Gone Outdoors

What Is the Difference Between Automatic & Switchblade Knives?

by Chris Carson

Switchblades, automatic knives and spring-assisted knives all seem to mean the same thing: a knife that opens fast. What are the differences, if any, and why the different names? A lot of it has to do with a law that's more than 50 years old.

Switchblade Knives

Switchblade knives are knives that house a blade that opens automatically when a button, located on the handle, is pressed. These knives come in two types: out the front (OTF), which slides forward from the tip of the handle, and folding, which opens from the side of the handle, like a pocket knife.

Automatic Knives

This is simply another name for the switchblade knife. The U.S. Switchblade Act of 1958 made possession of switchblade knives illegal on a national level after the knives became popular with street gangs.

Spring-Assisted Knives

A thumb stud located on the blade makes a spring-assist knife legal under federal law.

Spring-assisted knives differ from switchblades in that the user presses a thumb stud attached to the blade, rather than a button attached to the handle. Ownership of these knives is considered legal by the U.S. government, as well as in many of the states, simply because the user exerts pressure on the blade itself to open it.

About the Author

Chris Carson has been writing professionally since 1988, specializing in topics such as cats, jewelry, history and English. Her articles have appeared in "Best Friends Magazine" and on various websites. Carson received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Arizona State University.

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