Unlike conventional knives, OTF stands for “out-the-front” knife. And this is because it has one blade that comes out through the front side instantly.
Though an out-the-front knife isn’t as popular as a traditional one, it has its own benefits.
If you’re a knife enthusiast looking for an OTF knife, then this guide will be your best bet to find out what exactly is the best OTF knife.
- Best OTF Knives
- How Many Kinds of OTF Knives Exist?
- Blade Types for an OTF Knife
- Facts About OTF Knives
- Material of the Knife Blades
- Taking Care of OTF Knives
- Common Questions About OTF Knives
- OTF Knife Brands for Novice Shoppers
Best OTF Knives
1. Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS M&P Linerlock Knife
BEST BUDGET OTF KNIFE
A quick glance of the Smith:
- Overall length: 8.50 inches
- Blade length: 3.35 inches
- Total weight: 3.1 pounds
- Blade material: black AUS – 8
- Handle material: aluminum handle
The Smith has a 3.35-inch blade made from carbon fiber and steel. It enables you to do cutting with extreme precision due to the pointed sword.
The aluminum handle is made from 6061 T6 aluminum material with a corrosion-resistance feature. This is to protect the blade and your hand while handling it.
With a total weight of 3.1 pounds, this is a lightweight knife. It can engage spring resistance from its unlocking structure thanks to a gliding button.
And this OTF knife also has a glass roller point on the bottom to enhance overall blade play.
Furthermore, the overall knife design of the Smith is sophisticated, versatile, and even multi-functional! This knife can even be used as a self-defense weapon since its OTF blade is highly rated.
- Blade and alloy handle are made from aluminum
- Knife is lightweight
- Overall structure and the spring are both sturdy and sharp
- Affordable price
- Not made for left-handed users
- Blade is sometimes hard to close in one place
- Slide and button of the knife are inconvenient for some users
2. Schrade Viper 3 OTF and Aluminum Handle Knife Serrated
BEST DOUBLE ACTION OTF KNIFE
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A quick overview of the Schrade Viper 3 OTF knife:
- Total blade length: 3.5 inches
- Closed blade length: 5.3 inches
- Overall weight: 4.9 pounds
- Blade material: 4034 stainless steel
- Handle material: aluminum handle
The Schrade Viper 3 OTF knife is one of the best double-action OTF knives since it’s made from high-quality materials. The blade, aluminum handle, and thumb stud are all durable.
Even with just one hand, this double-edged pocket knife can withstand high speeds. It also ensures user safety because of the thumb slide and deep carry pocket clip.
The clip point blade is noticeably sharp that it sometimes looks like a pair of fangs. Don’t get intimidated with the clip-point blade, though, because the knife has safety features anyway.
The locking structure for your finger and the extremist blade protect your hand from potential accidents. This pocket knife is also lightweight, easy to control, and has a pocket clip.
Like most pocket knives, the deep carry pocket clip is made from 6061 T6 aluminum though so there could be corrosion assistance from the outside environment when used regularly.
But overall, this is one of the best pocket knives you can purchase for yourself. The pocket clip alone is very useful.
- Knife has a solid, sharp, and sturdy structure
- Price is affordable
- Fast shipping time
- Adjustable metal blade and plastic body
- Switch and slides of the blade can be tricky to use at first
- Can't be controlled with one hand
- Knife design and quality can be improved
3. Kershaw 1990X Brawler
BEST OTF KNIFE UNDER $200
A quick glance at the Kershaw 1990X Brawler:
- Blade material: 8Cr13MoV steel with black covering
- Handle material: glass-filled nylon
- Total blade length: 3 inches
- Closed blade length: 4.1 inches
- Overall length: 7.1 inches
- Overall weight: 3.9 pounds
Kershaw line products were designed in 1974 as versatile tools with great quality. This goes for all its items, whether a pocket knife, a hunting knife, or a collectible knife.
With the Kershaw 1990X Brawler, the recognizable blade is called the tanto. It’s a skillful salvage weapon that can hit even the strongest of materials.
