An OTF knife is a type of switchblade. The abbreviation stands for out the front, which simply describes the mechanism through which the blade is deployed. OTFs occupy quite a small niche in the knife market, and options may not be as many as, say, throwing knives. But their popularity has steadily risen over the years.
When it comes to legality, the same rules apply as with the switchblade. The OTF is, therefore, considered legal in many countries and jurisdictions. Only a few states in the US have outlawed its possession and sale.
If you love pocket knives, you will appreciate the knife’s reliability and versatility, and it will certainly be a great addition to your collection. But with so many options, which one do you pick and why? Before we solve this understandable dilemma, let’s look at what you need to consider when choosing an OTF.
What to Consider Before Buying an OTF Knife
The truth is that there’s nothing like the best OTF knife. What will work well for your neighbor might not be a good fit for you. Look out for the following things to pick the best knife for your needs.
The Blade Material
Of course, the blade is the most important part of your knife. If it’s made of substandard material, it won’t matter how great the other features are. Stainless steel and carbon steel are some of the most popular materials here.
Choose an appropriate blade size, depending on the task you’re using it for. A small blade will serve you well indoors, while a large blade is more suited for outdoor activities. Some countries have adopted regulations on which blade sizes you are allowed to carry, so consider the legal environment too when choosing a size.
Single Action vs. Double Action
Double action OTFs use a dual-action mechanism that allows you to deploy and retract the blade automatically with just one hand. With a single action, you will have to pull the blade back manually to recharge.
Most OTF’s come with either straight or partly serrated edges. Unless you want a knife for a specific special purpose such as cutting twine, you may not need a fully serrated OTF. A straight edge will serve you best if you want a knife for self-defense or hunting, but a partly serrated one will offer you the best of both worlds.
You have two options: a single edge or double edge. A single edge is the most suitable choice for all your usual cutting. It is safer because it avoids unintentional cuts, and you can push your finger against the blunt end to exert more pressure. A double edge is best suited for combat or self-defense.
Most of the best OTF knives are available at high prices. But unless you want a specialized blade for combat of professional use, you can always find a good one at a favorable price. Cheap options are available but may not last you very long. Strive to find a good balance between price and quality.
Best OTF Knives On The Market
There’s something special about buying a pocket knife. Maybe it’s the power it puts in your hands, or maybe it’s just the excitement of buying something new. But what really matters is getting the right knife. The following are some of the best OTF knives you can get today.
1. Microtech Ultratech
Microtech is arguably the most popular automatic knife manufacturer in the game right now, and it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to OTFs. The Microtech Ultratech is its benchmark OTF knife, and it comes with an excellent build and beautiful appearance. In a few words, it is everything you would expect to find in a Microtech knife.
One good thing about Microtech is its tendency to produce knives in a wide number of varieties. Following this trend, the Ultratech comes with a staggering number of options, including different sizes and a host of colors and patterns.
If you prefer a classy look, perhaps the dark stonewash blade or carbon fiber will tickle your fancy. But if you’re not afraid to take risks, the zombie tech may just be the right option for you. This knife may not be cheap, but its craftsmanship is worth every penny.
2. AKC F-16
If you’re looking for the best OTF knife for the money, the AKC F-16 takes the cake. Inspired by the F-16 jet, it weighs slightly over three ounces and is 8 inches long with a 3.375-inch blade. Just like its Italian counterparts, you will be impressed by the double action knife’s overall quality.
Its black aluminum handle includes an inlay for a firmer grip, and the thumb-slide mounted on the side deploys and retracts the blade seamlessly. Luckily, you don’t have to fret over durability because the 440A blade allows for easy maintenance. Although expected, the blade play on the F-16 is very minimal.
Overall, the knife fires hard, and its fit and finish is way better than you would get anywhere else at that price range. We recommend it to anyone looking for a good OTP for performing light duties.
3. Hogue Knives Compound OTF Automatic Knife
The Hogue Compound is designed by the great Allen Elishewitz, and he unapologetically takes design risks. At first glance, you will notice the beautiful organic-shaped handles lined with an unusual scale-like finish. These come in a variety of color options, including green, gray, dark earth, and brown.
Hogue has earned quite a reputation over the years for its state of the art craftsmanship, and it has not disappointed here either. The blade is made from high-quality CPM-S30V, which is one of the best-powdered steel the market has to offer. Its double action deployment and retraction are seamless and feel natural. Although fairly new on the market, this knife shows a lot of promise.
4. Smith and Wesson M&P Spring Assisted OTF knife
If you’re looking for something unique, the Smith and Wesson OTF is your best bet. Here, you get a spring-assisted OTF with the quick deployment of an automatic. We doubt you will find another model with a similar deployment method.
You don’t need to worry about quality because the blade is made from AUS-8 stainless steel, which is strong and rust-resistant. And that’s not all; the spear-pointed blade allows for an extremely sharp point while the aluminum handle is light and fits nicely in your hand.
