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Unlocking the Blade: Comprehensive Guide to Automatic Knives

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Automatic knives, often referred to as switchblades, hold a unique and somewhat mystified position in the knife world. These knives, characterized by their blade’s ability to open automatically with the push of a button, have been the subject of fascination, utility, and legislation. What exactly are these knives, and what is their application and purpose?

Automatic knives have a mechanism that deploys or retracts the blade at the push of a lever or button. This deployment and retraction method makes the knives easy to use one-handed. There are differing laws and regulations from region to region regarding the ownership and carrying of these knives.

We will explain automatic knives, providing insight into how they work, their purpose, and considerations you should bear in mind before purchasing one of these knives. While these knives are fascinating, they must be handled with care and respect for the regulations that govern these knives.  

If you are interested in an OTF (out-the-front) automatic knife, we can recommend the Kershaw Interstellar which you can find here! (Amazon Link)

How Do Automatic Knives Work?

What Are Automatic Knives?
How Do Automatic Knives Work?

Our aim is to explain automatic knives, including their mechanisms, components, and varieties, and shed light on the top brands and models available in the market.

We will explore the intricacies of blade and handle construction, the innovations in deployment methods, and the additional features that enhance functionality and user experience.

W will also provide valuable insights into the legal considerations surrounding automatic knives and offer recommendations for responsible use and ownership.

Automatic knives are designed for individuals who value quick and easy access to their blades, making them a preferred choice for tactical-minded users who operate in high-pressure environments.

However, their availability and use are regulated by many laws, reflecting concerns over safety and misuse.

Potential users and owners must navigate these legal landscapes responsibly, ensuring that ownership and use adhere to local statutes and ordinances.

Definition And Mechanism Of Automatic Knives

Automatic knives, synonymous with switchblades, are specialized knives where the blade is concealed within the handle and can be deployed automatically with minimal effort, usually by pressing a button or switch.

These knives are distinct from manual-folding and fixed-blade knives due to their unique deployment mechanism, which offers speed and convenience, especially when time is of the essence.

Automatic knives primarily come in two deployment variants: Side Opening and Out-The-Front (OTF) options.

  1. Side Opening: In side-opening automatic knives, the blade is folded inside the handle and springs to the open position when activated. This method is common and is reminiscent of traditional folding knives, with the added advantage of swift, one-handed operation.
  2. Out-The-Front (OTF): OTF automatic knives feature a blade that extends and retracts from the front end of the handle. When the deployment mechanism is activated, the blade swiftly protrudes from the handle, ready for use.

Ensuring automatic knives’ safety and reliability is crucial, which is achieved through sophisticated locking mechanisms.

  1. Push Button Lock: This is a prevalent locking mechanism in automatic knives, where the blade is securely locked in place when deployed, preventing accidental closures. The same button releases the lock, allowing the blade to be folded back into the handle.
  2. Safety Switch: Many automatic knives come with a safety switch, an additional feature to prevent unintended blade deployment. The safety switch must be disengaged before the push button can be pressed to deploy the blade, adding an extra layer of security.

With their advanced deployment methods and secure locking mechanisms, automatic knives stand out as sophisticated tools in the diverse world of knives. Whether it’s the classic appeal of side-opening models or the precision and elegance of OTF, automatic knives cater to a range of preferences and needs.

Understanding the definition and mechanisms behind these knives is the first step in appreciating their complexity and utility, paving the way for a deeper exploration into their construction, varieties, and applications.

TIP: Find out my TOP 3 picks of pocket knives if you are interested in buying a pocket knife (Amazon link):

TIP: Fixed-blade knives are generally more versatile than automatic knives. To find out the pros and cons of fixed-blade knives, read our article on the topic below!
Explained: 8 Honest Pros And Cons Of Fixed Blade Knives

Components And Construction Of Automatic Knives

The construction of automatic knives is a meticulous process involving integrating various components, each serving a specific purpose. The synergy of these components determines the knife’s overall performance, durability, and user experience.

The blade is the heart of any knife, and in automatic knives, it is crafted with precision to ensure optimal performance.

  1. Blade Steel Composition: The choice of steel affects the blade’s sharpness, durability, and corrosion resistance. High-quality steels like CPM-S30V, 154CM, and M390 are commonly used for their superior properties.
  2. Blade Length and Thickness: These dimensions are crucial as they influence the knife’s cutting ability and strength. They are carefully chosen based on the intended use of the knife.
  3. Blade Shapes: Automatic knives feature various blade shapes, such as drop point and tanto, each offering different cutting advantages.
  4. Blade Finish: The finish can be serrated, plain edge, or a combination, affecting the cutting style and maintenance of the blade.
  5. Heat Treat and Corrosion Resistance: Proper heat treatment enhances the blade’s hardness and durability, while corrosion-resistant coatings protect the blade from environmental damage.

