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There are many different types of knives, and we’re not just talking about the regular old kitchen knife. One type of knife that is becoming popular to carry with you when you go out is an OTF knife. These knives allow for quick deployment in a self-defense situation or to use as a regular pocketknife. They can also be used in tactical situations when speed and stealth are essential considerations for your safety. We will help you find the best OTF knife according to your budget.
What are OTF Knives? Are they Legal?
OTF stands for out the front, and it refers to the mechanism a knife uses to deploy the blade. In simpler terms, the OTF knife is a switchblade where the blade comes out from the front. A significant difference compared to standard switchblades, which come out to the side (OTS). OTF knives are also known as sliding knives.
The John Wick franchise of films has popularized these knives even among non- knife folks around the world. Here are the knives used in John wick films.
Now that you know OTF knives are a type of automatic knife/switchblade, you can deduce that the same rules and regulations apply to them. In the United States, only six states consider these knives completely illegal. Some have restrictions on the blade length as well.
You may also find some assisted opening OTF knives these days. These knives have a lesser legal restriction compared to their automatic counterparts.
Refer to the image taken from AKTI.org for more details on the legality of these knives.
Best OTF Knives Under 150$ in 2022
We have considered only affordable automatic OTF knives in this section. There is another list of high-end knives that will cost you $300+. We have a separate section for assisted opening knives as well.
Viper Tec Ghost – Best OTF Knife under 100$
Compact design – Viper Tec’s ghost may seem fragile and soft at first glance. However, it is stable, solid and well put together. It is the ideal knife if you want a full-size unit without having to deal with the weight and bulk. It is suitable for all kinds of applications – great for hunting, survival, adventure, and other outdoor activities.
Super sharp blade – The ghost knife can take a beating. It features a 440C steel razor-sharp blade measuring 3.5 inches in length. The blade is available in double edge, tanto, and half-serrated blades. The tip is extremely sharp, too – careful when you unpack it.
Comfortable handle – The zinc alloy handle is ergonomic and comfortable to hold. It features a thumb stud for an immediate opening, while the other end of the handle has a glass breaker pommel. There are six screws on the handle to keep the blade stable.
Available in different styles and colors – The knife is also available in black, blue, and grey color handles. You will also find versions of this knife in various blade colors and blade styles. There are Damascus steel and American steel versions of this knife with the Tanto style as well. There are also mini versions of this knife available in double edge or tanto blade styles, which feature a 2.7-inch blade that is 25% cheaper.
- Available in double edge, tanto, and half serrated blades
- Easy to open and close
- Durable materials
- Comfortable to use
- ViperTec offers a lifetime warranty and two free maintenance per year.
- Balance is a little off due to its lightweight profile
- 440C blade
Boker Plus Lhotak
You just cannot go wrong with an automatic OTF knife designed by Boker. The design comes from Raimund Lhotak, while the result will bring you a cost-efficient solid piece. It can take wear and tear, it feels well put together, and it provides a good experience in all kinds of situations.
The blade has double edges and is sharp out of the box. It is made of D2 steel, which is rich in chromium for durability and edge retention. The blade measures 3.31(2.84 for the mini version) inches in length and has a stunning black coating that prevents reflections.
The handle is lightweight – after all, it is made of aluminum. It is ergonomic and follows the shape of the hand for more comfort. Moreover, it is less likely to slip out of your hand due to the textured surface. There are six bolts holding parts together, so there are no issues in terms of alignment.
Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that the knife comes with a stainless steel pocket clip.
Viper Tec Zedd – Best OTF Switchblade from ViperTec
Style and build – The Black Zed is built with three elements in mind. It is safe to carry and operate. It is made to last, and finally, it comes with quality materials that will support you anywhere, anytime. The unit is designed like a pocket knife, but it becomes a full-size knife when opened.
Great blade – The blade is built for heavy-duty uses. It is 3.5 inches in length and features Damascus steel – great looks, even greater capabilities. You can opt for a double edge or a tango edge. No matter what you want, the blade is razor-sharp out of the box.
