Choosing Automatic Knives: OTS Or OTF?

What is an OTS knife?
Kershaw has a long reputation in fast-opening folders going back to the company’s Ken Onion-designed assisted openers. The OTS Launch 2 is 8 inches overall and features a 3.5-inch black DLC-coated drop-point blade and a black, gently curved, anodized aluminum frame. (Kershaw photo)

What’s the right style of automatic knife for you: OTS or OTF? There are several important considerations when it comes to choosing.

Definitions: What Is An OTS Knife? What Is An OTF Knife?

First, for the newcomers, here are some quick definitions.

OTF Knife: A type of automatic knife where the blade deploys “out the front” of the handle.

OTS Knife: A type of automatic knife where the blade deploys “out the side” of the handle.

While this may seem like a small difference, it’s not to be overlooked. The right knife is the one that fits best with your tasks and preferences, and all knife features are worth considering, no matter how insignificant they may appear at first glance.

1) Ignore The Price Tag

Interestingly, budget is not one of them, because there is a range of $50 on up to hundreds of dollars for each. There are more OTS models available on the market now simply because manufacturers choose to produce more, so selection is greater. This may also be because they are much more familiar with side-opening designs.

2) Consider Use: OTS Is Better For Utility & OTF Is Better For Defense

What is an OTF knife
At 8.75 inches fully extended, the Conquest Tactical Fury OTF is a juggernaut. The Fury’s stonewashed 3.75-inch 154CM stainless steel blade is of a hybrid tanto/clip-point design, and its 5.25-inch black anodized machined aluminum handle can accommodate the largest of mitts. (Conquest Tactical photo)

Most important is how you plan to use your automatic. If you need utility, an OTS is the way to go. For pure self-defense, an OTF can engage the blade quicker, because there is no maneuvering required to clear the fingers from the blade opening and readjust your grip as required by an OTS.

3) Does It Have A Safety?

Some automatics have safeties to prevent the blade from opening in the pocket or while drawing from the carry position to engaging the blade. Ouch! Yes, a safety takes a second or two more to switch an auto blade into the live position, but many feel it’s worth it.

4) How Does It Feel?

Last but not least, the tactile feel you look for in any knife, regardless whether it’s a fixed blade or folder, is always a prime factor in your selection. You won’t get this over the internet. Rather, check out auto models at your local retail store or at gun and knife shows.

There Is No Right Answer

Despite what some may tell you, there is right answer. OTF and OTS aren’t inherently good or bad choices. The right answer is, as with all things knives, the knife that does what you need it to do and that you enjoy using.

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