For years I had a fascination with automatic knives. I liked the concept but most were either a tactical design or the old stiletto pattern. Neither of these held much interest for me. Until fairly recently I never spent a lot of time carrying one as I never gave much thought to their usefulness. After all, a knife is a knife, no?
Mel Pardue Benchmade
Back in the TSA Knives day, the pictured Benchmade arrived in a box of about 500 miscellaneous knives. When I owned TSA Knives, I used to buy by confiscated knives by the pound and resell them on Ebay. There were always a lot of junk knives in the boxes but every now and then a gem like the Benchmade showed up.
I ended up carrying it off and on for a couple of years. Great knife. It was slim, easy to carry and had a nice slim blade profiled. After a while, I went back to carrying a traditional slip joint. Can’t really say why other then everyone else was carrying one so…..
So many choices of Autos
Above are just a few of the Auto’s that have caught my attention recently. Left to right, a Piranha Mini Guards (made in the USA), next is the Buck 112 (Ranger) Elite. On the far right knife is a Chinese made Lightning Elite.
Piranha Mini Guard
I ordered one just to check them out and immediately fell in love with the Piranha line. They’re slim, light weight, top notch quality and don’t fall into the typical ‘tactical auto’ group. Piranha’s knife and blade profiles fall more into what I like to call a ‘normal’ EDC pattern. Drop point blades, slim handles and S30V or CM154 blades which is a big deal for me. You’ll rarely regret the slightly higher price a premium blade costs.
I’ve been carrying the Piranha Mini Guard for 7 or 8 months. Try as I might, I can’t find anything not to like about the knife. It’s one of the fastest Auto’s I’ve handled. Lock up is tight, no side play and as I said, it’s fast.
The blade steel is outstanding. My Mini Guard has an S30V polished blade hardened to 60Rc. Based on my usage, I think they hit a sweet spot. Anymore, my knives spend a lot of time cutting up cardboard and cutting paper. The Mini Guard arrived razor sharp and holds an incredible edge.
Buck 112 Elite
The Buck lineup added their first auto knives fairly recently. For a long time, hobbyists have been converting the Model 110 to function automatically. Some were really great and some were not. A genuine factory buck auto works they way you expect, WITH the lifetime guarantee. Buck has the basic series and they upped their game with the Elite series. They Elites have an S30V blade, G10 handles and Nickel Silver bolsters.
Paradigm and Impact are two more autos in the Buck lineup. Both are a mix of tactical, conventional features. Nice knives in every respect.
The Lightning Elite is an out the front design. Benchmade and Microtech are higher quality but remember, the Lightning retails for under $40. Internal polishing results in a very smooth operating knife. By the nature of their design, with most OTF knives you can expect a little (or a lot) of side play. The Lightnings do a great job of minimizing it. Blades are 440 stainless.
I won’t compare it to the higher end OTF knives other then to say it compares favorably. It’s not unusual to see the high end OTF’s pass that $200 mark. For that kind of money you expect a lot more then you would from a $40 knife.
To sum it up
As usual, there are a lot of really great Auto knives available. The quality varies and interestingly, it depends on what you want to spend. I’m seeing some really nice auto’s that are in the $100-150 range that compare favorably with some of the much more expensive ‘name’ brands. The nice thing is you can find a nice auto under $100 if you just want to give one a try.
Personally, the autos are a favorite of mine. Frequently, I find the one hand operation can be really convenient. I don’t think about it until I’m holding a piece of cord and don’t have to lay it down to deploy my knife. The slim profile and light weight make it a tool that you never leave it home.