How to Choose An Automatic Knife
Written by Blade HQ Staff Writer Logan Rainey on 12/4/2020
Pictured: Gerber 06 Auto, Benchmade Mediator, Boker Kalashnikov, Kershaw Launch 4
From Italian Stilettos to tactical folding knives, the automatic knife has been one of the most iconic knife types since its inception. Most automatic knives function by utilizing a spring mechanism to deploy the blade with lightning-fast precision. If you’re new to knives or looking to add an automatic knife to your collection, this article may be well worth your time. In it we will break down some see aspects of choosing an automatic knife. Let’s get to it!
Folding vs. OTF
Pictured: Benchmade 9400
When considering an automatic knife, there are only really two types: folding and OTF (out-the-front). Without getting too into the legal limitations of either, it’s important to note that certain laws apply to owning and carrying an automatic knife, and it is up to YOU as the consumer to know your local knife laws before carrying or purchasing an automatic knife. Now that we have that out of the way, a folding automatic knife is just like it sounds; it’s just like a regular manual folding knife, but instead features a button/switch to deploy the blade by means of a spring-loaded mechanism inside the handle.
An OTF automatic knife on the other hand features a blade that fires from the top of the knife rather than the side (check out our “How to Choose an OTF Knife” article to learn more). Once you’ve decided which style of automatic knife you want, we can get into some other important aspects. For the sake of this article we’ll mostly refer to folding automatic knives.
Pictured: Boker Kihon Auto
When it comes to automatic knives, there are a few different styles to consider. Tactical automatic knives are fast, precise, and durable so they can perform well under high-stress situations. Everyday carry automatic knives draw inspiration from tactical knives, but tend to have more flash and finesse than their tactical counterparts.
Either way you slice it, the automatic knife you choose has to fit your personal style and taste. For some of us it doesn’t make much sense to carry a beefy automatic knife like the Gerber Auto 06, but something like the Benchmade 9400 auto might offer the same excitement while being easier to carry regularly.
Pictured: Boker Kalashnikov
Pictured: Pro-Tech Strider
The next consideration to make when choosing a folding automatic knife is its size. In some places a big automatic knife is a no-go. They’re typically designated only for military and law enforcement and aren’t legal for civilians to carry. In these places (we’re looking at you California), they allow some automatic knives but limit them to their size. If folding automatic knives are legal in your state, lucky you!
You can pick your knife based on your size preferences rather than other limitations. The size of your knife will dictate how you can or can’t use it. Bigger knives are built for harder tasks, where smaller knives are built for more precise tasks. The choice is yours, but we suggest finding the one that fits your hand and how you plan to use it best.
Materials and Construction
Pictured: Protech SBR
Quality is everything when it comes to automatic knives. The better they’re assembled and designed, the longer they typically last and the better they perform. When considering which automatic knife to buy it’s important to think about how hard you use your knives and what you expect from them in terms of performance.
If you’re gentle on your knives, you may enjoy one with softer blade steel for easier sharpening and a painted/anodized handle. For those who are hard on their knives, a blade with more durability or better edge retention and a rugged handle may be a better option. Like manual folding knives, automatic knives feature handles made from metal, polymers, and composites, and can be found with practically every blade steel under the sun. Figure out what you plan on doing with the knife, then choose the best materials you can afford.
Pictured: Pro-Tech Godson
That brings us to our last topic: Price. Budget constraints and limitations can be a real challenge if you love knives as much as we do here at Blade HQ. With so many different awesome knives to buy, it can be hard to pick and choose which ones to buy. When it comes to automatic knives, there are some amazing knives in every price range. On the low end knives like the Boker Kalashnikov and Boker Strike feature amazing construction and great actions, but the materials may be a little lower quality and not last as long as more expensive knives.
For mid-priced automatic knives, the Kershaw Launch Series and Protech Sprint are a great way to get an awesome knife without completely breaking the bank. On the high side of things, the Microtech Stitch and the Benchmade Mediator are truly remarkable knives, but you have to pay a pretty penny for them. If your budget allows for it, we always suggest getting the best you can afford when buying an automatic knife. More expensive autos have better tolerances, more precise locking mechanisms and more durable materials. But if you’re just looking to add a fun automatic knife to your growing collection, you can’t go wrong with one at a lower price.
Pictured: Pro-Tech SBR
Purchasing an automatic knife is one of the most exciting things you can do as a knife enthusiast. They’re unique and badass! If you’re new to knives or adding your first auto to your collection, the most important thing to consider is the thing that means the most to you. For some of us, we don’t care about the look of the knife as long as it gets the job done, and for others looks are everything. Choose the knife that makes you happiest and you’ll be in a really good spot. Until next time, thanks for reading! Check out some of our favorite automatic knives in the video below, then browse our full selection of awesome automatic knives!
OTHER KNIFE GUIDES
Still in that information gathering phase? We've got a bunch more lists of all the Best Knives! Be sure to check out our Best Automatic Switchblade Knives article for more of our favorite autos. Happy hunting, may you find that one special knife of your dreams!
Best Microtech KnivesOTFs, autos, and more!
Best Benchmade KnivesThe top Benchmades available
Best Spyderco KnivesSpydie hole worthy knives
*Customer reviews may be condensed for clarity and edited for grammatical errors. You know we have to make our high school English teacher proud. Check product listings for current pricing.