The Cutting Edge

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Why Do People Hate Assisted-Openers?

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:

A first for me. Boker Kalashnikov opened in my pocket. from knives

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.

If you have to take out the knife, turn the safety off, and then open the knife, people say you are better off with a manual folder.

3. They’re illegal in some places

OK, so assisted-opening knives are legal pretty much everywhere in the United States, but that hasn’t stopped some police forces from arresting law-abiding citizens with knives that can open with the help of a spring.

In fact, the Canada Border Services Agency has essentially banned the import of all assisted-openers (and some manual folders) into the country. Amazon has also stopped selling many types of assisted-openers to people in states like New York and Massachusetts. If you live in one of these places (especially New York), it might just be easier to go without it.

4. They break more often

Assisted-opening mechanisms work in a few different ways. An amount of force is often applied to the knife with a bias toward closure until it reaches a certain point where the bias is toward the open position.

I’ll let Kershaw describe how the SpeedSafe mechanism works:

The heart of SpeedSafe is its torsion bar. Closed, the torsion bar helps prevent the knife from being opened by “gravity;” it creates a bias toward the closed position. To open the knife, the user applies manual pressure to the thumb stud or flipper to overcome the resistance of the torsion bar. This enables the torsion bar to move along a track in the handle and assist you to open the knife.

Because the torsion bar is tasked with so much work, it is highly prone to failure. This means users will sometimes have to replace the torsion bar to get the knife working again. There are many “how to replace torsion bar videos” on YouTube as well, such as this one:

In a manual folder, the design is often simpler and therefore less likely to break under use or pressure.

5. Spring-assist knives cut corners

This is a pretty common argument among diehard knife enthusiasts, but many people accuse companies of using assisted-opening mechanisms to cut corners. Others say a spring-assisted blade is akin to cheating.

What the argument boils down to is the claim that some companies use the mechanism to ensure a poorly performing knife opens all the way every time. It takes some more effort and tweaking to make a knife that opens quickly and smoothly without the help of any mechanism.

Some people say this is why so many less expensive folders from China, for example, boast assisted-opening mechanisms. There is likely some truth to the claims, but many brands put them in to legitimately help people open knives without much work.

6. They’re unnecessary

Piggybacking off the previous argument, assisted-openers are just unnecessary to some people. Not only do some manual knives open just as quickly and reliably but do so at the same price point.

For example, a knife like the Kershaw Chill is superb. It is elegant and smooth as butter and it doesn’t have SpeedSafe. Then there’s an iconic knife like the Kershaw Blur that uses it but could work just as good without it, as evidenced by the many people who have “de-assisted” the knife.

Let us know in the comments if you love or hate assisted openers. https://credit-n.ru/informacija.html

32 Comments

  1. I have a Kershaw Leek and a Scallion, neither of which has ever opened all by itself. I also have three Chills that open right NOW with finger-waves. I LIKE flippers.

  2. I’ve carried a CRKT Ignitor clipped on my front pocket for several years. It’s never opened by itself. Drawing and engaging with it is superfast. It wasn’t cheap or cheaply made.
    Is a wonderful knife that I will continue to carry for a long, long time.
    Hail assisted openers!

  3. I have been carrying a Benchmade Barrage for about three years. Assisted opening, Axis lock. I LOVE it. I use the safety when not in use. I love the one handed opening because when I need a knife I always have something in my other hand. great knife.

  4. I LIKE THE ASSISTED OPENER NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH ONE OPENING .

  5. Nelson W. Lentz

    August 7, 2018 at 11:42 am

    I have over a half a dozen assisted openers and have never had one open accidentally.
    And they do open faster and more easily than a manual.
    I have to wonder what the purpose of this article was, if there really was a purpose.

  6. My CRKT M16-03Z opens with a flipper, very quick and smooth as butter. Auto assist is over kill in my opinion.

  7. My 2 Kershaw Ken Onion Blurs are my favorite pocket knives (one serrated, one not) . Serrated, in my pocket and used repeatedly all/every day smoothly cuts through anything. Never open unintentionally, fail to open, no issues period. I always seem to need to bind/position something, hold it with one hand then grab a knife to cut. Nothing works better in any way.