Handle – The mechanism is based on a slider, meaning you can open or close the knife whether you are left or right-handed. A clip ensures easy transportation. It is based on zinc alloy and a bit of carbon fiber. The bottom end features a glass breaker pommel.
- Good looking blade
- More options for the blade design
- Skinny and compact style
- Durable materials
- Ambidextrous uses
- ViperTec offers a lifetime warranty and two free maintenance per year.
- The clip might feel a bit too tight
RQ Double Action Knife – Best cheap OTF knife
Are you looking for an economical but reliable OTF knife for the first time? If yes, then this cheap knife could be your best choice. There is not much blade play due to its minimal profile. However, it is yet a functional one! And as you guessed right, similar to the infamous Microtech OTF knives.
The 3.9- inch blade is quite sharp. Its quick deployment and retraction mechanism are tight. The blade closes and opens smoothly with a solid click but does not result in an accidental opening at the time of being clipped or dropped.
The clip is held onto the knife via the integrated glass breaker without any screws. The zinc-aluminum handle has a non-slippery rubber-like layer that is thick to stay there for a long time.
- Visual appeal
- Sturdy build
- No loud spring vibration
- 440 steel blade. This is what you can expect in a cheap knife, though.
Top OTF Knives with a Hefty Price Tag
The above list comprises only affordable knives under $150. In contrast, the knives in the list below will cost you north of $300, and it would be unfair to put them on the same list. This is the reason we decided to have a separate section for high-end OTF knives.
Heavy-duty design – Benchmade’s Infidel range has become one of the most appreciated options on the market. This model comes with a beautiful blue design, solid handle, full-size blade, and extreme durability. In addition, the handle comes with multiple screws to hold the whole system in place.
Multiple uses – With a blade measuring just under four inches in length, Benchmade Infidel can turn into a full-size knife for all kinds of activities – hunting, indoor repairs, survival, tactical, and so on. You have ambidextrous uses and a dagger-style blade with two edges and a sharp tip.
Superior materials – The blade is made of CPM-S30V steel with a black coating. It features razor-sharp edges and is excellent at corrosion resistance. The handle is made of anodized aluminum. It has a nonslip surface and a smooth opening mechanism for emergencies.
- Heavy-duty construction
- Great for more applications
- Ambidextrous uses
- Feels sturdy and solid
- Double-edged blade
- Available in different colors
- The pocket clip feels too tight
Ultratech is by far the best-selling knife family from Microtech. It opens up in a fraction of a second and can be closed without any hassle at all.
The blade measures 3.35 inches. It is made of high-end stainless steel – primarily M390, but there are options in Carpenter CTS 204P / Carpenter XHP / Bohler ELMAX as well. It has a sharp tip and can be used out of the box – no need to sharpen it upfront. The blade also comes in various styles, so the knife is quite versatile.
The handle is made of 6061 T6 aluminum. It measures 4.84 inches – suitable for both small and large hands. It has a clip at the back to carry the knife in a pocket or over the belt. Overall, the knife feels well put together, and the blade is perfectly balanced – after all, there are six bolts keeping parts together. It has a smooth surface, but it does not feel like it could slip out of your hands.
Benchmade Phaeton 4600DLC
This new OTF from Benchmade packs a thin profile, sleep design, spine fire deployment, and swiftness in a tactical-inclined EDC body. The double-action blade coordinates with the spine-fire slide for rapid deployment as well as a retraction. The spine fire is present where your thumb naturally relaxes for deployment or retraction.
The 3.45-inch blade is made using CPM-S30V stainless steel known for good toughness, superior edge retention, and great wear resistance. In addition, it is coated with black DLC, a finish that is admired for its ability to improve surface durability, lower reflectivity, and boost resistance to corrosion.
The single-edged blade’s razor-sharp edge, piercing tip, drop point and sharpening recess make it unbelievably adaptable to semi-tactical or daily applications.
The black handle is made using aluminum. It is smooth enough to hold in your hand, and slight contouring facilitates in-hand comfort. The restricted checkered pattern is known to prevent fingers from slithering on the blade.
