Out-the-front (OTF) knives are incredibly fast to deploy and retract.
The best OTF knife can be your greatest help in self-defense when fending off an attacker thanks to the quick blade deployment. These knives have also proven to be invaluable in emergencies for first responders.
The choice of out-the-front knives is huge and not everyone out there knows what to look for. So, you must do a little research to figure out the brand and model that’s best for your application.
So, in my top nine selections, I have taken into account all the important attributes an all-around OTF model needs to have.
Microtech Ultratech D/E OTF Knife is our top pick. The unique design of this knife is loved by many. Its proprietary OTF system allows for super-fast blade deployment and retraction. The spear point blade with a flat grind is highly versatile.
The Ultratech from Microtech is the standard out-the-front knife that all other models are measured against. It opens incredibly fast.
This high-quality knife has a proprietary design, which is great because it is integrated with a firing spring that remains at rest in both the closed and open positions. This is a superior design compared to a single-action style where you have to pull a charging handle to reset the blade. This is said to reduce wear on the internal firing mechanism.
The chassis handle has an ergonomic feel that is flat and smooth. The innovatively designed pocket clip is strong and wide, allowing it to ride nicely into your pocket without slipping out. You’ve got a ball-bearing glass breaker and a lanyard hole at the end of the clip for added versatility.
This is my go-to option as an EDC knife because of the double-edged blade, which can effectively cut from either side.
What I don’t like about the Ultratech; however, are the limited style and color options.
If a powerful out-the-front knife with a double-edged blade is what you are looking for, then the Utratech is the real deal.
Overall Rating: 4.9
The Hogue Compound is uniquely made for repeated one-handed operation, especially in close-quarter situations.
The razor-sharp blade is innovatively crafted from CPM-S30V stainless steel with a plain tanto edge. I appreciate the super-strong tip of the tanto blade, considering how effective it is for puncturing and holding up to tough materials. The flat grind is incredibly easy and fast to sharpen.
It comes equipped with textured G10 handles and 6061-T6 aluminum chassis. The handle scales provide superior gripping power while the chassis offers extreme strength.
The ergonomically designed trigger fires out the blade with exceptional force and so is the retract. The knife’s quick and effective deployment is made possible by heavy-duty extension springs. The springs are also PVD-coated for improved wear protection. You’ve got a stainless steel pocket clip that is wide and strong for easy storage in your pocket.
What I don’t like about the Hogue Compound; however, is the flat grind, which tends to dull faster.
The Hogue Compound out the front knife is compact, versatile, and functional. It makes a great all-around collectible.
Overall Rating: 4.9
If you are looking for an OTF that is uniquely designed for close-quarter combat, then look no further than this great model from Microtech.
The Combat Troodon has a remarkably large handle size of approximately 5.69 inches made of 6061 T6 aluminum. The handle is lightweight and provides a strong grip. You’ve got jimping on the side as well as on the top, which is great because it gives a truly great hold. It comes with a black tip-down pocket clip for left or right carry. The clip is also integrated with a glass breaker for added versatility.
This is a fully automatic switchblade model with a double-action OTF mechanism. All you need for deployment and closing of the blade is a thumb-slide.
The Combat Troodon has an impressive blade profile that is innovatively made for combat situations. You’ve got a double-edged blade that is perfect for stabbing. The grind is flat and exceptionally easy to sharpen.
But the thing is, the knife may be too big for people with a smaller hand to wheel comfortably.
This big combat knife will always come to your aid when you deploy it in close combat situations. It can stab, puncture, and slice.
Overall Rating: 4.9
With an ergonomic cover firing slider, the Dirac Delta is the real deal for all-around collectibles and close combat situations.
Unlike conventional OTF knives that have the thumb slide on the side, the Dirac Delta from Microtech has a cover firing slider for super-quick blade deployment and retraction. The front-loaded thumb-slide mechanism allows for smooth one-handed operation.
The Herringbone Damascus blade has superior toughness, strength, and durability. The double-edged blade with a flat grind and an acid etch finish is perfect for puncturing and stabbing. The blade has a superior thickness of about 0.17 inches.
You’ve got a contoured 6061-T6 aluminum handle that offers a very strong and comfortable grip. The handle feels sturdier, heftier, and lighter and it is incredibly corrosion-resistant. The Dirac Delta comes equipped with a tip-down carry, which is great because it provides better positioning, it is safer than tip-up carry, and it is ideal for both right and left carry. You’ve got a strong glass breaker at the butt for added versatility.
But the thing is, the knife has a slightly higher price tag.
With the Dirac Delta, you get an innovative internal mechanism, an ergonomic chassis, and a versatile glass breaker. It is worth the expensive price tag.
