fit comfortably on a keychain and in a pocket.

leatherman arc - everything shipped with the arc, including belt sheath with pockets...
Everything shipped with the ARC, including belt sheath with pockets, and a set of extra swappable bits.
Credit: Kyle Hameister

Kyle Hameister