Imagine this scenario. It’s a bright, warm spring day when you hear the sound of car horns.
Then you hear a crashing sound, followed by a heavy thud. You turn around, and when you did, you see the problem. A car has flipped on the side of the road.
You ran to the car, arriving in time to see a crowd of men gathering around. A girl is screaming inside. Somebody climbed to the top of the car and shouted the question: “Does anybody have a knife?”
Others panic, fumbling around for something they can use. You, however, have just what the man needs.
It’s your best automatic knife; you open it for the man on the car, and he cuts through the seatbelt. You get the girl out of the vehicle without injury.
Having a knife on hand can be tremendously useful, even if you’re not using it for such extreme circumstances.
One of the best and most stylish knives you can have is an automatic knife. They function well, and they’re often more upscale tools than the average pocket knife.
If you’re unfamiliar with these knives, have no fear! We’ve written this guide to show you what qualities to look for in the best automatic knives.
Getting Started: What Is an Automatic Knife?
If you’re new to knives, you may not have heard this term before. There’s no need to get stressed out, though!
An automatic knife is just a knife that opens using a mechanism, usually a button or slide. When you press that button or slide that slide, the blade comes out.
So, unlike most folding knives, these nifty little blades require no manual effort to open. That little feature alone makes them super convenient!
The most well-known automatic knife is a switchblade. However, there are other models, often based on the switchblade, that are not switchblades themselves. An out the front, or OTF, knife is one such example.
The Best Automatic Knife Comes With a Price
The old saying goes “You get what you pay for.” When it comes to automatic knives, this is usually the case.
For better or worse, automatic knives are on the pricier side of the spectrum for a pocket knife. There are a few factors that play into this expense, but the biggest two are the mechanism and the steel.
Heart of Steel
When you’re looking at knives, the kind of steel the blade is made from really matters. Steel quality can be the difference between a durable blade that can retain an edge and a blade you have to sharpen after each use.
Most all knives you’ll buy are made of some form of stainless steel. Generally, that means that the steel is of passable quality and offers a bit of rust-resistance.
However, there are degrees of quality in stainless steel.
Better quality stainless steel will have an increased amount of chromium, one of the components of stainless steel. The increase of chromium makes the blade more durable and better allows it to retain an edge.
The best stainless steel will have even more chromium, and will usually include added materials to help enhance the edge of the blade and prevent rusting.
Two of the most common types of stainless steel in knives are 440A and 440C steel. Both are mid-range steel, with 440C being upper mid-range steel and 440A being a little lower.
440A has carbon in its steel that makes it more durable than other steels, but is also less effective at preventing corrosion.
440C has higher levels of carbon and chromium in its composition than 440A, making it very easy to sharpen and fairly durable. It is the steel of choice for most mass-produced pocket knives.
While these two, especially 440C, are very common, knives are made from many steels. Just make sure that you get a knife made from steel that suits the purposes of your knife.
Automatic Knife Mechanisms
Different mechanisms do different things. In most cases, the type of mechanism you go for is a matter of preference. That said, understanding the differences helps you make an informed decision.
For instance, a double-action mechanism allows you to open and close the blade by using the same mechanism. The same button or slide will open and close the blade.
A single-action mechanism, however, will open the knife but requires some manual effort to close it. The efficiency of either depends on what you’re using the knife for and your own comfort with the mechanism.
Another factor that differentiates mechanisms is placement. Most automatic mechanisms are slide mechanisms positioned on the spine of the handle. Other mechanisms include buttons placed on the front or side of the knife.
Depending on the kind of automatic knife you get, you may want to look into locking mechanisms.
Locking mechanisms essentially reinforce folding blades so that they don’t “fold under pressure.” However, because OTF knives don’t fold, they tend not to need locking mechanisms.
Lastly, whatever mechanism you decide on, make sure it is a quality mechanism. Because the mechanism of the knife is what releases the blade, a faulty mechanism can lead to a malfunction of the knife. In a worst-case scenario, a malfunction could leave you injured.
Whenever possible, read reviews left by other customers on the knife you want.
A Simple Knife Makes The Best Automatic Knife
We’ve all seen that knife that has everything: wine openers, sawblades, pliers, can openers, flashlights, a compass. Oh, and a blade, too!
Knives like that can be a good multi-purpose tool, but less is often more when you’re looking for an automatic knife. Add-ons can increase the likelihood of malfunction, or make it harder to perform a simple task.
We recommend using a simple, single-purpose knife for your everyday use. Why complicate things?
Bigger Is Not Always Better
The point (no pun intended) of a pocket knife is that it should fit in your pocket. It’s intended to serve as a compact tool that you can carry without it being an inconvenience.
Because of that, we recommend that you look for pocket knives with blades 2-4 inches in length. The exact length you should look for depends on the purpose for which you’ll be using the knife.
Longer blades tend to handle more intensive tasks better. Shorter blades allow for more maneuverability and ease of carrying.
A crucial thing to take into account when you look to buy a knife is the regulations of the area in which you live. Some states and cities are very free in their laws when it comes to knives; others are more stringent, such as the city of Los Angeles.
If you are buying a knife to carry and not just for a collection, then make absolutely certain you are carrying a legal knife.
Make Your Style Efficient
Most people buying knives have an urge to buy a knife that will look cool. That’s perfectly fine! The one thing you want to make sure of is that your style doesn’t cost you efficiency.
There are many different types of edge and blade types out there. Each one has advantages for particular usages.
The straight edge is the standard edge for cutlery and general use. It leaves a clean cut while being quick and easy to sharpen.
Serrated edge knives are great for cutting rope and other fibrous materials. These knives are aggressive, almost like small saws, and leave very ragged cuts. While they are durable, sharpening a dull serrated edge is not easy.
There is a compromise, however, in the partially serrated edge. This is a strong edge for general use, combining the best features of the previous two types.
When it comes to edges, the final decision you’ll make is whether you want a single-edged knife or a double-edged one.
Single-edges are good tools for everyday carrying purposes. You can press on the flat back of the blade to add pressure and control to your cutting.
However, knives aren’t just tools for everyday work. They can also be tools for self-defense.
While we hope you never have to defend yourself, double-edged knives make for great self-defense tools. Their two edges are great for cutting and slashing, a valuable feature should you ever have to fight with a knife.
At the end of the day, the knife you buy will be a tool for your own personal use. You should buy a tool that will bring you the most value and be comfortable to use.
So, just remember the basics: make sure the steel is good; check the quality of the mechanism; keep it simple; get a blade that’s convenient AND LEGAL to carry; get an edge that makes sense for your purposes.
All of these are just guidelines to help you buy the best automatic knife for you. Don’t get too overwhelmed by all the different materials and styles.
Lastly, if you’re ready to buy an automatic pocket knife, be sure to check out our website! Our knives are affordable and of top value!