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The Leatherman Arc multi-tool is the iconic brand’s latest development, building upon their FREE series technology with new tools, features, and premium materials.
In this review, we’ll explore the Arc’s features and engineering, in a way that hopefully helps you determine whether it’s a right fit for your multi-tool needs.
Leatherman sent us an early test sample, and I plan to keep using it. I’ll update this post if I learn anything new, and of course please ask any questions you might have.
What’s so Special About the Arc?
The Leatherman Arc is engineered with the brand’s FREE series multi-tool technology, and also incorporates years of user feedback and requests.
Most notably, the Arc features a MagnaCut knife blade with a DLC coating and a removable screwdriver bit driver.
Each tool and feature is 100% one-hand operable.
- Closed length: 4.25″
- Open length: 6.45″
- Width: 1.3″
- Overall thickness: 0.68″
- Weight: 8.6 oz
- Blade length: 2.76″
Leatherman Arc Materials
- 420HC stainless steel
- 440C stainless steel
- MagnaCut steel (knife blade)
- DLC coating
Arc Tools & Features
- Needlenose Pliers
- Regular pliers
- Premium replaceable wire & hard-wire cutters
- MagnaCut Knife
- Spring-action scissors
- Pry tool
- Can opener
- Wire stripper
- Wood/metal file
- Diamond-coated file
- Edge file
- Bottle opener
- Electrical crimper
- Large screwdriver bit driver (modified 1/4″ hex)
- Small screwdriver bit driver
- Large screwdriver
- Impact surface
Leatherman’s First-Ever MagnaCut Knife Blade
MagnaCut is a relatively knife steel that produces an excellent balance between edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance.
Basically, heavier users don’t have to sharpen the knife blade as frequently, it’s tough and less susceptible to brittle failure such as chipping, and it’s resistant to rusting.
According to Leatherman, the MagnaCut knife is “perfect for everyday tasks as well as the harshest of environments.”
The tradeoff is that MagnaCut knife blades are more complicated to manufacture than the ones Leatherman has made with other alloys, making this a more expensive component.
The plain edge knife blade features a thumb stud that allows for easy one-hand opening.
The factory edge is plenty sharp out of the box – I’ve got no complaints.
Some multi tool knife blades are excellent, and others are merely serviceable and only useful in a pinch.
As with Leatherman’s other multi-tools with outside-accessible knife blades, such as the FREE tools, Wave, Charge, and others, the Arc’s knife is easily accessible and feels built for use.
I can open and close the knife one-handed, but sometimes prefer two hands for closing the knife. That’s a habit that carried over from my time with Leatherman’s FREE series multi-tools.
Superb FREE-Style Pliers
The pliers are excellent. They are nearly identical to the pliers on the FREE multi-tools, but with a slightly more refined feel. The Arc pliers’ pivot feel even more broken-in, but that could be due to sample variability.
As with the FREE multi-tools, the Arc pliers are simply satisfying to open and close. They just snap into place, easily.
There’s retention keeping the pliers closed, and also retention keeping them open. Once you spread the handles apart a little, they can swing open. A final squeeze sets the passive locking mechanism in place.
I find that I can easily open the pliers with one hand, but it typically takes two for me to close them.
The pliers jaws appear identical to those on the FREE tools.
You get a fine gripping zone at the front, a wider gripping zone with coarser teeth for holding larger parts, the replaceable wire cutting jaws.
The replaceable cutters are one of the best improvements Leatherman has implemented in many of their modern multi-tool styles. I haven’t broken any yet, but it’s reassuring to know that worn or damaged wire cutting blades can be replaced and won’t permanently limit a tool’s functionality.
The Arc’s Other Tools & Functions
All of the tools and components are outside-accessible.
There’s a subtle but important change – the awl has been optimized for how most people are using it, which is for everything except for sewing. The typical hole was left out of the awl.
Leatherman says that the awl is shorter and now better for picking and prying.
They add that the prying tool is overbuilt and can handle a lot of abuse. Its tip is a bit thick – allowing it to serve double duty as a screwdriver.
Let’s not forget the eyeglass and modified hex-style screwdriver bit holders. The large driver works with existing Leatherman bit accessories and add-ons, such as their ratcheting adapter.
In a press discussion, Leatherman described their eyeglass tool as being useful for electronics fasteners, and also as a picker and poker. I should point out that Leatherman sells replacements, should you ever need one (or three).
The Arc carries over Leatherman’s fantastic FREE style tool deployment design.
I have yet to break a nail on the FREE or Arc series tools. You press the tab and fold the tools out. If you get more than one tool out at the same time, the unneeded tools can be easily pushed right back in. Gone are the days where you bend a nail and then struggle to separate a tool from its neighbors.
It’s as frustration-free to access the tools one-handedly as Leatherman advertises.
There are magnets inside the handle that help to retain the tools in place, and they work quite well. The tools swing out when you want them to, and don’t flop out on their own.
