Automatic Knives and Switch Blade Knives, Made in America
Several American companies make automatic knives. In my opinion as a lifelong knife collector who has carried an auto knife on duty for the better part of my law enforcement carrier, some autos are well made and some are more….much more. The following are my four top picks.
I base my opinion of the four best auto knives produced in the United States on a couple of facts. Fact one, I have extensively carried this brand while on duty and off. These brands are made for work and easy to carry on their pocket-clip or belt held carrier. Fact two, these brands did not fail me when I used them for cutting seatbelts, rope, cord and opening tin cans while camping or on stakeout. Fact three, in the recent past I was given the chance to test and evaluate all of the products written and pictured within this article. The samples were free but this does not cut any slack with me. If I was to buy all of these products herein, it would cost me over $2,000 dollars. My pay for articles in magazines is well…well under the cost of a single auto I write about. Fact four, all products written about in this article are of the highest quality and made by companies of the highest reputations.
Over sixteen years ago, Dave Wattenberg and his father started PRO-TECH Knives, LLC in Southern California. Since then Dave has been producing top quality auto knives with new products and designs each year.
While serving in Kosovo as a United Nations police officer I saw an ad in one of my Knives Illustrated issues. I saw what I then and now believe is the most deadly auto knife made. Since I was patrolling in the mountains of Kosovo, mostly with a rookie male or female Kosovo officer, I felt this knife called “The Godfather” would be just the backup I needed. I order one from PRO-TECH while in Kosovo and within ten days I have this bad-boy in my hands. I was amazed with the quality and workmanship. I showed this auto knife around to my fellow UN Cops. They all loved this knife.
So I contacted Dave Wattenberg and ordered around 85 of these knives with a special United Nations laser engraving. Within three weeks we had our United Nations Godfather. I warned each and every officer that these knives were very sharp and to be careful. I told them when you push the button hold on. Many didn’t listen. The very same day five of them needed medical attention including one of my roommates. Well I did warn them. Again in 2005 PRO-TECH produced our Iraqi Mission knife on the TR-3 model. I don’t know how many harmed themselves with this knife.
Since then, 2002, PRO-TECH was bloomed into one of the top four auto knife manufactures in the United States. Dave ships knives all over the world and to our American Heroes. PRO-TECH knives can laser engrave any logo or short statement you would like. They have offered this service to many law enforcement agencies from Federal to City departments. Last January PRO-TECH came out with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation auto knives. Dave took his excellent auto knives and laser engraved or full color anodized the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation logo on many of his models. Each CKFF auto knife sold will help support the foundations’ fantastic mission. Their mission is to make stronger the marriages of our Heroes after being separated for long periods of time or living with the daily fear of their spouse being killed while on duty. The foundation provides support and weekend getaways for those couples.
One of the knives I currently carry is the new auto knife from PRO-TECH called the Magic BR-1. I have a great deal of fun handing this knife to a friend and watch as they attempt to deploy the blade. This is a great knife and functions flawlessly. I have always said, you can pay more for an auto knife but you cannot buy better than a PRO-TECH. Are you a serious Warrior looking to buy a quality lifelong partner in an auto knife? Here you go. I love their products.
Some thirty years ago Les de Asis, an avid knife lover and especially butterfly knives, decided to make his own dream butterfly knife commonly called a Bali-Song. He learned his basic machining skills in his shop class in high school. With some help from a local machine shop and an experienced knife grinder, Les de Asis produced his first prototype butterfly knife he called Bali-Song now a registered trademark. When he showed his creation to a local pawnshop owner he received his first order for 100 pieces. The rest….as they say…is history.
Since then this small company morphed into one of the largest knife manly tool producers in the U.S.A. Benchmade is recognized throughout the world as one of the premiere producers of Warrior knife and tools. So it goes Benchmade has a great product line of auto knives. Currently, by my count, Benchmade has twelve “out the side” and three “out the front” knives with each model spinning off with various versions of each. Two of these knives, Infidel and Pagan, are currently hot sellers. The popularity draw is the wild reaction of others when you whip one of these awesome bad-boys out and release the blade. The blade shoots out the front with a resounding snap. Pull down on the lever and the blade snaps out of sight. A great conversation getter if there ever was one.
I field tested the Infidel in Kurdistan Iraq. I also handed it over to some SF guys who ran it through some testing of their own. In Kurdistan at a lesser degree than the Arab part of Iraq, the wind will pick up carrying lots of dust. The dust then collects in places you really do not like such as your body, weapons and other critical need areas. The Infidel was no exception. At the end of handle of the Infidel, and now Pagan, there is a rectangle hole which allows dust, dirt, lint and other foreign objects to enter. These items are not easily removed. For this reason we felt the Infidel, a very cool knife, was not suited for combat type duty.
