4 Must-Have Automatic Knives (2021)

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When it comes to blades that are practical, stylish and bring the THWACK!, you can’t go wrong with these four automatic knives.

What Are The Outstanding Autos:

There’s something irresistible about pressing the button of folding automatic knife and having the blade spring out with a resounding “THWACK!” as it locks open.

Types Of Automatic Knives

Automatic knives or autos come in two basic styles: the traditional side—or radial—openers and out the fronts (OTFs). There’s a great selection of both in today’s factory market. The majority center around the tactical trend in which the spring-powered opening action enjoys viability in high-stress situations where you need instantaneous blade deployment with little effort in action and thinking.

Side-Opening Auto Knives

Pro-Tech TR-3 1X Operator

When it comes to tactical automatic knives, Pro-Tech is a leader in the field. Its designs are highly refined and manufactured with the utmost attention to detail. The Tactical Response folder series is a company best-seller, the TR-3 being one of the most sought-after designs. Eight inches open, it is a great working knife featuring an ergonomic handle of T6-6061 aluminum paired with a drop-point blade of 154CM stainless steel. While the company manufactures different variations of the TR-3, the most eye-catching is the TR-3 X1 Operator Series model.

Pro-tech TR-3

Something you will notice first is the knife is sterile—in other words, there are no markings denoting brand, blade steel or country of origin. It is all black, including the clip and hardware. Topping it off, the lock button is inlaid with a tiny vial of tritium, allowing the button to “light up” in total darkness. The handle has ProTech’s fish-scale machining pattern to aid in grip retention and cool looks. The clip is mounted toward the handle butt to carry the closed folder blade tip up and as low in a pocket as possible.

All black and stealthy, the Pro Tech TR-3 X1 Operator Series folder gets the job done with little fuss and effort.
All black and stealthy, the Pro Tech TR-3 X1 Operator Series folder gets the job done with little fuss and effort.

The TR-3 is how you properly execute an all-black-finished knife. The modified drop-point blade tackles a variety of tasks with ease. American-made 154CM is an industry standard for heavy-use knives, holds a decent edge, and is not as difficult to resharpen as CPM high-performance steels. The handle shape is very appealing with its two large finger recesses to help index your grip, and the slightly tapered profile rests in your hand comfortably with no hot spots. Blade action is very snappy. Pro-Tech officials like strong springs in their automatic knives, so have a firm hold on the handle before you deploy the blade. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP): $320. The knife is made in Pro Tech’s Placentia, California, factory.

Boker Plus Karakurt

Danish knifemaker Jesper Voxnaes is one of the hottest knife designers going, and Boker Plus has tapped him for several designs, the Karakurt auto being one of them. Starting with a modified clip-point blade a hair over 3 inches, the material of choice is 154CM stainless steel. The flat grind allows the edge to be thin and exert a great bite, much like the knife’s namesake. (Karakurt is the Eurasian equivalent of the black widow spider.) The handle is T6-6061 aluminum. A large finger recess permits easy indexing of your grip, and the handle curves accommodate the rest of your fingers nicely for a nonslip purchase. A deep-carry pocket clip totes the closed Karakurt blade tip up and low in the pocket for maximum concealment.

Boker Switchblade

Action-wise, the knife is very quick. Press the firing button and the blade opens instantaneously. The overall design isn’t really tactical, though it does share some tactical traits. The Karakurt is designed more for everyday carry, and is excellent at opening mail, packages, breaking down cardboard boxes, stripping electrical wire, cutting corrugated plastic, etc. It carries very well, the slim profile allowing it to blend right into the pocket and have a lightweight footprint. It carries just as easily in casual dress as formal. The blade is available in a stonewash finish or black PVD coat. With an MSRP of $199.99, the Karakurt is priced very competitively to other knives of its class. It is made in the USA by Hogue Knives.

The flat grind of the Boker Plus Karakurt blade helps give it a nice bite. The Karakurt is made in the USA for Boker by Hogue Knives.
The flat grind of the Boker Plus Karakurt blade helps give it a nice bite. The Karakurt is made in the USA for Boker by Hogue Knives.

OTF Auto Knives

OTFs fall under one of two categories. One is single-action, where the blade deploys automatically and you must pull out the charging bar to retract it. A double-action OTF has automatic deployment and retraction of the blade, all by respectively pushing and pulling a slide button on the handle spine. The latter is the most popular, as most every OTF manufacturer makes one.