  8. I do like the flipper knives, I have a number of them for the simple reason that they are really cool and I like to be able to open it when I only have one hand free. I have tweaked some of my other knives that are not assisted to open easier and I still carry those too. I Have knives for everyday carry and knives for work.
    Just like the picture of the Kersaw knife above (Kersaw speedsafe USA 1660 Ken Onion Design) I have had it open once in my pocket. It cut through my pocket. I don’t know why it opened but it did. All in all I have a knife problem like some ladies have a problem with shoes. I like them all as long as they are good quality with good steel.

  9. I’m neither all for or totally against any design. My personal reason for only owning 2 or 3 assisted knives is that I purchased a few of those cheap ($8-$12) Chinese made folders. Some feel very solid and they’re okay, except that the mechanisms fail. They are not reliable enough for regular, daily use.

    I own a Kershaw Leek and while I like it’s compact size and smooth polished finish, it does open with quite a noticeable amount of force…. it really whips open and I do feel like it would leave my hand if I did not hold on tight. The lock is nice to have. If I wanted a knife for defense I would choose another model or just carry it without the lock engaged. It’s a simple decision and it’s nice to have the choice of using or not using the lock. I don’t know how long the assisted action will last in a good quality knife, but I don’t use them as EDC blades, but as long as the knives can be maintained or fixed I would buy and use them.

  10. I have a Bear and Sons Automatic and it opened in my pocket twice and both times I found out when I stuck my hand in there and cut my fingers. I stopped carrying it for a while. I thought about changing the pocket clip to the other side but in the process, realized that almost every fastener on the knife was loose including the one that put tension on the safety. After tightening everything up I haven’t had any more problems

  11. Timothy K. Toroian

    October 16, 2018 at 10:30 am

    I have a couple with a sort of double S spring that seems to work well. Had one with a torsion bar that broke but it still works well with the thumb stud. The double S should be must less prone to breakage. It also does a great job of keeping the blade closed

  12. I have used a Benchmark assisted opener for almost 5 years now while working on at a large equestrian center. It has never opened on its own while working in every and all conditions that I work in. As well, it has been very reliable. Working with over 70 horses daily, reliability and dependability are paramount in any knife that is used. I have never been disappointed or compromised by any type of knife failure or malfunction with my Benchmade assisted opener.

    • I’m sure Benchmade assisted is has more quality than any Kershaw assisted knife, but I’ve never had a Benchmade AO, so I don’t know. But, my kershaw scallion torsion bar has failed.

  13. Maybe it’s just a headspace and timing of the operator, some knives are just too difficult for some people to use.. So they just don’t like them.

  14. I refused and bad-mouthed AOs from the time they were introduced. If my Buck Folding Hunter couldn’t do the job, I had a machete, a hatchet or an axe. “Bushcraft” didn’t exist during most of my years in the outdoors.
    You might gather that I’m older and you’d be right. My blood thinners can make a knife cut a serious event. I went to AOs recently when ball bearing flippers with heavy blades (aka “guillotines”) became a two-handed closing operation. Cut myself 4 times, seriously, closing unassisted, ball bearing ZTs before I went to the “dark side”! (Knives are now “collection pieces”. The conscious effort (yes,one-handed) to close an AO means I will carry well into my 80s. My enemy has become my ally.

    • Tim

      October 17, 2018 at 9:37 am

      That’s an interesting turn. I never really considered that the need to be thoughtful about closing an AO would be a benefit. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Reason #7 – it’s fashionable on knife forums to whine about A/O’s.

    • Tim

      October 17, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Ha! That’s a good one.

    • I don’t get the hate either. I don’t “need” AO, so I don’t mind knives that don’t have it, but so long as it isn’t an otherwise cheap knife, i’m inclined to think of it as a small bonus….. Then again I see a lot of steel snobbery when I figure most people don’t “need” super steels on every knife . So long as the ones that need some resharpening more often can be sharpened easily, and the ones that are tough to resharpen don’t have to be very often….

  16. I feel they can be opened easily if the flipper is contacted with other objects or the pocket itself. My Kershaw Scallion torsion bar bent and I just took it out and didn’t take the time to send it back to kershaw. I know use a Spyderco Tenacious.

