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With all the different types of knives today, it can be easy to get lost in the seemingly endless information. Lucky for you, this knife type guide will walk you through the basics!

The five basic types of knives are:

  • Manual Folding Knives - Blade folds inside the handle with no assisted mechanism.
  • Spring Assisted Knives - Blade is assisted open with a spring or bar.
  • Automatic Knives or Switchblades - Blade automatically opens with the push of a button or pull of a lever. The two styles are Out The Front (OTF) and side opening.
  • Fixed Blade Knives - Blade is fixed to the handle and does not pivot.
  • Butterfly or Balisong Knives - Two handles rotate around a blade.
  • Knife Styles that Fit Multiple Types
  • Now, let's dive into the different types of pocket knives:


    Spyderco Para 3

    Manual folding knives have a blade that folds inside the handle, covering the cutting edge. Many of these types of knives have a locking mechanism that keeps the blade in the open position. All manual knives feature a mechanism to keep the blade closed and safe in your pocket.


    Spring assisted knife

    Spring assisted knives are a type of folding knife that flips open with a little assistance from the user. These knives have a spring or bar inside that puts tension on the blade, so when the user opens the blade to about 30 degrees, the blade then flips the rest of the way open. They often open with a flipper or thumb stud.


    Automatic knives, or switchblades, have blades that flip open with the push of a button. There are also variations that open via a lever or switch on the handle. The two basic styles of automatic knives are side opening and Out The Front (OTF).

    Side Opening

    Automatic knife - Kershaw Launch

    Side opening automatics have a blade that comes out of the side of the handle when a firing button is pressed. This snappy action makes the blade accessible quickly.


    Fixed blade knife - ESEE 5

    Fixed blade knives are just that; the blades on these knives are attached to the handle and cannot be folded.


    Butterfly knife - BRS Alpha Beast Infinity

    Butterfly knives, or balisong knives, have two handles that pivot around a blade. These knives are very popular for flipping and recreational use.


    Let’s preface this section by saying it’s going to get a little confusing, and that’s okay. We’ve gone over knife types, which are the manual, spring assisted, automatic, fixed, and butterfly. Now we’ll go more into knife styles.

    A style of knife is like a category, such as hunting knives, OTF, throwing knives, etc. Some styles are made as multiple types, which leads us to this section. Let’s dig in, shall we?

  • Karambits are the ultimate self-defense tool. They are available in fixed blades, folding, and even butterfly knives.
  • Neck knives are usually compact knives that come in fixed blade and manual folding.
  • Hunting knives come in fixed blade, manual, and automatic, and are made to cater to a hunter’s needs. Most of these knives are fixed blade and have a mild curve, fit into a sheath, and are made to be sturdy. Specialty types like skinning knives are made for skinning animals.
  • Fishing knives come in fixed blade and manual folding, and are made for everything from cutting a line to prepping a fish for a nice feast.
  • Bowie knives are a style of knife that usually has a double edge at the point of the blade. They are a very popular style and come in every type of knife.
  • Multi-tools usually contain several blades along with other tools, such as pliers. A common example of a multi-tool is a Leatherman.
  • Dive knives are made specifically for scuba divers and usually contain materials that will not rust. They come in fixed blade and manual, and cater to every situation a diver may face.
  • Fillet knives can be fixed blade or manual, and have long, skinny, flexible blades that are used to fillet fish.
  • Throwing knives, axes and stars are designed for the sport of throwing. Many people use these recreationally, but just know that professional knife throwing is a thing.