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The Best Assisted Opening Knives for Everyday Carry

Best Assisted Opening Knives 0 Hero

Of all the options for EDC gear, there’s no denying that a knife is probably the most all-around useful without being too bulky (like many folding multi-tools). It doesn’t hurt that we’re kind of in the middle of a knife renaissance, with more options available now than ever before. That means, no matter what your personal preference, there’s an exceedingly strong likelihood that there’s a perfect knife for you already available for purchase.

While there are a lot of factors that are obvious when it comes to choosing a knife — like size, shape, and materials — there are also a few seemingly less critical ones that tend to go overlooked at times. Deployment mechanisms are one such factor. However, if you’re clever enough to realize the importance of your knife’s deployment, in that it can directly impact the speed with which you can access your blade, then you’re in the right place. That’s because we’ve put together the following list of the best assisted-opening knives that are perfect for EDC.

The Best Assisted-Opening Knives Rundown

Motorcycle-Inspired Mechanisms

A Condensed History Of Assisted-Opening Pocket Knives

In 1995 Walter “Blackie” Collins introduced the world’s first assisted-opening pocket knife with the Meyerco”Strut’N’Cut” — a simple folder with a design that took inspiration from the single-strut suspension setup on Collins’ Ducati. While poorly conceived as a whole, the “Strut’N’Cut” was nonetheless a game-changing knife that would ultimately secure a Most Innovative American design award at the Blade Show in 1997. Just one year later in 1998, knife design legend Ken Onion would further popularize the concept of an assisted-opening flipper or folder with the debut of the Kershaw SpeedSafe-opening mechanism. By the turn of the millennium, assisted-opening designs were being adopted by a growing number of big-name knife brands. Today, assisted-opening mechanisms have become common-place on both budget and high-end knives. 

Defining The Segment

What Exactly Is An Assisted-Opening Knife & How Do They Work?

When it comes to folding blades, there are a number of different ways knives can be deployed — but they can typically be broken down into three categories: manual, automatic, and assisted. How they work also varies, often because of styling choices or the incorporation of proprietary technologies, but there are some similarities to each that are always true — partially for ease of consumer understanding and partially because of legal implications.

Manual folders, as you might expect, require the user to open the blade by hand — with no assistance of any kind from the knife itself. This can be seen in a wealth of knives on the market but is closely associated with more traditional folders, like Swiss Army Knives, friction folders, slipjoints, and more. Automatic, by contrast, require little-to-no effort from the user in order for the knife to be deployed. They’re often extremely quick and sometimes have complex mechanisms that allow the blade to spring from the handle with the push of a button. This speediness and ease-of-use also cause automatic knives to be the most legally complicated blades to own — meaning they’re not considered legal to carry in many countries, states, etc.

Assisted-opening knives are a very convenient middle ground. They’re easier and speedier to deploy than manual folders, but without the legal limbo of automatic knives. Their downside is similar to automatic knives, in that the deployment mechanism means there are more parts to break and/or get jammed or dirty. The technology varies from brand-to-brand and even knife-to-knife, but there are some consistent features. In order for a knife to be considered assisted, rather than manual or automatic, it must require a significant amount of effort from the user to deploy but also has some measure of spring-loading. Usually, this is accomplished by equipping the knife blade with a thumb hole, flipper, or thumb stud — which the user will use to “start” the deployment, but will be finished by a spring-loaded mechanism mounted in the handle. As mentioned, the mechanism itself will vary depending on the knife, brand, designer, and more — but the overarching features must be included in order for a knife to be considered assisted.

The Great Debate

Unpacking The Argument Over The Use & Merits Of Assisted-Opening Knives

Ever since Blackie Collins designed the first assisted-opener, there’s been a debate raging around the use and merits of these spring-assisted mechanisms. Though outsiders sometimes view them as exotic —not unlike how they might view an auto-opening knife —knives with assisted opening setups aren’t universally appreciated in knife and everyday carry circles. In fact, a decent number of EDC enthusiasts look down upon assisted-opening knives — and for good reason. For starters, assisted-opening knives require an additional system and components that just add to the number of elements that can possibly break or fail. The added number of parts and components also makes these knives more difficult to service and maintain. 

