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Looking to add an automatic switchblade to your knife collection? Automatic knives are practical, easy to use, and effective for everyday needs and a companion for outdoor expeditions. We have come up with another guide to help you find out the best automatic knives in the market now. We have also picked a few such knives that we consider worthy contenders for the throne of the best automatic knife.
What are Automatic Knives, and are they Legal?
A switchblade is a term used to define a knife with a foldable blade, where the blade comes out, the side or the front automatically on pressing a button or switch. They are also called automatic knives, pushbutton knives, ejector knives, spring knives, etc., and are a go-to tool for military and law enforcement personnel.
Keep in mind that automatic knives are not the same as assisted knives. Auto knives can be opened with a press of a button or a lever, while assisted knives require you to open them using a flipper or thumb stud partially.
Essentially you can categorize automatic knives into two buckets. OTF (Out The Front) knives, where the blade comes out the front, and OTS (Out The Side) knives which are auto-folding pocket knives with side opening mechanisms.
An automatic knife is not legal in many states, or it needs to adhere to some blade length standards. All switchblades are banned from schools, police stations, government facilities, etc. In the United States, you can’t carry a switchblade across a state border.
For more details on the legality of automatic knives/switchblades, refer to the image given below, taken from AKTI.org
2023’s Best Automatic Switchblade Knives
We have covered the best OTF knives available in the market in detail already. Hence this article will feature only OTS auto-folding knives.
Benchmade CLA – Best Automatic Knife Overall
Made in the USA, this Benchmade automatic knife is an excellent all-purpose knife. It goes in the middle-sized category, coming in at 3.47 oz. It is a folding pocket knife, so it does not come with a sheath. It can be easily stored by your belt or inside your pocket.
The 3.4″ long and 0.11″ blade is based on 154CM stainless steel – 58 to 61 HRC. It is rust and corrosion-resistant and features a drop point profile. The knife is available in both black blade and satin blade, and both blade offerings have the choice of a plain edge or partially serrated. It is 3.4 inches long. The G10 handle is also great and is available in a smooth or textured design.
In terms of extras, you have a large actuation button and a lanyard hole. One side has the actuation button, while the other one features a solid clip for transportation.
- Well put together
- Compact and lightweight
- Easy to open
- Textured or smooth handle
- The clip feels a bit too tight
Benchmade Osborne Auto 9400
Osborne 940, the predecessor of 9400, is one of the highly regarded folding EDCs for offering adaptable performance in almost any situation. The Osborne 9400 is based on the 940’s profile but is a push-button auto version. It retains most design elements while facilitating one-handed, ultra-fast auto deployment for EDC or tactical uses.
The knife comes with a reverse tanto blade made using CPM S30V stainless steel, a powdered steel version regarded for its great edge retention ability, toughness, sharpness, and reliable corrosion resistance power. The tanto point delivers solid piercing, daily cutting, and slicing actions.
The satin-finished steel ensures a good balance of slicing action and longevity, perhaps due to the top swedge and saber grind. The quick deployment happens through the coil spring mechanism driven via a button.
The green anodized aluminum handle contains scales that ensure comfort while delivering a lightweight yet lasting handle. Although no significant finger grooves, the texture makes up for good traction and, consequently secure grip.
The intuitive button lock mechanism keeps unintentional deployment at bay. A slide safety mechanism gives extra security while the blade is out or inside the handle. The reversible, tip-up clip of stainless steel makes up for flexible carry.
Spyderco Autonomy 2
This award-winning automatic knife was designed to work reliably in the wet and hard conditions amidst which the American Coast Guard team works. This itself is a testimony of how functional this knife is.
Textured G-10 scales, a flat blade, a safety lock, and a big firing button make it an easy-to-operate tool. The full black Autonomy 2 has a leaf-shaped blade with a plain edge, and all are made using LC200N steel known for great edge retention, near rustproof ability, ease of sharpening, and extraordinary toughness.
Made for great piercing and slicing actions, the blade bears a non-reflective, lasting, and corrosion-resistant coating of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) for unobtrusive use. Its deployment is easy through a jumbo button on the handle side.
The auto action driven by the coil spring results in quick, reliable deployment, even with gloves. Held in a jumbo-sized covering, the coil spring mechanism is flexible enough to be examined without dissembling the tool. The button-lock mechanism ensures a solid and secure lock even in the most hostile conditions.
Along with the button, the other hardware is made using a rustproof material and bears a black DLC finish. Coming to the handle, it contains thick and textured scales of G10 that are contoured to DLC-coated lines of stainless steel.
You can carry this knife easily with a reversible, tip-up clip and a lanyard hole.