  17. 2 leeks 2 cryos 2 blurs no problems

  18. I just bought a Spyderco Delica 4 about a week ago, and the day I got it I was opening and closing it over and over to get a feel for it and at some point I went to close the knife and when I did so, I thought my finger was out of the way and the automatic mechanism caused the blade to slam shut on my finger. It gave me a pretty nasty little cut on my fingertip that still hurts and it traumatized me to where I was too scared to even open it again. I ultimately returned the knife and I am not sure if I want to buy another assisted opener or not. I loved the knife, I’m just kind of afraid to get another one. I’m probably just being paranoid and a little bit wimpy but I’m kind of looking at the Rat 2 in D2 steel. I’m torn between the two and can’t decide

    • Tim

      February 12, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Maybe you’re confused with another model because the Delica is not an assisted-opening knife. However, backlocks like the Delica do have a bias toward closure, so maybe that’s the force you felt.

  19. I just collect knives but do have 2 favorite EDCs, a Kershaw Leek Ken Onion Design and a Buck Vantage Pro. The Leek is smaller but both weigh close to the same. I usually never leave without one of these knives. The Buck is non assisted and requires just a little wrist flick. The Leek is AO and is very vast. I have been carying one or the other for years and have never had a problem or an undesireable oppening in the pocket. I’m very comfortable with either knife. I personally feel that if I am careful wilth either sharp and fast knife and keep them maintained, I should not have any significant problems. I think AO is great and even the non assisted flippers like my Buck.

  20. Andrew Santi

    May 7, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    There are Great “A/O” Knives, and then there’s Ton’s of Crap that aren’t worth .50 cent’s!,,,,I’ve faithfully used A/O knives ever since Tendinitis set in on my Hand’s,,,and I have ZERO Issues w/ mine!, which are A-l-l Smith & Wesson, They’re very well made, Good Steel, Good Mechanism, Never had one Open that I didn’t want open, and would recommend them to any Serious Knife Owner’s out there!

  21. I had a Leek open in myy pocket. I carried it improperly. I did not use the clip. Yet once I used the blade lock I never had that trouble. I learned how to manipulate the lock with one hand in my pocket. I no longer work where I need to conceal that size of blade. It was an older model of Leek and factory standards being what they are it may have been on the loose side. I do like them so much that I started to collect them and now have over 20. Other than that one incident I have not had an issue with any other assisted blade.

  22. This is a B.S. article. I have been on, and a member, of several knife forums and have never seen someone complain about assisted openers. I feel that Tim may have his own agenda to writing this and had to come up with something to write to keep his job. There may be a handful of stories about self-opening, assisted openers, however, the narrative of assisted opening knives being a common problem seems a bit of an over-reach. How about writing something positive regarding the use of knives instead of pushing some false narrative claiming a design mechanism, that has revolutionized the folding knife industry, has somehow become a menace to society. I have had many assisted opening knives and have never had an issue, even during the most laborious and aggressive tracking and trekking through forests and jungles, hiking and mountain biking terrain, even when the mechanism broke. Oh, and get a good copy editor because I am a spelling and punctuation snob and there are some problems with your writing. Barley, the grain, is not barely; only just; or scarcely. Apologies, it just drives me nuts.

  23. I have bought multiple assisted openers and 3 ball bearing openers. They are safe and have not come open in my pocket. I love them because I can hold the item like ropes, wood limbs or items I need to cut with one hand and remove the knife with the other, use it and replace it in my pocket with the other. My favorite is the Giant Mouse Ace Biblio made in my opinion with (M390 Steel) the best steel there is, followed by the Boker Plus Caracal made with D2 tool steel, the steel in lathes to cut other metals. They both non spring ball bearing and work so smoothly with a push of your finger they fully open and lock and easily close with one hand and have the most awesome edge holding steels and highest quality. The others are cheaper spring assisted.
    BR

  24. Every thing wears out sometime but it depends on how many times it’s opened To wear out sooner but so does Manuel knives assisteds are useful and mechanically ok and better as time and designs get better .most people common People sometimes use knives hard and wrong and they fail.. cutting only or use multi tool.check legality in your state to carry assisted also conciled or open carry or no assisted

  25. Assisted have to much to break and sometimes open accidently .non knife people see it open and as assisted and panic and sometimes call cops scared

  26. I won’t disagree with someone else’s tastes or preferences. Some people are purists.

    For example, in a world of semi-autos, some still prefer a wheel gun citing reliability or tradition. In the world of cars, some seek out that ever endangered species called a stick-shift saying it gives them a better driving experience. Fair enough.