The top blade of the Brawler has a slog called the scuffle. It was made for support since it’s smaller and has much more power in its points.
The body of the Brawler provides high-quality and effective cutting levels. It’s sharp enough even when used frequently.
Unlike an aluminum handle, its handle is convenient and flexible. The structure has shape points that fit in your hand since it’s made of glass.
Furthermore, this best mini OTF knife also has a Jimping on the backside of the blade to increase friction.
- Blade has an easy opening mechanism thanks to the doubles of the board flat
- Knife is secure when in use because it has hand protection
- Blade is sharp and sturdy
- Blade edges are foldable and adjustable
- Blade is difficult to remove from its box
- Steel blade is too low to hold an edge
- Body of the knife is thick and can't fit in your pocket
4. CRKT CEO EDC Folding Pocket Knife
BEST OTF AUTOMATIC KNIFE FOR SELF-DEFENSE
A quick overview of this knife:
- Total blade length: 8.7 inches
- Closed blade length: 5 inches
- Overall weight: 5.6 ounces
- Locking system type: side lock
- Knife material (handle and blade): G-10 stainless steel
The Columbia River Knife & Tools Store is known for selling self-defense weapons and other tools.
Their best OTF knife is a classic model with a modern design. Its speed and ease of use have significantly increased in recent years due to new technologies.
Unlike a knife with an aluminum handle, you can’t flip the clip of this knife upside down. This is because the pocket clip is linked to two screws in the steel handle.
The blade is made from titanium material that helps you switch the knife out smoothly with even just one hand. As for material, it has a G-10 stainless steel blade. This offers you a sticky grasp under any circumstance.
- Lifetime guarantee
- Blade is sturdy and easy to open
- Affordable price
- Blade's lock structure can get stuck when used frequently
- Blade size is smaller than handle size
- Unlike automatic knives, this doesn't lock when you close the blade
5. TAC Force TF – 719BK
BEST OTF KNIFE UNDER $50
A quick glance at the TAC Force TF – 719BK:
- Total blade length: 3.25 inches
- Total handle length: 4.5 inches
- Closed blade length: 4 5/8 inches
The covering of this knife is made from stainless steel in an opening dagger shape. The blade itself is a top edge type with a cutout model and rounded tangs. This also has a 6061 T6 aluminum handle, constitution layer, and a safety lock.
This best OTF knife has a cutter belt and glass wave to protect your hand during use. The deep carry pocket clip also has a black cutout model and black aluminum handle. (Plus, there are some users that receive even receive a nylon pouch for free.)
To open the blade, you just need to slide one of the points to the side. This is since the product’s design is meant to be unfolded. Some new users find it hard to figure this out at first.
- Blade is sharp and sturdy even without using a whetstone
- Pocket clip is strong and tight
- Pocket clip is slim enough to put in your hand
- Opening mechanism of the blade is quick and easy
- New users or those with large hands may find it hard to open the blade
- Blade sometimes slips to its other sides which is tricky to control
- You'll have to practice using it a lot to gain complete control
How Many Kinds of OTF Knives Exist?
There are many types of out-the-front knives. Below, we discuss their specific differences from one another.
Manual types are the most popular OTF knives that you’ll typically see in stores. The blades have consistent control and have a fixed place.
Manual knives also have one small button and a track enclosed to their blades.
To take out the knife, you must apply some finger pressure to fight the friction. This will make the blade slide along the track and move out to the handle.
This type of blade is actually still similar to OTF knives, except the blade also has a button structure and a spring mechanism to discharge it. These variants also do not have the finger pressure to control the friction.
For automatic knives, they can be further divided into two types of knives – single and double action OTF knives.
With single-action OTF knives, you don’t need to manually open the blade because it has an instant opening mechanism. If you need to have the manual insertion, a double-action OTF automatic knife has a dual-action mechanism.
Blade Types for an OTF Knife
When looking for a blade for your OTF knife, you should pay attention to two core kinds of blades: Edge and Shape
The straight one usually is sturdy, smooth, and sharp in the length of the blade. It can cut the target quickly so hunters prefer using this type for outdoor activities.
