Kershaw Launch 8, by Pat Cascio

Growing up in Chicago, many in my neighborhood carried Italian stiletto folding knives, except they didn’t work. Oh sure, it had that button that you’d push, but it didn’t work…it was there for looks only, but those knives looked mean. Only problem was, they were pure junk, I never owned one that even had an edge on it – and odds were good if you dropped it or threw it, it would break. But still, a lot of us kids owned them. I will admit to being involved in a couple knife “incidents” that ended just as quickly as they started – first blood and the fight was over.

Even today, you can still find these Italian Stiletto folders in knife shops and other stores – they aren’t worth the money you’ll pay, but they look bad to the bone. The real deal – from Italy – next to impossible to find – you see, automatic folders – switch blades – can’t be imported into the United States, by Federal law. Some times it is skirted, when these knives come into the country, and then a company or individual will add the internal components, making them into an automatic folder. But those knives are still junk.

Many states and locales restrict the ownership of automatic folders for some stupid reason – most believe that a “switchblade” knife is some how more deadly than a manual opening folder, or an assisted opening folder – ignorance is bliss when it comes to politicians and the stupid laws they pass. There are several well-known knife companies in Oregon – where it is legal to own and carry an automatic folder, and even many police officers in my home state ignorantly believe an automatic folder is illegal to own, except by law enforcement.

Kershaw Knives recently released their version of the Italian Stiletto, called the Launch 8,  and it is made right here in Oregon. This folder was designed by well-known custom knife maker Matt Diskin, and he did a great job on this “stiletto” if you ask me. I wasn’t familiar with Diskin’s work, so I did some checking around on the Internet, and found his custom knives are sure to my liking – every last one that I looked at, on-line.

The first thing you will notice, when you pick-up the Kershaw Launch 8 folder is that, it is very lightweight – it only weighs-in at 2.4-ounces, yet it is a good sized folder with its 3.5-inch CPM 154 stainless steel blade. The blade is stonewashed, and it looks good on this folder. The handle material is anodized gray Aluminum, with a carbon fiber insert in the handle for a great grip on this folder. Of course, there is “that” push button, and needless to say, it works, and the blade comes out of the handle with some authority, and I opened and closed the blade many hundreds of times and it remained locked open and closed without getting loose. The button releases the open blade, so you can manually close it back into the handle. There is also a reversible pocket clip, for carrying in the right or left front pocket, with the knife tip up. There is a cross guard on the front of the handle, and this prevents your thumb from slipping onto the open blade.

The blade looks like it is a double-edge, but it’s not. It is only ground and sharpened on the bottom of the blade. All-in-all, the Launch 8 looks like an update of a genuine Italian stiletto, but much better made than any Italian import I’ve ever seen. I’m still more than a little amazed that this folder only comes in on the scale at 2.4-ounces – great job Kershaw, keeping it so light, yet so well made.

I know I drove my wife crazy when I would sit there on the sofa, and press the button on the Launch 8, opening the blade, then closing it, over and over, and over again…but its part of the testing process, and it is just plain fun to do, too. It’s almost addictive.

Kershaw Launch 8 Automatic KnifeBefore I conducted any further testing, I took the Launch 8 to my local FFL dealer, and they are always interested in the knives I get for articles. To a man, they all fell in love with the Launch 8, and when they put it in their pocket, they simply forgot it was there – so lightweight. One of the owners of the gun shop collects knives – most factory, but a few custom handmade versions, and he just couldn’t say enough about this folder. Of course, a number of customers asked if they could check this folder out and every one who did, fell in love with it, too.

I didn’t do any abusive testing on the Launch 8, I sure didn’t try any knife throwing with it – it’s not meant for that, and I’m sure I could have put Kershaw’s lifetime warranty to the test if I wanted to. I did my usual cutting around the house and that meant lots of UPS, FedEx and UPS packages that needed to be opened. Of course the usual cutting tasks and this time I did a lot of meat cutting in the kitchen, as well as at the kitchen table when we had steaks or roasts to eat. The knife really performed well – no problems at all.

I tried my usual cutting on some tough blackberry vines, but the sleek blade had a tough time with some of the really thick vines and it took more than one swipe with the Launch 8 to slice through them. The blade was sharp, but there just wasn’t enough weight behind the blade to successfully beat the biggest blackberry vines all the time. Then again, the heavy utility tasks weren’t want this knife was designed for.