This OTF knife also comes with a deep carry. The reversible clip is made using stainless steel.
You just cannot go wrong with a Piranha knife, and the P19 is an iconic automatic OTF unit. Made in the USA, the knife is based on lightweight yet solid, durable, and professional materials. As a result, it can take abuse like no other knife without showing any signs of weakness.
The 154CM blade measures 3.44 inches in length and has an excellent mirror finish. No matter how often you use it, the finish is less likely to go. It is sharp out of the box and can be taken in or out within less than a second – quick and smooth automatic action. Although we sure are bummed about 154CM steel blade on $300+ knife.
The handle is symmetrical and made of aircraft-grade aluminum. It has a rugged profile to prevent slipping, but it also comes with hand guard protection against accidents. In addition, it is ergonomic and ensures a secure grip.
It has a titanium pocket clip, meaning you can keep it in a pocket or by the belt.
Best Assisted Opening OTF Knives
Most OTF knives are automatic. Hence in some states, they are illegal or need to adhere to blade length restrictions. On the other hand, assisted opening OTFs are boon to people who like the out the front knife concept but can’t have an out the front auto, for whatever reason.
S&W and Schrade have produced spring-assisted OTF knives that are legal across the states of the United States. Because of its spring-assisted mechanism, these are excellent choices for a budget OTF knife.
Smith & Wesson SWOTF9TB – Cheap Single Action OTF
If you are interested in an assisted opening version, Smith & Wesson SWOTF9TB knife is probably the best OTF knife for you. It is 8.77″ long and features a 3.6″ blade. You can get it with a straight edge, as well as a partially serrated edge. You can also opt for a tanto or a spear point alternative.
Assisted opening deployment single-action mechanism
The difference is in the retractable operating method. You deploy the blade, as usual, using a thumb-slide after unlocking safety. But when you want to retract it, you can use the blade release and pull the lever down. Again, make sure your fingers do not come in the way of the lever for faster blade deployment.
It is different from the single-action mechanisms employed by Microtech Halo VI. I prefer this blade retraction technique compared to the Halo VI technique.
AUS-8 stainless steel
AUS-8 stainless steel is a common material for most knives. It is sturdy, rust-resistant, and can be used for all kinds of applications. In addition, the steel is reasonably lightweight, which makes it ideal for OTF knives.
- Safety lock
- AUS-8 stainless steel
- Straight edge and partially serrated edge versions are available
- Available in Tanto and SPearpoint blades
- Single action OTF
- Handle feels cheap
Schrade Viper – Best Cheap Assisted Open OTF Knife
Schrade Viper is a worthy alternative to the S&W version, yet cheaper. We liked the sleek design and the blade. The knife feels solid, but it is also very light. The mechanism is above average, and the price is very affordable.
You will want to hear about the safety mechanism. It is mounted on the back of the knife, and it is effortless to use. The mechanism is reliable, as it should be, and can be activated with a single hand, although you will need some time to get used to it.
There is no need to explain this, but stunning. The design of this Schrade OTF knife is excellent. Both the blade and the handle are black, and the knife feels and looks like a weapon, despite the fact it is a small switchblade.
We hope to see this model in different colors soon. It will make it more versatile and probably add importance to it. However, at the moment, only the black version is available, and it may be the best choice for most of you.
The blade is slightly different than the others we tested. It is perfectly sharp, and it will cut through anything. It is also made from AUS-8 durable steel and is immune to rust and corrosion. Be careful while using the knife, and always read the manual before you start.
Maintenance is kept to the minimum standard for all stainless steel blades.
- Safety mechanism
- Value for money
- Ideal size
- Single action mechanism
- One-color only
Best Mini OTF Knives in the Market
As the name suggests, mini OTF knives are tiny knives with the out the front mechanism. These knives are so small and can be put in your keychain. Their blades are under 2 inches; hence, in most states, these are legal, unlike the standard ones. These are the knives to go if you are looking for California legal OTF knives. If you are looking for other types of keychain knives, read this guide.
