Date Published: 2022-01-19

The Truth About Switchblades


The Truth About Switchblades

By Adelia Ladson

What Is A Switchblade?

A switchblade, also known as an automatic knife, is deployed with a push button or slide button that releases the blade at warp speed. The blade’s normal position is open, so, it is actually being held closed by a locking mechanism that is released when the button is pressed or slid forward. Basically, the blade is held under tension, which is why it shoots out so rapidly. The difference between an automatic opening knife and a spring assisted opening knife is that the spring assisted blade’s natural position is closed and it’s deployed with either a flipper or thumbstud. Since it’s not being held under tension, more effort is required to deploy the blade.

The Truth On Legality

The most common question folks have about switchblades is, “are they legal.” The answer is, “yes” and “no”. It all comes down to what state you reside in. Most states allow you to have a switchblade either with restrictions or without restrictions. If restrictions are in place, they will concern the length of the blade, concealment and carry or the legal status of the possessor. Right now, 13 states have laws making switchblades illegal or so restricted that the average person can’t own one. The states are Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington and also the District of Columbia. Be aware, however, that your city and county ordinances have to be taken into consideration, as well. For example, switchblades are illegal in Baltimore and New Orleans. The Federal Switchblade Act only regulates the manufacture and interstate commerce of switchblades not individual ownership of switchblades.

OTF Switchblades

Although, an automatic opening blade can also be deployed from the side of the handle like other pocket knives, the switchblade knife that most folks are familiar with is the out-the-front (OTF) model. An OTF knife is any knife where the blade extends straight from the handle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the knife is a switchblade. OTF knives can be spring assisted, manual slide opening and, the not so common anymore, gravity knives, which drop open out of the handle when a trigger releases the blade. The most iconic switchblades and the ones that are most recognizable as switchblades are the OTF stilettos that are seen in movies and television. Here are a few of my favorite OTF switchblades.

Classic Stiletto Automatic OTF

The iconic stiletto switchblade was made popular by soldiers who brought Italian stilettos home after W.W.II. During the 1950s, the switchblade became a poster child for delinquent youth and New York was the first state to ban them. There’s no question that one of our Stiletto OTF Knives will make a bold statement, each coming in at 9” in overall length. The mirror-polished, stainless steel blades are razor-sharp with penetrating points. The blade snaps out of the front of the knife when the slide trigger is pushed forward and retracts when it’s pulled back. Choose from three different handles with scales crafted of white faux pearl, premium wood or marbleized resins. The impressive stiletto pocket knife can be securely carried in a nylon belt sheath with a quick-release buckle closure.

Bushmaster Mamba Automatic OTF

Switchblades, like other knives, have been updated to modern, tactical models that are ready-for-battle. One of my favorites is the Bushmaster Mamba, which can be easily deployed with the ambidextrous sliding trigger. It has an exceptional, stainless steel blade that’s double-edged, making it a beast at both piercing and slicing. No matter what environment you’re operating in, the TPU handle’s heavily textured grip provides you with a secure hold. The handle also features a glassbreaker pommel for emergencies and a low-profile pocket clip for ease of carry.

Texas Flag Automatic OTF

Switchblades have also moved past the plain, black or pearl-look handles from the past. You can find them with an unlimited number of handle designs. Quick on the draw, the Texas Flag OTF is a workhorse everyday carry ready to work. It has a two-toned, stainless steel blade that can be deployed with a slide trigger on the side of the handle. The black, aluminum handle is emblazoned with the Texas Flag and the crosshatching texture makes it incredibly grippy. The tough handle also has a glassbreaker pommel and the switchblade comes with a belt sheath with an ABS quick-release buckle.

Side Opening Switchblades

Like I said above, switchblades can also deploy from the side like other pocket knives. I have selected a variety of these models, which are modern tactical and workhorse switchblades.

Kershaw Launch Switchblade

What I really like about the Kershaw Launch is that it combines an overall slim profile with full-sized cutting power, making it a very capable workhorse. The highly-sculpted, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum handle is lightweight, reducing the overall weight of the knife. This made in the USA switchblade has a Wharncliffe blade that’s perfect for fine work and it’s slightly angled for more versatile cutting. The CPM 154 steel blade takes and holds an excellent edge, is corrosion-resistant and wear-resistant. The low-profile push button makes it harder for the blade to accidentally deploy and the reversible, deep-carry pocket clip lets the Launch easily ride in your pocket.

Benchmade Stryker Switchblade

Also made in the USA, the Benchmade Stryker incorporates a strong locking button, open back spacer design for easy maintenance and increased spring force. Perfect for undercover missions, the switchblade is in non-reflective black from pocket clip to blade tip. The 154CM steel blade has partial serrations and the black-coated finish gives it a 58-61 HRC. The tough handle is of 6061-T6 aluminum and, along with the pocket clip, it features a lanyard hole for easy carry options. The Benchmade Stryker is a lightning fast tactical tool!

Boker Intention Switchblade

Suited as both an EDC workhorse and a tactical tool, the Boker Intention easily handles all cutting tasks. The stonewashed blade is made of premium D2 tool steel, and it swings open quickly with just the push of a button. The switchblade is fitted with a sliding lock to keep you from accidentally deploying the blade. The ergonomic handle is crafted of textured G10 with a fluted thumb rest and a deep finger choil for a secure grip. This switchblade also has a pocket clip and lanyard hole for carry options.


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