What’s more, on top of sometimes keeping constant pressure on the blade — which can be incredibly annoying — assisted-openers are also often more difficult to close with one hand, as the spring-loaded blade is constantly trying to deploy from the handle. Some assisted knives also feature springs that are way too powerful for this application, causing the knife to feel like it wants to jump out of your hand when opening the blade. Additionally, not unlike modern automatic knives, spring-assisted knives can be illegal to carry in quite a few places — making it important to review your local laws before carrying one so you’re privy to the possible risk or consequences. 

The main reason that many knife and EDC aficionados aren’t fond of assisted-opening models is because of their quality, and what the mechanism itself points to and suggests. If a folding pocket knife has been well-designed and well-crafted, it shouldn’t require an assisted opening mechanism in order to smoothly deploy the blade. A good pivot setup, caged bearings, and a solid detent design can be used to achieve a knife with buttery-smooth opening action. As a result, when most knife nerds see or hear that a knife uses an assisted-opening mechanism, they automatically assume it’s of the cheap, budget variety — which definitely isn’t the case as even top-shelf knife brands like Benchmade and Zero Tolerance produce assisted-opening knives. Because it’s often viewed as a mark of low quality or a means of corner-cutting, some opt to steer clear of assisted-openers. 

Having said that, assisted-opening knives undeniably possess numerous advantages over manual folders. Obviously, with the assistance of a spring-loaded blade, assisted-opening knives deliver super snappy, lightning-fast deployment that even the smoothest manual action would have a hard time achieving. What’s more, while there are exceptions like the Civivi Elementum, generally speaking, purchasing a full-manual pocket knife with a remarkably smooth action typically comes at a fairly steep price, as where assisted-opening knives can deliver ultra-quick actions at much lower prices. For this reason, it is more common to see more accessibly-priced, value-focused knives equipped with assisted-opening mechanisms — though as mentioned above, there are definitely premium knives with assisted-opening blades. And lastly, while it’s admittedly subjective, some think assisted-opening knives possess a certain cool factor — not unlike that of automatic knives. 

Assisted EDC Shopping

What Factors Should I Consider When Buying An Assisted-Opening EDC Knife?

Theres admittedly no shortage of factors one can take into account when shopping for an assisted-opening EDC knife, however, 9 times out of 10, you can simply focus on half a dozen key areas — all of which we’ll briefly be breaking down in this condensed guide to what factors to think about when shopping for an assisted-opening knife. 

Materials: Like any piece of everyday carry gear, the materials used to construct a knife will play a monumental role in its overall quality, durability, and performance. When reviewing this area, you’ll want to pay close attention to the type of blade steel being used, as this will directly determine factors such as hardness and edge retention. What’s more, you’ll also want to look into the construction of a knife’s handle, as well as the material used to make its frame or liner. 

Deployment: While assisted-opening knives see their blades rocket out of the handle, the user is still required to begin the blade’s deployment before the assisted mechanism kicks in. As a result, you’ll want to look into the means in which a blade is deployed, as this can range from flipper tabs to thumb-studs to thumb-hole openings. There are also blades that feature multiple deployment methods.

Size & Dimensions: Modern everyday carry knives come in a huge variety of different shapes and sizes — with larger knives typically affording better performance and utility at the expense of being less pocketable in comparison to smaller EDC blades. In addition to the length of the knife, you’ll want to check out the length of the blade, and, just as importantly, the thickness of the blade, as this latter element will determine whether or not a knife will lend itself to hard-task workhorse use.

Locking Mechanism: Considering that this element is responsible for a blade’s ability to lock into place, it’s safe to say a knife’s locking mechanism is also of pretty major importance. Like manual folders, assisted-opening knives can use a wide variety of lock types, from liner locks to back-locks to framelocks to proprietary mechanisms like the Benchmade AXIS lock. What’s more, unlike other types of modern EDC knives, it’s pretty rare to see assisted-opening knives that feature non-locking setups such as friction folders or slipjoints.

Appearance & Finish: Assisted-opening everyday carry knives are produced in a huge variety of different styles. From unmistakably retro designs to thoroughly modern motifs, there’s practically guaranteed to be a knife with an aesthetic that jives with your personal taste. A decent number of knives in this space are also produced in multiple colors, as well as in multiple materials. 