Now if you are looking to buy and Infidel or Pagan, check with Benchmade service to see what they recommend for cleaning this product. A side-open auto can be cleaned with compressed air and swabs. On occasion when mine gets into really messy substances, I will soak it in really hot heavily laden Dawn soapy water. After an hour of soaking, I rinse off with warm water then drop the knife in boiling water for ten minutes. Upon being removed from the boiling water the knife hits the cool air and is steamed dry. This Knife now is so clean and dry it has no oil what so ever. I then place oil on the working parts and a light layer of oil on all other surfaces including the blade. I let the knife set for ten minutes then wipe it off with a cotton cloth.
Other Benchmade Auto products I like are the Benchmade 490 and Benchmade HK14430. Both of these “out the side” autos are excellent for any kind of duty or off duty jobs. As a civilian, If your State allows auto knives then they make great personal use tools as well as a defense weapon. Love these knives.
Kershaw, for several years, has been in the auto knife business. In reviewing their autos for articles in Knives Illustrated, I was able to keep track on the progress of these products. I can say Kershaw has stepped up with constant improvement of their products. Their auto knives are a prime example. I found the spring action in the Kershaw autos has improved….greatly. When you push the button on the Kershaw autos hang on…look out…here comes your backup flying out.
Kershaw has produced a line of autos they call Launch. The Launch models runs from one through six. Six being the latest in the Launch line autos. I have field tested the Launch autos, with the exception of the newest Launch 6. Each of these models are of the first quality. I like the various blade and handle designs. The Launch 4 is the smallest model and a joy to carry and use. A “California Legal” auto knife the Launch 4 works well with everyday tasks. I would believe the Launch 4 would be perfect for the professional man or woman who likes to walk a little on the wild side. One could be the person in the office with the coolest letter opener of them all. When carrying the Launch 1 in your pocket, make sure it is the only object in said pocket. A set of car keys could push the recessed button on the Launch 4 causing the small bad-boy spike blade to lash out.
The Launch 1 being the first of the series, is a perfect auto knife for those warriors who walk out the front door everyday not knowing if they will ever return. The Launch 5 is a tactical auto perfect for law enforcement, smoke eaters (fire and rescue), first responders and our heroes in the military. The Launch 2, 3 and 6 are perfect for you who can legally carry an auto knife in your state. Fifteen States do not allow the carry, some even the simple possession in collections is illegal. Here is a link where you can check to see if you’re State is okay with your auto knife: (http://weaponlaws.wikidot.com/us-switchblade-laws). However, check with your local law enforcement or County/District Attorney’s office to make sure.
Gerber by my count, has seven auto knives with variations of handles and blade designs. I personally like the Gerber Brand, as all of their products are well thought out from the point they recognize a need to the final polished product. They are a great supporter of our American Heroes. When I was in Iraq as an International Police Advisor, Gerber Gear were very generous to our Heroes at Christmas time. Other knife companies were also generous making Christmas a little more tolerable for the troops. I was so proud of our young men and women.
Gerber has produced for several years the Cover line of pocket knives. The Covert line came in large, medium and small or mini. The general design is based on the late Colonel Rex Applegate’s knife design called Applegate-Fairbairn fighting knife. Fairbairn was the designer of the British Commando knife. If you research Colonel Applegate you will see why his knives are highly desired and collectable. I own three of the Gerber Covert knives. My favorite is the Mini Covert manual opening. Just a perfect EDC pocket knife. I love this knife.
So it goes to say, the Mini and Medium Cover Autos are excellent knifes with a rich history. Other Gerber auto knives are top-drawer products as well. I will be reviewing the newest Gerber 06 Auto 10th Anniversary in Knives Illustrated which will be on your magazine stands this summer. I say this summer as I have two other projects ahead of the auto knife article. Because I write for several other magazines about firearms and survival, it is possible the Gerber 06 Auto will show up in one of these publications as well.
So to conclude this review, PRO-TECH, Gerber, Benchmade and Kershaw are great companies who make great products such as the above mentioned auto knives. There are other great auto knife manufactures I could have written about, but as I never have received test samples I approved of, I cannot give a good honest review about something I have not tested. So if you are like my good neighbor Beau, go to a good retail website like “Bladehq” and look over their auto selections. If they list an auto under $80 then steer away if you are committed to a quality knife.
Chris Kyle Frog Foundation
14200 SW 72nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97224
300 Beavercreek Road
Oregon City, OR 97045
Pro-Tech Knives, LLC
17115 Alburtis Ave
Artesia, CA 90701
KAI USA LTD
18600 SW Teton Avenue
Tualatin, Oregon 97062
Knives Illustrated Publication