Assisted Opening knives, how are these *not* considered switchblades?

Okay, first off, i have no problems with switchblades, i actually wouldn’t mind owning one (or more) as they’re cool, illegal in most states, yes, but that’s more due to the stupid sheeple and nanny-government combo…

a knife is simply a tool used to cut, nothing more, an inanimate object, there’s nothing “evil” or “bad” about a knife, it’s the person behind the blade you need to be worried about…

heck, anything can become a weapon if one puts their mind to it, even a toaster could be a weapon…

so, anyway, back on subject, switchblades (a.k.a. “Automatic” knives) deploy the blade at high speed by using a spring or torsion bar assist, the actual opening of the knife is initiated by pressing a button, these knives are illegal in many North American states…

an “Assisted Opening” knife deploys the blade at high speed using a spring or torsion bar assist, the opening of the knife is initiated by either pushing on an index finger “flipper” (an extension of the blade tang (mmmm…tang…) that sticks out thru the base of the knife) or a thumbstud, applying outward pressure to the blade to overcome the resistance of the torsion bar/spring, after the blade has been pushed out past a certain point, the spring/bar assist takes over and snaps open the blade, these knives are legal in most states

the end result is the same, rapid deployment of the blade, one uses a button, one uses a flipper/thumbstud, either way, the end result is the same, the knife is actually opened by a spring/torsion bar

so, why is one legal and the other one not? they both have a spring assist to open the blade at a rate faster than most knife users are capable of doing manually

the reason i ask, is i just picked up a Kershaw Scallion AO knife, and it’s a great little blade, snapping it open and closing it is oddly…addictive, there’s spomething just plain cool to seeing a razor-sharp blade spring out and lock into place with a satisfying “thwack” in the blink of an eye…

what’s cool about the Kershaw “SpeedSafe” AO technology is that it’s inherently safe in either the closed or open position, and it also has a tip-restrainer safety catch that you can turn on to lock the knife closed so it will not deploy, even if you push on the flipper or thumbstuds

when the knife is closed, the torsion bar actually works to keep the knife closed, it won’t open if you drop it on the floor when it’s closed, you actually have to move the blade out almost 30 degrees before it springs open, the torsion bar that opens the blade sits in a halfmoon shaped track with depressions on either end, when the blade is closed, the bar sits in the closed depression. once the user has pushed the blade past the closed depression, the bar travels along the track, opening the knife, and ends up in the open depression, as a liner-lock blocks the blade from closing, until the user pushes the linerlock out of the way

to the non-knife user, there would appear to be little difference between an AO and an Auto knife, both pop open rapidly with nothing more than finger pressure, whether that finger pressure is on a thumbstud, a flipper, or a switch seems to be irrelavent, they’re all spring-loaded knives, so why are switchblades illegal and AO’s not?

Assisted-opening knives are the cutler’s equivalent of Intelligent Design. They are a product specifically designed to skirt to the very edge of what is legally permissible. Of course the proponents of intelligent design crafted a flawed product.

By contrast, A-O knives are most likely to have been manufactured with the precise wording of the legal prohibition against switchblades there on the workbench. The distinction is probably a ‘bright line’ in that a blade not having a fully-automated spring loaded opening mechanism would not appear to fall within the prohibition and is therefore entirely permissible.

AO knives are the best damn thing to come along since…whatever. For a fisherman, hunter, etc., a one-handed knife is a godsend.

Here’s a link to an article from Knife World magazine explaining how switchblades became illegal. Interesting how little things change in politics.

I gotta admit, a switchblade is not all that more threatening than a regular knife. I guess they were made illegal before handguns became so popular.

Actually knives I use for field dressing deer are way more deadly than any switchblade or AO knife I’ve ever seen. A long fixed blade that would be extremely sturdy if I decided to drive it into someone’s torso, from cutting up deer I can say that a human body wouldn’t have much chance of surviving a well-placed blow. Most switch-blades and AO blades are actually fairly short and thin by comparison, and a wild knife blow from one of them you might see in a fight would have a great chance of not striking an area in which it would be fatal. A hunter’s knife with its longer blade would have a much greater chance of being fatal in every area of the body it was thrust into.

A lot of jurisdictions do have restrictions on fixed-blade knives. If you’re going to transport them you’re supposed to have them in a case. If the police pull you over and you have a Buck knife unsheated laying on your passenger seat in a great many places that’s going to get you in trouble.

MacTech that ain’t a Kershaw, it’s an Onion!
Here’s his website.


Unless the laws have recently; switchblades are legal in California (if the blade is 1.9" or less, interesting site about Cali knife law) and Arizona.
Active military, police, and EMT’s are also “usually” allowed to carry autos.