ProTech TR 4.3 Tactical Response 4
This limited-edition auto knife belongs to the Tactical Response Series made by the legendary makers. It is a full-size, button-lock auto knife that is light, comfortable, and lightning-fast. The drop-point, the saber-ground big blade is reliable for both tactical and utility purposes.
It is made using the CPM-D2 tool steel and has a DLC coating. The steel is known for its wear resistance, durability, and superior edge retention ability. The saber grind is admirable for its good strength, while the top long swedge facilitates detail work apart from piercing. The DLC coating provides a non-reflective surface and improves corrosion resistance. A simple but powerful button-driven coil spring deploys the blade within a few seconds.
The handle of hard-anodized aluminum is both tough and light. Milled grooves and subtle jimping ensure a cozy and secure grip. A pacer of hardened steel has a lanyard hole and projects from the handle’s pommel end for working as an impact tool.
While the button lock mechanism delivers reliable lockup, the slide safety contributes to additional security while carrying. Even this knife comes with a tip-up pocket clip of stainless steel for deep carry.
Kershaw Auto Launch 4 – Small Automatic Knife Legal in CA
Launch 4 is one of the most popular auto knives from Kershaw, especially in states with blade length limits imposed. It has a beautiful design, a comfortable feel, and is made of heavy-duty materials. Made in the USA, this knife is known for its extremely fast action and exquisite symmetrical design.
Kershaw Auto Launch 4’s blade is high-performance CPM154 steel and is DLC coated to be nonreflective and for additional protection. The blade is 1.9″ long, hence legal in California. It has a spear point design and despite looking symmetrical, it only has one edge. It can also be sharpened without too much hassle, yet it comes razor-sharp.
The handle features 6061-T6 aluminum and measures 3.2 inches. It is smooth and ergonomic. It also comes with a low-profile button that makes it harder for the knives to accidentally deploy. The Launch 4 has a single-position pocket clip and carries tip-up for easy transportation.
- Beautiful symmetry in design
- Durable materials
- Fast opening
- Ergonomic handle
- Razor-sharp edge
- Non CA people should go for longer blade auto knives
SOG Spec Elite 1 Auto
Slim, compact, and lightweight – SOG’s Elite 1 is one of the best budget-friendly automatic knives to have around. It has an almost instant automatic system that deploys the blade straight away. Overall, it weighs about 2.8 ounces, so you will not even feel it in your pocket.
The blade is 3.5 inches long and based on AUS 8 steel. It is a high-grade type of stainless steel that allows easy sharpening and rust resistance. The edge is super sharp and the opposite side features a few serrations. It features a sharp tip for punctures too.
The handle contributes to the lightweight profile of this automatic knife. It is based on aluminum. It is skinny and textured, so the grip is excellent. It also comes with a long clip for easy transportation.
- Build to last
- Comfortable to use
- Lightweight profile
- Compact and easy to carry around
- Quick blade deployment
- Slight asymmetry by the tip
Buck Impact Auto
Buck’s automatic knife could be the ideal knife in terms of versatility and efficiency. It is suitable for heavier tasks, a good EDC knife, and even a decent skinning knife apart from being a great tactical automatic knife.
It features a compact and lightweight design, as well as super-fast action, safety standards, and great efficiency. Just like most other knives from Buck, this one is made in the USA. It weighs only 4.1 oz.
Its blade comes with a drop point style and measures 3.125 inches. The tip is super sharp, as well as the edge. Made of S30V vanadium stainless steel, it is extremely durable. Plus, it features a classic black coating for non-reflective good looks.
The handle on 6061-T6 aluminum comes in several Cerakote colors with a large activation mechanism on one side and a pocket clip on the other side. It is ergonomic and features a heavy texture rubber inlay to prevent slipping and ensure a good grip.
- Good looking design
- Superior blade
- Nonslip handle
- Forever Warranty
- More difficult to sharpen than lower-quality steels
Gerber Auto Covert
Gerber’s Auto Coverts is an all-purpose knife that will make your life easier. It is fast, durable, and great for tactical purposes. It is an evolved version of the classic Applegate-Fairbairn folder with an automatic deployment mechanism.
The black finished CPM-S30V stainless steel blade has a double edge and a super sharp tip. Gerber Covert comes in two versions. One with a serrated blade and another with a straight blade. The former has its both edges half serrated. One of them has large serrations, while both knives feature light serrations at the other edge and almost no sharpness for the rest of the edge.
The handle has a spring-loaded automatic release that deploys the blade almost instantly. The oversized release button ensures easy deployment even with gloves. The handle is super ergonomic and comes with a textured surface to prevent slipping. It also comes with a removable deep carry clip for convenient and discreet carry.
