From collectors to avid outdoorsmen (and women), day laborers or simply those who like having a versatile tool ready at hand, spring assisted blades have skyrocketed in popularity.
Also known as assisted-opening knives, these blades are revered for their fast and reliable deployment while reducing the risk of human error and injury.
Many of us have been there, with even the most well-practiced knife-wielder experiencing a misfire from time to time with manual flipper knives. The same cannot be said for spring assisted openers. Short of catastrophic mechanical failure (a rarity), these blades deploy with unparalleled reliability.
If you were to peruse some popular knife forums, you’d think the invention of the assisted-opening mechanism was the worst thing to happen to the knife world.
The truth is that the average user could not care less whether the knife is spring-assisted. As long as it opens reliably and is relatively cheap, most people barley notice.
So, why do most knife nuts seem to hate assisted-opening knives with a passion? These are the most common arguments against assisted blades.
(Note: I’m being the devil’s advocate and citing some common arguments. I honestly don’t have a preference between assisted-openers and manual folders.)
1. Assisted-openers are dangerous
One of the biggest complaints about assisted-openers is that they’re dangerous. There are stories from people across the internet who say an assisted opener engaged while in the pocket. Those with flipper tabs are likely more dangerous because they can open up pretty easily when some pressure is applied to the edge of the closed knife. (This is a problem that can be mostly prevented with right-handed tip-down carry where the pocket would help keep it closed.)
I’ve carried assisted-openers before and never had one open. However, I have had an unassisted knife open slightly in my pocket. I don’t remember the circumstances that caused it, but any type of knife can be dangerous. Take a look at what could happen with an auto:
Some have even complained that the strength of the assisted open is so powerful that the knife feels like it’s going to jump out of the hand.
2. Safety lock negates any advantages
To combat the first complaint, many knives come with safety mechanisms that keep the blade closed. For example, many Kershaw SpeedSafe models have a little peg that slides behind the blade to keep it from opening up accidentally. While it does increase the safety of the knife, it also counteracts the quickness and accessibility of the knife.
The assisted-opening knife is a relatively recent innovation in the world of knives, but it transformed the landscape and created an entirely new genre.
We’ve been celebrating landmarks and anniversaries throughout the year here at Knife Depot. This week we’re celebrating Assisted-Opening Knife Week.
Assisted openers were invented as a way to circumvent the ban on switchblades while offering users an option to engage a knife quickly with one hand. Here’s a good description of the difference between the two.
There’s some debate as to who created the first assisted-opening mechanism, but it’s likely that both Blackie Collins and Ken Onion developed a similar mechanism concurrently.
Since then, most brands carry assisted-opening knives that use trade names like SpeedSafe, SOG Assisted Technology, Outburst, and others.
Throughout the week, we’ll be writing cool stories and having exclusive sales related to assisted openers. To kick things off, we’re giving away a Kershaw Blur S30V. This iconic pocket knife uses a SpeedSafe assisted-opening mechanism and boasts a stonewashed blade with a slight recurve. This iteration has upgrade S30V steel, making it a perfect EDC.
Here are some of the best-selling assisted openers.
5. Kershaw Blur
First up on the list is a veteran of the assisted opening world: the Kershaw Blur. The Blur and its cousin the Leek (spoiler alert: it’s next on the list!) really set the standard for assisted-opening knives. Ken Onion was one of the first designers to use an assisted-opening mechanism on his knives (using a device he calls the SpeedSafe mechanism).
The Blur is a hefty knife with a 3.38-inch drop point blade made from Sandvik 14C28N. It has a black aluminum handle and a tungsten DLC coating on the blade.
It makes this list because this includes the various types of Kershaw Blur variations, including the S30V version and the tanto with black-green handle version.
4. Kershaw Leek
The Kershaw Blur and Kershaw Leek are always lumped together as two of the most influential modern knives around. What makes these great knives is the fact that they complement each other. Whereas the Blur is dark and stout, the Leek is bright and sleek.
The Leek uses the same patented SpeedSafe technology to make this EDC lightning quick. It has a 3-inch blade made from Sandvik 14C28N with a bead-blasted finish and a pure stainless steel handle. The knife is light and thin, making it an ideal EDC knife.
This post was originally published in 2019 but was updated in 2022 with newer models.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been going over the best knives from each brand. Some have been really easy to narrow down such as Spyderco and Kershaw.
However, few brands have been harder to pin down than Ontario Knife Company. Ontario, sometimes known more simply as OKC, has a surprisingly robust and diverse selection of knives that all serve a purpose and do it well. There are some obvious choices — ahem, the RAT folders — but there are so many other serviceable knives that could have been on this list.