Leatherman says that some critics complain about the idea of magnets in a multi-tool, but that it has proven to be a non-issue. The magnets clean off easily, and it’s an easier process than if ferrous debris spreads around rather than having a place to collect.
I have yet to have any issues with my FREE tools, and don’t anticipate having any here with the Arc multi-tool.
On the inside of the handles, there’s slight magnetic action that keeps them together until I move to deliberately open the pliers.
There’s a slight nub near this area, but like the FREE tools it’s not something I ever notice in use. It looks like it should be uncomfortable, but it’s not.
The arrows in these images show where there’s magnetic retention.
This features map shows you where everything is.
What the Arc Comes with
The Arc comes with a nylon sheath, plus (9) extra double-ended bits, plus the two that are already inserted into the tool’s bit drivers.
- Phillips #1-2, Slotted 3/16″
- Miniature Phillips, Slotted
- Torx #10 & #15
- Torx #20 & #25
- Pozi #2 & #1
- Hex 1.5mm & 2mm
- Hex 2.5mm & 3mm
- Hex 4mm & 5mm
- Screwdriver 3/32” & 1/8”
- Robertson #1 & #2
- Robertson #2 & #3
The sheath has four pockets – one for the multi-tool (with or without belt clip attached), one for the bit card, and two that look perfect for Leatherman’s 1/4″ hex bit extension adapter (not included) and maybe their bit ratchet as well (also not included).
Or maybe one of the side pockets is for the hex bit extension, and the other for a pen? It fits a Parker Jotter nicely.
It also comes with a belt clip, which can now be installed on either side of the tool for tip-up carry.
Early Impression and Opinion
I have only had the Leatherman Arc multi-tool for a short time, and I’m definitely impressed so far.
I’m familiar with the FREE series that the Arc is heavily based on. I have a P2 that Leatherman provided when the FREE tools launched, and a P4 that I purchased at retail.
The Arc absolutely feels like a better FREE, similar to how the Charge+ TTI is similar to the Wave+ but with upgrades in form and function.
Each tool opens smoothly, easily, and with one hand.
Most multi-tools have pliers, a knife blade (or two), and additional tools and features. Leatherman’s pliers are excellent, the MagnaCut knife blade has been excellent so far, and all of the other tools are fantastically accessible.
I’m happy that the Arc features removable bit holders.
I was worried I wouldn’t like the thumb stud over Leatherman’s hole-based knife deployment, but I took to it naturally.
The CPM MagnaCut knife blade is the only real “new to me” feature here. I have been testing other MagnaCut products, and it is proving to be an exceptional steel that deserves much of the hype it’s been getting.
The FREE series tools were robust hard-working multi-tools with exceptionally good user friendliness, and the Arc takes things to the next level.
Leatherman says that the Arc features everything their engineers wanted to incorporate into the tool, with no one telling them “no.” A MagnaCut knife? Done. Bit drivers? Of course. There’s also the updated awl, DLC coatings, an improved bottle open, and the pry bar, plus a file like the one built into the Wave+.
I very highly recommend the Arc – given my experiences with it thus far – but with the caveat that this multi-tool is priced to be used.
It’s made in the USA (but not the accessories it’s bundled with), and backed by Leatherman’s 25 year warranty.
Who Should Buy a Leatherman Arc Multi-Tool?
In no uncertain terms, this is the finest multi-tool I have ever used, by Leatherman or any other brand.
The only multi-tool that comes close is the Leatherman 40th anniversary multi-tool – a Garage series tool with very similar feature set to the Arc.
Leatherman says that the Arc is intended for every type of user. The Arc indeed has a very versatile feature set that I’m sure will serve most users’ broad and general purpose needs.
The user experience is simply phenomenal in every single way.
Leatherman says that the Arc “sets the standard for now and the future for premium multi-tools,” and they’re not wrong. I recently started testing a different multi-tool from another brand, and it’s really difficult to go from using the Arc back to anything else.
Who Shouldn’t Buy One?
The Arc is a pricey multi-tool – it will be launching on October 17, 2023 at $229.95.
For comparison, the FREE series P2 (19 tools) is priced at $129.95, and the P4 (21 tools) is $149.95. The Arc (20 tools) features a MagnaCut blade with DLC coating, upgraded aesthetics, and bit drivers, and it’s bundled with a new sheath and bit kit.
Is it worth an $80 premium over the P4? MagnaCut knives do carry a hefty premium compared to blades made from other steels, and so I don’t think it’s disproportionate for what you get.
Still, $230 is a lot of money for a multi-tool.
I think that the best approach would be to consider whether a Leatherman FREE platform multi-tool is right for you. Do you need a once-in-a-while tool on a budget, or a tool that solves common frustrations?
This tool is meant for EDC and frequent use, and might not be the best value if it’ll spend most of its days in a kitchen cabinet or glove box.
Pricing and Availability
Launch Date: October 17, 2023
Thank you to Leatherman for providing the test sample featured in this review.