Switch Your a Fast Opener
As close as you can get to a legal switchblade.
Switchblades have always been the bete noire of folding knives--marked as the weapon of the common thug, instead of a simple tool made more efficient. Because of their sinister image, switchblades are illegal to carry in most U.S. states. However, a new category of knife, the fast opener, is legal to carry in most locales, and is rapidly gaining popularity. Click for knife descriptions
Click for knife descriptions
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• Martial Arts: Knife Fighting
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• Product Review: Spyderco Delica
 Elsewhere on the Web
• American Knife & Tool Institute
• Ken Onion

Fast Openers

Fast openers are a relatively new category of folding knives--almost switchblades, but not quite. Fast openers require the user to start opening by nudging the blade open with the thumb. After the blade is opened a few degrees--about 20% of the opening arc, a spring takes over and accelerates the blade the rest of the way.

Contrast this opening method to a switchblade, where you just press a button and the blade is moved entirely by the spring. Fast openers are thus legal in most states because of this not-quite-switchblades status.

Spring-assisted openers got popular with the designs of Ken Onion, a well-regarded custom knifemaker. Designer of Blade Magazine's 1998 American-Made Knife of the Year, Ken began his metalworking career as a Navy machinist. When his friend asked him to work on his Harley's cam, Onion devised the mechanism that would become one of the first spring-assisted openers. Kershaw Knives then took Ken's torsion bar technology into production as their "Speed Safe" series.

Onion's designs have been so well-received that Steven Seagal sported an Onion folder in the movie "Exit Wounds", and is collaborating with Onion on a Seagal/Onion design.

Knife Manufacturers

The category has grown fast, with numerous manufacturers offering their own take on spring-assisted opening. The following is a partial list of production fast opener knives:

Kershaw: Avalanche, Blackout, Whirlwind, Boa, Chive [compare prices]
Meyerco: Speedster, Rascal, Stingray [compare prices]
SOG: Flash 1, Flash 2, Blink [compare prices]
Timberline: Vallotton Kick-Start

We'll take a look at several popular fast openers in the next few weeks. Are any good enough to make me give up my beloved Spyderco Delica? Check back often to find out.

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