Overall Rating: 4.9
The 3300 Infidel is one of the best OTF models on the market with all the impressive features you have been looking for in out-the-front knives.
The 3300 Infidel is built for strength, versatility, and reliability. It has a patent-pending double-action mechanism that allows for quick and effective blade deployment.
The blade is made of heavy-duty D2 steel, which is great because this material has superior wear-resistance and edge retention. The plain double-edged blade style is extremely easy to sharpen and offers great puncturing and stabbing power. The satin finish on the blade offers decent corrosion-resistance.
The handle is made of aluminum, which is lightweight and easy to wheel. The deep carry clip sits deeper for superior concealment.
But here is the thing, this model doesn’t come equipped with a glass breaker.
The 3300 Infidel has one of the fastest out the front blade deployment. The deep carry clip ensures the knife is out of sight.
Overall Rating: 4.9
If a mini out the front design is what you are looking for, then look no further than the HK Mini Incursion.
The HK Mini Incursion comes equipped with a 154CM stainless steel blade, which is excellent because this material offers a good balance between corrosion-resistance and toughness. The tanto blade with a hand-sharpened, honed edge is suitable for puncturing and stabbing. The blade is also cryogenically heat-treated to promote consistent sharpening and increased wear-resistance.
Thumbs-up for the double-action out the front mechanism that provides ambidextrous blade deployment and retraction. It is built for speed, making it an ideal choice for close combat situations. The handle scales are contoured with machined grooves to improve grip performance.
But the thing is, the blade may be too small for some applications.
The responsive double-action of the HK Mini Incursion is what makes this little knife so special. Not to mention that the reversible deep-carry is highly versatile.
Overall Rating: 4.8
If you are looking for an out-the-front knife that has a strong bayonet blade style for your collection, the AKC F-16 D/A is the real deal.
The AKC F-16 D/A measures 8 inches with a blade length of 3.375 inches. The 440A blade is incredibly hard and durable. The bayonet blade style has a plain edge for ease of sharpening. The unique satin finish on the blade improves corrosion-resistance. The handle is made of aluminum and has a grippy black inlay.
This out-the-front knife is equipped with a snappy automatic action. All you have to do is push the side-mounted thumb slider for blade deployment as well as retraction. You’ve also got a stainless steel clip for convenient tip-down carry.
What I don’t like about this OTF knife is the fact that it doesn’t come with a glass breaker.
This uniquely designed OTF is sharp, snappy, and fun to use. It is a great EDC knife for opening cardboard boxes and letters.
Overall Rating: 4.7
This incredible OTF from Smith & Wesson is rugged and ready for action at a moment’s notice. The assisted opening mechanism is easy to operate.
The most impressive feature of this knife is the spring-assisted out-the-front mechanism, which allows for quick blade deployment with a push of a button. But it may take some doing to fully retract the blade into the handle.
The blade is made from AUS-8 steel, which is great because this material has superior corrosion-resistance and tensile strength. The spear point blade style offers a decent balance between slicing and piercing ability. It combines the superior strength of a drop point and a sharp point of a dagger. You’ve also got partial serrations for added versatility.
What I don’t like about this model; however, is the fact that blade retraction requires some manual pull.
The assisted OTF opens incredibly fast, which is exactly what you need in most situations. I also appreciate the unique blade profile with partial serrations.
Overall Rating: 4.6
Have you been looking for an ergonomically designed assisted OTF? This incredible model from Schrade fits the description.
With a high-quality black coated spear point AUS-8 blade, the Schrade Viper jumps from the handle in a second. You have to slide the safety to reveal the red dot, which lets you know that the blade is ready for quick deployment. Then push the finger actuator and the assisted opening mechanism takes over.
It comes with an aggressive tip for strong stabbing and penetration. You’ve got single partial serrations for slicing through resistant materials.
What I don’t like about the Schrade Viper; however, is the fact that the safety switch can easily get damaged.
Designed from high-quality material, the Schrade Viper will take up almost any challenge. It is a great choice for the money.
Overall Rating: 4.6
There are several things you have to take into account when looking for the best out-the-front knife.
You will not run short of OTF knife brands to choose from. But you have to do a little research on different brands to understand what they offer and decide whether or not their products meet your out-the-front knife requirements. The most popular brands in the industry that you can consider are:
This is arguably the pioneer of OTF knives in the industry. The brand has a remarkably wide line-up of out-the-front knives with the Ultratech being the company’s flagship. The brand uses the highest quality blade steel and innovative blade designs.
Hogue has proven to be one of the best OTF knife brands in the industry. It manufacturers models with strong detents for superior durability. The company’s flagship at the moment is the Compound OTF, which sports ambidextrous blade deployment and retraction.