The handle houses the blade and the deployment mechanism, and its construction is paramount to the user’s comfort and control.

  1. Handle Construction and Thickness: The construction and thickness of the handle impact the grip and the overall feel of the knife in hand.
  2. Handle Materials: Materials like G-10, aluminum, and titanium are preferred for their strength, lightweight properties, and aesthetic appeal.

Automatic knives often incorporate additional features to enhance functionality and user convenience.

  1. Pocket Clip: A well-designed pocket clip ensures secure carry and easy accessibility, with variations like deep carry and tip-up carry catering to user preferences.
  2. Glass Breaker: Some models feature a glass breaker tip for emergency situations, adding to the knife’s versatility as a rescue tool.

The intricate components and meticulous construction of automatic knives underscore their status as precision-engineered tools. The synergy of high-quality blades, ergonomic handles, and additional features results in functional and easy-to-use knives.

Top Brands And Models Of Automatic Knives

What Are Automatic Knives?
Top Brands And Models Of Automatic Knives

The automatic knife market is adorned with many brands, each bringing forth a unique blend of craftsmanship, innovation, and quality.

We will spotlight some of the most renowned brands in the automatic knife industry and explore their flagship models, which have earned acclaim for their performance, design, and reliability.

  1. Pro-Tech: Pro-Tech is synonymous with excellence in the automatic knife sector and is known for producing high-quality knives with impeccable fit and finish. Their knives are revered for their smooth deployment and precision engineering.
  2. Benchmade: Benchmade has carved a niche for itself by crafting versatile and durable automatic knives. The brand is celebrated for its commitment to quality and innovation, offering various models to suit various needs.
  3. Spyderco: their unique design and ergonomic handles distinguish Spyderco’s automatic knives. The brand emphasizes functionality and user-friendly features, making its knives a favorite among enthusiasts and professionals alike.
  4. Microtech: Microtech stands out for its advanced and innovative automatic knives, especially in the OTF segment. The brand is renowned for its attention to detail, high-quality materials, and cutting-edge designs.
  5. Kershaw: Kershaw is acclaimed for delivering reliable and affordable automatic knives. The brand focuses on practicality and accessibility, ensuring its knives are attainable for many users.
  6. Buck: Buck’s legacy in the knife industry extends to its range of automatic knives, characterized by its robust construction and timeless designs. The brand upholds its tradition of durability and reliability in every model.
  7. Gerber: Gerber’s automatic knives are designed with utility and resilience in mind. The Gerber brand offers a variety of models, each engineered to withstand the rigors of EDC use and demanding environments.
  8. Boker: Boker combines German engineering with modern aesthetics to create automatic knives that are both stylish and functional. The brand’s diverse portfolio caters to different preferences and requirements.

We can recommend The following models if you want to own one of these unique knives.

  1. Benchmade 9400 Osborne: This model is a testament to Benchmade’s craftsmanship, featuring a sleek design, premium materials, and smooth action, making it a top choice for automatic knife enthusiasts.
  2. Spyderco Autonomy 2: The Autonomy 2 is renowned for its ergonomic design and reliable deployment, offering users a high-performance automatic knife that excels in various applications.
  3. Microtech Socom Combat Troodon: This model epitomizes Microtech’s innovation with its advanced features, robust construction, and precision engineering, setting a high standard in the automatic knife market.
  4. Kershaw Launch 10: The Launch 10 is a compact and practical automatic knife designed for users seeking reliability and convenience in a smaller package.
  5. Buck Impact: The Impact combines Buck’s traditional values with modern technology, resulting in an automatic knife that is durable, user-friendly, and versatile.
  6. Pro-Tech TR-3: The TR-3 exemplifies Pro-Tech’s excellence with its flawless fit and finish, swift deployment, and high-quality materials, making it a sought-after model among collectors and users.
  7. Gerber Auto 06: The Auto 06 is designed for resilience and utility, featuring robust construction and reliable action, making it a reliable companion in demanding situations.

Exploring the top brands and models of automatic knives reveals the diversity and richness of this specialized market. Each brand brings its unique vision, values, and expertise, contributing to the evolution of automatic knives.

Whether it’s the precision of Pro-Tech, the versatility of Benchmade, or the innovation of Microtech, there is an automatic knife to satisfy the discerning tastes and needs of every enthusiast and professional.

Selecting a model from these esteemed brands ensures a blend of quality, performance, and aesthetic appeal, enriching the user’s experience and appreciation for automatic knives.

TIP: A bolster on a knife can have aesthetic as well as practical applications, but do all knives need a bolster? Find out in our article below!
Do Knives Need A Bolster? Here’s The Explanation

Best Automatic Knives Of 2023

2023 has witnessed the emergence of automatic knife models that epitomize excellence in design, functionality, and craftsmanship. Here, we will explore the best automatic knives of 2023 based on meticulous testing, user reviews, and expert opinions.