These lists always carry some level of bias and subjectivity, but I feel like this list may contain more whimsy and randomness than others.
If I’m alive and kicking and still have this job, I’ll redo this next year and may swap out some others, but this is the list for 2019. Let me know which ones I missed in the comments.
Ontario RAT Folder
Let’s start with the easiest addition to this list: the RAT Folders. I’m cheating a bit because this includes the RAT 1 and RAT 2 folders. They are essentially the same knife but in different sizes.
The RAT folders are a perennial favorite among knife people because they are relatively cheap, reliable, and solid knives. The fact that they are now available in D2 at a low cost means they may be the best budget knife on the market.
Along with D2, you can get an assisted version, an AUS 8 version, and some with different blade finishes and handle colors.
Ontario Black Bird SK-5
The next no-brainer is the Ontario Black Bird. The series is designed by Paul Scheiter. The survival knife was named the best of the best by Field and Stream Magazine in 2011, and it’s evolved over the years. It’s a pretty simple bushcrafting knife with a 5-inch 420HC stainless steel blade and multicolor Micarta handle scales.
When it comes to unique yet functional tactical rescue knives, Smith & Wesson is king. And the SWMP4LS is the perfect example.
This Military & Police model boasts a robust design with a 3.6-inch partially serrated blade with black coating. Its modified clip-point blade offers a strong piercing point and enough belly for long slicing cuts.
The folder uses Smith & Wesson’s second-generation M.A.G.I.C. assisted-opening technology. The M.A.G.I.C. mechanism (Multipurpose, Assisted, Generational, Innovative Cutlery) ensures the knife bursts open reliably when you need it most.
Because flexibility in an emergency is key, the SWMP4LS offers a flipper tab or ambidextrous thumb disk for easy one-handed opening. It’s also one of the best assisted-opening knives.
Kershaw Knives has a long history that dates back to 1974 when Pete Kershaw left his job at Gerber to form his own company. More than 40 years later, the Oregon-based company continues to flex its muscle and show why it remains one of the best knife companies around.
The company has evolved over the years with popular and revolutionary knife models coming and going, but we wanted to take a look at the best knives currently in production at Kershaw.
Note: Best is obviously a very subjective term. While there will be some bias in which knives to include, I will try to select the knives that receive generally widespread acclaim from professional reviewers and customers. Some knives may also get some bonus points for being important to the company. New knives often need a few years to gain the stature needed to be called the best but there are always some that are obvious additions.
If you feel any knives have been slighted or want to mention a knife you feel is the best, let me know in the comments.
1. Kershaw Leek
I’m kicking off the list with the most iconic Kershaw knife ever made: the Leek. This Ken Onion design has always been lumped in with the historically important knives (it made our own list of most iconic knives) and for good reason.
The Leek is simple, effective, and is a gold standard for EDC knives. The knife features a 3-inch modified Wharncliffe blade made from quality 142C28N steel, a stainless steel handle with a frame lock, and the SpeedSafe assisted-opening mechanism.
While all knives are meant to cut, there are only a few knives you’d really want to put through the wringer on a busy job site. So I did my best to pick out a few folding knives you can bet your fingers on at work after getting some recommendations from blue-collar workers (not some blog boy like myself).
The pocket knives on this list are a mix of “overbuilt” knives that you can pretty much pry with and less expensive but very serviceable blades you could happily carry onto a construction site.
I tried to take price into consideration, which is why you won’t see a Medford Praetorian, Hinderer XM-18, or a few others that are around $500. Also, if you’re serious about a true work knife, you might want to consider a more reliable and easier to maintain fixed blade. With those caveats out of the way, let’s get to the list.
Post originally posted in September 2018 before being updated in February 2023 to include current knives.
Cold Steel AD-10
When it comes to hard-use folders that are overbuilt and ready for work, there’s a new king in town: the AD-10.
This relatively new knife boasts a 3.5-inch chunk of S35VN steel for its blade. The sculpted G-10 handle feels great in the hand. The AD-10 also has a Tri-Ad lock for even greater power. This may be pricier than others, but it will never fail on you.
The Benchmade Adamas is one of the most common models you’ll see on lists about work knives. The reason? It’s large, reliable, and strong. The blade is 3.78 inches and uses exceptionally strong CruWear steel on a no-nonsense drop point blade. Not only is the blade stock thick but so are the liners and G-10 scales.