Question of the Day: To Switch(blade), Or Not To Switch(blade)?

With prohibitions on automatic knives being repealed nationwide, more folks have the option to utilize these tools.

With prohibitions on automatic knives being repealed nationwide, more folks than ever have the option to utilize these tools.

I admit, I know next to nothing about automatic knives.  As a middle schooler I had one of those switchblade combs onto which I attached a rudimentary blade I had made from a scrap of metal I had lying around.  I even brought it to school to show off to my friends – the horror!  I have also played around with some Benchmade spring-assist models, and while they are nice, I don’t see them as an earthshaking technological development . . .

My EDC folders have typically been of the Spyderco variety.  With a little Froglube, practice, and breaking in of the knife, the blade is heavy enough to snap into place with the flick of the wrist.

Tennessee is among a growing number of states that have passed, or have legislation pending that restores the peoples’ right to utilize automatic knives.  Indiana, Texas, and Kansas are others.  So I, like many others will have a new tool at my disposal.

If you know automatic knives (since we really don’t), do you consider them worth the price or are they just complicated gimmicks instead of reliable tools? Will you run out and get one if they become legal in your jurisdiction?


  1. janitor says:

    ive had some cheapos ive played with, even got my hands on a benchmade infidel. sold it to a bud for 200.

    they are “toys” imo. not really built rugged enough for real work, and in defense, i wouldnt count on some for more than one or two good stabs…..thats if it deploys like it is suppose to…

    that infidel would fail to deploy sometimes…..F that….id rather have a cheap chinese folder that locks up solid.

    they are fun to flick… wife hated that knife

  2. Matt in FL says:

    Assisted openers are fine for me, I don’t really need pushbutton automatics. I’m not opposed to them, but the couple I had in the distant past (I think they were both Gerbers) had thick, heavy blades, and that combined with the tenuous grip from the hand position required to hit the button while staying out of the way of the opening blade always made it feel like the inertia of the blade was going to spin the knife out of my hand when it opened. I don’t think it ever actually happened, but I remember that feeling.

  3. Mark Davis says:

    I live in California, and true automatic knives (“switchblades”) are restricted here. However “spring assisted” knives are widely available I’ve tried several, including Kershaw and SOG models. I’m not a big fan. Here’s why….

    For one thing, I don’t think they offer a huge advantage over a conventional folder. I very rarely have any problems opening my EDC Benchmades. And like the author, I find it easy to use inertia opening techniques.

    Sometimes I carry my EDC knife inside the waistband in the appendix position. Which raises my second issue with assisted opening knives – I’m not comfortable with a razor-sharp, spring-loaded blade nestled up against my junk.

    I also have concerns about deploying a switchblades under stress. With my traditional folders, I can deploy the blade efficiently with either hand, and with the knife in a standard or reverse grip. I know from practice that I can open the knife in almost any circumstances, using gross motor skills . On the other hand, to open a “real” switchblade one typically has to press a small button. I’m not confident I can do that reliably under stress, especially if I’m using my support hand or I have an unconventional grip on the knife.

    Many assisted opening and automatics also have a lock which prevents blade deployment. The rationale is that it will stop the blade activating accidentally. However I’ve had the lock activate in my pocket, without my knowledge. When I tried to deploy the knife, it was locked in the closed position. “Whoops! Gimme a minute while I try to unlock my high-speed knife”. There’s obvious problems for anyone who needs their knife to open reliably 100% of the time.

    I admire the engineering and “cool” factor of automatic knives, but for me they have too many liabilities. Give me a conventional folder any day.

  4. Nate says:

    I don’t own any since I still live in CA, but I do plan on getting some. I think a BM Mini Reflex would make a nice EDC. I also think using the terms switchblade and butterfly knife is the same as calling an AR-15 am assault weapon

  5. Derek says:

    I don’t have any experience with autos, I’m in Ohio where I can carry as many guns and as much ammo as I can strap to my body but a “switchblade” is just way to deadly, so I don’t an informed opinion to share. I do, however, have a cop buddy who’s carried autos for a while and swears by ’em. He’s got one that opens straight out the front, a Benchmade I believe, and it seems pretty nifty.

    My thought process though is; More parts, more problems. The opening, locking, and closing mechanism isn’t super complicated. I can flick it open and flick it closed or I can push a button to open it and push a button to close it. My way has fewer, and stronger, parts.

    On the other hand, with the way I impulse buy cool knives, I would almost certainly wind up with a couple were they to become legal here.

