This Quartet Of Automatic Knives Open In A Flash And Run The Gamut When It Comes To Their Versatility
Automatics fascinate many knife fans and non-knife fans alike. Deploying the blade rapidly regardless of the situation is very important. There’s no fumbling around for the thumb stud, thumb disc, or blade hole—press the button and you’re ready to rock and roll.
Pro-Tech Terzuola ATCF Folder
Pro-Tech won a record-tying three BLADE Magazine Knife-Of-The-Year® awards at BLADE Show 2022 (September BLADE®, page 12), one of them Knife Collaboration Of The Year with Bob Terzuola for the Pro-Tech Terzuola ATCF Folder. The ATCF—short for Advanced Technology Combat Folder—is Bob T’s signature custom design and has been around for many years.
The 3.5-inch drop-point blade offers a high degree of utility. The handle features an integral guard and an ergonomic gripping area that is both comfortable and secure and works in conjunction with the blade spine thumb ramp. The blade material is CPM MagnaCut, a relatively new stainless steel that reportedly has the best edge holding of all high-performance blade steels.
The knife has an aluminum frame with an integral bolster, various handle material options such as G-10, Micarta®, and carbon fiber, and hardwoods like ironwood and maple burl. The push button inlay matches the handle material. Each knife comes with a distinctive, milled titanium pocket clip designed by Bob T. It screws to the handle from the inside for a clean, no-screw appearance. The downside is in the unlikely event you break the clip, you will have to return the knife for repair since it requires disassembly to get to the screws.
For this article, I selected Pro-Tech’s tuxedo configuration of the Terzuola ATCF. The handle consists of a black bolster with ivory paper Micarta. The firing button has an inlay of ivory Micarta to match.
Don’t let the upscale appearance fool you—the Pro-Tech ATCF can get dirty. The blade cuts easily and has the right amount of belly to facilitate slicing. The swedge on the spine enables the tip to penetrate and provides a slightly aggressive look. The handle has an integral forward guard. Along with the blade spine thumb ramp, it allows you to choke up for extra control.
MSRPs vary depending on handle material. All-aluminum-frame models are around $600, and the custom shop 416 stainless steel handle ones go for four figures.
“Bob and his wife Suz have been an absolute pleasure to work with,” noted Dave Wattenberg, Pro-Tech founder and president. “I’m forever grateful that he shared not only his iconic design with us, but took the time to share his love for knifemaking with my entire team here, and gifted each of us with a signed copy of his book.”
Designed in conjunction with Bastien Coves, aka Bastinelli Knives, the Brachial by Microtech is an exciting mix of tactical ferocity and sex appeal.
“Bastien is extremely talented,” observed Tony Marfione, Microtech co-founder and president. “His designs are not only works of art but are original and purpose-driven.” Marfione and Coves have been good friends for a long time, which is extremely important when it comes to collaborating on a knife design.
Boasting a heavy Persian influence, the Brachial’s 3.25-inch blade is premium M390 stainless steel for enhanced edge holding. The handle is machined T6-6061 aluminum for strength and minimal weight. Pockets machined inside the handle further reduce weight, making the Brachial a pleasure to carry and use.
A rugged steel pocket clip totes the closed knife blade tip up and right-handed. A frag pattern machined in the surface of the handle’s left side enhances grip traction, and there’s a small patch of frag on the clip side, too. The steel spacer adds strength to the handle, which has an integral lanyard hole.
Once you grip the handle, it’s quite evident the Brachial’s curves are not merely for show. The curvature seated the handle inside my hand as if it were made for it. The curved blade slices with great effectiveness. The flow of the blade from the handle enhances a sweeping cutting motion, with the edge presenting itself prominently to the target.
Microtech bills the Brachial at home hunting and outdoors equally as it is tactical. The upswept blade serves well at field dressing/processing game and food prep. The flat grind permits the blade to sail through media and presents a very aerodynamic profile.
I like the Brachial’s action. Once you press the button, the blade rockets out of the handle to the open and locked position, so hold on tight! I appreciate the shape of the firing button. Most companies use a round one and that works just fine, but a non-round shape is rarely seen. Microtech does this type of button on the Stitch auto as well. Once the blade locks open it is locked for sure. There’s no play in any direction, so the knife can be used with confidence.
