Every once and awhile, I get asked by friends of mine whether or not automatic knives are good for EDC use. Honestly, at first I wasn’t sure, as I had never owned one. I was never a big fan of the designs, and heard way too many stories about the blades deploying in someone’s pockets, stabbing their legs. Whether or not the stories were true, the possibility of getting poked in your manhood by your own blade is totally possible with many of the knife designs that are available.
There are many knife makers that have automatic knife designs; many of them are the more popular (and expensive) knife makers. Before you read on to see whether or not autos are good for EDC, I would recommend reading about the history of the design and their relationship to what’s commonly called a switchblade.
While functionally similar, the two designs share slight but important differences. A switchblade opens its blade from the handle automatically with the press of a button, lever, or switch that is remotely mounted in the knife handle or bolster. In contrast, a spring-assist design uses a lever or switch mounted on the blade or connected via a direct mechanical linkage.
Manual pressure on this lever overcomes spring pressure designed to keep the blade closed, which in turn causes the blade to partially emerge from the handle. At this point an internal torsion spring takes over, rapidly forcing the blade into an open and locked position. – Source Wikipedia
ARE THEY LEGAL TO POSSESS AND CARRY?
Before buying, and before carrying any weapon, you should always properly check with your state and local laws to see what’s allowed and what isn’t. The last thing you want to do is buy a knife, carry it, have to use it in a defensive situation… only to find out now you’re in hot
water for carrying and using an illegal blade, etc. Autos are heavily regulated and every state seems to have its own rules on them. One site that I’ve visited recently that seems to have a good grasp on knife laws is KnifeUp.com. If you plan on carrying a blade, you might want to check it out beforehand.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CARRYING AN AUTOMATIC KNIFE?
It is debatable, but generally speaking, automatics (being spring loaded) have a slightly faster deployment than an assisted opening knife. Other than that, I cannot think of anything else that would be considered a real benefit.
To me there is not much of a difference between pressing a button and
thumbing a stud on the blade.
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF CARRYING AN AUTOMATIC KNIFE?
My first, and probably biggest, complaint about these types of blades is
their lack of safety features. Normally a physical safety mechanism wouldn’t be a big concern to me, as I feel guns with a safety create bad habits. But with a spring-loaded blade dangling just inches from important parts of a man’s anatomy, I’d prefer it to be totally safe
to carry without accidentally activating it in my pants pocket.
Many button-opening automatic designs have no safety and should not be carried in a pocket. Button knives without a mechanical safety will undoubtedly get you hurt. Lever lock types are inherently safer for pocket carry simply by design, as they are highly unlikely to deploy unintentionally. Another drawback with autos is the limited blade sizes that are available due to heavy regulations, which means that the number of cutting chores and uses for the blade has been significantly
reduced as well.
Most autos have skinny or thin blades anyhow, which also means they can’t be used for a lot of things that I would normally use an EDC blade for. Safety and legal drawbacks aside, most autos that are worth using are fairly pricey.
CONCLUSION: ARE THEY GOOD FOR EDC?
Automatic knives may be tacti-cool and all, and they may have legitimate, legal uses, but those uses are few and far between and hard to justify for the amount of money spent on one. I just don’t see any major reason to carry an auto over a folder unless you’re an EMT, fighter pilot, combat medic, fireman, police officer or something along those lines, and the main reason for that is only speed of deployment and they take up very little room. In my opinion, because
of the varying regulations of blade length and available blade designs, usability is actually down when compared to other assisted opening knives on the market. Therefore, I do not recommend carrying them for EDC versus another type of knife.
Even though automatic knives are not recommended by this author, there are EDC folks that do carry them. If you choose to carry, be sure to check with your local state laws. Here are some top automatic/switchblade knives picked by ZedIOptima Youtuber.
Stay alert, stay alive. AmSJ
ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY KEITH SIPMANN