  6. Sam L. says:

    Available/permissible where I live, but I’m not interested. Not willing to spend the money.

  7. Jeff S. says:

    The only reason I see for having an automatic knife is for the blade to shoot out and stab people. Since A) I don’t carry knives for that purpose and B) automatic knives are reliable, don’t have a solid lockup, and don’t shoot out with enough force to really stab someone, I choose not to own them.

    I prefer a solid lockup and smooth opening manual folder.

  8. Harley says:

    My reason for carting around an automatic blade is the ease of opening the blade one handed with the other hand preoccupied.

  9. ChuckN says:

    I always had one when I was rappelling out of helos or doing
    high angle rescue. In these jobs, using both hands for opening
    or closing wasn’t always possible. I tried some spring assisted
    knives but there were a few times that the blade didn’t lock
    open. Thumbing a button on the side or back to open and
    close was a lot easier when wearing thick rescue/rappel gloves.
    Most auto knives are standard blades and weren’t the best
    for rescue. So I had a custom one made: hooked blade, safety
    tip, large handle, oversized button and a lanyard ring.

  10. travis m. says:

    I might get a gravity knife, but I’m leery of anything too mechanically complex. I once took a assisted opener to a beach, and had to spend an hour taking it apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together.

  11. Nigil says:

    My assisted opening Kershaw flicks open fast, locks closed and open, and is super solid when open. Even when it ‘short strokes’ (usually because it needs oil) it’s still just a folder that you can open with one hand. I would prefer that to an out the side automatic, but an out the front would be convenient because you could close it more easily with one hand. I would probably have some concerns about the blade taking force on the point and staying open, though.

    1. jwm says:

      +1 on the kershaw. It’s what I normally carry. Just today I was balancing a heavy bag of mulch for my wife’s garden and opening the blade 1 handed proved quite helpfull. I did this operation multple times. And in my work I frequently am opening and disposing of awkward sized and shaped boxes. The kershaw with it’s easy opening and half serrated blade has served me well.

  12. Azimuth says:

    I’ve owned the Benchmade AFO, for going on 15 years, and its utility on the job site cannot be overstated. It replaced what I thought was the nearly irreplaceable Spyderco as my work knife and it is unlikely to be replaced by anything I have seen. Working doing the layout for concrete, I’ve cut miles of string line for batter boards and center lines, and with gloves on, the Spyderco was, well, less than cooperative. It’s a tool, no more, no less. And 15 years ago, it didn’t cost near the $200 it does today. As they say, times can and do change. Fast forward to today, I am now a disabled person thanks to a 20-something prick who pulled out in front of me on my motorcycle, and BANG!, a million dollar stay at the Level One Trauma Suites and a disabled right hand later, thumb studs, or large thumb holes for flicking are not options that are available to me anymore. What was once merely a convenient utility, is now an absolute necessity. I added the Lone Wolf Lobo to my extensive 7 knife collection about 10 years ago, and it’s one of the best knives I own. Reliable, sturdy, and has never failed me, not once. It’s so strong, it opens with a clack, not a weak click. After the coolness of getting an automatic knife wears off, it becomes just another tool. Where my 30 dollar Spyderco went is still a mystery, but my two pricey auto’s never went missing. I keep them close, and I’ve never given them the opportunity to grow legs. I have one unopened, unused $200+ Lobo in my safe deposit box. If you can even find a Lobo for sale, it’ll cost you $300 or more.
    Thanks to Benchmade for buying out Lone Wolf, (to kill their competition) no one gets to have one now, at least, not for a price most are willing to pay.

  13. Ed says:

    The commentary pretty well covers my experience with automatics. My Iowa Carry Weapons Permit allows carry of automatic knives as well, so I bought some. Once the cool fun factor wore off…the button is in a lousy location for rapid use. It’s usually high on the handle and central which leaves the hand either in an awkward or not real secure grip just after the blade deploys and I always have to shift my grip before actually using the knife. The safety lock is needed to keep from pocket opening, so slows deploy. A simple thumb stud open or assisted open would be MUCH easier and keep my hand where I want it. That said, I do consider my knife a defensive backup, so speedy, reliable deploy is pretty much number one. As a Tool, however, I do like my automatic pocketknives because they’re slower, but easier, to get deployed when my other hand is doing stuff. I can’t explain it, but somehow with one hand holding stuff “push button to open” with other hand decreases the overall distraction.

    So, I tend to carry two. A defensive fixed or solid locking folder and an automatic “use for whatever”.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Question of the Day: To Switch(blade), Or Not To Switch(blade)?

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email