History[ edit ] Switchblade knives date from the midth century. Davey, Beever, Hobson, Ibbotson and others produced automatic-opening knives.
It could be spring activated to full length if needed as a side arm, by pressing a lever instead of a handle button. In consequence, knife manufacturers began marketing new and much more affordable automatic knives to the general public. In Europe as well as the United States, automatic knife sales were never more than a fraction of sales generated by conventional folding knives, yet the type enjoyed consistent if modest sales from year to year.
These were later supplanted by newer designs which incorporated the blade lock release into a tilting bolster, which released a spearpoint or bayonet-style blade. Most had flat or sabre-ground clip or spear-point blade profiles and single-sharpened edges.
Louis, Missouri contracted thousands of switchblades under the trademark Diamond Edge for distribution to dealers across the United States and Canada. Sold off display cards in countless hardware and general stores, many low-end Diamond Edge switchblades failed to last more than a few months in actual use. Schrade would go on to manufacture thousands of contract switchblade knives under several trademarks and brands, including E. Among these were pocket and folding hunter pattern switchblades bearing the name Keen Kutter , a trademark owned by E.
In or Schrade sold his Solingen holdings some sources state they were seized by the German government  and returned to the United States. Army submitted a patent application for a specialized automatic-opening trench knife of his own design, the Hughes Trench Knife. Pocket knife made by Flylock Knife Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut with two spring-loaded, button activated blades.
Scales are made of horn. These were manufactured from to Upon returning to the United States, Schrade made a final improvement to his Presto series of switchblades, filing his patent application on June 6, Schrade Knife Company, primarily to manufacture his Presto series of switchblade knives.
The Pull-Ball opened by pulling a ball located on the butt end of the handle. The German paratrooper knife, which featured a marlinspike in addition to the cutting blade, was used to cut rigging and unknot lines, though it could be employed as a weapon in an emergency.
Army in tasked the Geo. The company's submission was approved by the U. Except for the bail, the M2 was for all intents and purposes a copy of George Schrade's popular Presto safety-button civilian model.
The M-2 was issued primarily to U. Army paratroopers during the war, though some knives appear to have been distributed to crews and members of the Office of Strategic Services. When issued to paratroopers, the M2 was normally carried in the dual-zippered knife pocket on the upper chest of the M42 jump uniform jacket.
In addition, other companies such as the Colonial Knife Co. After , American soldiers returning home from Europe brought along individually purchased examples of what would become known as the Italian stiletto switchblade.
These imported switchblades were frequently referred to as stilettos , since most incorporated a long, slender blade tapering to a needle-like point, together with a slim-profile handle and vestigial cross-guard reminiscent of the medieval weapon.
The majority of these Italian stiletto switchblade knives used a now-iconic slender bayonet-style blade with a single sabre-ground edge and an opposing false edge. As with the medieval stiletto, the stiletto switchblade was designed primarily as an offensive weapon, optimized for thrusting rather than cutting many imported stiletto switchblades had no sharpened cutting edge at all.
These included knives which ranged in blade length from two to eighteen inches 50mm - mm ;  some were flimsy souvenir knives made for tourists, while others were made with solid materials and workmanship. The article sparked a storm of controversy and a nationwide campaign that would eventually result in state and federal laws criminalizing the importation, sale, and possession of automatic-opening knives.
In the article, author Jack Harrison Pollack assured the reader that the growing switchblade "menace" could have deadly consequence "as any crook can tell you". Kilgore and a ghostwriter for then-Senator Harry S Truman , had authored a series of melodramatic magazine articles calling for new laws to address a variety of social ills. Action against this killer should be taken now".
That same year, Democratic Rep. Delaney of New York authored the first bill submitted to the U. Congress banning the manufacture and sale of switchblades.
This coverage included not only magazine articles but also highly popular films of the late s including Rebel Without a Cause , Crime in the Streets , 12 Angry Men , The Delinquents , High School Confidential , and the Broadway musical West Side Story. Hollywood's fixation on the switchblade as the symbol of youth violence, sex, and delinquency resulted in renewed demands from the public and Congress to control the sale and possession of such knives.
In , Senator Estes Kefauver D of Tennessee attempted unsuccessfully to pass a law restricting the importation and possession of switchblade knives. Opposition to the bill from the U. Departments of Commerce and Justice, which considered the legislation unenforceable and an unwarranted intrusion into lawful sales in interstate commerce.
Senate bill prohibiting the importation or possession of switchblade knives in interstate commerce was introduced the following year by Democratic Senator Peter F.
With youth violence and delinquency aggravated by the severe economic recession , Mack's bill was enacted by Congress and signed into law as the Switchblade Knife Act of The new laws treated all automatic-opening knives as a prohibited class, even knives with utility or general-purpose blades not generally used by criminals.