For those who want to cut rough and solid materials, the full-serrated one is your perfect choice. The length of the blade is jagged to support sharp cuts.
This is a combination of full-serrated and straight blades. The jagged side is built near the handle. This means that you can cut different targets during your outdoor activities, as well as during your mundane activities.
With tanto out the front knives, they have many angles and combine two straight edges that create one sharp angle.
The blade is quite easy to recognize whether the edge is serrated or straight. This is because the blade has a very particular shape.
The tanto shape is strong because it’s angular and the spine stays steady until it catches an angle. It also has a razor-sharp point.
Drop Point Blade
The drop point blade is one of the most popular knives for hunters as the tip is shaped under a convex arc. The tip narrows down to a single point instead of having a blunt top.
The arc of the drop point lets it stay in one place. This is what makes the drop point blade a lot chunkier than other point types.
Spear Point Blade
Spearpoint blades are also called double-edged knives because you can use both sides of the dagger blade. Like any other double edge knife, it has its own useful features.
Normally, spear point blades have one straight edge on one side with a partially jagged edge on another side. This isn’t the case for double-edged variants.
Double-edged knives have two sides and the taper makes a fine point. A spear point knife is definitely an effective double edge knife because of this.
Facts About OTF Knives
Originally invented in the mid 18th century, OTF knives received a lot of praise because they’re versatile utility tools. Soldiers and military personnel adored these knives as they are light, compact, and can be used with one hand.
People could even use their OTF knives as utensils, light-duty cutting tools, and in emergencies, as self-defense weapons. However, while the design seems intimidating and there are several legislations that restrict OTF knives circulation, the lethality of such knives is mediocre at best.
The point blade could pierce and slash but otherwise, most out the front knives are not meant to be used as fighting knives.
Out the front knives are switchblades that let the wielders deploy the blade right out of the front. Because of that, these knives prove handy when you have to navigate confined spaces.
That being said, various experts consider OTF knives to be only good for light-duty use. Considering the delicate construction of out the front knives, rough handlings would cause vital components to fail and render the point blade inoperable.
So if you’re looking for hardcore survival tools, OTF knives might not be exactly what you need.
However, they can still be convenient items to pack for your next hunting session.
Single-Action vs. Double-Action
As mentioned, there are two kinds of OTF knives: Manual knives (single-action) and Automatic knives (double-action).
Overall, single-action OTF knives contain fewer parts than their double-action counterparts so the chance of failure is low. A
And you should also know that the average price of double action OTF knives is fairly high, a manual knife tends to be much cheaper than an automatic knife.
So if you have a tight budget and want reliability, then just go for single-action OTF knives instead of the double-action ones. Though they’re one of the best OTF knives you can opt for, you’ll end up spending more if you go for the double-action ones.
But if you have money to spare, then double-action models or a double edge knife would be good choices. This is since the double-action mechanism offers more features and benefits.
The Legality of OTF Knives
Different places have different rules regarding the purchase and possession of OTF knives. In some regions, it’s not that big of a deal to own OTF knives and people can buy one from stores with relative ease.
On the other hand, certain governments make it illegal to bring OTF knives into their country unless the knives are exclusively imported for military use. That’s why it’s a good idea to research the local regulations before attempting to buy OTF knives anywhere.
Due to the high acquisition costs, it’s truly a shame for you to spend a lot of money on OTF knives only to see the authority confiscate them later.
Material of the Knife Blades
Similar to other knives, there are numerous types of steel for OTF knives. To get the most out of your OTF knives, you need to ensure that it has the right material.
Below are some materials often used for OTF knives, as well as everything you have to know about their characteristics. Crosscheck them with your tastes and preferences.
Also known as S30V, this is widely considered to be among the highest quality steels used for OTF knives, and pocket knives in general. Most of the knives include a glass breaker and as a result, the costs of knives that employ CPM S30V could get pretty high.