- Excellent in terms of balance
- Quick deployment – almost instant
- S30V steel blade
- Ergonomic handle
- Comes in both serrated and straight edge blades.
- No tip-down carry option
There is also an assisted opening version of this knife available on Amazon at one-third of the price.
Boker Kalashnikov – Best Budget Automatic Knife under $50
Boker’s Kalashnikov automatic knife series comes with a plethora of different options. While most of them feature the same automatic profile, blade sizes differ slightly. The main difference is in the blade shape. The blade is available in Tanto, Clip Point, Hawkbill, Dagger, Drop Point, Sheepsfoot, and Wharncliffe style. They are also available in straight and serrated edges. There are left-handed as well as right-handed versions of this knife as well.
The blade is based on AUS-8 stainless steel. It is durable, rust, and corrosion-resistant. Most models come with a durable coating that will not scratch too easily, as well as super-sharp tips and razor-sharp edges. Edge retention should not be an issue either. The blade is around three inches in length.
There is a reason wherefore Boker has chosen this name for the series. The handle is well contoured just like a Kalashnikov handle and it feels perfect as you hold in. Other than that, the spring is flawless and ensures an almost instant deployment.
- Convenient opening mechanism
- Good looking design
- Ergonomic handle
- Super sharp blade
- Comfortable to use
- Multiple options in blade style, edge, and size
- Creep in the button. Make sure you oil it for the smoother deployment of the blade.
How to Choose the Best Automatic Knife in 2023
When looking for the right automatic knife, some factors must be considered first.
The first thing to consider is the releasing mechanism. It is a system used to unfold and fold your new knife. There are several differences in types available on the market. They are:
- Secret mechanism- It is precise, as the name suggests. It has a hidden lever or a button, and only you will know how to open your knife.
- AXIS Pull- This mechanism is rare, very rare if we may add. It means that the buttons for the release are present on both sides.
- Lever- It is as simple as it sounds. A knife with a lever mounted on one side.
- Button- An alternative to the lever style. The operation is the same.
As you would expect, the best automatic knife must be made from proper steel. There are no ceramic, iron, or any other material in this case scenario, and honestly, none of them will work well as steel.
There are specific types of steel we recommend. They are D2, Damascus, CPM S30V, 4034 Black, 400 Series, and AUS8. If your new knife is made from these materials, it will last longer, be extremely strong, and be easy to maintain.
The bottom line here is that a knife must be easy to sharpen, yet strong and reliable. The blade must be immune to corrosion and stains while maintaining its sharpness for as long as possible.
Sadly, we cannot generalize this factor. It is purely your individual preference. Automatic knives come with blades of all sizes. They start at 2 inches and may reach 10 inches. Smaller knives are more compact and more affordable, yet unable to meet more advanced usages. Certain states have restrictions on the blade size of a legal automatic knife as well.
The handle can be either made from plastics, wood, G10, or aluminum. Steel is also possible but usually avoided due to the extra weight it adds. Plastics are the worst option and reserved for the cheapest knives. Wood is elegant, durable, yet not as strong as the next alternative. Aluminum is the best and the strongest handle material. Besides, reinforced fiberglass is a valuable alternative.
Clip or holder
Where you are going to place, and how you will carry your new best automatic knife? You have two options. The first is a clip that allows you to place the knife on a belt. It is more affordable, smaller, and for some a more desirable option.
A second option is to get a pouch, a case, or a holder. It is a more elegant option, and it is rare, only due to the fact automatic knives are foldable, and people usually find holders complicated and annoying.
It is one of the essential features. A safety lock will make sure your knife can’t be opened accidentally. Sadly, not all models come with it, and it is relatively difficult to find one that offers it.
If you are new in this realm, we recommend you get a unit with a safety lock. It is still easy to use, yet it is 100% safer and even looks better. The locking mechanism makes the knife look more expensive.
If you are planning to carry your knife with you at all times, you need a lightweight model. In general, units with a weight of 3 ounces are considered the most appealing. Models with a weight of 5 ounces are slightly bigger yet worthy of your consideration. Anything above 10 ounces and you have a big, impractical knife.
For us, the Benchmade CLA comes on top as our favorite automatic knife. It is made from 154CM steel, has a G10 handle although at a higher price. But if you are looking for a budget switchblade go for Boker Kalashnikov. If you are you are from Nevada or California or looking for another cheap switchblade go for Kershaw Auto Launch 4. The other 3 knives are also great choices and priced in the mid-range.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.