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The 10 Best Automatic Knives
The knife world is a vast and complicated one for the uninitiated. But those who have a bit of background knowledge and a firm understanding of that for which they are searching can also have a hard time because of the overwhelming number of options. That includes different deployment mechanisms — the means by which a knife is opened or extended for cutting purposes.
In the case of this article, we’re concerned with perhaps the quickest and simplest-to-use deployments: automatics. These knives are lightning-quick, sometimes flashy, and plenty handy when it comes to completing cutting tasks. But since the options out there are rather numerous, we’ve pared them down to what we believe are the ten best automatic knives you can get for your money. Just make sure, before you dive in, you’ve done your research regarding the legality of carrying one in your place of residence.
What Are Automatic Knives
Speed, Simplicity, & Legality
In the world of folding knives — especially in regards to legality — there are three basic deployment classes: manual, assisted-opening, and automatic. Manual knives require the user to deliberately open the knife using their own power. Assisted knives still require deployment initiation by the user — usually in the form of a flipper mechanism, thumb stud, or thumbhole — but have a spring that helps open up the knife. And automatic knives usually function with the push of a button, requiring the least amount of effort to spring open in the hands of the user.
Automatic knives are lightning-quick to deploy, convenient, easy to conceal, and very simple to use. These factors also, in the eyes of the law, make them more dangerous. As such, there are a lot of places — states, countries, regions — that have outlawed or placed strict restrictions on them in regards to the legality of ownership and whether or not you can carry them. Before ever considering purchasing an automatic knife, you should look into your local laws and the laws of any place to which you plan to travel.
Kershaw Launch 4 Automatic Knife
One of the most compact automatic knives on the market, Kershaw’s Launch 4 sizes up at just 5.10″ in total, with its stout copper-finished blade taking up only 1.9″ of that length. The rest is taken up by a beautiful and ergonomic aluminum handle complete with a tip-up pocket clip. The very definition of “tiny titan,” this is not an everyday carry knife to pass up.
Blade Length: 1.9″
SOG Spec Elite II Automatic Knife
SOG built their entire brand on crafting rugged, tactical knives that can be used out in the wilderness, on the battlefield, or as a piece of your everyday carry. And they’ve pared their expertise perfectly into their Spec Elite II automatic knife. Designed for use by military and law enforcement personnel, this durable, reliable blade boasts a sturdy AUS-8 steel blade mated to a machined aluminum handle. And the whole thing is finished in black, for just the right amount of sinister styling.
Blade Length: 4″
Gerber Empower Automatic Knife
Gerber’s Empower is, across the board, one of the best automatic knives on the market, but we’re specifically fond of this sub-model with its CPM-S30V spear point blade and two-tone Armor Grip handle. Designed for versatility with its multi-purpose blade shape, this is the kind of knife you could add to your everyday carry loadout and depend upon for years to come. And that’s certainly aided by its push-button deployment, stunning good looks, and excellent construction materials.
Blade Length: 3.25″
Handle: Armor Grip
Boker Burnley Kwaiken Automatic Knife
Designed by none other than master bladesmith Lucas Burnley, Boker’s Kwaiken might very well be the brand’s best knife — or at least it’s one of their most talked-about offerings. And, as it turns out, they offer that very blade in an automatic deployment. Beautiful and blacked-out, this samurai-inspired gentleman’s cutting tool features a 154CM blade with an aluminum handle, clocking in at 8.375″ overall. And it functions via an automatic deployment courtesy of Protech, one of the top names in the space. If you can afford it and your place of residence allows for it, this might just be the best knife on this list.
Blade Length: 3.5″
Buck 110 Auto Knife
Whereas most automatic knives are moderately futuristic in their styling, Buck Knives — the legendary American knifemaking brand — has taken a different direction. Rather than making something that looks like it came out of a sci-fi movie, they turned their most iconic folder, the Hunter 100, into an auto knife. Perfect for EDC, this beautiful retro-styled cutter features a clip point 420HC blade, a Crelicam ebony wood handle, and simple push-button deployment. If you want an auto knife with vintage styling in spades, go no further.
Blade Length: 3.75″
Handle: Crelicam Ebony
Protech TR-5 Desert Warrior Automatic Knife
There is a reason so many brands turn to Protech for their deployment mechanisms when they decide to build an automatic knife: the brand is the best in the business. And they don’t skimp on their own offerings, either, as can be seen in their TR-5 Desert Warrior. This handsome auto knife boasts a rather pointy CPM-S35VN copper-finished blade mated to a gorgeous green aluminum handle and the whole thing is tied together with one of their top-tier push-button deployments. It also has a deep carry tip-up pocket clip, a lanyard attachment, and a perfectly pocket-sized silhouette.