Introduced to the knife market by Crucible, CPM S30V is famous for its ability to retain edge sharpness for an extended period of time, as well as its included glass breaker. The fine grain of the Crucible steel blade makes it an excellent material for a point blade.
CPM S30V is greatly favored by many reputable knife manufacturers such as Spyderco, Benchmade (which is most known for its signature glass breaker), Kershaw, and Gerber.
On the downside, it takes time and effort to re-sharpen a CPM S30V blade.
Originating from Japan, AUS-8 is made from high chromium components. It also has low carbon fiber and steel which offers compromises between hardness and corrosion resistance.
Generally speaking, AUS-8 has low edge retention and is unable to keep sharpness compared to other high-end steel on the market. That being said, people still think highly of AUS-8 and multiple commercial OTF knives use their Aichi steel for their blades.
AS for re-sharpening, you could get edge retention in an AUS-8 blade without much difficulty as the material is quite easy to use. Usually, knives that have AUS-8 are affordable as well.
Despite the fact that the D2 is decades old and there have been considerable developments in metallurgy, many modern-day OTF knives still use it.
Often considered as a semi-stainless steel, D2 provides a knife blade with a substantial amount of resistance against corrosion. The toughness of D2 steel results in competent cutting ability.
Compared to other types of steel, D2 blades retain edge sharpness well even though the re-sharpen process is quite tedious. To get a fine edge on a D2 blade, you have to be experienced at sharpening and have proper tools.
Produced by Takefu Special Steel, VG-10 is another Japan-made blade material that you should keep an eye out for. Containing a considerable amount of chromium element in its composition, VG-10 has superb corrosion resistance.
Moreover, the presence of vanadium guarantees that the Takefu steel can handle heavy usage without failure. With proper re-sharpening, the VG-10 could get razor sharp so it’s a good choice for people that want to deliver swift and clean cuts.
The average OTF knives that use VG-10 nowadays are also very affordable.
Made in China, 8Cr13MoV is a cheap steel used for mid-range knives to reduce acquisition costs. Although it’s far from a top-of-the-line blade material, 8Cr13MoV possesses good corrosion resistance and hardness.
In less than ideal operating conditions, 8Cr13MoV blades can handle rough handling and harsh chemicals with no trouble. The tradeoff is that blades made from Chinese steel quickly lose the sharpness of their edge and frequent re-sharpening is a must.
Nonetheless, you’re on a budget for your knife, 8Cr13MoV OTF knives would allow you to save a lot of money.
Taking Care of OTF Knives
As time passes, foreign elements (dust, pollution, dirt, etc.) will accumulate on OTF knives and interfere with the operating mechanism. That’s why it’s important to give your OTF knives periodic maintenance sessions to keep them in good shape.
Once your OTF knives seem to not work as smoothly as usual, then that’s a sign that it’s time to clean. While you could have the knives serviced by professionals, it’s not too hard to maintain them on your own either.
All you need are some rags, lubricants, and a screwdriver.
Here is a quick guide to how to disassemble and clean OTF knives for beginners and knife enthusiasts:
Step 1: Discharge the Knife Blade
Before you can maintain your OTF knife, you have to discharge its blade first. If the knife is discharged properly, the trigger will eject and retract the blade. This will facilitate the cleaning process.
Simply point the knife at a flimsy material like cardboard or phonebook to fire the knife blade. After that, the spring-assisted mechanism will be non-functional to allow you to safely access the knife’s interior components.
Make sure to hold the blade and shake it slightly to determine whether it’s loosened or not. Only move on to the next step if you’re certain there’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary when you retract the blade.
Step 2: Open the Knife
Grab the screwdriver and remove every screw present on the exterior of the knife. To avoid misplacing the screws when you reassemble the knife or retract the blade, leave them in their holes.
Gently lift up the knife handle then get the internal components out. These include the slider, the spring, and the blade. The slider, along with the spring-assisted mechanism will offer no trouble but you should still stay concentrated while removing the blade.
By discharging the knife earlier, the blade should be loose now but you still need to hold on to its rear hinge to remove it. Needless to say, pay attention and handle the blade carefully as it could inflict injuries.
