The A100C was Kershaw's first multi-tool as well as one of the first products that the Japanese-owned company manufactured in the USA. Kershaw released the A100C in 1997 and their patent was issued in 1999 (view the patent).
The Kershaw A100C was also the first multi-tool to feature a "Vise-Grip"-style pliers. "Vise-Grip" is a trademark of Irwin Industrial Tools but it has become an eponym for locking pliers. The original "Vise-Grip" design was patented by William Petersen in 1924 (view the patent); however, Petersen called the tool a wrench rather than pliers. During the last eighty or so years, there have been many variations of Petersen's design but all resemble the original locking wrench.
Similar to Petersen's locking wrench, the tension of the Kershaw pliers is adjustable via a knurled thumbscrew. And similar to later "quick-release" variations of the locking wrench, the Kershaw pliers unlock by raising a release bar (see photo below)--a simple but practical design.
The pliers have both fine and coarse gripping areas as well as a groove for holding fishing hooks.
Kershaw's greatest improvement on Petersen's design was to incorporate other implements, extending the versatility of the tool. Here's a list of the implements:
1. Locking pliers
2. Wire cutter
3. Combo edge knife
4. Hacksaw blade
5. Two sided file
7. Phillips screwdriver
8. Can opener
9. Bottle opener
The blade is accessible without opening the pliers and may be opened one-handed via a thumb stud. Once opened, the blade is secured by a liner lock. The A100 is one of the first multi-tools (see also the Al Mar QuickClip from the 1980's) to feature a one-hand opening blade and might be considered a forerunner to the original Leatherman Wave (released in 1998, one year after the Kershaw A100C).
The A100C's remaining tools are only accessible when the pliers are open. The selection of tools includes a Phillips driver, a combination bottle opener/can opener, a file, a hack saw, and a slotted driver.
The tools feature a simple but effective locking mechanism. A latch prevents the pliers from opening and the tools are prevented from closing by a stop on the opposite handle.
The tool is assembled with standard hex screws, allowing it to be easily disassembled/reassembled. Replacement parts were available direct from Kershaw.
The Kershaw A100 was also sold at Sears, bearing the Craftsman trademark (model #45516). Other than the trademark, the Craftsman multi-tool is identical to the Kershaw multi-tool.
Note: Most of the images in this review are of the Craftsman multi-tool, but the comparison photos with the Leatherman Crunch and the photos with the bit adapter (near the end of the review) show a multi-tool with the Kershaw trademark.
Replacement parts for the Craftsman multi-tool were available at Sears. Although the package specifies that they are "For Craftsman Multi-tool 9-45516 only", they will (of course) also work with the Kershaw multi-tool.
The Kershaw A100 was sold with either a leather or cordura sheath and an optional hex bit adapter. The adapter is held by the locking pliers at either 180 degrees (shown), 90 degrees, or 45 degrees.
A few other companies manufactured multi-tools with locking pliers. The most notable example is the Leatherman Crunch. A couple other examples are the Schrade ST6 and the Irwin Vice-Grip Toolbox which are now discontinued. The Leatherman Crunch is still manufactured today and its continued success might be attributed to its innovative folding design. The Leatherman Crunch folds up into a compact size that can be carried unnoticed in a pocket or a sheath. The main drawback of the Kershaw A100C is its large size (length: 6 3/4", weight: 8 3/4 oz).
Unfortunately the Kershaw Knives A100C was discontinued a few years ago.
Good fit and finish
Locking pliers with convenient lock release
One-hand opening blade
Tool may be disassembled for repair or replacement
Doesn't fold up