Blade Length: 3.25″
Spyderco Autonomy Automatic Knife
In the world of everyday carry, it almost goes without saying that Spyderco knows how to make a stupendous folding blade — even if you don’t like their style for yourself. But they may have just broken the mold when it came to their Autonomy automatic knife. Built specifically to suit the needs of the U.S. Coast Guard’s rescue swimmers, this emergency-focused blade features a blade made from H1 steel — renowned for its corrosion resistance and perfect for saltwater climates — mated to sturdy and lightweight G10 handle scales. It won “Most Innovative American Design” award at the 2012 Blade Show, but it’s just as relevant today as it was then.
Blade Length: 3.75″
Microtech Combat Troodon D/E OTF Automatic Knife
The Combat Troodon — and all its permutations therein — is probably the most well-known and sought-after OTF (out-the-front) knife currently on the market. It’s aggressive in its styling and top-notch in its construction. It even comes with a glass-breaker tip on its tail end for use during emergency situations. This one happens to have a dagger-style blade crafted from high-end Bohler M390 steel which is mated to an aluminum handle that’s lightweight and extremely tough. If you live in a place that allows for the carrying of OTF knives, it just doesn’t get better than this.
Blade Length: 3.8″
Steel: Bohler M390
Benchmade 3400 Autocrat Automatic Knife
A new addition to Benchmade’s already-impressive catalog of everyday carry knives, the 3400 Autocrat family of automatic knives is the brand’s first OTF knife to feature composite handles — opting for G10 as opposed to the more-traditional aluminum. Mated to those handles, you’ll find a sleek dual-edge CPM-S30V steel dagger blade and a simple push-button slider for near-instantaneous deployment. It’s also equipped with a MOLLE-compatible deep carry pocket clip, has colorful hardware for a bit of flash, and there’s a coating on the blade for even more durability. Best of all, it was made here in the USA.
Blade Length: 3.71″
Rat Worx MRX Ambi X-Factor Automatic Knife
Probably the most unique of all the automatic knives on our list, this futuristic cutting tool is lauded for its aggressiveness and innovation. The design hinges on a unique, proprietary MRX chain drive system — which resembles a bicycle chain — that can whip out the blade into deployed position with near-flawless lock up every time. And that’s accessible via a simple ambidextrous push-button mechanism. Pair that with a CPM-154 black-finished reverse tanto blade, a lightweight and durable aluminum handle, and a massive 10.25″ silhouette and it’s safe to say that this auto knife is incomparable.
Blade Length: 4.125″
How To Find The Perfect Everyday Carry Pocket Knife
Picking out the best cutting tool for your unique circumstances is actually a fairly complicated process if you’re not familiar with the world of everyday carry. Learn everything you need to know on our guide covering how to find an EDC pocket knife.
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State Laws Regarding Auto-Open Knives
Don’t Believe the Myths About Automatic Knives
The following states do NOT prohibit auto-open (also referred to as automatic, switchblade, or switch knife) for non-law enforcement citizens. Check State Knife Laws for specific details on possession, carry, manufacturer or sale as some restrictions may apply in a specific state. See the list below for blade length restrictions.
- California (less than 2″ blade length limitation)
- Colorado (effective approximately Aug. 9, 2017; concealed carry maximum length 3-1/2″)
- Connecticut (maximum 1-1/2″ blade length limitation)
- Illinois (effective Aug. 11, 2017, with valid Firearms Owner’s Identification Card FOID)
- Kansas (since 2013)
- Kentucky (if at least 21 years old)
- Louisiana (effective August 1, 2018)
- Maine (effective October 15, 2015)
- Maryland – can legally possess if not concealed
- Massachusetts (maximum 1-1/2″ blade length limitation)
- Michigan (effective October 10, 2017)
- Missouri (since 2012)
- Montana (maximum 1-1/2″ blade length limitation – removed 2019)
- Nevada (effective July 1, 2015 – 2″ blade length limitation removed)
- New Hampshire (since 2010)
- North Dakota
- New York – (exception for hunting, trapping and fishing – see New York Knife Laws)
- North Carolina (concealed carry not recommended – see North Carolina Knife Laws)
- North Dakota (maximum 5″ blade length limitation)
- Ohio (effective April 12, 2021 – see Ohio Knife Laws)
- Oklahoma (effective November 1, 2015)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Vermont (less than 3″ blade length limitation)
- Washington (manufacture allowed, limited possession to law enforcement and emergency personnel – see Washington Knife Laws)
- West Virginia (must be 21 years of age)
- Wisconsin (effective February 2016)
Check out FAQs Understanding Knife Laws
For information on the Federal Switchblade Act, click here.
Read Don’t Believe the Myths About Automatic Knives
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