Kershaw Launch 8 Automatic KnifeI could easily, very easily shave copy paper with the test knife, no problems at all. I worked on seeing how thin of a slice I could get from the copy paper, and I got some extremely thin slices. I even used the sample folder, to do Gent’s work – I cleaned my finger nails with – I don’t hardly ever do that, as I keep my finger nails trimmed close. Unlike the guys at the local gun shop, I don’t use the tip of a knife for prying – I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve had them show me a pocket knife, with the tipped broken off – from prying on something. I tell them, if they would just carry a multi-tool of some kind, then they could use that for their prying needs, or better yet, how about a screwdriver? They just don’t get it and send knives back to the maker for repair or replacement. And then they are shocked when they get a bill for the repair – that sort of abuse is not covered by most knife companies. Bottom line: Use the right tool for the right job.

I really liked the Kershaw Launch 8. This knife retails for $159.99.It is a “Gent’s” folder, without it actually being a Gent’s folder if you ask me…it screams “tactical”, without being tactical. If you can legally own an automatic folder in you locality then you should check out this one, it’s a winner. And of course, you will be the envy of all your friends, and you can count on at least one of them saying: “You know that’s illegal….” As I say, ignorance is bliss.


  1. Having sold knives at gun shows from time to time I read a lot of the laws depending on what state I would be selling in. You are correct in that many people including police have no idea what their state’s laws are regarding knives. As for the state I live in, and some others, as the law reads, one defining characteristic is that the blade can be spring assisted but it has to function through a manipulation of the blade itself and not a separate button. Hence, the raised portion on the spine that you flick with your forefinger and the spring does the rest. It seems very stupid to me but as you say, most of the people making our laws are quite ignorant. It reminds me of the time when either Hillary or Pelosi said, “the reason banning high capacity magazines would work is that when those magazines are used up they wouldn’t be able to buy more”. She actually thought once you emptied a magazine you threw it away.

  2. That appears to be a switchblade with upgraded materials and workmanship. Nice job Kershaw (who rarely disappoint) with your product. They and the Zero Tolerance knives

    The handle to me appears to be a bit too slim for my paws. My fingers are a bit long and bite into the palm when too small a grip is provided. A CRKT 2903 folding Hissatsu has been a workable solution.

  3. LL, you are quite right on the knife law issue. Cops just don’t know, like everyone else. A friend of mine was at summer camp for the National Guard, and a Texas state trooper wearing Captain’s bars conducting a class on white phosphorus called on him to demonstrate first aid for white phosphorus injury. He thrust his “burning” hand into a bucket of water (like infantry carry such items around with them) and deployed his 13 inch Argentine switch blade and scraped the WP off his hand. The trooper screamed, “That’s illegal! You can’t have that!”
    My friend, also a cop, challenged the Texas trooper to show him the statute in his thick Texas Criminal Code, and he couldn’t.
    I had a stiletto for a time, and I gave it to someone I didn’t really care for after it deployed in my hip pocket. I sensed something was wrong back there and reached around to discover how damned sharp it was. I sliced my index finger open big time. That was the end of my affair with automatics.
    The Cold Steel Ti-Lite is a full 13 inch stiletto, sharp as a scalpel, and opens quite easily with a flip of the wrist or dragging the raised knob on the blade on your pocket as you draw it. Locks open quite well. But it’s not nearly as useful as this Kershaw appears to be for slicing and cutting things. It’s a sticker, and not much else. So the Cold Steel Voyager 5 inch clip point gets carried every day. Same same. Opens very easily, will gut a water buffalo in one swipe, it fits flat in the back pocket. No surprises. Just a nasty, serious blade for serious purposes. The Vaquero has replaced the Voyager in the Cold Steel line up. There’s a reason why the box has a bold warning on it: “Caution: Very Sharp Knife.”
    During a Farnam rifle course, John asked me why I carry my knife in my right pocket, since I’m right handed. It should be carried in my left so my support hand can draw it and cut someone off my pistol should he try to grab it. That job, however, is handled with another Glock on the other hip. Two is one, and one is none.

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