Who reigns supreme in the battle between manual and automatic knives? Manual knives are great—innovations like the thumb stud and Spydie hole have made deployment almost as fast as automatic knives. Almost is the key word! Push the trigger button on one of these autos and it will fire open like a crack of lightning. Have you carried any autos recently? On Knife Banter 46, we decode all the best options worthy of your consideration. Read this blog post to get a little bit more background on our choices, automatic knives, and the great brands that put them together.
Looks and Performance on a Budget
With a huge assortment of options within the Boker line, is it possible to choose only one auto model? If I had to choose, it would without a doubt be the Boker Kalashnikov. Available in a massive variety of options, I’m sure there’s a build-out that will appeal to you. Blacked out, desert sand, OD green, tanto blade—it’s impossible to find a better auto for less than $50. If the 3.25” blade is a little hefty for you, buy the 2.5” Mini Kalashnikov.
Boker not your speed? The Schrade line of autos tacks on a bundle of great features for a teensy tiny price. On the Schrade SC90, you’ll find a glass breaker as well as a lock mechanism to prevent the blade from firing off in your pocket (this has never happened to me with any of my automatic knives, but sleep easy with your fancy new locking Schrade).
Take That Step Up
Boker may kill it in the budget range, but go up a tier and Kershaw is king with its awesome Launch series. The Launch 4 is a snappy California legal automatic knife. From the 1 to 7, there’s a knife for any preference you have. The Kershaw Launch’s anodized aluminum handle comes in any color under the sun. Ben’s favorite is the gorgeous Launch 2 with its 3.4” blade in a bright sky blue. You won’t regret picking up any of these Kershaw classics.
If you want something with a little flash, the Piranha brand is sure to please. These knives are made in USA from high-end CPM-S30V blade steel. Unique and with some style, they are the hot rods of the knife world. If you love the smell of gasoline, burnt rubber, and summer BBQs, pick up a Piranha Bodyguard.
Primarily known for producing some of the finest firearm accessories, Hogue has stepped up to the plate in a major way with their Microswitch Cali-legal auto. Featuring a lock mechanism, this was the blade Zac had in his pocket on a recent hitchhiking trip through the West. Reliable and secure, consider the Hogue Microswitch if you need a no-nonsense, compact auto.
Finally, Gerber has some excellent options with more tactical styling. The Gerber Auto Covert is a sleek and attractive blade with a plunge lock and well-designed pocket clip. This knife has got it all going for it: made in USA, available in a mini size, and a whole host of tacticool color options to choose from.
Big Dogs, Classics, and More…
When you step up another price tier, you get options from companies such as Protech, Benchmade, and Microtech. These heralded knives have that special je ne sais quoi. Firing a Microtech for the first time reminded me of why I fell in love with folding knives in the first place. Ten years later, and I still have that same feeling when I pick up one of these autos.
Protech is known for their action and deployment. Clean and authoritative, these blades are a marvel of engineering and consistency. The TR-3 is a refined classic with a balanced design clearly inspired by the adage, ‘form follows function.’
New on the scene and already making waves, the Magic Whiskers is an instant classic. This knife has a hidden deployment mechanism perfect for parlor tricks and that guy looking for something a little different. Slide the top bolster over to fire the blade. Is this a novelty? Nope. This knife is just as dependable as any other Protech. And no—sliding that magic bolster never gets old.
From the Osborne 940 to the Griptilian, Benchmade has produced some of the most classic knives in history. Their history in auto knives is equally well-regarded. The Benchmade CLA is a compact, made-in-USA option that sports grippy G-10 handle scales and 154CM blade steel. The Composite Light Auto is a performer under 3.5 oz with a 3.4” blade.
Are lightweight and compact not your thing? OK then—give the Adamas a try. A big hulking brute, this giant kicks like a mule on deployment. Close to 9” long and half a pound in the hand, this knife is the favorite of many military personnel.
When it comes to out-the-front knives, Microtech is hard to beat with the Ultratech, UTX-85, and Cypher. But what about the auto LUDT? Available in M390 or Elmax steel, the LUDT represents one of the best values in an auto knife. The LUDT (Large Underwater Demolition Team) has graceful lines and is a dream to carry in the pocket.
Wrapping Up Automatic Knives
Are you a steel snob? Check out our recent blog post on Steel Snobbery.
What do you think of our picks? Do you carry an automatic folder that didn’t make it on our list? What knife do you want to add to your collection? Let us know in the comments below!