If you need a trustworthy knife for outdoor situations, you should consider an OTF knife. With this kind of knife, the blade comes out of the front. (OTF stands for Out The Front.) These knives make a great addition to any collection. Some of them can be expensive, so you should be prepared to invest a little money to find the perfect knife for your pocket clip.
With all of the brands and types of OTFs out there, it can be hard to know where to start. You have to consider the handle material, your budget, and your purposes for usage. That's why we created this knife buying guide, summarizing the information you should know before you finalize your purchase decision.
Are OTF knives durable?
OTFs are made up of many parts. Each part needs to be high-quality for the knife itself to be as durable as possible. When trying to find a durable OTF knife, you need to consider what you want to do with it. Some uses include:
- Cutting meat
- Everyday utilities
You might also keep an OTF knife for self-defense, but these light-duty blades may not be the best choice for that purpose. (Other types have a design geared toward defense.) Once you know how you will use this knife, you can consider the other factors that influence durability. These factors include blade size, edge type, and handle material.
Larger blades are best for heavy-duty use. If you continuously use a small point blade for big tasks, your knife will have a shorter lifespan. You can also increase the lifespan of your knife by getting an edge type appropriate for the most common tasks you use it for.
Some edge types are:
- Straight – gives clean cuts and sharpens easily
- Partially serrated blade – suitable for general use
- Fully serrated – an aggressive edge that is good for cutting fibrous material
Lastly, the material of your blade and handle matters greatly. A cheap handle made of rubber or plastic will not last long. Aluminum is the most common material for an OTF knife handle. For the blade, you want to go with high-grade stainless steel.
The different grades of stainless steel vary in their amount of chromium and carbon. Average stainless steels such as 420 and 440A tend to need sharpening more often than better blades.
The best—but most expensive—steel types include:
- CPM 154
- CPM S30V
How do OTF automatic knives work?
OTFs are a type of switchblade. Instead of deploying to the side (like a folding knife), the blade comes out of the front. The first patent for this type of knife was in 1860. The purpose of these knives is for one-handed use in a confined space.
There are three types of OTFs:
- Single action OTFs – This blade type opens with a spring mechanism but it closes manually.
- Double action OTFs – The blade opens and closes with a spring.
- Manual OTFs – A sliding button opens and closes the blade. There is no spring.
The natural position of the blade is what makes a switchblade differ from a spring assisted opening knife. With a switchblade, the natural position of the blade is open, so a spring mechanism has to hold it closed. The spring assisted opening knife works the opposite way.
A typical OTF knife is made of the following parts:
- Blade-open lock
- Blade-closed lock
- Stop pin
- Fire closed lock
- Fire open lock
How to protect your knife from misfiring and getting dull
One of the main concerns when you are using your automatic knife is opening it. If the knife fails to deploy, then you can't do your job. You know you have a problem if your blade is always jammed, the mechanism feels jerky, or you see a lot of rust.
You can keep your knife firing well with proper maintenance. Some ways to properly maintain your OTF knife are:
- Don’t play with it when you’re idle
- Clean the knife after every use
- Completely disassemble and reassemble your knife when cleaning
- Pay attention to store your knife away from dust, moisture, and other elements
These steps will ensure that your knife lasts a long time. You also want to be sure that you have a quality and reliable OTF knife to begin with. If your knife is cheap, it may be a losing battle to keep it working consistently.
Best OTF knives
While there are plenty of manufacturers, there are two brands in particular that make the best OTFs.
Lightning has a great reputation because they are known for high-quality, affordable products for practical use. The most popular one is the D/A OTF Automatic Knife – Satin Plain. Customers say that it is, hands down, the best automatic knife for all jobs. It is perfect for emergency situations, has a great grip, and has excellent edge retention. It is a must for any knife collection. You can keep this knife working for years without any problems, and it is especially good for beginning knife enthusiasts. It has everything.
The knife is a double-action with a thumb side opener. It has an aluminum handle, a tip-down pocket clip, and a drop point blade. It makes a useful everyday knife. There is a long list of pros, and very few cons. However, one of the drawbacks is that there is some blade play with large scale projects.
Microtech, a well-known brand name, has a quality lineup of OTF models with several blade types. Microtechs typically have a signature aluminum handle and a right-hand tip-down pocket clip. They have a beautiful appearance and excellent build quality. And many of their knives also feature a glass breaker with many other options. Several people have left a review insisting that their products are worth the price.
When you get a Microtech blade, you know that you are getting a long-lasting item. However, Microtech changes their hardware, serration, and color configurations throughout the year. That's why these are always great collector’s items.
When you get a knife, you can test its quality by cutting through different objects. You might start with some vegetables, paper, cardboard, or even leather. This practice allows you to get a feel for how to handle the knife and how sharp it is before you are ready to use it. If your knife doesn’t easily cut the way you want it to, you know it may not be right for you.
Overall, there are many factors to account for when getting a knife. OTFs are sharp, compact, and lightweight, so they have a variety of uses. You can easily keep one in your car, on your person, or in your toolbox.