To top things up, a tip-down pocket clip and a glass breaker are fitted along the handle to maximize the knife’s functionality. Your safety during usage is guaranteed by the sliding safety that prevents accidental deployments.
5. Microtech Exocet
A smaller knife is more discreet and will easily bypass the legal hurdles that may inhibit a larger one, and that’s exactly the advantage you get with the Microtech Exocet. It is only 5.625 inches long and has a blade that measures 1.98 inches. But make no mistake; its size does not affect its quality and sturdiness.
First, its blade is made from CTS 240P stainless steel that is lined with a stonewash finish. Secondly, it features an aluminum handle that is anodized for toughness and durability.
And then, you will get a wider-than-normal frame that will give you a better hold. As a bonus, the matte gray pocket clip (which also doubles as a money clip) on this little guy is wide, making your knife more secure in your pocket.
6. BenchMade Infidel Dagger OTF Automatic
With a blade length of 3.95 inches and a total length of 8.95 inches, the BenchMade Infidel leans on the larger side as far as size is concerned. But it weighs just 5 ounces, making it lightweight for a knife in its size range.
It is a popular option in law enforcement and military circles, but no one is saying you cannot enjoy a little taste of the US marine experience.
The Infidel will cost you a few more bucks compared to the average OTF, but it will give you value for your money. Its doubled-edged spear-pointed dagger blade is made from high-quality D2 tool steel that is known for its hardness and extreme durability.
Additionally, the handle is comfortable in hand, and the switch at the center feels natural during deployment and retraction. As usual, BenchMade brings its A-game with this one.
7. BenchMade Precipice
This is a much shorter knife than the Infidel, with a total length of 8.23 inches and a blade length of 3.45 inches. Although its blade is made from Crucible CPM-S350V, which is an upgrade from the D2 steel blade in the Infidel, it costs nearly $100 less.
The blade comes with a spear pointed shape, and you can get it in two versions: a satin finish or a DLC-coated black option that will cost you $20 more.
Though the Precipice comes in the usual aluminum handle, the slider switch fitted on the side is a break from the usual front button in the BenchMade . The knife is also designed for ambidextrous tip-down carry, making it suitable for left-handed people.
8. Venom 3TR Tactical Auto OTF Knife
Are you looking for an OTF specially designed for combat or professional use?
The venom 3TR supersedes all expectations. Its price may be a bit on the higher side but is justified by its military build construction that makes it suitable for multi-purpose use and enables it to withstand heavy usage.
We were impressed by the high-end 440C stainless steel that has high corrosion resistance and edge retention. It will give you more cutting power with its partially serrated double-edge that also features a tough tip for easy piercing.
But our favorite feature on the venom 3TR is its rapid assisted deployment mechanism. While it’s may look standard, it is far smoother and faster than your conventional models. In case you doubt the knife’s quality, it is made in the US, and each unit is tested before delivery.
9. Microtech Combat Troodon
The Microtech Combat Troodon is everything you would want to see in an OTF knife and some. But are you brave enough to wield it? It is the largest of the Microtech’s knives and is 25% larger than the standard Troodon. The knife comes in a whopping 9.5’ total length with a handle length of 5.75’ but still manages to feel slim and comfortable.
In classic Microtech fashion, the combat Troodon is available in a wide variety of handle colors, blade styles, and finishes. Although it can be pricey, you can tell you have got your money’s worth based on its high-quality materials and superb build.
The blade is made from high-quality CTS-240P stainless steel, while the handle is made from anodized aluminum for a sturdy frame. Don’t forget that the lock-up is pretty solid, giving you close to zero blade movement.
10. BenchMade Phaeton OTK Knives
The BenchMade Phaeton is entirely made in the United States. Although it takes the subtle approach when it comes to design, its overall construction is exemplary. We love the S30V steel blade because it has high corrosion resistance, edge retention, and easy sharpening ability.
Aluminum is the material of choice for the handle and is anodized for hardness and durability, giving you a sturdy frame while still being lightweight. Its top scale is slightly textured to give you a firmer grip and to add a bit of style.
The siding button mounted on the spine of the handle seamlessly releases and retracts the blade, allowing you quick blade access that is smoother than what you would get on the Microtech Troodon or any other knife in its price range.
With so many options, choosing the right OTF knife can be a daunting task. But the basics remain the same. A good OTF should be made of high-quality material if it is to stand the test of time. You must also consider edge design, blade type, size, and the deployment mechanism.
We hope your search for the perfect OTF knife will be a lot easier now that you know what to look out for. Whether you’re looking to defend yourself or you simply need a cutting tool, there is a knife to fit your purpose and personal preference.
All the OTF knives on our list deserve your consideration, but if you’re looking for the best pocket-friendly knife, we recommend the AKC F-16. The venom 3TR is our pick for superior performance, but the Microtech Utratech is our overall favorite pick. It ticks all the right boxes and is unsurprisingly one of the bestsellers.