Being able to open an EDC knife with a single hand, without the use of switchblade mechanics or automatic opening has caused knife manufacturers no end of torment. They began by trying to solve the issue with thumbstuds and the now ubiquitous thumb hole, so beloved by Spyderco. In the middle of the 90’s, during the height of grunge – which may or may not have contributed to the greater need of fast-opening knives – the flipper knife came into being. Flipper knives might add in studs or holes as they see fit, but are often operated by a single small lever, used to facilitate the deployment of the blade with one hand.
Ernie Emerson devised the Emerson Wave system, which seems to be directly, or at least tangentially, tied to the way a flipper knife works. Also important to the development of the flipper was the liner lock that came from Michael Walker, and the frame lock by Mr. Chris Reeve. These unique operating systems allow for the flipper to not only open quickly, but to stay open and not hack down on wayward digits. With all of these fantastic innovations right in our sights, we set out and ultimately found the 10 best flipper knives for EDC.
Kershaw Knives 1556TI Cryo II
Fast Track: At a distance, the Cryo II can be mistaken for titanium, due to a titanium and nitride coating. This helps keep the blade sharp and allows it to pass more easily through whatever you’re cutting, giving you clean slashes every time. Available in both a manual and an assisted opening, the subtle flipper never causes distress nor does it inhibit the ways the Cryo II can be used. The pocket clip has four distinct positions for carrying with tip up or down, and is equally good for lefties and righties.
SOG TWI8-CP Twitch II
Unfrilled: The tendency with a lot of knife manufacturers when they make a flipper is to start adding in hardware, specialized coatings, or other decorative accessories. SOG didn’t try to make the Twitch II everything to everyone, merely a simple chunk of AUS-8 steel in an anodized aluminum handle that keeps weight and cost to a minimum. A pass through lock bar lets the kick of the blade land without a wiggle, and the whole thing fits in your hand like the detailed piece of manufacturing aptitude that it is.
Kershaw 1955 Showtime
Unconventional: The Showtime is a genteel flipper blade for the cutter who strays from the pack. It’s formalwear in blade form, with a satin finish on the blade that counteracts the deep black steel of the handle. Kershaw’s beloved SpeedSafe lets you open this with confidence that it will never rebound on you. A reversible pocket clip lets you tote this slasher wherever, however you choose. The low price comes from the softer 8Cr13MoV steel used in constructing the blade. It won’t hold an edge as long as some, but it easier to re-hone when out in the field.
Buck Knives 0347 Vantage Pro
A New Classic: The name Buck is more than just an etching on the blade, it’s a guarantee that this knife will last forever, per their warranty. Though this is a step away from form for the knife-making legend, without any brass or wood to be had, the Vantage Pro is still decidedly solid, with an understated flipper mechanic that doesn’t catch during regular activity and won’t cause problems in a loaded pocket. Completely S30V steel, you’ll rarely need to resharpen, even after cutting through boxes, cords, and other blunting material. In a pinch, the drop point can be used as a hunting knife, or for any general all-purpose outdoor tasks.
CRKT M21-14SF Special Forces
Double Duty: With a set of broad flippers on either side, you not only get a quick way to open the knife no matter how you grab it, but they form a makeshift hilt and hand guard that prevents harm should you slip, or a blade fight in the street doesn’t go your way. The M21 is part of the Carson line from Columbia River, which is heavily influenced by input from military personnel who demand the best from their gear. A bit large and unwieldy for pocket carry at more than 9 inches when deployed in full glory, slapping it into a pack or belt sheath is never a bad idea, with the combo edge taking all comers.
Benchmade 300SSN Axis
Prototype: The first flipper knife that Benchmade ever attempted, and they managed to crush it right out of the gate. The design is pure Butch Ball with a set of G-10 scales on the handle that are bombproof, done up in a sand coloration with finger grooves to keep it locked into your fist. For the blade, Benchmade did what they always do: bring the best. 154CM stainless steel with a drop-point ranks at the upper end of the rockwell hardness scale, coming in hot at 58-61. It’s not ideal for sharpening on the fly, but you’ll rarely need to.
Zero Tolerance 0801BW BlackWash
Hardened Target: The BlackWash uses our favorite everyday carry material in its construction, titanium, which reduces the weight to almost nothing, but increases the durability to epic proportions. The blade itself is made wholly out of ELMAX steel that has been bathed in black to reduce reflection and avoid catching the eye of any insurgents, whether being used at night or in the noonday sun. The interior KVT ball-bearing system gives the BlackWash an opening operation that’s slick and smooth, right up until it hits the framelock, where it sticks fast and true.
Quartermaster QSE-10tt Biff Tannen
All Angles: The chunky build is inspired by butcher cleavers, but with a piercing tip that can handle detail work as well as heavier hacking. The flipper mechanism is a button rather than a lever, giving it an automatic feel without the legal issues. Inside is a sealed ball-bearing apparatus that works like a thrust mechanism, commonly used in industrial mechanics, but miniaturized here for a reliable, forgiving movement. The overall action feels different than anything else on the market, and begs to be toyed with like a puppy with a ball. Though made of titanium with an almost painful look, the handle is comfortable to use for long periods and carried easily.
Zero Tolerance 0560BW Blackwash Hinderer
Flagship: Zero Tolerance is the company for flipper knives, and the Hinderer is the absolute cream of their rich crop. The blade is ELMAX steel complete with a Tungsten DLC (Diamond-Like Coating) that bends for no man and has as much utility as a pry bar as it does a blade. The handle is a titanium G-10 combination with plenty of textured grip and the ability to withstand nearly as much abuse as a fixed blade, while moving as cleanly as a pebble falling through water. Gentle where it counts and deadly the rest of the time, you won’t regret a cent of the purchase price.
Spyderco Brad Southard
L’il Nipper: This is a whole set of firsts for Spyderco. It’s their first flipper and was made in collaboration with Kit Carson, so if it looks a bit unusual, that’s just due to its fine pedigree. Behind the slight build, it’s Spyderco through and through, right down to the titanium liners. Titanium also makes an appearance on the scales, with G-10 taking up the leeward side. The slim scale is maintained without sacrificing safety by the incorporation of a Reeve Integral Lock which is arguably the most solid way to keep a flipper in place, and makes the action feel sturdy and secure even after hard use. Pick it up, and you’ll fall in love.