This unique brand creates automatic knives with efficiency in mind to ensure that they are fast-acting for quick and reliable deployments. Benchmade models are well-suited for law enforcement and emergencies. The 3300 Infidel is the flagship of this brand. This model is fast, efficient, and durable.
With Protech, you get modern excellence with unmatched craftsmanship. The brand uses the best materials in the industry to produce high-quality out-the-front knives. What I truly appreciate about this company is the fact that it is continuously developing new designs to meet your requirements.
This is another incredible brand that creates high-quality OTF knives. The brand is heavily invested in the manufacturing of spear point out-the-front assisted knives. I appreciate the company’s attention to detail, especially with its blade profile designs.
This knife brand has created a strong reputation in the industry with the manufacturing of folding and fixed blade knives. It has extended its interests into the OTF industry. So far Schrade is producing heavy-duty, high-performing OTFs that are worth the money.
You have to be specific and precise when it comes to the use of the knife you are planning to buy. There are several applications of OTF knives, including close combat, self-defense, law enforcement, military, and EDC to mention a few. A model designed for close combat situations may not be a very good choice for EDC and vice versa.
Single-Action Vs. Double-Action
Once you have found the brand that meets your requirements, the next important consideration is the OTF action. There are two popular mechanisms on the market, single-action, and double-action.
A double-action out-the-front knife is integrated with a spring system that allows for quick deployment and retraction with a simple push of a thumb slider. What makes this mechanism so special is the fact that one thumb slider does the trick for deployment as well as retraction. You’ve got notches inside that help keep the blade in the opened and closed positions. The thumb slider can be positioned on the slim side or along the same direction as the blade.
A single-action deploys similarly to a double-action. But you will have to manually pull the blade back into the handle. If you don’t mind taking additional few seconds for retraction, then a single-action OTF can be a great choice for you.
Check out our roundup of automatic knives here, which includes both OTF’s and folders.
How useful an OTF knife can be once the blade is deployed depends mostly on the blade profile you choose.
First, choose a blade length that’s ideal for your application. Small blade sizes are normally ideal for EDC and indoor activities; that’s anything below four inches. Anything size above four inches is suitable for heavy applications like wood crafting and hunting. But some unique applications, such as law enforcement and self-defense would require a blade size below four inches.
Second, choose the most versatile edge and tip. These two features determine how useful the blade will be. The most popular types of edges used in the OTF industry are flat, convex, hollow, and scandi. The most popular knife points you will come across are spear point, tanto, drop, sheepsfoot, and straight back.
For close combat, I would recommend a spear point with a flat edge. For EDC, I would recommend a tanto point with a scandi grind. But the combination for the point and edge are many and they differ from one brand to another.
Third, decide between a plain edge and a serrated edge. It is rare to come across a fully serrated OTF knife, but fully plain edge designs are many. The best compromise is a blade with a partially serrated edge.
The blade steel determines the performance, ease of maintenance, and durability of the blade. The most important things to remember when choosing the best OTF knife are toughness, hardness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance.
You don’t want to end up with a knife that is easy to sharpen but cannot hold an edge. You also don’t want to end up with a blade that is tough but cannot resist corrosion. You should always check the type of finish the blade has because some finishes tend to corrode faster. I always recommend going for brands that have a strong reputation for using premium materials.
When in a closed position, the handle design of an OTF knife reveals its importance. It needs to be super-strong to take a beating without coming apart in case it falls on the ground. When the blade is opened, you need superior gripping power and maneuverability, especially in close combat situations. So, consider a handle that is machined grooved, and has jimping.
A single-edge blade has only one sharp edge. There are several types of single-edge blades you can choose when looking for an OTF knife like a tanto, drop point, and clip point. A single-edge is also easier to sharpen at a specific angle. A double-edged blade has two sharp edges that converge to form a spear point. This is one of the most popular types of blades found on OTF knives designed for self-defense and close combat situations.
An OTF knife wouldn’t be complete without a glass breaker for emergencies like getting out of a car that is about to explode in an accident. But some few brands don’t include a glass breaker on their knives. Another good extra feature that’s worth considering is a sheath. It adds protection when carrying the knife in your pocket.
For this roundup, the winner is Microtech Ultratech D/E OTF Knife. This is the brand’s flagship model that has proven to be one of the best out-the-front knives in the industry. The model is stylish and good-looking. Most people would prefer buying it as a collectible. But this knife has more to offer in law enforcement, self-defense, close combat, and EDC applications.
It boasts a proprietary OTF design that leaps open in a blink of an eye. The spear point blade with a flat grind guarantees how effective it is during use. The machined grooved chassis handle provides a strong, smooth, and powerful grip. The wide tip-down clip is ideal for both left and right carry. The glass breaker will get the job done in a second.
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