Switchblades Are Illegal, But Assisted Knives Are Ok
The observable differences between a switchblade and an assisted opening knife are slight, but legally they are worlds apart.
A switch blade (also known as an automatic knife) is a type of knife with a sliding or folding blade that is opened automatically by a spring, gravity or centrifugal force when a button or lever is pressed on the handle. Made famous by films in the 1950s like The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause, switchblades were soon thereafter made illegal by the US Switchblade Act of 1958. Today, automatic knives are restricted only to military or law enforcement use in most states.
However, while switch blades are illegal to possess in public, the open assisted knife is perfectly legal for everyday carry in most states. Although legality is the most obvious difference between automatic and assisted knives, they do differ in a few other ways.
First a switchblade knife can fall into one of two categories, there or out the front or out the side opening. An out the side knife is automatically opened when a user presses a button on the side of he knife while an out the front knife has a switch on the side of the handle that deploys the blade. An out the front knife generally has a blade that is sharpened on both sides making its primary use as a dagger.
In a switch blade knife the blade is held in place by a lock and is automatically deployed when the trigger mechanism is pressed. The spring that forces the knife open is constantly under tension and is only released when the trigger mechanism which is normally a button on the side of the knife is pressed. Once the trigger mechanism is engaged the knife will automatically open fully and lock in that position. In order to close the knife the button is pressed again and a second spring pulls the blade back into the handle. This then puts tension once again on the opening spring and locks the knife into the closed position.
Most of the laws concerning automatic knives came into effect during the 1950’s when films depicting gangsters heightened the popularity of this type of knife. Soon kids on the street starting getting their hands on them and switchblades became associated with gangs and crime hence the intervention of the government to have them outlawed.
An assisted opening knife differs from an automatic knife in that it requires the user to apply a starting force to open the blade before it automatically opens. The blade in an assisted opening knife is normally held in place by 1 or 2 torsion bars. When the user opens the blade manually by a certain amount, normally in the range of 10 – 40 degrees the assisted mechanism kicks in and continues to open the blade fully.
Unlike switch blades, assisted opening knives are not prohibited. They achieve this status because as an automatic knife opens solely at the push of a button an assisted opening knife does require that the user apply pressure to open the blade. Assisted opening knives are generally single edge blades and come in either a straight or serrated edge fashion. They are not normally considered daggers and are classed as everyday carry, tactical or survival knives.
If thinking of purchasing a knife it is always wise to first consider what its intended use is. Due to its illegal status, a switchblade is best served as a collectable rather than for practical or defensive use. Assisted opening knives, on the other hand, are legal, safe and a much better selection for everyday carry.
Disclaimer: Laws are constantly changing, only a lawyer can provide you with specific advice to rely on. We are not responsible if the info above becomes inaccurate.