Fast-Opening, Gravity Knives Are Banned In Many Places But Are Incredibly Versatile And Fun To Use.
When it comes to pocketknives there are all sorts of different ways to deploy the blade. Many knives can be opened with a thumb stud or a nail nick. Some open with a button press. And then there’s the gravity knife, which opens with the help of the force of gravity. The blade is in the handle and opens by moving a segment of the knife and allowing the blade to fall out.
These knives came to prominence in the 1950s and remain a popular, if controversial, style of EDC.
How Exactly Does A Gravity Knife Work?
The only way to deploy the blade is via gravity. This means that the simplest way to do that is by pointing the knife downward and pulling up on the handle although you can also deploy the blade by flicking it open like an assisted-opening folder. Of course, that could pose a safety issue if the knife is pointed toward you.
Neeves Knives has an excellent breakdown of the Reate EXO gravity knife, how it works, and what makes them so fun to use.
As you can see, the EXO is an incredibly smooth OTF gravity knife. The blade is made from Elmax super steel with a satin finish. The titanium handle with micarta scales provides a strong, resilient grip, and the Kydex sheath allows you to carry the knife safely.
In terms of contemporary gravity knives, the EXO could conceivably be called the gold standard.
Why Is The Gravity Knife So Controversial?
According to knife enthusiast Mike Crenshaw, switchblade and gravity knife laws date from the 1950s when lawmakers worked to link switchblades/automatics and gravity knives to criminals and minorities. “The lawmakers’ goal was to frighten the public and exploit that fear for political gain,” Mike wrote. Any knife that didn’t open with a nail nick and two hands “had” to be a weapon used only by “the wrong sort of person.” As Mike noted, “Any spring-loaded side-opening or OTF automatic and any gravity-opening side opener or OTF was exploited to that end. Any collector of these knives knows their history and their utility, in spite of the bans. Meanwhile, modern gravity knives are having a renaissance, whether those that slide out the front or swing out the side.” Also, modern designs and materials make the resulting knives smoother, stronger and more useful than ever before.
Fortunately, the laws against gravity knives are loosening. A New York state statute banning gravity knives was struck down by a federal district court in 2019, and many states from coast to coast explicitly allow the sale and carry of gravity knives. Despite the law being struck down at a state level, New York City still forbids the public transport of gravity knives.
Delaware is the lone state currently with an explicit ban on gravity knives. Maryland has an odd law where it is legal to own a gravity knife but illegal to both conceal carry and open carry the blade. It’s also illegal to conceal carry in North Dakota and West Virginia.
Types of Gravity Knives
Many of the top factory makers don’t invest in making gravity knives. That leaves smaller, independent companies in the space making interesting and stylish pieces. You’ve seen the Reate EXO in the video above, and it’s a beauty. Below is another fine example of a small maker making a high-end gravity knife.
This North Carolina-based maker Paragon Knives has created a whole line of gravity knives with the Warlock. The line is extensive. There have been 19 different versions of the Warlock, all in different colors, blade finishes, and blade grinds. Every version comes with a CPM-S30V blade that is four inches long with an aluminum handle.
Unlike the EXO from above, this knife is actually, if only technically, a button release. Rather than the button push rapidly deploying the blade out the front it separates the handle and allows the blade to swing out and open.
YouTuber Talon Sei has an excellent breakdown of how the knife opens and his thoughts on the piece. I even set it to start right where the review begins. It really is a beautiful knife no matter the color you choose.
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