Step 3: Clean the Internal Components
Use a cloth to get rid of any dust, gunk, and crumbs built up on the knife components. Considering the precise layout of the deployment mechanism, it’s strongly recommended that you choose a lint-free cloth to prevent leaving behind strands of fiber.
There is no need to rush. Take your time and give each component of the knife a good cleaning. Regarding the knife blade, make sure that you don’t scrub its edge too aggressively.
One mistake is enough to allow the blade to swiftly slice through the cloth and give you nasty cuts. It’s best to use moderate amounts of force and move your hands slowly.
If your knife has a glass breaker, then you should also be thorough with cleaning that component too.
Step 4: Throw in Some Lubricants
There are various types of lubricants but if you are looking for a solid product, then WD-40 is for you. If you have better choices, feel free to use them by all means.
However, remember to stay away from thick lubricants because they could restrict the movement of the blade and prevent the knife from firing as designed.
As WD-40 is a light lubricant, it would slip in every nook and cranny of OTF knives without obstructing the operating mechanism in the process.
In any case, use an appropriate amount of lubricant because you definitely don’t want the components to get too slippery.
Step 5: Put Everything Back Together
Wipe off the excess lubricant using a cloth and proceed to reassemble the knife. In most cases, you just have to redo everything that you just did when you took the knife apart.
That being said, in the rare case that you are unable to put everything back together, take a good look at the included manufacturer guide. It’s highly likely that by following the instructions, you should be able to figure out how to get your knife back in one piece.
Otherwise, send your knife to someone that has better knowledge. Attempting to jam the components back into the handle is not a very good idea.
Common Questions About OTF Knives
Is It True That OTF Knives Can Cause Injuries Through the Discharge of the Blade?
Because of the deployment mechanism, there’s a misconception that it’s possible to hurt someone by pressing OTF knives against them and discharging the blade.
Actually, the spring of most OTF knives is quite weak. Most of the time, the spring mechanism only propels the blade forward for ¼ of the way and inertia takes care of the rest.
That means the blade of OTF knives could barely make a scratch on human bodies once discharged at close range, let alone deliver lethal wounds.
So if you have to use your OTF knife as a weapon, which is a role it’s inherently not suited for, get the blade out as soon as possible.
Do OTF Knife Users Often Experience Shipping Issues?
When it comes to shipping OTF knives, the local regulations are actually against the decisive factors. For instance, in the US, a lot of manufacturers state on their website that they can’t ship OTF knives to certain states.
The US federal law also forbids the transfer of OTF knives between individuals with the notable exception of law enforcement officers, as well as soldiers.
That being said, the federal law on OTF knives and switchblades, in general, does not apply to manufacturers and dealers. Therefore, you could technically order OTF knives from certain brands in the US if the state authority tolerates their presence.
Why Does the Blade of My OTF Knife Refuse to Be Discharged?
Once discharge failures occur in OTF knives, it’s highly likely that the operating mechanism is going through some difficulty.
In case the blade does move out a bit but is unable to lock up, the solution is quite simple. Most of the time, you should be able to solve such failures by adding lubricants to smoothen the components.
The lubricants would also remove foreign elements that might obstruct the operation of the spring.
On the other hand, if you see that the blade is stuck tight and you can’t move it at all, there must be something wrong with the components themselves. At this point, the sensible course of action is to send the knife for repair.
Must I Store My OTF Knife in the Open Position?
A lot of people claim that you must store switchblades, including OTF knives, in the open position to reduce spring fatigue. While it sounds realistic and practical, the truth is a bit different compared to theory.
In fact, you would have virtually no trouble storing your OTF knife in any position you want, closed or open. Most springs don’t fail unless you decide to push them to their limits.
That is why there is no need to store OTF knives in the open position, especially if you don’t have space to spare. Storing OTF knives in the open position can raise a couple of issues regarding safety in the long run as well.
How Often Should I Sharpen the Blade of OTF Knives?
