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OTF Knives vs. Standard Pocket Knives: Which Is Better?

otf knives

Pocket knives are a popular tool used for a variety of purposes. These include opening envelopes, cutting string, and even self-defense. But “out-the-front” or OTF knives have been growing in popularity as an alternative to standard pocket knives.

There are pros and cons to both types, depending on their intended use. Keep reading to find out if an OTF knife can be a preferable supplement to a standard pocket knife based on use and function.

What Is an OTF Knife?

Today, “pocket knife” can mean any number of knives that are small enough to carry in your front pocket. Based on this definition, almost any small knife, including an OTF, would fit into this category. But for the purposes of this comparison, a pocket knife is a small knife that has one or more blades that fold into the handle.

OTF knives, on the other hand, do not fold. As its name suggests, it has a blade inside its handle that is deployed from the front of the knife when in use. For this reason, OTF knives are sometimes referred to as “telescoping” or “sliding” knives.

There are several types of OTF knife mechanisms. Automatic ones use a spring-loaded system to deploy the blade. Some manual OTF knives have a slider button, usually on the spine of the handle. OTF knives that require a snapping or flicking motion to open are often referred to as “gravity” knives.

OTF knives with an automatic mechanism can be “double-action” or “single-action.” For double-action blades, the button or slider of the knife is used both to deploy and to retract it.

A “single-action” mechanism has one button that releases the blade but requires you to manually return it into the handle. This is usually done with a spine-mounted lever or a charging handle on the back end of the knife.

OTF Knives vs. Standard Pocket Knives

Pocket knives have been around for a long time. In fact, the first folding knife was discovered in current-day Austria and dates back to 600 – 500 BC.

OTF knives have not been around quite that long but may be older than you think. Although the spring-loaded mechanism is a newer development, the first gravity activated OTF knives were developed during the mid-nineteenth century.

There are a few things to consider when deciding between an OTF and a standard pocket knife, including function, durability, and intended use.


OTF knives and pocket knives can serve the same functions. Both can come with serrated or standard blades and are appropriate for everyday tasks. Serrated blades are ideal for cutting rope, plastic, or other tough materials, while straight-edged blades are easier to sharpen.

You can find both pocket and OTF knives with double- or single-edged blades. And both types almost always have some kind of locking mechanism, to keep the blade stable while in use.

One big advantage of OTF knives over pocket knives is that they only need one hand to open. This can be useful for situations where you would like to keep the blade closed until you need it. For this reason, OTF knives have become very popular for fishing and everyday tasks that require repetitive use of a knife.


Heavy use may be a consideration when determining whether you prefer an OTF or a standard pocket knife. You aren’t going to be doing serious cutting with a knife small enough to fit in your pocket, but you still want it to hold up.

But durability is determined more by quality than design. Well-made OTF knives will hold up under normal use as well as standard pocket knives. In fact, pocket knives have been known to break at the hinge, which OTF knives do not have.

Also, not having to touch the blade of an OTF knife can increase its life by limiting rust or corrosion.


Perhaps the strongest category where an OTF knife is preferable to a standard pocket knife is self-defense. The speed with which the OTF knife blade can be deployed is what gives it the edge. This is due to the opening mechanism, as well the fact that you don’t have to readjust your grip on the handle after opening it, as you do with a pocket knife.

Also, given its design, OTF knives are extremely sleek, which makes them easy to stow and conceal. For this reason, they have become quite popular with joggers, hikers, and for everyday carry.


While you might assume that OTF knives–especially ones with automatic mechanisms–are much more expensive than basic pocket knives. But there are a wide variety of OTF knives on the market, so you can find a quality product at almost any price point.

A Note On Legality

Most states put OTF knives in the same category as switchblades or other automatic knives. They are classified as “weapons first” knives.

States and municipalities can have different restrictions on these. In a handful of states, they are illegal to even own. Others allow possession but restrict “concealed carry” or have maximum length regulations.

Also note that size alone can determine whether you can conceal carry a knife, regardless of what type it is. In most states, any knife with a three-inch blade or longer is illegal to conceal carry.

The American Knife and Tool Institute keeps updated information about laws governing knives. Check your state to make sure the product you buy is within the bounds of the law.

A Quality Knife for Your Everyday Needs

Now that you know all the ins and outs of OTF vs. pocket knives, you can make an informed selection based on the intended use of the knife. OTF can serve many of the same functions as pocket knives, with greater ease and speed of opening.

Check out the assortment of OTF knives on our website. TacKnives provides high-quality knives without the high price. We offer free shipping as well as a lifetime warranty on all our blades.

Also, take a look at our online reviews to see what our many satisfied customers have to say about our products.

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