These models have been selected for their superior performance, innovative features, and overall value, offering users a blend of reliability and sophistication.

When determining the best automatic knives, several factors are considered to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.

  1. Blade and Handle Material: The quality of the materials used in the blade and handle affects the durability, performance, and visual appeal of the knife.
  2. Deployment Speed and Reliability: A swift and reliable deployment mechanism is crucial for the functionality of automatic knives, impacting user experience and safety.
  3. Safety and Ease of Use: Features such as locking mechanisms and ergonomic design play a vital role in the user’s comfort and control over the knife.

Based on the aforementioned criteria, the following models have been recognized as the best automatic knives of 2023.

Knife ModelBlade MaterialHandle MaterialDeploymentSpecial FeaturesUser Experience
Benchmade 9400 OsborneCPM-S30V SteelAnodized AluminumSide OpeningSmooth action, Sleek designExcellent ergonomics, Reliable for everyday carry
Microtech Socom EliteM390 SteelAluminumSide OpeningRobust construction, Advanced featuresPrecision engineering, High standard setting
Pro-Tech TR-3154CM SteelAluminumSide OpeningFlawless fit and finish, High-quality materialsSwift deployment, Sought-after model
Spyderco Autonomy 2LC200N SteelG-10Side OpeningErgonomic design, reliable deploymentHigh-performance excels in various applications
Kershaw Launch 10CPM-154 SteelAnodized AluminumSide OpeningCompact design, PracticalConvenient for smaller tasks, Reliable

Legal Considerations And Restrictions For Automatic Knives

What Are Automatic Knives?
Legal Considerations And Restrictions For Automatic Knives

While revered for their advanced mechanisms and utility, automatic knives are subject to a complex tapestry of laws and regulations.

These legal frameworks are instituted to regulate the possession, carry, and use of automatic knives, reflecting societal and governmental concerns over safety and potential misuse.

Overview Of Laws Regulating Automatic Knives

The legality of automatic knives is determined by a combination of federal, state, and local laws, each with its own set of provisions and restrictions.

  1. Federal Laws: At the federal level, the importation and interstate commerce of automatic knives are regulated, but there are no overarching restrictions on ownership or carry, leaving it primarily to state and local jurisdictions to legislate.
  2. State Laws: State laws vary widely, with some states allowing the possession and carrying of automatic knives with minimal restrictions, while others impose stringent limitations or outright bans. Individuals must be cognizant of their state’s laws to ensure lawful possession and use.
  3. Local Ordinances: Beyond state laws, local ordinances may impose additional restrictions on automatic knives, necessitating awareness and compliance at the municipal level.

Recommendations For Responsible Use And Ownership

  1. Awareness and Compliance: Prospective and current owners of automatic knives must acquaint themselves with the applicable laws and regulations at all levels of government and adhere to them diligently.
  2. Responsible Use: Automatic knives should be used responsibly and ethically, respecting their potential risks and utilizing them for lawful and legitimate purposes only.
  3. Secure Storage: Proper storage of automatic knives is essential to prevent unauthorized access and accidents, especially in households with children.
  4. Educational Advocacy: Promoting awareness and understanding of automatic knives, their uses, and safety can contribute to informed legislative decisions and responsible societal attitudes.

Navigating the legal considerations and restrictions of automatic knives is a crucial aspect of ownership and use. The diverse and intricate legal frameworks necessitate vigilance, awareness, and responsible conduct from owners and users.

By adhering to the laws, using automatic knives ethically, and advocating for informed and balanced perspectives, knife owners can contribute to a safer and more enlightened environment surrounding these sophisticated tools.


With their intricate mechanisms and advanced features, automatic knives represent a pinnacle of craftsmanship and innovation in the world of cutlery.

These precision-engineered tools, revered by enthusiasts, collectors, and professionals alike, offer a unique blend of speed, convenience, and functionality.

From the sleek and reliable side-opening models to the sophisticated and precise Out-The-Front autos, automatic knives cater to diverse preferences and needs.

However, the attraction and utility of automatic knives come with responsibilities and legal considerations. The complex tapestry of laws and regulations surrounding these knives necessitates awareness, compliance, and responsible use from individuals.

It is imperative to respect the potential risks associated with automatic knives and to utilize them ethically and lawfully, ensuring safety and adherence to societal norms.

Automatic knives are not merely cutting tools; they are embodiments of craftsmanship, innovation, and practicality.

They serve as reliable companions for those who value quick and easy access to their blades and as exquisite pieces of engineering for those who appreciate the artistry involved in their creation.

By exploring and understanding the diverse aspects of automatic knives, from their construction to their legal landscapes, we can enrich our appreciation, make informed choices, and foster a responsible and enlightened community of users and enthusiasts.

TIP: Your pocket knife is only as good as the steel the blade is made from. Find out the best blade steels for pocket knives in our article below.
Pocket Knives Blade Steel: The Best One & How To Choose