Heretic Knives Hydra

The Heretic Knives Hydra is a single-action OTF. It offers a choice of 3.6-inch drop-point or tanto pattern blades in CPM S35VN stainless steel. Handles are aluminum alloy machined with traction notches in strategic locations. The pocket clip is a distinctive “H”-shaped fold-over deep carry design and uses four screws as opposed to the standard two. It is anchored to the handle ultra-securely.

Heritic Hydra

The firing button incorporates an unusual safety. It’s a teardrop-shaped cover that pivots downward to allow button access. When released, it covers the firing button to prevent accidental blade deployment. Very ingenious! The bad thing about single-action OTFs is that retracting it requires using both hands: one to hold the handle and press the firing button to unlock the blade, the other to pull back on the charging bar until the blade is fully retracted and locked closed. (Pull a paracord lanyard tied to the charging bar or grab the end of the bar and pull.) The Hydra is well made, and the ergonomic handle is comfortable and offers multiple-grip positioning.

Most OTFs have a boxy profile and maybe two grip positions at most, depending on the size. Admittedly, I am not a fan of the humongous clip but it does a great job at holding the knife to the pocket, and is a deep carry design that positions the Hydra low in the pocket.

The Hydra also has a safety (inset) by the fi ring button to guard against inadvertent opening of the blade.
The Hydra also has a safety (inset) by the fi ring button to guard against inadvertent opening of the blade.

When you fire the blade, it hits hard! Out of the box the blade was plenty sharp and the hollow-ground tanto offered great slicing ability. Heretic provides the knife in multiple handle colors and two blade finishes—we received the black-coated blade with a nice handle anodized blue (MSRP: $435).

Single-action OTFs are probably better suited for occasional use since the two-handed blade retraction can get cumbersome, especially if you have the use of only one hand at a time. Double-action OTF’s are what you need for more frequent use. However, if you collect OTF automatic knives, you need a single action in your collection. In this case, the Hydra is a perfect choice to fill the slot.

Microtech Scarab II

Easily the largest OTF in the Microtech line, the double-action Scarab II is a nice handful. The base steel of choice for the 3.9-inch drop-point blade is M390 stainless, though Microtech also uses other high-end steels depending on what’s on hand in quantity. The 5.25-inch handle is T6-6061 aluminum for lightweight and strength. Inlays of textured rubber tape are integrated to enhance grip in most all conditions.

Microtech OTF Automatic Knife

A hefty push moves the textured actuation button forward to deploy the blade and a backward pull retracts it. The robust push is also a safety feature to avoid inadvertent blade actuation. The action is very quick given the blade’s size and
thickness.

Microtech added three fullers—two in the standard style on the blade’s side, as well as one on the blade spine. They look pretty cool but don’t add to performance. A few mini fullers are close to the blade’s base, where they are partially visible when the blade is deployed.

Given the knife’s size, it works quite well, and blade deployment is very easy even if you’re wearing work gloves. If you wear gloves frequently, this is the OTF for you. The handle is blocky and therefore fits the hand well with or without
gloves.

The Microtech Scarab II is the latest auto Microtech manufactures and the largest of the test group. This formidable-sized OTF is ready to tackle the toughest cutting jobs you may have and does so with aplomb.
The Microtech Scarab II is the latest auto Microtech manufactures and the largest of the test group. This formidable-sized OTF is ready to tackle the toughest cutting jobs you may have and does so with aplomb.

The Scarab II is adept at handling bigger cutting tasks, and has excellent slicing capabilities given the blade’s length. It could easily be used as a food prep knife, as it does great in the kitchen. The flat ground blade sails through a variety of media and is easy to resharpen. M390 holds an excellent edge and, unlike S30V, is relatively simple to resharpen. Carry is a snap thanks to the heavy-duty steel pocket clip. It’s secured to the handle butt with a special conical glass breaker screw that has an inlaid steel ball bearing for transmitting impact energy to the glass.

If you’re looking for an EDC-able Microtech OTF, the Scarab II may not be your choice due to its larger size. You’ll need to look at the company’s smaller Ultratech series instead. However, for tactical or extended-period hard use, the Scarab II fits the bill perfectly. The MSRP is $551, making it one of the most expensive production OTFs—but it’s worth it!


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