The OTF knives from Microtech are admired for their quick deployment and retraction, creative design, and tight tolerance, each one of which is also reflected through the Exocet. This knife ties the knot with utility and feasibility in a single, distinct pack.
This stout OTF tool, with its 1.95-inch blade and automatic double-action, is considered legal in California. Inventive and the first of its kind, it hides the blade and acts as a money clip.
At first glance, you may be surprised at its appearance. However, all concerns will go away when you first use this knife. It fires simpler and faster than almost any other Microtech OTFs. This model has a white finishing on both the handle and the blade, as the Star Wars soldier hence the name Stormtrooper. On the pocket clip, the Imperial Crest logo looks quite regal.
While the blade is made using M390 steel, the handle is made of aluminum. This steel is known for its good edge retention ability, high wear resistance, and high corrosion resistance. In addition, the pocket clip is slim but wide, facilitating the tool to double as the small and elegant money clip. In short, this EDC is a treat to use and is versatile enough to help in various daily tasks.
Boker Plus USB Small
Weighing just over an ounce and designed as a classic USB stick, this OTF knife is discreet, easy to carry and hide. It features a smooth sliding movement – you can open it almost instantly, but it is just as easy to close. Those concerned about quality standards should know it is made in the USA.
The blade is based on D2 steel. It is razor-sharp out of the box and measures 1.85 inches. It has excellent edge retention, but it is also easy to sharpen for maintenance. In addition, the clip point design allows piercing and cutting. In terms of appearance, the blade comes with a dark stonewashed finish, which is not reflective.
The handle is based on 6061 T6 aluminum. Despite being smooth, it has slight grooves on the sides for traction and prevents slipping issues. It is gray and perfectly imitates the appearance of a stick. There is a small key chain hole on the handle so that you can carry the knife anywhere.
Kershaw Kapsule – Cheap Manual Opening Mini OTF Knife
This super-compact, super small, push-button EDC knife is the brainchild of Jens Anso that is easy to carry and cut. It opens with an OTF manual sliding mechanism, holding the blade using a button lock. The stonewashed finish blade is 1.9-inch long, has a spear point and a single edge, and is made using 8Cr13MoV stainless steel.
This affordable Chinese steel is known for its wear and corrosion resistance, ease of sharpness, hardness, and good edge retention. In addition, the spear point and single edge contribute to excellent cutting ability. Despite this, the Kapsule does not appear to be an ideal non-threatening tool. Such is the design!
The notched thumb rest delivers a safe grip, while the glass-filled nylon handle adds to this grip with its distinct texture, notches, and contours. It is lightweight, ambidextrous, and comes with a blue PVD coating for a visual appeal. The pivot, a big lanyard hole, and a backspacer have this coating.
At the butt end, the deep-carry, removable, and single-position pocket clip facilitates a discreet, comfortable carry. Overall, this small but functional Kershaw knife delivers utility through a compact body. However, you can even use it for tactical purposes.
Best OTF Knives with Karambit Design
Karambit knives originated from Indonesia. It has a blade design that resembles the claws of a tiger. It was originally an agricultural implement but later evolved into a weapon. The modern versions are mainly useful for self-defense, prepping, and survival and can have folding blades with various deploying mechanisms, unlike the original fixed blade designs.
Here are 2 Karambit OTF knives you can consider for tactical purposes.
Hendrix Gear Karambit – Best Karambit OTF Knife Overall
Hendrix Karambit OTF is well put together and features a solid CNC construction. It is precise and stable. The finish is flawless.
The operating mechanism is swift and well-balanced. The hawkbill blade will shoot out almost instantly. Everything is curved so that the blade will follow the curvature of the handle. It is made of D2 steel and measures 2.75 inches in length. The edge and tip are super sharp.
The handle is based on aviation aluminum–anodized T6061. It is just over five inches long and has a textured surface – less likely to slip out of your hand. Besides, it has a retention ring and a durable pocket clip.