Curiously, the sale and possession of stilettos and other 'offensive' knives with fixed or lockback blades were not prohibited. As late as , Jack Pollack was still writing lurid articles demanding further federal legislation prohibiting the purchase or possession of switchblade knives nationwide. New York congressman Lester L. Wolff D even read one of Pollack's articles into the U.
In the s, automatic knife imports to the U. Since no law prohibited importation of switchblade parts or unassembled kits, all risk of prosecution was assumed by the assembling purchaser, not the importer.
This loophole was eventually closed by new federal regulations. In Britain, the folding type of switchblade is commonly referred to as a flick knife. In the UK, knives with an automated opening system are nearly impossible to acquire or carry legally; although they can legally be owned, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, hire, give, lend, or import such knives.
This definition would nominally restrict lawful ownership to 'grandfathered' automatic knives already in possession by their owner prior to the enactment of the applicable law in Even when such a knife is legally owned, carrying it in public without good reason or lawful authority is also illegal under current UK laws. In the USA, switchblades remain illegal to import from abroad or to purchase through interstate commerce since under the Switchblade Knife Act 15 U. However, a amendment Amendment to 15 U.
A switchblade opens its blade from the handle automatically with the press of a button, lever, or switch that is remotely mounted in the knife handle or bolster. In contrast, a spring-assist design uses manual pressure on a lever or switch mounted on the blade or connected via a direct mechanical linkage to open the blade initially, at which point an internal torsion spring propels the blade into an open, locked position.
Still other types of one-hand opening knives rely on the use of a manual protrusion on the blade itself to 'flick' the knife open using a thumb or forefinger, without any spring assistance. Since all these knives can be rapidly opened with one hand, the logic and utility of s-era prohibitions against a subcategory of one-hand opening knives like the switchblade have been called into question by knife rights advocacy groups. In recent years, several U. Despite federal laws, there are still a number of U.
The classic Italian style stiletto switchblade continues to be produced in Italy, Taiwan, and China. Automatic knife manufacture in Italy consists predominantly as a cottage industry of family-oriented businesses. These include Frank Beltrame and AGA Campolin, who have been making automatic knives using hand assembly techniques for more than half a century.
Automatic knives have been produced in the following countries: These resemble traditional manually-operated folding knives, but have a spring attached to the blade which is released when the activation button is pressed.
Side-opening knives typically feature safety mechanisms that, when used, will block the activation button from being pressed and thus prevent the knife from opening. Side-opening knives are the most durable automatic knives and are usually much cheaper than comparable-quality OTF knives. However, due to the way the blade opens, the user of a side-opening knife cannot grip the handle as firmly when activating the knife. Additionally, because of the way that the blade folds into the handle, side-opening knives are typically more limited in their blade shapes.
Double action, out the front[ edit ] Schematic of double action out the front automatic knife. A double action out the front knife is so-called because the blade emerges from the front of the handle and the thumb stud can be moved forwards or backwards to extend or retract the knife respectively.
A single action out the front knife operates under similar principles but will only automatically extend the blade which must then be manually retracted. The knife blade dark grey is locked in position by a spring-loaded restraining pin yellow and red fitting into a notch in the blade at position 1.
The two spring carriers green fit into the spaces on the slide blue and this assembly rests to the side of the blade. The right spring carrier is restrained by a tab at position 2 that fits over the end of the blade.
Tension on the main spring red zig-zag holds the other spring carrier, slide and thumb stud light grey to the right.
When the thumb stud is pushed forward the slide and left spring carrier are free to travel. This increases tension on the main spring as the blade and right spring carrier are locked. A ramp on the slide impinges on the lower pin. When the pin evacuates the notch the blade and right spring carrier are free to move. The right spring carrier moves only a short distance before it comes to rest in the slide. Momentum carries the blade further before flanges not shown retard its motion.
Another restraining pin at position 3 fits into a notch and locks the blade in the extended position. A tab on the left spring carrier fits into a hole in the blade at position 4 which restrains the left spring carrier. This allows reverse force on the thumb stud to increase tension in the main spring before the upper restraining pin releases and the blade and carrier can return to the closed position. The small restraining pin at 3 is the only thing holding the blade open and is prone to failure if abused.
The whole slide assembly moves only a short distance, exactly as far as the thumb stud moves. The force that causes the blade to extend or retract is equal to the force applied by the user on the thumb stud to stretch the main spring before it releases.
For this reason the tip of the blade is unlikely to even break skin and is entirely incapable of causing significant injury when released though the edge of the blade may still cut as it moves as with any knife. Any object in the path of the extending blade may cause the blade to stop before it can lock in position. This is easily remedied by either pulling the blade out so that it locks or pushing it in till it locks and then redeploying. However, because they have more complicated mechanisms, double-action OTFs will tend to be more expensive, have a weaker firing action, and a less-solid lockup than comparable single-action OTFs.
Single action, out the front[ edit ] Schematic of single action out the front automatic knife.