    Like spring assisted knives, semi-auto guns, and automatic stick-shift cars have reliability disadvantages over their counterparts with much more simple operating engineering. But that’s no reason to dismiss new or different technology. That’s just being a laggard, or luddite.

    However, I don’t agree with many of the petty arguments and attribute them to ignorance or sheer snobbery.

    Advantages of spring assisted knives:

    1. Spring assist is a the closest legal substitute to a full auto knife. Full autos are banned in many regions of the US and in other countries. The spring assist is as close as many of us can come to a full auto which will follow my other arguments. For now, I will say that there is a reason why many law enforcement and other first responders choose full auto knives over manual opening.

    2. A proper operating spring assist knife will deploy with more certainty than a manual open. Let’s take the elephant in the room as an example: carrying a knife for tactical purposes (aka self-defence weapon). Now, many knife guys out there who spend their day flicking their knives open and closed thinking they are Tommy Lee Jones in “The Hunted” but how many of them have actually had to deploy their knives in a self-defence situation when their adrenaline was pumping and hands shaking? What happens in practice may not happen when the heart rate is up and adrenaline shakes have hold of you. I have had to do it but, fortunately, I was able to deploy my manual open folder and the sight of it was enough to have the attacker back off and the situation diffused. Now, what if the folder had not opened? What if I had fumbled, or I was taken to the ground and pinned so it was hard to flick the knife open? A proper, spring assisted knife will open with more certainty because it has a mechanical device, that works the same every time (repeatable action) compared to your thumb. Yes, I know some armchair warrior is going to say they never have a problem opening their manual open folder to which I will say: not yet.

    3. I buy spring assisted knives from the major manufacturers and have never had a problem…yet. Now I am talking in terms of out of the box quality control. Yes, I do expect it will break down one day with repeated openings. All mechanical devices eventually fail. The omega spring on an Axis lock can break, phosphur bronze washers will eventually need replacements, blades will eventually need sharpening. So what? Maintenance is part of knife ownership. When it does break you buy a new spring replacement. What’s the big deal? If the spring breaks it’s not a danger to the user. It just becomes a manual open until you replace the spring.

    4. “Quality control is compromised with spring assisted knives”. Perhaps if you’re buy junk knives but I have had no such experience buying spring assisted knives by the reliable major companies like Kershaw. Benchmade is now making assisted knives and I highly doubt they are going to start compromising the rest of the build. It’s not as if there is some guiding rule that says the minute a manufacturer starts putting a 5 cent spring in their knives that they are going to start making the liners out of cheddar cheese. There are quality spring assisted knives, and junk spring assisted knives just like there are with manual open knives.

    6. Spring assisted knives are fun. Sorry, but they just are. They take the fidget factor to a new level. The Spydie hole, the thumbstud, the flipper were all invented to make opening a blade easier while getting around the legalities and limitations of selling automatic knives. Knife enthusiasts went nuts in the late 90’s when Benchmade licensed the Axis lock from McHenry and Williams and discovered they could pull the lock back and swing the knife open and some laws questioned whether they were gravity knives. Then Ken Onion and Kershaw upped them all by introducing the spring assist which was virtually an automatic but avoided the definition. Why not celebrate these advancements rather than turning your nose at them?

    7. No you don’t need a spring assist in a knife but then you really don’t G-10 scales, an impervious lock, or the latest “unobtanium” holy grail powder steel just to cut open your Amazon packages either. But high-end knives are about much more than about utilitarian things like cutting mundane cardboard for your weekend chore. They’re about pushing the envelope of technology and metallurgy.

    8. Spring assisted knives are here to stay. Just like the Axis lock, knife companies knew a good thing when they saw it and adopted it once the patent ran out. We are now seeing many other major knife makers using assisted blade openings because they know its advantages and that there is a market for them. Would they risk it if they saw it as an inferior technology?

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