OTF Knife and Spring Design: Key Elements to Identify When Deciding to Buy

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Out the front (OTF) knives feature in movies and TV shows, including The Dark Knight Rises, 24, and Despicable Me. Whether you want to feel like a movie star or bring a versatile tool on your next camping trip, an OTF knife fits the bill. You have a lot of choices when you start shopping. Spring design, blade configurations, and the handle are things to consider.

This guide will tell you what you need to know.

How Does an OTF Knife Work?

An OTF is a type of switchblade, meaning an automatic knife that deploys the blade when you press a button or switch. The blade of an OTF comes out the front instead of deploying to the side.

A switchblade knife’s natural position is open. A locking spring mechanism holds it closed until you release the switch.

An OTF knife’s natural position is closed. You have to deploy the blade with a manual action that the spring assists.

A single-action OTF opens with a spring mechanism but closes manually. A double-action OTF opens and closes with a spring. Usually, you push and pull a control switch in different directions to open and close it.

The main advantage of an OTF knife is that you can open it with one hand. You can keep a full grip on it as it opens. You need less space to open it because the blade comes out the front.

An OTF knife is well-suited for activities like hunting, fishing, camping, and hobbies. Collectors also value them.

Single Action or Double Action Spring Design

One of the first things to decide when you’re looking for an OTF knife is whether you want single action or double action spring design. Each type has advantages, depending on how you plan to use your knife.

Double Action

You can open and close a double action knife with one hand. You often need both hands to retract a single action knife. On a camping trip or while hunting, you may not have a hand free.

Double action OTF knives are easier to use. Pushing a button to close the blade is more efficient than closing it manually.

Single Action

Single action OTF knives are less expensive. They have fewer parts. They’re less likely to malfunction, and they last longer.

The blade deploys faster than a double action knife.

Double and single action OTF knives have the signature “out the front” deployment.

Blade Type

The blade is one of the most essential parts of any knife. You have several factors to consider when choosing an OTF knife.

Edge Type

OTF knives have a single edge or double edge blade.

A single edge blade is somewhat safer. You’re less likely to cut other objects or surfaces unintentionally. The point is stronger than the point of a double edge blade.

For self-defense, a double edge blade gives you more options. It has sharp edges on both sides.

Common edge types include:

  • Straight, which gives clean cuts and is easy to sharpen
  • Partially serrated, which is good for general use
  • Fully serrated, which is good for cutting difficult material

Quality of Stainless Steel

High-grade stainless steel is best for the blade. Stainless steel varies in the amount of chromium and carbon in the mixture. The different proportions affect the quality of the steel.

Average stainless steels like 420 and 440A will need sharpening more often than higher-quality steel.

Better grade stainless steels have a higher chromium content. They require less maintenance. Some examples are AUS6 and 440C.

The highest quality stainless steels come from the US and Japan. They have the highest percentage of chromium. They may also have additional elements to improve resistance to rust and give a sharper edge. CPM 154 and S30V are two examples.

Even average stainless steel like 440 is tough. Many knives use this type of stainless steel because it’s economical but still durable. However, you should consider higher-quality steel if you plan to use your knife for tough applications, or you’re looking for a collector’s item.

Size

A larger blade is better for heavy-duty use. If you use a small blade for jobs that are too big, you shorten the lifespan of your knife. OTF knives are available in large, medium, and small (mini) sizes.

Shape

Several blade shapes are available. Each one offers different benefits depending on how you’ll be using your knife.

1. Tanto

Traditional Tanto blade design comes from Japan. A Tanto blade has an angular shape, with two straight edges and a sharply angled tip like a chisel point. The Tanto tip is very strong because the blade keeps its full width almost to the tip.

2. Drop Point

Drop Point blades are common on hunting knives. The spine of the blade slopes in a convex arc from the handle to the tip. This shape means that the spine of the blade, which is thicker and more robust, continues forward to the tip.

3. Clip Point

Clip Point blades are similar to Drop Point. Clip Point blades have a concave curve to the tip. They are very good for detail work towards the tip. Bowie knives have Clip Point blades.

4. Spear Point

A Spear Point blade is symmetrical. The tip is located in the center of the blade. Spear Point blades are double-edged. They are common on daggers.

In addition to functionality, each blade shape has a distinct look that will influence which one you choose.

Handle

Most OTF knife handles are aluminum. A cheap rubber or plastic handle won’t be durable or long-lasting.

Be sure that the handle has enough gripping surface to use it in wet or outdoor conditions. It should protect the blade and the spring from water and dirt.

The switch to deploy and retract the blade is usually on the handle’s spine. Some models have the switch on the flat of the handle. You may find that this second option feels more natural.

Many manufacturers offer knives with options for colors and designs on the handle. The handle can help personalize your OTF knife.

Choosing an OTF Knife

When you’re ready to choose your OTF knife, you have a lot of options. You want to be sure you’re getting the highest quality knife that fits your budget. Considerations include the spring design, the type of blade, and the handle.

Look for quality manufacturing and a company that stands behind their work.

Check out our large selection of OTF knives. We have a variety of sizes and styles to choose. You’re sure to find your next knife.

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