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What Really is an OTF Knife & What Does OTF Mean?

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Simply put means OTF stands for ‘Out Of The Front’. However, there’s much confusion over what OTF truly implies when talking about knives. In this day and age of the internet, the term OTF is exceedingly sweeping and hence often misused. So, if you’re new and looking to buy a knife that’s an OTF in its true sense, there’s a bit of education you’ll have to go through. 

So what is an OTF knife? In its broadest sense, OTF knives are folding knives with blades concealed inside a handle. Now here is the puzzling thing that confuses most buyers. Does this mean all knives with blades sheathed in handles are OTFs? The answer is a clear no. There are two kinds. 

  1. Side Opening Knives - These are folders, spring assisted knives or automatic knives (switchblade knife) that deploy the blade from the side of the handle. Depending on the knife, the release action may be different but the blade always comes out from the side - and never from the top. These knives are NOT OTFs even though many sites list them as. 
  2. Out Of The Front Knives - OTFs too are knives with blades sheathed within the handle. But with one major difference. The blades here jump out straight from the top.  

RAPID - An all-black first-rate automatic OTF knife (combat, survival, hunting knife)

3 Leading Breeds Of OTFs 

Spring Assisted OTF - This is a knife that needs a gentle force of the finger to slide open. The natural position of the blade is the closed position. The user opens up the blade with a thumb stud or flipper lever. The lever has some resistance - the spring or torsion bar catches the knife and propels it open where it securely locks into place. 

Automatic Knife Or Switchblade - Also called the flick knife, the switchblade knife or automatic knife fires open from the front of the handle at the gentle press of a button. Unlike spring assisted knives, the natural position of the blade is ‘open’. You press the stud, the tension of the spring is released back onto the blade and it fires open without any effort.

Gravity Knife - This too is a knife with a blade contained in its handle. As the name suggests, the blades in these knives require the force of gravity once released with a trigger.  This is a popular choice of knife for many tradespeople - from carpenters and dock workers to stagehands and even extreme sports enthusiasts. 

When shopping for an OTF, it’s extremely important that you know the difference. This is because of strict legal restrictions within the U.S.A (and even other countries across Europe, South America, and Australasia). The difference between carrying a switchblade and a spring assisted knife can be - safety and prison sentence. A good way to tell whether a knife is considered a switchblade or an assisted opening knife is the blade’s resting position. If the blade's natural position is open without resistance, it's a switchblade. If the knife stays closed when unblocked, the knife is an assisted opener or folder.

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