I have to disagree a bit…While it is true that a fixed blade in-and-of-itself is a superior weapon (bigger handle, blade strength & length, easier to have double-edged, etc), a simple Swiss Army knife with a 1.5 inch blade can kill. Knives are far more dangerous than people give them credit for.

The thrusting argument is simple: longer blade = deeper penetration. But knife fighting is not all about thrusting, slashing does a huge bit of damage. And if all one is doing in a knife fight is trying to thrust into the torso, then they expose themselves to slashes on the arms and legs that can render their limbs useless. Look at your bicep, now picture a 1 inch deep gash running down the muscle for 6 inches…Yeah, you’d be fucked. If that gash ran into the crook of your arm, you’d be dead.

The knife-fighting I have studied (Kali and other Filipino styles) and currently practice (a more militaristic non-traditional Filipino style) all use slashes to block incoming attacks. Your thrust is met by my slash (and then I follow through with a counter thrust or slash). In fact, attacking the torso in any way is secondary to attacking whatever is closest to me - be it hand, forearm, thigh, whatever. Huge damage to be done that could cause you to drop your weapon, or the psychological impact of you seeing your own blood and running away.

With this training in mind, a quick-open folding knife is more practical and just as deadly. I have a folding knife clipped to my pants pocket that I can pull out and open in about 1 second. This is without a spring or anything, just a thumb stud or a hole. So, while switchblades are cool (and I am going to make one soon - new hobby! Knifemaking!), they are not more deadly or dangerous. And fixed blade knives, while cool and certainly useful, aren’t as easily carried or even deployed (“Goddamned snap-release is hard to find under my jacket!”).

As per the OP, the wording for the laws are too specific and there are ways to get around them. Even fixed blade laws can be circumvented. Spyderco has a new butterfly knife (the handles act as a sheath and then fold around to expose the blade) that is currently being debated on legality because the handles do not lock when the blade is out…technically, is is a non-locking folding knife with a 4.2 inch blade. Thus it circumvents many laws that state locking knives must be under a certain length (often under 3 inches). In reality, squeezing the handles while holding it creates a fixed blade knife. Thus a loop-hole that if taken to court might (or might not) win the argument. But then again, if you are in court for using a knife, you are pretty much screwed anyways as the laws on self-defense and knives are pretty strange.

But then again, these arguments on either side are pretty silly when it comes down to reality. People often think that knife-fighting is some modern equivalent of a sword duel between two opponents that both are in it out of choice. “You sir, are my opponent, and I, I choose to fight thee with a blade. Be it long, be it sharp be it whatever we shall agree upon, we shall now commence to squaring off against one-another, draw our weapons and proceed in our attempts to better the other man in this most noble ways of fighting.” :rolleyes: In reality a knife-fight is going to be an ambush situation. The other person will already have the knife out and be intent on sticking you. If an argument escalates and someone goes for a weapon, you screwed up bad by letting it escalate or not running away when you had a chance. Rarely will two people actually have knives in their hands at the same time. Thus, whether or not your knife opens in half a second or 5 seconds or more is pretty much irrelevant.


I come from a jurisdiction in which having any sort of blade upon one’s person, without lawful excuse, is illegal. Assisted opening doesn’t even come into it - even having a butter knife on your person can have you arrested if you’re in a public place with it.

I’m not sure how to put this without it sounding GD-ish. I don’t want it to be. There are aspects of America’s attitude to weapons I greatly admire, and others I do not. That’s all kinda beside the point. What I am trying to say is that I hope most American contributors here (pro and anti-gun alike) have an understanding of exactly how alien this stuff is to most foreigners. It’s a bit like the reaction we get when Americans casually describe buying guns at K Mart.

Again, not being judgemental here, just saying… “like… . wow…”

What I am trying to say is that I hope most American contributors here (pro and anti-gun alike) have an understanding of exactly how alien this stuff is to most foreigners.


Most furriners? Welll…I dunno 'bout that. Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Central Eastern Europe, Former Soviet Bloc, Eastern Asia, South America and more all seem to have LESS regulation than the USA when it comes to these things. Western Europe has more regulation, in general, but there are varying levels depending on the country. So, actually, I’d say most foreigners would look at that switchblade law and go Huh?

You really can’t have a Swiss Army knife or a leatherman down-under?


You can, subject to conditions. You are allowed to own them, you can keep them in your car, etc. But if you have one on your person, say, in a pub, then you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you need it for your job. So, a machine technician with a Leatherman tool in a crowded bar would have a lawful excuse. An unemployed junkie with a steak knife in his pocket might not.

And yes, you’re right about the “foreigners” bit. I should have specified maybe Commonwealth or European Dopers. As I said though, not judgemental at all, just a bit of serious culture shock.