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All About the Out the Front Knife: Comparing Single and Double Action

OTF Knives are the outdoor enthusiasts’ best friend. You should never head into the backcountry without a personal knife.

There are countless ways an outdoor knife, especially an OTF knife, or out the front knife, can help you outdoors. You can also use them throughout the day at work, in your workshop, or even in the kitchen.

So what exactly is an OTF knife, and are there different kinds? How is it different from a switchblade? Keep reading for everything you need to know about the different types of OTF knives and why you need one.

What Is an Out the Front Knife?

An out the front knife is similar to a folding knife. The blade is hidden inside the knife handle to make it easy and safe to transport in your backpack or pocket.

With the press of a button, the blade releases and you are ready to use the knife. You are able to open an out the front automatic knife with one hand. This is ideal for many conditions where your other hand is full or holding an object to cut.

How Does an Out the Front Knife Work?

OTF knives use a spring mechanism inside the handle to automatically release the blade and lock it in place. Simply press a button, or flip a switch in order to unlock the spring and release the blade.

This is the easiest type of automatic knife to use as there are no specific hand positions or motions required. When using a knife many times throughout the day, easy and quick actions boost your efficiency. 

How Does an OTF Knife Differ From Other Knife Types?

There are many other types of automatic knives or folding knives available.

The gravity knife is a folding knife, not exactly an automatic knife, that requires the use of gravity and motion of your hand to release the blade. To use a gravity knife, you will unlock the knife and swing your hand, forcing the blade to flip out and lock in place.

Switchblades are automatic knives similar to an OTF knife. It uses a spring inside to release the blade. When released, however, a switchblade releases out the side of the knife handle, folding outwards.

This creates an outward arc for the blade to travel in. You need to hold the handle correctly for the safe, efficient use of a switchblade.

stiletto knife is originally an Italian style knife with a fixed-blade. Stiletto blades are sharp-tipped, as opposed to having sharp-sided blades like a cutting knife. There are out the front stiletto knives available as well.

Benefits of an OTF Knife

There are countless ways an out the front knife could come in handy. These are specifically field-tested in extreme outdoor elements, ensuring that you can confidently pack them along for use in the steamy jungles of South America or on an expedition of the Arctic North.

When spending a night in the backcountry, you’ll be glad you have a personal knife in camp. Use it to cut and serve food. If you are hunting or fishing, you can use the knife to prep meat for the fire, or field dress an animal to make it easy to pack out.

You’ll also find it useful when setting up camp in unique environments. You may need to cut short pieces of paracord in order to set up a tent or hang food supplies from a tree to prevent animals from stealing your food.

Automatic knives are used widely in extreme sports as well. For divers or spearfishers, it’s possible to get tangled in a fishing line or long seaweed. A knife strapped to your leg that can be opened with one hand is a must for survival in these instances.

You’ll also get plenty of use out of these knives at work or in the garage. You never know when you’ll need to open tons of boxes, cut thick plastic wrap or straps off of incoming shipments.

Those in construction and carpentry depend on personal knives every single day. It’s simply way more useful to have an automatic knife that you can open and use with one hand.

Single Action Versus Double Action

There are 2 main types of out the front knives; single action and double action.

Single action OTF knives use only 1 automatic action; releasing the blade. With single action knives, you will manually need to push the blade back into the handle, compressing the spring and preparing it to be released again.

Double action knives have 2 automatic functions; releasing and concealing the blade. Double action knives use the same button or lever to bring the blade back into the handle and compress the spring. Double action OTF knives are doubly convenient. 

Because single action and double action knives are similar in price, most people prefer double action.

History of the Automatic Knife

Automatic knives, including OTFs and switchblades, are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since the 1800s.

The most prominent use of spring-loaded knives began when the world’s militaries started taking to the sky. When troopers were parachuting from planes, they needed reliable, easy to use, one-handed knives.

If a parachute was tangled or otherwise useless, troopers would need to cut them away (while falling through the sky) in order to deploy their secondary parachute. You can see how they would benefit from an automatic knife that can be store in their pocket and activated with one hand. 

In the 1900s, there was a lot of fear and misunderstanding regarding automatic knives and criminal activity. This led to the banning or restrictions of these knives in certain places. 

Are Automatic Knives Illegal Today?

There are actually only a few states where it is illegal to carry an automatic knife. This includes New Mexico, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, and Hawaii. A few other states have certain limitations on when an automatic knife can be used, who can use one, acceptable blade length, and so forth.

Some states consider automatic knives to be weapons, such as Illinois or Kentucky. With a valid weapon or firearm license, you can legally carry an automatic knife. Most states, however, allow you to carry and use automatic knives, including OTFs, without concern.

What Makes a Quality OTF Knife?

OTF knives are made up of a variety of components. Each needs to be reliable and high quality to ensure a long-lasting, functional knife.

OTF Blade Type

You can get OTF knives with different blade types for different use cases. OTF single edge knives have only one sharp sided edge for cutting. The other side of the blade is dull, making it safer when cutting is your primary goal. The point on these knives tends to be stronger and sharper.

You can also get a double-sided OTF knife. Both edges are sharp and ready to cut. You need to be more cautious when using this knife to cut or slice. These knives are generally preferred for self-defense concerns.

Spring Mechanism

Without a working spring, your OTF knife would be useless. Cheap automatic knives usually don’t have reliable springs. You also want to ensure the locking mechanism is strong and secure, otherwise, your blade won’t stay out during use. Make sure to purchase a high-quality knife that will work for years to come.

OTF knives also have various release types. You can opt for a push-button, a switch, or a lever. 

The Perfect Handle

OTF knife handles come in a variety of sizes, grips, shapes, and colors. The length of the handle is determined by the blade sized, as the entire blade has to fit inside.

If looking for a clean and classy knife, there are knives without additional grip features. We also make knives with Dura-Tech rubber for extra grip and safety. 


OTF knives come in a wide range of prices. Because you want a quality, long-lasting knife, expect to spend more than $20 or $30.

As a result, you’ll want to ensure the knife you are getting is covered by warranty in the rare case there are defects with your knife. We offer a lifetime warranty on our knives that covers all manufacturer’s defects to ensure you get a proper knife.

Add an Out the Front Knife to Your Arsenal

Whether you need a new knife for your backcountry camping or hunting kit, or you want something convenient in your pocket in the workshop, an out the front knife will serve you well.

Here at TacKnives we design our OTF knives in house and test them in extreme outdoor conditions. You can be confident that any knife we make can handle anything you encounter.

We offer free shipping on all orders, no minimum purchase necessary. If the knife isn’t right for you, we offer easy returns for 30 days. You can even shop our “scratch and dent” collection. These knives have minor cosmetic blemishes but otherwise, they work perfectly.

We have many styles, including Italian stiletto, singled action, double-action, and military-style OTF knives. Click here to grab your affordable OTF double action knife today.

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  1. […] You can read more about different styles of OTF knives in this article.  […]

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