Hardware: One element that helps to separate more high-end knives from their more budget-focused counterparts is the type of hardware that’s used. Though typically a bit of an afterthought on budget-minded models, premium knives often feature more calculated hardware elements, making it important to review factors such as a knife’s back-spacer, deployment items, liner, pocket clip, and any other secondary components. 

SOG Twitch II

SOG Twitch II
Photo: SOG
  • Updated 2nd-gen take on popular EDC model
  • Features patented pass-through lock bar design
  • Combines modern & retro design elements
  • Has assisted flipper tab-deployed AUS-8 blade
  • Spring pivot has some multi-directional blade play

Best Value Knife: With their military heritage, it’s easy to understand why most of the Studies & Observation Group’s catalog falls into the realm of the tactical. But some of their best offerings are a lot sleeker, more minimalist, and everyday carry ready. The SOG Twitch II definitely falls into the latter category, with its sleek aluminum handle, drop-point AUS-8 blade, and uniquely-stepped pivot that resembles the hats DEVO wore in their “Whip It” music video. Its pared-down size, with a blade length of just 2.65″, also makes for more discreet carry — perfect for hauling a blade in an urban environment. Save the flash for your wristwatch and add this minimalist blade to your EDC loadout.

Blade Steel: AUS-8
Blade Length: 2.65”
Handle Material: Aluminum (or Rosewood)
Overall Length: 6.20”
Lock: Lockback

Kershaw Cryo II

Kershaw Cryo II
Photo: Kershaw
  • Crafted around chromium-rich/infused stainless steel handle & frame
  • Comes w/ razor-sharp edge straight from factory
  • Penned by legendary designer Rick Hinderer
  • Blade can be deployed via flipper tab or thumb-studs
  • Backed by a lifetime warranty
  • Lockbar stabilization prevents lock over-travel
  • Heavy (yet rugged) materials
  • Can feel awkward in smaller hands

Best Flipper Knife: Around the everyday carry community and according to knife fanatics everywhere, the Rick Hinderer-designed Kershaw Cryo (and all its permutations) is widely considered one of the best bang-for-your-buck pocket knives of all time. The Cryo II you see here is a bit larger, with an on-the-heavier-side weight of 5.5 ounces and a 3.25″ blade, but the top-tier design cues are all still there. This one also has the benefit of a handsome all-black finish that mates perfectly with its greater silhouette, sturdy frame lock, and quick-and-easy SpeedSafe deployment mechanism. For the price, you’re not gonna do better than this.

Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade Length: 3.25”
Handle Material: Stainless Steel
Overall Length: 7.75”
Lock: Framelock

CRKT M4-02

Photo: CRKT
  • Classically-styled pocket knife brought to life using modern materials
  • Designed by Kit Carson
  • Blade deployed using Outburst assisted opening mechanism
  • Offers ample utility despite vintage-inspired looks
  • Pocket clip doesn’t allow for tip-up carrying

Best Vintage-Inspired: There’s no denying that the late Kit Carson was a master of his craft. In fact, many of his designs have continued production well after his passing in 2014 and will likely continue in that manner for years to come. While unusual for the CRKT brand, this particular Carson design boasts an assisted opening mechanism paired with a thumb stud for easier deployment. It’s also available in one of three handle materials (including stag and bone), though our favorite is — without a doubt — the burled wood handle for its timelessness and stylishness. For a modern blade with a classic appearance, turn to the M4-02W.

Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade Length: 3.25”
Handle Material: Micarta w/ G-10 Bolsters or Burl Wood w/ Steel Bolsters
Overall Length: 7.00”
Lock: Liner Lock

Gerber 06 FAST

Gerber 06 FAST
Photo: Gerber
  • Assisted-opening version of standard-issue U.S. military knife
  • Extremely easy to handle w/ gloves
  • Handle shape & texturing provides fantastic grip
  • Lanyard hole-equipped backspacer doubles as striking pommel
  • On the larger side for EDC at over 8.50” long

Best Tactical Knife: First debuting in 2006, the Auto is unequivocally one of Gerber’s most iconic knives, which is at least partially owed to the fact that the U.S. military has placed several hundred thousand of them in the hands of its soldiers. Because of its popularity, the company has also produced a non-fully-auto, assisted-opening variant known as the Gerber 06 FAST. Using a nearly identical design and dimensions to the 06 Auto, the 06 FAST replaces the automatic deployment setup with Gerber’s F.A.S.T. (Forward Action Spring Technology) system — a Gerbe-exclusive proprietary assisted-opening mechanism that’s the brainchild of Oregon-based custom knife maker Butch Vallotton. Equipped with a sidearm safety-style Switch lock, this knife also features a grippy G-10 handle set and a partially-serrated 3.80” 7Cr17MoV tanto blade.

