Ejector knives, folders, stilettos - by whatever name you slice them, automatic knives are increasingly popular these days. And it’s not hard to see why: for one, they’re quick and easy to deploy when you need them, and they’re even fun to play around with. But they’re also versatile. Whether you need something to gut your latest catch, cut twine, or just for self-defense, there’s surely an automatic knife out there for you.
But there’s a lot to learn about automatic knives, so we at Tekto have put together a handy little buyer’s guide for you.
What Is an Automatic Knife?
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page here regarding what an automatic knife is.
An automatic pocket knife is a type of knife that features a spring-loaded mechanism. This mechanism allows for rapid deployment of the blade at the push of a button. Automatic knives were first developed as rapidly-deployable bayonets in the 18th century.
But while they were originally born for war, these handy implements have since gained popularity among knife enthusiasts and collectors due to their fast action, convenience, and versatility. They’re especially sought after by those who require a reliable and efficient cutting tool for everyday carry (EDC) purposes.
Types of Automatic Knives
There are two primary types of automatic knives: side-opening and out-the-front.
As the name implies, this type of automatic knife has a blade that comes out the handle when a button is pressed. The blade is generally only sharp on one side, making it more useful for cutting than stabbing.
With these knives, the blade comes “out the front” of the handle when the opening mechanism is engaged. This mechanism can either be a press-release or a slide-switch mechanism. The blades on automatic OTF knives are generally sharp on both sides, making them better suited for penetration than slicing.
What Is the Difference Between a Switchblade and an Automatic Knife?
There is no difference. “Automatic knife” is just a more contemporary (politically correct, if you like) term for a switchblade. Switchblades gained a bad reputation after Congress, in response to rising gang crime, passed the Federal Switchblade Act in 1958, making their manufacture and sale illegal. That, in turn, led to a variety of states across the country passing legislation regulating automatic switchblade knives.
Things to Consider When Buying an Automatic Knife
Here’s a couple of things you should consider when looking for automatic knives for sale online:
Do you need something for self-defense? Go for an OTF knife. But if you’re more interested in outdoor survival, know that OTF knives are a little less durable than side-opening knives, so those would be a better bet.
Single vs Double Action
Automatic knives can be either single or double-action. A single-action automatic knife will have a mechanism to rapidly deploy the blade, but you’ll have to manually retract it. Double-action automatics allow you to retract the blade with the push of a button. Because they’re more complicated, they tend to cost a bit more than single-action automatics.
As noted earlier, many states have switchblade laws - some of them are so severe, even the mere possession of an automatic knife can land you in serious trouble. For example, while Pennsylvania decriminalized automatic knives last year, in Washington State it’s illegal to own a switchblade of any kind. California knife laws prohibit carrying automatic knives with blades longer than two inches, so you can arm your pocket with Tekto's A2 Badger.
The point is, do your research first before buying a switchblade. If your state makes it too risky to own or carry one, consider a folding knife or fixed-blade knife instead.