Happy Friday, Friends! Today we’re going to be chatting about something that a lot of people don’t talk about a whole lot in the EDC Community. We’re going to discussing the different types of opening mechanisms within EDC Knives. We’re going to chat a bit about our experience with each, the abilities that each system offers you as the end user, and the pro's and con's of each.
Just to clarify, we’re not discussing liner locks, lock backs, tri-ad locks, axis locks or any of the other options that are on the market. We aren’t even talking about thumb studs, flippers or spyder-holes. We are solely talking about the action that your knife must achieve in order to go into deployment for use. So let’s begin....
1) Fixed Blade:
The most simple deployment method for any knife has to be the fixed blade. There are no pivots or bearings in play. It’s either a full tang slab of metal with handles surrounding it, or it’s a non-full-tang piece of metal placed into a handle. All you, the user of the knife have to do is pull the knife from it’s secure sheath and it’s deployed.
- Fixed blade knives are going to withstand a lot more abuse than almost any folding knife could ever think of being subjected to. That’s due to it’s construction. Going back to having no pivot points. The knife is either one continuous piece of metal (full tang) surrounded by strong handles, or it’s a partial tang blade that’s manufactured with a strong enough handle to go up against a variety of tough tasks.
- Fixed blade knives have very little risk of ever becoming broken. There are most likely no moving parts in your fixed blade knives, or there shouldn't be. So, what does this mean? There are less things that can become broken when it’s just a slab of steel with some handles.
- They’re often times bulky. So it may be a bit harder to find an easy option for everyday carry within this genre of knives.
When would I recommend a fixed blade knife?
I would personally opt for a fixed blade when I know hard use is going to be a reality at some point during my day. For example, if i’m going hiking or will be outdoors you’ll find a fixed blade on my belt. And in certain circumstances, I will also put one on for personal defense (like the CRKT Obake).
2) Manual Opening:
Okay, we’re starting to get a bit more high-tech now. With a manual opening knife we’re adding a pivoting area, where the blade is swinging out of the handle and it will end up locking into position. The manual opening system is all up to you, in terms of deployment. You must either flip the blade out with a flick of your wrist, or with a solid flick of your finger.
- Like a fixed blade knife, manual opening knives have few moving parts in order to make them work. Your knife isn’t relying on springs that could end up wearing out, or other fancy contraptions.
- Manual opening knives are legal in a lot of places that assisted-open or automatic knives are not (see more about those below).
- Manual opening knives such as the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 and Hogue EX01 are quite honestly a lot of fun to flip open & shut. Once you get them broken in and they open as smooth as butter.
- In some situations they can be hard to deploy into action (if you’re in a hurry). IE: Self defense scenarios were movement is limited, if you’re in tight quarters using your knife, etc.
- Deploying a manual opening knife can be slower. Especially if you are carrying a old trapper style, like the Case XX. These type of manual openers will also require 2 hands to open. Which may be a problem in certain scenarios.
When would I recommend a manual opening knife?
A manual opening knife is an excellent option if you’re going to be in a location that have laws prohibiting assisted open, or automatic knives. Manual opening knives are also great for general EDC where speed of deployment isn’t really a factor. However, don’t count some manual opening knives out for speed/ease of opening. The Spyderco Paramilitary 2 and Hogue EX01 are two of the smoothest opening knives that I own.
3) Assisted Opening:
Up to now we’ve covered two fairly basic types of knives. A fixed blade and a manual opening knife. We’re making things a bit more complicated at this point. With an assisted opening knife we’re introducing more moving parts, as well as springs that help the blade deployment operate.
Assisted opening knives are most generally sent into deployment (IE: the blade leaving the handle) with the push of a thumb stud or a flick on a flipper tab (located on the back).
- Assisted opening knives are fast. Some are faster than others, depending on their weight, springs and various other factors.
- Assisted opening knives require very little coaxing by the end-user to go into deployment. Again, just flip a tab or push a thumb stud….that’s all you need to do.
- Assisted opening knives are excellent for one-handed use.
- Legality surrounding assisted open knives can vary across state lines. So it may not be a good option for you to carry one while vacationing, even if it’s legal in your area.
- There are more moving parts associated to an assisted open knife. So there are more things that can go wrong and require repair over the lifetime of the knife.
When would I recommend an assisted opening knife?
I would recommend an assisted opening knife for a lot of the same reasons that I would a manual opening knife. And I would certainly recommend an assisted opening knife when you're wanting a high speed knife deployment.
4) Automatic Opening:
We are now entering into the most sophisticated realm of opening types in my eyes…The Automatic. The automatic knife is very similar to an assisted opening knife. However it requires no motion/assistance by you to go into deployment. With an automatic knife, you simply need to press a button and the knife handles the rest.
- Automatic Knives share a lot of the same pro’s and con’s as assisted opening knives.
- They are lighting fast, are great if you need your blade in a hurry and prove excellent for one-handed use.
- They have a "cool factor" when showing your friends.
- They have a lot more legality surrounding them than assisted opening knives do. So this is absolutely a knife that you need to check your local laws on. Also, keep in mind that you cannot ship & receive these as easily (again, because of laws).
- Another downside to automatic knives is there are a lot of things that can go wrong with them. I’ll be the first to tell you that I have had very little luck with automatics. I have owned several automatic knives that the lockup was very flaky. For one reason or another they would not lock up consistently, leaving the blade flopping around and leaving me at risk for being cut.
- If it were me, I would honestly recommend to steer towards assisted opening knives if you’re looking for something within this genre.
When would I recommend an automatic opening knife?
I would rope automatics and assisted opening knives in the same category. Most likely if you're going to pick an automatic, an assisted will satisfy you as well. However, as I mentioned in the "cons" above...Save your money and just buy an assisted opening knife. They're cheaper and more consistent in operation.
I hope that you all enjoyed this article today, explaining the 4 different types of knife deployments. And if you haven’t already, please reference some of our other knife related articles:
Have a great weekend folks and be safe out there!