Blade Steel: 7Cr17MoV
Blade Length: 3.80”
Handle Material: G-10
Overall Length: 8.60”
Lock: Switch Lock

Kershaw Blur

Kershaw Blur
Photo: Kershaw
  • Versatile flipper great for EDC, self-defense, & tactical use alike
  • Constructed around anodized 6061-T6 aluminum handle w/ Trac-Tec inserts
  • Features Kershaw’s SpeedSafe Opening tech
  • Penned by knife design legend Ken Onion
  • Blade fortified via Cerakote finish
  • Backed by Kershaw’s Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Trac-Tec inserts can be rough on hands & pockets

Best American-Made Knife: There’s no denying the impact that Ken Onion has had on the world of knife-making. Not only is he one of the most prolific designers out there, but many of his designs are considered instant classics and have continued being built long after competitor offerings have ceased production. The Blur is one such knife. With the knife’s iconic silhouette, this particular example features a textured aluminum handle, a sturdy liner lock, a durable stainless steel blade, and it comes with Kershaw’s signature SpeedSafe assisted deployment mechanism.

Blade Steel: Sandvik 14C28N
Blade Length: 3.375″
Handle Material: Aluminum
Overall Length: 7.90”
Lock: Liner Lock

Benchmade Barrage

Benchmade Barrage
Photo: Benchmade
  • Designed by the late Warren Osborne
  • Benefits from rugged materials & build quality
  • Price includes Benchmade’s LifeSharp services
  • Made in America & backed by lifetime warranty
  • Also offered in smaller (6.91” OAL) Mini-spec
  • Expensive price

Best Overall Knife: Well known for making some of the best premium everyday carry knives on the market, the Benchmade brand is not typically who people think of when it comes to assisted opening knives, as most of theirs are manual. But they do have a few — one being the 580 Barrage you see here. A part of their AXIS line of technologies — which includes the signature lock that this blade is also equipped with — this knife opens quickly and smoothly. Of course, it wouldn’t mean much if the rest of it wasn’t up to the task. Which it is, boasting a 154CM steel blade and Valox handle scales. It’s also made in the USA and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Blade Steel: 154CM
Blade Length: 3.60”
Handle Material: Valox
Overall Length: 8.45”
Lock: AXIS Assist

Zero Tolerance 0770CF

Zero Tolerance 0770CF
Photo: Zero Tolerance
  • High-end & lightweight take on assisted-opening EDC knife
  • Carbon fiber handle has titanium liner lock
  • Uses Kershaw’s SpeedSafe assisted opening system
  • Jimping on blade’s spine afford stellar grip
  • Made in America
  • Expensive price

Best Premium Knife: The more premium division of Kershaw, Zero Tolerance Knives is one of the few brands in the EDC space that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Benchmade. And with offerings like their 0770CF knife (an upgraded version of the brand’s extremely popular 0777 award-winning offering), it’s easy to see why. Equipped with the same SpeedSafe system as used by Kershaw, this pocket folder boasts some beautiful premium materials that range from sturdy and lightweight carbon fiber handle scales to DLC-coated S30V steel. Perfectly balancing killer good looks and extreme durability, this is a knife you can rely upon for all cutting tasks.

Blade Steel: CPM S35VN
Blade Length: 3.25”
Handle Material: Carbon Fiber
Overall Length: 7.50”
Lock: Liner Lock

The Best Flipper Knives For Everyday Carry

Best Flipper Knives 0 Hero

Appreciate a super snappy blade deployment but aren’t fond of assisted-opening models? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best flipper knives for everyday carry for today’s latest and greatest tab-activated EDC folders.