The pocket clip carries the Brachial comfortably, and the curved grip allows the closed knife to sit in the pocket perfectly. Hence, as large as the folder is, you barely know it’s with you. While the size may not be ideal for EDC for a lot of folks, take comfort knowing that in case you do EDC it, the knife carries like a smaller folder. The clip is also heavy-duty—you’re not going to snag this one on obstacles or break it.
The Brachial sliced fruit and vegetables well. Outside the kitchen, it made very quick work of cutting cardboard boxes. I even took it into the woods to see how effective it would be as an outdoor knife. It did surprisingly well, including whittling points on sticks for makeshift tent pegs. The blade had plenty of bite into the wood and generated large shavings. The Brachial is an effective all-around cutting tool. Made in the USA, it has an of MSRP of $500.
Heretic Knives Wraith
Heretic Knives won the Manufacturing Quality Award at BLADE Show ’22, a solid testament to the company’s commitment to excellence in its entire line. An example is the Wraith, a full-size side-opening auto. There are two blade options: a tactically oriented tanto or a more utilitarian clip point. Both are 3.6 inches and complete larger jobs easily. Blade material for the base model Wraiths is ELMAX, a high-end particle steel of European origin. It has very good edge holding and muscles through tough media.
The auto has a lack of assembly screws in the traditional locations. That means the aluminum grip is machined from one billet. Since it’s integral, it’s quite strong. A carbon fiber bolster simplifies final assembly by allowing full access to the pivot. The clip side of the handle has no bolster. This is the Wraith’s signature look. The handle’s left side features a checkerboard pattern for traction.
A press of the large, rounded/rectangular firing button deploys the blade. The button has a matching checkerboard texture to provide a sure grip. The blade pivots on caged bearings for a velvety opening. Blade lockup is secure.
Even the pocket clip is nice—one-piece-milled titanium that features a single ball bearing pressed into the end to help hold the knife on the pocket. The clip is attached using a single hex-head screw, and the clip’s base sits inside a machined pocket to prevent the clip from rotating and working loose.
Everything about the Wraith clicks. The fit and finish is superb, the blade sits dead center when closed, the action is buttery smooth and the handle is a one-piece billet. The knife is chockful of cutting, piercing power. The serrated part of the edge will chew through most anything, and the plain edge portion does well with general cutting tasks.
The tanto blade’s secondary angled edge can be used as a light-duty scraper. The handle is plenty comfortable thanks to the chamfers and contours in the right places.
There are no problems with the Wraith in the performance department. The model in the two-tone black ELMAX tanto blade, billet aluminum handle, carbon fiber bolster, and the battle-worn pocket clip has an MSRP of $385. Prices vary slightly depending on the configuration. All Heretic knives are made in the USA.
Hogue Knives Ballista
The Hogue Knives Ballista is a straightforward working knife with a 3.5-inch drop-point blade of 154CM stainless steel. The blade lends itself well to a variety of cutting tasks with the generous belly and a defined point with the ability to pierce if necessary. The handle is T6-6061 aluminum for light weight and strength.
A series of traction grooves milled into the handle enhance grip in all weather conditions. Available in anodized colors of black and blue, the Ballista is also available in a 3.5-inch tanto blade. Either blade comes in a stonewash or a black Cerakote finish. A partially serrated model is available in the all-black tanto version only. The stonewash finish blades come with the blue anodized handle and the black Cerakote blades have black handles.
Blade deployment is sure and quick with the press of a button. A sliding button safety prevents accidental blade deployment. Whichever version you choose, the Ballista comes with a nice, highly functional clip. It’s a fold-over deep-carry style and has louvers on it. They look cool and provide a no-slip grip when pulling the knife from the pocket.
As a nice visual touch, a USA flag is laser engraved at the top of the clip, proudly stating country of origin. Two T6 Torx screws secure the clip to the handle, which switches easily to accommodate lefties.
It may not have the tactical edge in appearance, but this is a no-nonsense working knife. The 154CM has long been an industry standard for high-end blade steels. While the newer CPM steels dominate today’s high-end factory knives, 154CM has the advantage of not being as persnickety when it comes to resharpening. It’s easy to maintain, especially in the field.
The handle fit my hand comfortably and is flat to maximize portability. I love how the juncture of the handle and blade form a finger groove when the knife is open. I find myself using the groove to steady the knife during cuts that require it. The flat grind, a great choice in general for working folders, allows the blade to be thin yet have enough meat for strength. The Ballista excels at general work and maybe even as a folding hunter. MSRP in the stonewash, drop-point, plain-edge blade, and blue anodized handle is $189.95.
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