As with any other knife, it’s dangerous to cut with a dulled OTF knife so periodic sharpening is necessary. Generally speaking, the usage frequency would decide how often you need to re-sharpen the blade of your OTF knife.
You could wait until you see that the blade is unable to deliver clean cuts. However, it’s best to sharpen if you use the knife for daily use. You can also just do it at least once a month or so.
About sharpening tools, there are a lot of options available at your disposal. From whetstone to ceramic rods, just pick what suits your taste.
If you really don’t have much confidence, sharpening services are excellent alternatives. Just keep in mind that they’ll be an added expense as well.
OTF Knife Brands for Novice Shoppers
While you could get any OTF knife you like, it’s a good idea to prioritize products from reputable manufacturers. It’s true that even high-end products from well-known names would not always provide their users with satisfaction.
Nevertheless, the OTF knife market is highly competitive and brands that fail to attract customers can’t survive for a long time. That means manufacturers could only stick around and become famous by delivering quality products, as well as reasonable customer service.
Here are several knife brands you have to keep an eye out for while shopping.
Founded in 1904, Schrade has introduced a large number of high-quality fixed knives to the market. Eventually, it also created a folding knife.
Capitalizing on its reputation as a knife manufacturer with many traditions, Schrade strives to provide customers with the best OTF knives. Featuring quality materials and affordable costs, OTF knives made by Schrade receive multiple praises from knife users around the globe.
Searching for dependable OTF knives? In that case, you have to take a good look at products that come from Schrade. No matter what happens, Schrade knives would not disappoint you.
Famous for their reputation of quality, Microtech is among the premier manufactures of the best OTF knives. The brand is piranha rated so you’re sure that all of its products are of the highest build quality.
There are multiple examples for you to choose from EDC to wilderness adventures, some even find their way into military services and law enforcement forces.
A combination of piranha-rated craftsmanship and excellent steel results in rugged, razor-sharp OTF knives. Moreover, the strong automatic OTF action of the Microtech Ultratech switchblades makes them highly versatile utility tools in a lot of situations.
Microtech Ultratech products exhibit great tolerances to conform during production so they closely resemble custom designs. In fact, they’ve also created other blades like the Marfione Custom knives which are perfect if you want something more customizable.
A subsidiary of KAI Group (Japan), Kershaw is widely acknowledged as one of the most well-known knife manufacturers in the United States. The brand offers a huge selection of models including the best OTF knives to its customer and supports them with responsive services.
Considering the quality, Kershaw products and blade types have commendable structural strengths and element resistances compared to other OTF knives available for purchase.
As a result, most Kershaw OTF knives are highly sought after by people in need of something robust and straightforward. Want a hassle-free knife? Then check out Kershaw.
Starting out as a minor cutlery maker, Gerber is now a trusted name in the knife industry with thousands of stores. Dedicated to making long-lasting products through innovations and top-grade steel, Gerber always receives favorable reviews from experts and experienced knife users.
The life expectancy of Gerber knives is high, most could last for more than a lifetime of use. All knives by Gerber are backed with a full lifetime warranty and that tells a lot about their performance.
Whether you want an OTF knife for daily use or outdoor excursions, Gerber would have a suitable model for you.
Smith & Wesson
Everyone knows Smith & Wesson as a prominent firearm manufacturer in the US but it actually also deals with knives. The brand offers up to several variants of knives and they all get positive feedback from users.
While the majority of S&W knives are made in Asia, their quality remains decent for the price. The average S&W knife would likely have no trouble matching the needs and requirements of the average user.
As a result, Smith & Wesson proves to be a sound choice for budget-conscious consumers.
The best OTF knives aren’t as common as a traditional folding knife, but they’re still very much unique and versatile. With an otf knife, you can use the blade quickly, especially for emergency situations that rely on the structure of the knife.
Thus, you don’t have to worry about folding your finger on the blade anymore. All you need to do is recognize the different edges and shapes.
We hope that this guide article has now helped you to pick the best OTF knife for you. Happy shopping!
CHANGELOG: September 30, 2021 - Added new product link options September 23, 2021 - Updated article images September 10, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links