best OTF knives

When you need a knife that can open and close in a blink of an eye with a single hand, there is only one choice: an OTF knife.

An OTF, which stands for Out The Front, is a type of knife where the blade comes out of the front of the handle rather than the side.

These types of knives have become increasingly popular with tons of varied and compelling designs from the top brands like Kershaw, Boker, Benchmade, and more. We’ll know they’ve finally crossed the mainstream when we finally get an OTF version of the Buck 110!

Our team took on the unenviable task of narrowing down some of the best OTF knives you can currently buy. Before we get into the list, let’s take a quick look at the background of the OTF.

A Brief History of the Best OTF Knives

Although the OTF seems like a modern invention, the first OTF was supposedly patented in the late 19th century, but I couldn’t verify the information widely spread across the Internet.

Instead, some of the earliest OTF knives that were widely used date back to the World War II when paratroopers used OTF knives as emergency tools. Unlike modern OTF knives, these were gravity knives, meaning the user disengaged a lock and used gravity to slide the blade out.

The designs have gone through multiple evolutions like the Kershaw Ripcord, Smith & Wesson Power Glide, and even box cutters. More recently, we’ve settled on dual action automatic OTF knives that open and close with the push of a switch as the default OTF design.

Let’s just into the best OTF knives you can currently buy.

1. Benchmade Infidel

Let’s start with an obvious entry on this list of best OTF knives: the Infidel.

The Benchmade Infidel has been by far one of the top-selling OTF knives since it was introduced in 2006. If you collect knives, this is likely a prized center of that collection.

What made the Infidel such a big hit at the time (and even these days) is its robustness and utility. It caught the eye of military and law enforcement personnel because of its dual action design and general toughness.

Over 15 years later, the Infidel is still a top-seller, thanks to its 3.95-inch D2 steel dagger blade and aluminum handle.

2. Kershaw Livewire OTF

From the  oldest knife on this list, we go to the newest. In 2023, Kershaw released its very first automatic OTF knife to much fanfare.

Kershaw is well-known for its high-quality Launch series of automatic knives and the brand has been exploring manual OTF designs like the Kershaw Interstellar and Kershaw Kapsule. It only made sense for them to merge its knowledge of OTFs and automatics into something amazing.

The result is the Kershaw Livewire.

It has a pretty tried-and-true design that doesn’t break barriers. Its aluminum handle is comfortable and durable with welcomed texturing. Its 3.3-inch blade features a stonewashed finish.

The three main selling points of the knife are its use of MagnaCut super steel, its US-made reliable construction, and its competitive price tag for what it’s offering.

3. Boker Plus OTF

Boker itself makes some really great OTF knives like the unique Boker Plus USB OTF and Boker Kalashnikov OTF, but its collaboration with Hogue Knives is off the charts.

The simply named Boker Plus OTF is a US-based project that’s the result of work with Hogue Knives in Nevada. As you’ll see later on this list, Hogue makes some of the best OTF knives on the market.

This knife has a 3.46-inch blade and Boker-inspired texturing on its aluminum handle.

It’s just a good and solid OTF from Boker and Hogue.

4. Microtech Ultratech

You’re probably wondering why we took so long to get the gold standard for the OTF. We just wanted to keep you in suspense.

The Microtech Ultratech is widely considered not only one of the best OTF knives, but one of the best knife designs ever.

Simply put, if you have even a passing interest in OTF knives, the Microtech Ultratech is a must-own knife.

The basic version comes with a 3.4-inch dagger blade and an aluminum handle with glass breaker. As you can guess, Microtech makes plenty of variations these days.

There’s not much more to say about the Ultratech that hasn’t already been said.

5. SOG Pentagon OTF

I’ve been quite fond of the original Pentagon design from SOG for ages. The old original Pentagon was a boot knife dagger that consistently made the list of best boot knives before SOG ultimately discontinued the knife.

The Pentagon made a triumphant return as a folder, including an Out The Front version.

Unsurprisingly, a boot knife makes a perfect OTF. With the push of the thumb actuator, the long 3.79-inch S35VN blade with fuller blasts out of the aluminum handle.

This has a cohesive blackout design with a black blade, handle, screws, and deep carry pocket clip.

6. Hogue Exploit

Hogue makes a few great automatic OTFs that could have been on this list, including the Counterstrike and Incursion. However, the Exploit offers something a little different than the others.

The Exploit we’re highlighting features a 3.5-inch Tanto blade with S30V steel. Its gray aluminum handle has a honeycomb-like texturing with contours along the grip.

For being such a robust tactical knife, the knife only weighs 4 ounces and has a slender design.

7. Benchmade Shootout

Benchmade has a few other worthy OTF contenders like the higher end Autocrat and Phaeton. But the Benchmade Shootout is one that’s been really well received.

The Shootout is a more robust OTF with a 3.51-inch CruWear blade and a molded CF-Elite handle. While there have been some complaints about the knife (namely the price tag that comes with a knife carrying the butterfly logo), people have been praising its lightweight feel at under 3 ounces and its sturdiness.

It fits comfortably in the pocket with its deep carry clip, and its polymer handle is enjoyable to hold.

Unlike the Infidel, this isn’t an obvious self-defense OTF but can also work for everyday carry.

8. Electrifying CA-Legal OTF

If you were to compare the prices of all the knives on this list, you would see one huge outlier: the Electrifying CA-Legal OTF.

All the other OTFs are well above the $200 mark. However, this little knife is under $20. So what gives?

When it comes to value, no knife comes close to this little folder. I’ve said it many times, but this is one of the few knives that I keep on my desk at all times. It has a 2-inch blade that makes it California legal and what appears to be an aluminum handle.

If you’re getting this knife expecting it to match the quality of a Benchmade, you might be disappointed, but if you’re looking for a low cost knife that fires reliably every time, nothing beats this OTF.

No wonder it’s consistently one of the best-selling knives at Knife Depot.

9. HK Hadron

Even though this knife bears the brand HK or Heckler & Koch, it is actually made by Hogue. That means you can expect the same quality and care you see in other Hogue-made  knives like the Ballista I and Boker Plus Karakurt.

The HK Hadron knife is different than the other Hogue OTFs on this list in that it’s a tactical self-defense knife through and though. It has a 3.375-inch bayonet style double edge blade that fires out from its black aluminum handle.

It has a great lockup, perfect fit and finish, and boasts a competitive price when comparing it to comparable OTF knives from other brands.

10. Benchmade Claymore OTF

This knife is so new that I debated whether to put it on a best OTF list. However, it’s simply too good to pass up.

The Claymore has been a surprise hit and one of the best automatic knives to come out in the past five years (and there have been some stiff competition). It’s a hard-use auto with a durable construction. Benchmade managed to seamlessly translate that hard-use design into a tough-as-nails OTF auto.

The OTF has a long 3.89-inch dagger blade made from sturdy D2 steel. This version features a black-coated blade with a ranger green Grivory handle.

It’s a pretty straightforward translation of the Claymore Auto design, but it just works perfectly.

If you enjoyed this post, check out our take on the very best automatic knives you can buy, including a few surprises.