- Lightweight – just four ounces
- Quality materials
- Convenient curves
- Retention ring
- Quick blade deployment
- The pocket clip could have been a bit longer
MegaKnife Karambit D/A OTF – Value for Money
This Karambit OTF knife is fully automatic and ergonomic. It is comfortable to use in all kinds of applications – both forward and reverse – and can become a proper extension of your arm. Everything about this knife involves curves – in the perfect places.
The handle comes with a retention ring at the end for extra stability. It is made of zinc alloy – good-looking, durable, and strong. Even if the knife is closed, the handle could be a reliable tool. It is curved, ergonomic, and measures six inches. It has a pocket clip and comes with carbon fiber inlays.
The blade is just as attractive – three inches in length made of 440 stainless steel with a stonewash finish. It has a flat edge and a sharp tip. As a result, it is easy to keep clean and will never rust. Plus, sharpening it is fairly simple.
- Good sizing standards
- Excellent curves
- Retention ring
- Good looking design
- Durable materials
- The pocket clip feels a bit too tight
How to Choose the Right OTF Knife for You
To find and purchase the best unit, we need to consider many things. So let’s discuss those factors.
The material of the blade
The blade is the most critical part of any knife, and OTF models are no different. If the blade is inferior in quality, it is irrelevant which type of handle, additional features, or the unit’s price. But, again, this refers to all knives.
The materials to look for are stainless steel or carbon steel. Any other mixture of metals is weaker and won’t provide excellent performances. Unfortunately, this means that the blade will chip, break, and become dull within minutes.
Stainless steel is a cost-effective option. It is easy to get a unit with this metal. It can be very durable and look nice. The maintenance is simple, as well. Carbon steel, on the other hand, is more expensive, stronger, and requires more care. Be free to choose the type of metal you are comfortable with.
Deployment mechanism – Single action vs. Dual-action Knives
Here we have two main types. First, the deployment mechanism refers to the system that will deploy the blade from a resting position. A button or lever controls it, and it will activate the blade when pressed.
You can choose between single action and double or dual action mechanisms. A single-action type will be able to deploy the blade only. You need to use manual force to place it back in the handle. A dual-action mechanism will deploy the blade and also retract it in the handle.
We prefer double-action OTF knives. They are a bit more expensive, complex to make, prone to malfunction but more functional, easier to use, and safer. However, you risk cuts while retracting the blade manually!.
Example for single action OTF knife: MicroTech Halo VI
Example for double action OTF knife: Benchmade Infidel
For ordinary knives, the handle can be made from all sorts of materials. After all, it needs to be strong and lightweight. This is partially true with the OTF knives.
A handle will be under a lot of stress when using the knife. There are springs inside it, and there are a lot of vibrations. If the handle is weak, it will get more vulnerable in the future.
Weak handles can affect the deployment mechanism and can prevent it from operating. They can also break and be unable to protect the user from the blade.
The best handle is made from aluminum. This is a durable metal that is very resistant to vibrations while maintaining the low weight of the knife.
A safety mechanism is entirely different than the deployment mechanism we mentioned earlier. However, in general, it is used as an addition to preventing the blade from accidental deployment, and it deserves your full attention.
If you accidentally open the blade, you can injure yourself due to the strong springs present in the action mechanism. A safety mechanism will prevent that, and it is a mandatory feature for all beginners.
You can find a model with or without this feature. However, we prefer a model with the feature because it comes without any drawbacks, yet the glass breaker is there when you need it.
The good thing is that most knives of this kind include glass breakers.
Tip of the blade
OTF knives are mainly for tactical usage. If the tip of the blade is dull, it will fail to inflict damage. That’s why we recommend you models, with spear tip design. They are simply the most effective. Tanto blades are fine as well.
It is another little feature we like and probably you will as well. A pocket clip is essential for portability and safe carrying, especially if a sheath isn’t included in the package.
We were impressed with the quality, the double-action mechanism, and the affordable price of the Viper Tec Black Ghost Knife. However, if you are looking for a higher-end OTF knife, go for the Infidel or the Ultratech. Either of them is a top-notch choice.
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.