When I think back to my childhood in Chicago, IL, I can’t help but smile about how good we had it back then. We had a tiny black and white TV, which had maybe half a dozen channels to choose from. My grandparents, who raised me, even had a coal stove for heat for many years. Remember, this was Chicago! My grandparents never even had a key for the front door to their apartment. Kids growing up in the 1950s really had it good with no computers, no video games, no MTV, nor any of that stuff that kids today believe they can’t live without.
During the summer months, all the kids on the block would go out early in the day and didn’t come home until the street lights came on. It was kind of an unwritten law that all the parents had. None of us were kidnapped or molested back then either. Some of us had toy guns and some simply had “finger” guns. Guess what? None of us ever shot each other, or anyone else.
Every guy I knew had a pocket knife of some sort, bar none! We would play mumbly peg for hours on end. Kids today don’t even know what that game was and how much fun we had, and, once again, none of us cut or stabbed each other with our pocket knives. Additionally, we all carried our pocket knives to school, where no one got expelled for it, either. There was even a time when I took a .22 LR rifle to school for show ‘n tell, and the police weren’t called and no one was shot. Do they still have show ‘n tell in schools any more?
Many kids, well most of us, either had a “Jack Knife” or a simple one-blade folding knife, and we could spend half a day whittling on a piece of wood, just shaving off thin strips of wood. It was fun. I remember spending hours on the front stoop with my grandfather just whittling on a piece of wood. It was grand fun.
If you were “connected” back in the day, you could lay your hands on a “switch blade” knife. Unfortunately, automatic-opening knives are still called “switch blade” knives for some reason. Even those clerks behind the counter in a gun or knife shop will call an automatic-opening knife a “switch blade”. “Yes”, back in those days I did manage to lay my hands on an automatic-opening folding knife. It was a lot of fun to sit there and press the button and watch that blade fly open. I did it for hours and hours.
Sadly, many states and locales today have outlawed the ownership of automatic-opening knives for some reason. I still believe we have Hollywood to “thank” for this. They demonized automatic-opening knives in movies back in the 1950s, making the viewer believe that a “switch blade” knife was some how more deadly than a manually opening knife. Such is not the case, not then and not now! I’m glad I live in an enlightened state, where automatic-opening knives are legal to own, and many are made in Oregon!
One of the newest automatic-opening knives from Kershaw Knives is the new Launch 5, which is a joint collaboration between Kershaw Knives and Ernest Emerson, who many consider to be the father of “tactical knives”. I’m not about to dispute this claim. I’ve interviewed Emerson several times in the past for some articles I was doing on his custom and factory-made knives, and we spent many hours on the phone. We had a lot in common, one being the martial arts and of course our love for knives. Emerson is the real deal!
The Launch 5 is an automatic-opening folder, and it may be the best one from Emerson yet. If you ever look at the Emerson Knives website, one thing becomes clear– his knives are in demand, because he is always out-of-stock on many knives. So, Kershaw came to the rescue and is producing knives that Emerson designed. To be sure, I have found no difference between an Emerson factory knife and a Kershaw knife. They are that good!
The Launch 5 has a blade made out of CPM154– a powered metal steel that is hard to explain but easy to appreciate. This powdered steel takes and holds an edge a very long time, plus it is a stainless steel. Just keep in mind that stainless steel can still rust. It just fights off the elements better than carbon steel does. I like the stonewashed finish on the blade, because it helps hide any scratches you might get on the blade.
The handles and backspacer are made out of aluminum, to help reduce the weight of the knife to just a mere 4.1 oz, so carrying it around in your pocket all day long, isn’t a problem at all. You forget the knife is clipped in your pocket, and the pocket clip is reversible from one side of the handle to the other. The blade is carried tip-up. The machined texturing on the handle scales makes for a sure hold on the folder in any weather conditions, too. There is a lanyard “tie off” in the butt of the blade, not your usual lanyard hole.
The button used to open the blade is slightly recessed, and I like this. I’ve had many automatic-opening folders accidentally open in my pocket in the past, which is a painful and quite often bloody experience. However, even though the button is recessed, it is still easy to find and press to open the blade. There’s no thought involved. When the knife is in your hand, the button is easy to find and press, and the blade opens with authority, too.
The aluminum handle is anodized black, for a subdued and tactical look. The blade is 3.4 inches long, but it looks longer and is a drop point style, which is very useful for all kinds of cutting tasks. The button you use to open the blade is the same button you push to close the blade. Simply press the button and push the blade closed. However, when it is locked open, it is rock solid. There is no play at all in the blade and handle; that’s nice! There is a choil in the handle, at the front, for placing your index finger, and it is nicely protected from sliding up on the blade.
One of the tests I perform on automatic-opening knives is to repeatedly open and close the blade to see how stout it is all put together. In more than a thousand openings and closings, the blade remains solid with no play at all. The pocket clip is extremely durable and keeps the knife tight inside the pocket. And lastly, the knife is made in the USA!
I like to carry a knife for a couple weeks during my testing period, and knives get used for all sorts of chores on my small homestead that require cutting. As always, the very present blackberry vines are tough, but the Emerson easily sliced through them with one swipe. The blade is super sharp from the factory, and it did not require a touch up of any kind during the testing. Cardboard is tough stuff on a knife’s blade; it will really dull a knife in short order but not so with the Emerson. Cutting poly rope and cotton rope was no problem at all.
Now, my testing period ended, but I’m still carrying this Emerson in my right front pocket. It grew on me in short order. It fits my hand nicely and just feels good, so I’m still packing it, but I’ll have to retire it soon. I have more pocket knives that need testing.
If you can legally own an automatic-opening folder, then check out the newest from Kershaw and Emerson. Its full retail is $169.99, and it is a great deal. You have the Kershaw name and lifetime warranty and the Emerson name as the designer. What’s not to like here?
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio