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What Is an OTF Knife and How Is It Different From Other Switchblades?

Are you like the 72.7% of survey respondents who plan to buy an everyday carry knife in the next year? Or the 30.7% who plan to buy a hunting knife? Whatever usage you have in mind, you should consider an OTF knife. OTF knives are versatile, practical, and enjoyable to use.

Learn more about OTF knives and what sets them apart from other types of knives. You’ll be ready to find the best OTF knife for your needs.

What Is an OTF Knife?

An out the front (OTF) knife is a type of automatic knife. The blade is sheathed in the handle. When you press a button or switch on the handle, the blade comes out the front.

Single Action vs Double Action

OTF knives can be single action or double action.

With a single action OTF knife, you deploy the knife with a control switch but you have to manually return the blade into the body. A double action OTF knife uses a switch to open and close the knife. Usually, you push and pull the same control switch in opposite directions.

Single action knives deploy very quickly. However, closing them is slower and requires both hands.

Single action OTF knives are usually less expensive than double action models. They also tend to last longer because the mechanism is simpler. Fewer parts mean less wear and tear.

You can open and close a double action OTF knife with one hand. The dual action gives you speed and practicality.

Double action OTF knives are typically more expensive than single action. Double action knives have more parts and may wear out sooner than single action knives.

How Is an OTF Knife Different from Other Types of Knives?

An OTF knife differs from other kinds of knives in several ways.

OTF knives are a type of switchblade. The most obvious difference between an OTF knife and a switchblade is that traditional switchblades open from the side. They open like a regular folding knife.

The mechanism of switchblades, including OTF knives, differs from spring assisted knives and gravity knives. A switchblade’s natural position is open. The locking spring mechanism holds it closed until you release the button or switch.

The natural position of a spring assisted knife is closed. You deploy the blade with a manual action life flipping, and the spring assists it.

A gravity knife uses the force of gravity to open after you release the trigger.

These differences are important for how the knife functions and feels when you use it. They’re also important because federal and state laws often treat switchblades, spring assisted knives, and gravity knives differently.

Benefits of the OTF Design

The design of OTF knives gives them some advantages over other types of knives. They’re practical and enjoyable to use.

You can open an OTF knife with one hand. You can close it with one hand too if it’s a double action knife. This lets you keep your other hand free for additional tasks.

You can keep a full grip on the handle while opening an OTF knife. This is safer and more efficient. The knife is ready to use as soon as the blade deploys.

Uses for an OTF Pocket Knife

OTF knives are useful in many situations. An OTF knife is a great choice for working in a tight space. Deploying out the front takes up less space than a knife that opens from the side.

OTF knives are also ideal for jobs where you need to use your other hand for something else, like holding material to be cut. They’re good for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing. They’re useful for hobbyists, too.

You can use an OTF knife for self-defense. You can easily store and carry an OTF knife (as long as it’s legal in your state). OTF knives deploy quickly with one hand, which is another advantage for self-defense.

An OTF knife can help you in an emergency. Many OTF knives come with a window breaking tool at the end of the handle. You can escape from your car if necessary, for example.

What to Look for in an OTF Knife

When you’re ready to buy an OTF knife, you should consider many of the same factors as for other automatic knives. Features of the blade and the handle as well as the spring mechanism are some important elements to compare.

The way you plan to use your OTF knife is important to keep in mind. This will help you choose the best combination of features.

Blade Size

OTF knives come in mini, medium, and large sizes.

A mini OTF knife has a blade less than two inches long. You can carry it on a keychain. Despite their small size, mini knives give you reliable performance.

The blade of a medium OTF knife will be two to three inches long. A large knife will have a blade length of more than three inches. The total length of a large OTF knife is usually between nine and eleven inches.

Medium and large knives are suitable for most uses. The larger blades are better for heavy-duty use. The way you plan to use and carry the knife will help determine whether medium or large is a better choice.

Blade Edge

You can choose a single edge or double edge blade. A single edge blade is safer because you’re less likely to cut something unintentionally. In addition, the point is stronger than a double edge blade.

A double edge blade is better if you plan to use your OTF knife for self-defense. It has sharp edges on both sides.

Three edge types are available: straight, serrated, and partially serrated.

Straight edge blades cut cleanly. You can clean and sharpen them easily.

Serrated blades are good for tough materials like rope. They leave a ragged cut. A serrated edge will stay sharp longer than a straight edge. However, it’s harder to sharpen.

Partially serrated blades give you some of the benefits of straight and serrated edges. A partially serrated blade can be a good option for general use.

Blade Shape

You have several blade shapes to choose from. Each one gives you different benefits.


A Tanto blade is angular. It has two straight edges joined together. The tip is very strong because the spine keeps its full width until near the tip.

Drop Point

Drop point blades are popular for hunting knives. The spine lowers in a convex arc from the handle to the tip. The tip can be ground thicker, which makes it stronger.

Clip Point

A clip point blade is what you find on a Bowie knife. A clip point blade is similar to a drop point blade. However, a clip point blade has a concave curve to the tip.

Spear Point

Spear point blades are double-edged. The blade is symmetrical with the tip in the center. You find spear point blades on daggers.

Blade Steel Quality

Like other types of knives, most OTF knife blades are stainless steel. The quality of steel can vary significantly from knife to knife. It’s important to consider your budget and what you’ll be using the knife for.

Entry-level grades of stainless steel like 440A are softer than higher grades and need to be sharpened more often. Sharpening them is easy, though. These blades will hold an edge and give you a good value.

More expensive grades of stainless steel like 440C have more chromium content. They hold an edge better than lower grades but are still relatively easy to sharpen. These grades are good for everyday use.

Premium grades of stainless steel are the most expensive. They have a high chromium content and often have other metals added to provide better rust resistance and sharpness.

High-performance steel alloys like D2 also make for blades that will hold up to heavy-duty use. People often refer to these alloys as stainless steel, but technically they aren’t. For example, the chromium content of D2 is lower than the official definition of stainless steel.

Even entry-level stainless steel is durable and tough. If you plan to use your OTF knife for more demanding tasks, a higher grade is probably worth the investment.


Be sure to consider the handle when you’re looking at OTF knives. The handle protects the blade when the knife is closed. It’s how you control the knife, so it should feel natural in your hand.

Most OTF handles are aluminum. Aluminum is durable and long-lasting.

Aluminum can be slippery in wet or outdoor conditions, though. Look for a handle with enough grip to make you feel secure.

Another feature of the handle is the switch to deploy and retract the blade. The switch is usually on the spine. Some models have it on the flat of the handle.

You can choose the placement that feels best.

Finding the Right OTF Knife

An OTF knife is useful for everyday carry. It’s also a valuable addition to your toolkit or outdoor gear. You may want one as a collectible.

Whatever you’re looking for, TacKnives will help you find it. We’ve been providing knife enthusiasts with OTF knives since 2014. Our catalog includes mini, medium, and large knives with a variety of features.

We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can order with confidence.

Browse our selection today and find your next knife.

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