We have Hollywood to thank for portraying automatic knives as being demonized by not only states laws and statutes but fed gov laws, too. I don’t know where the term “switch blade” came from, and it is puzzling when you think about it. The blade doesn’t “switch” when you open it, does it? No, the blade on an automatic folder flings open when you press a button on the handle of the knife. However, for some strange reason, the ill-informed still call automatic opening folding knives “switch blades” for some reason, and they believe, stupidly, that an automatic opening folding knife is more dangerous than other folding knives. To be sure, back in the 1950s, “switch blade” knives were all the rage in my neighborhood in Chicago. Quite honestly, they were junk imports from Italy that you couldn’t slice butter with, unless the butter was warmed, and they all had a “Stiletto” blade, which is only good for poking not even worthy of the term “stabbing”, if you ask me. Still, if you were a gang member, you had to pack a “switch blade” knife.
It is illegal to import automatic opening knives into the USA. However, that doesn’t stop importers from importing the knives in kits and then assembling them here, or adding a spring and push button once the knives arrive on our shores. I’ve examined literally hundreds of cheaply made imports, most from China and some from Italy, that were made into an automatic opening folder. Every last one was junk, plain and simple! If you applied any up or down or side-to-side force on the blade, they would either break or the blade would come apart from the handle of the knife. Also, there was no putting any kind of an edge on those blades. It couldn’t be done. They were dull, and stayed dull.
Many police officers, including my home state of Oregon, still believe that an automatic knife is illegal to own, and they still arrest people for carrying them in Oregon, only to have the cases dropped before going to trial or dismissed when they do go to trial. There are several knife companies in Oregon that produce automatic opening knives. If they were illegal, they would sure know about it and stop making ’em. However, in Oregon, it is a little bit tricky when it comes to actually carrying an automatic opening folder. It can’t be “concealed” in your pocket; it has to be “showing” in some manner; if that means a pocket/clothing clip, that’s fine. If that means it is carried in a belt sheath, that’s fine, too, even if the belt sheath is actually covered by a jacket it is still legal. Go figure out this stupid interpretation of the law. I’ve gotten into more than a few polite conversations with police officers who still stupidly believe owning or carrying an automatic opening folding knife is illegal, and I point them to the Internet and have them look it up themselves. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that automatic opening folding knives are covered by the laws referring to owning “arms”, just like firearms.
Kershaw Knives was started in 1974, by Pete Kershaw, and his company rapidly gained a reputation for manufacturing some outstanding cutlery. In 1977, the KAI Group from Japan saw what was happening and made Pete Kershaw an offer to purchase his growing business, and as they say, the rest is history. Over the years, Kershaw Knives www.kershawknives.com have won numerous awards, including, but not limited to: Overall Knife Of the Year, Knife Collaborations Of The Year, Most Innovative American Design, and Kitchen Knife Of the Year, just to mention a very few of their awards. Here’s a little tidbit of information; KAI in Japan makes most of the razor blades we use; no company makes more razor blades. So, no matter what name is on your razor blade package, there’s a good chance it was made by the KAI Group. For those who don’t realize it, Zero Tolerance knives are a division of Kershaw Knives. The ZT knives are rough use knives, designed for professional use. They are overbuilt and super-tough! One last thing, Kershaw has a lifetime warranty on their knives, and they mean it; it’s lifetime! If there is a defect, they will correct it or replace it in their products. That includes those made in the USA and those made in China as well.
I recently received the Kershaw Launch 1 automatic opening folder for testing, and here’s a quick run down on the specs. It is made in the USA. The blade steel is CPM154, a powdered blade steel that is very uniform and takes and holds an edge. The blade is black wash finish for a nice subdued and tactical look, as are the Aluminum handle scales. The blade length is 3.4 inches long, with an overall length opened right at eight inches. The knife only weighs four ounces; it’s a light weight, to be sure. The pocket/clothing clip is reversible, too, which is nice! The spring used to kick the blade open is super strong; once the button’s pressed, the spring really flings that blade open in a split second. I played with opening and closing the sample I had hundreds and hundreds of times, yet there were no failures to open or for the blade to stay locked open, solidly! The button for opening the knife is slightly recessed, so you don’t have to worry about the blade opening in your pocket. I’ve been there and done that, with some other automatic knives.
Now, keep this in mid, the Launch 1 is made in the USA at the Kershaw plant in Tualatin, OR, and you can glean information on this knife on their website. However, you can NOT place an order for one. Automatic opening knives are strictly regulated by FedGov laws. You can only purchase this knife from an authorized Kershaw stocking dealer, and if the laws in your state say you can’t have it, you can’t have it. There are exceptions made for police and military personnel. That’s something you need to check into, if you want to purchase the Launch 1, and they have several other Launch models, too. Once more, automatic opening folding knives are strictly regulated!
I tested the Launch 1 for about two weeks, using it for all manner of cutting chores on my digs, as well as around the kitchen, mostly slicing and dicing veggies. I actually did a little bit of “whittling”. For those who don’t know what that is, it is a simple thing to pass the time of day. When I was a kid, you’d always see adults and kids sitting on their front stoop, whittling on a piece of wood, just shaving thin slices off the wood to pass the time of day. Guess what? Yep, no one called the police on you for having a knife. Today’s youth are missing out on this. Instead, they spend their free-time playing video games or texting on their cell phones. To me, back in the day, it was just plain fun to sit there with friends or my grandfather, whittling on a piece of wood all day long. Go figure, huh?
The Launch 1 isn’t designed for heavy-duty use. Instead it is an everyday folder, one you’d use for opening mail or packages, cutting some rope, and simple chores like that. Many people mistakenly believe that in order for a knife, whether fixed blade or folder, to be a “survival knife” it has to have saw back teeth on it, have a blade at least a foot long, and be able to rip open the engine block on a V8! Most “survival” type chores are everyday tasks that requires a good, well-made folding knife. I’d have a hard time “surviving” through a single day without some kind of folding knife on my person. I’m always using a knife for cutting open a box from USPS, FedEx, or UPS or for chores around my small homestead.
If you can legally own an automatic opening folding knife, take a close look at the Launch 1 from Kershaw Knives. I think you’ll like it; it’s light-weight, plenty sharp, has a great steel blade, locks-up tight when opened and closed, and it has a lifetime warranty too. Its full retail is $159.00, and that’s not a bad price at all for Kershaw quality and for a superior automatic opening folding knife. Always check your local, state, and federal laws regarding ownership of automatic knives. Luckily, I live in Oregon, and we can own and carry automatic folders, even if most police officers don’t think we can.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio