What is an OTF Knife and How to Choose the Right One

OTF are automatic knives that are relatively popular because of their versatility, robustness, and convenience. OTF knives can be used for a wide variety of applications from hunting to fishing, building a shelter to cooking food, and many more. 

OTF knives allow for single-hand opening and usage, making them an ideal choice for various applications. In this article, we will learn about what is an OTF knife, how do OTF knives work, types of pocket knife opening mechanisms, the pros and cons of OTF knives, and an OTF knife buying guide. 

What Does OTF Stand for Knife 

Wondering what does OTF stand for? OTF, also known as Out The Front, is a specific type of automatic knife. OTF knives, or Out the Front knives, are known for their automatic blade deployment mechanism. They are available in two main types, such as single-action and double-action. OTF knives are mostly used because of their quick and convenient operation. 

Microtech® OTF lineup
Source: Microtech®

Out The Side Switchblade 

Is an OTF knife a switchblade? Out The Side switchblade knife is also a type of automatic knife that is known for its side-opening mechanism. These knives come with blades that will swing out from the side of the handle after it is activated. The spring-loaded blade is located within the handle and when the user activates the switch or button, the spring tension is released and the blade will come out. 

Single And Double-Action OTF Knife 

For single-action OTF knives, manual blade intervention is necessary. Once the blade is fully extended, the user should manually retract it back into the handle before it can be deployed again. Single-action OTF knives generally come with a spring mechanism that helps with blade deployment but depends on manual force for blade retraction.

Coming to the double-action OTF knives, they are known for having an automatic blade retraction mechanism in addition to automatic deployment. Because of that, for double-action OTF knives, the blade will extend automatically when the switch or button is activated. In addition to that, the blade will retract automatically after the user applies pressure on the button or switch. 

How Do OTF Knives Work 

OTF knives are a type of switchblade knife that works using a spring mechanism that deploys the blade when the user pushes the button or switch. The primary components of an OTF knife are the blade, handle, spring mechanism, button or switch, and locking mechanism. Understanding the inner mechanisms of these knives will help users know their functionality and versatility, which is why we will explain how does an OTF knife work here.

When the button or switch is activated, the blade will be released from its closed position inside the handle. Then the spring mechanism pushes the blade forward from the front of the handle towards the outside until it locks into place. In order to retract the blade, the locking mechanism should be disengaged. When the user presses the button or switch, the blade will be manually pushed back into the handle.

Single-action OTF Mechanism Diagram 

Single-action OTF knives have a spring that is present within the handle. To deploy the blade, the user activates the lever, button, or switch located on the handle. When the trigger is activated, it releases the tension in the spring and the blade will be pushed out of the front of the handle. Users should manually push or pull the blade back into its original position in order to close the single-action knives. In the below diagram, one can see the working mechanism of a single-action OTF knife.

Double-action OTF Mechanism Diagram 

The double-action OTF mechanism has a more complex spring system compared to single-action OTF knives. These knives combine the deployment and retraction of the blade into a single-action of the trigger. When the trigger (button or switch) is pressed, the blade will be released forward. Similarly, when the button or switch is pressed again, the blade will be pushed back to a closed position. This diagram shows how a double-action OTF mechanism works.

Advantages of OTF Knives 

One of the primary reasons why OTF knives are very popular is because of the broad range of their benefits. We have listed some of the primary advantages of OTF knives in this section

Quick Deployment 

One of the best advantages of OTF knives is the quick deployment of the blade. It is possible to open the blade simply by pressing or pushing a button, switch, or lever. The blade will be released instantly, and users can use the knife quickly, which comes in handy for emergencies.


OTF knives are available in a broad variety of blade styles, and lengths, and are made of different materials. Due to this versatility, people can easily find OTF knives that suit different preferences and purposes. From survival, everyday tasks, and outdoor activities to tactical use, there is an OTF knife that meets every need.

Ease of Use 

OTF knives are made to be used even with a single hand. Their one-handed operation makes them highly convenient and easy to use. Users can quickly open the closed blade with one hand, which is particularly beneficial in situations where the user’s other hand is occupied or when a user has limited hand mobility.


OTF knives are comparatively more safe than traditional knives. The OTF knife’s blade moves forward and backward within the handle, so there is little to no risk of the blade falling on your fingers. In addition to that, the knives have a reliable locking mechanism for enhanced safety. 

Very Portable 

The majority of the OTF knives often have a slim, sleek design, making them comfortable for discreet carrying. They are also light in weight and are accessible in pocket-friendly sizes. Due to that, they can be conveniently carried in a pocket, bag, or clipped to clothing.

Less Maintenance 

In general, OTF knives are known for having a simple construction with less moving parts. Due to that, it is relatively easy to clean and maintain the knives. These knives will remain in good condition for an extended period of time.

Disadvantages of OTF Knives 

Some of the potential drawbacks one should consider when buying OTF knives include:

Complex Mechanism 

Double-action OTF knives have a more complex mechanism than traditional folding knives. Because of this complexity, there is a risk of mechanical failure or malfunctions over time.

Legal Restrictions 

In several places, it is illegal to possess, carry, and use OTF knives or have some kind of restrictions. This is why it is important to know where are OTF knives legal before purchasing them.


High-quality OTF knives are rather expensive because of the robust materials used and their precision engineering. Due to high cost, these knives may deter some potential buyers, particularly those with a limited budget. 

Lack of Durability

There are some concerns about the long-term durability of OTF knives, especially about the reliability of the spring mechanisms. Some knives may be highly prone to wear and damage. In addition, the blade of the OTF knives is not as strong as regular survival knives.

OTF Knife Applications 

From camping, hunting, cooking, handling emergency situations, and outdoor activities to everyday tasks, the OTF knives serve various purposes. Let’s explore some of the most common applications of OTF knives:

Outdoor Activities 

Outdoor enthusiasts, including campers and hikers, use OTF knives for numerous outdoor activities. The knife can be used to prepare food, chop firewood, make a fire, build a small shelter, trim ropes, and many more. OTF knife’s versatility makes it a great tool in the wilderness.

EDC Tasks  

OTF knives can be used for plenty of everyday tasks. Whether for cutting wires, opening packages, trimming rope, doing small repairs, or slicing cardboard, an OTF knife is the best tool for EDC tasks.

Fishing and Hunting 

Other common applications of OTF knives are fishing and hunting. With an OTF knife, users can catch fish and hunt animals and also skin and slice them into tiny pieces.

First Aid 

Whether for accidents or handling emergencies, an OTF knife can be used for cutting through obstacles and providing first aid. The sharp edge of these knives can be used to remove any thorns stuck on hands and legs, cut bandage rolls, and many more.


It is also possible to use OTF knives for self-defense purposes. This versatile tool can be used to protect yourself from any dangers and tackle combats quickly.

Military Use 

In some areas, high-grade OTF knives are used by military personnel because of their sharp blade, one-hand operation, and rapid deployment.

Utility Work 

For utility work, OTF knives are commonly used. With these knives, it is easy to cut wires, strip insulation, trim ropes, prune branches, and many more.


OTF knives are also a great addition to DIY projects and arts and crafts. The knife can be used to cut intricate designs or shapes, open packets, trim things, etc.

How to Choose OTF Knives 

It can be difficult to choose an OTF knife because there are hundreds of brands offering different models of OTF knives. To make it easy for people, we have listed some of the vital factors one should take into account before buying an OTF knife.

Blade Quality and Material 

As the blade is the main element of the knife, it is important to choose one that is made using high-quality materials. The blades of OTF knives are made with several materials like stainless steel, alloy steel, high carbon steel, and many more.

It is best to choose blades that are made of premium stainless steel or other durable alloys that are known for their edge retention and corrosion resistance. 440C stainless steel and D2 steel alloys are some of the high-grade materials guaranteeing long-term durability.

Length Of The Blade  

OTF knives are made in different lengths and sizes. The blade length affects the cutting efficiency, legal restrictions, and comfort. Knives with 2-inch or less blades are easy to carry but they are not ideal for rough use. 

Most of the OTF knives have a blade length of 3 to 4 inches and are suitable for many applications. Large and high-end OTF knives come with a blade length of 9 to 11 inches or more. These large knives are robust but can be hard to use and have many legal restrictions.

Shape Of The Blade 

Another factor to consider is the profile or the shape of the blade. There are different types of blade shapes, such as a drop point, tanto, spear point, clip point, and many more. It is best to choose a knife that has a blade shape that best fits your needs.

Edge Of The Blade 

OTF knives are mostly available in three different types of blade edges, which are: serrated, straight, and partially serrated. For ragged cuts on tough materials, serrated edge blades work best. Partially serrated edge blades are ideal for EDC tasks. As for the straight edge blade, it offers sharp, clean cuts and it is also easy to sharpen the blade. 


The OTF knife’s handle impacts comfort, control, and overall performance. It is recommended to choose knives that come with sturdy handles with ergonomic designs and textured grips. The ergonomic design offers a comfortable grip, even in slippery or wet conditions. In addition, make sure to check factors like handle material, total length, size, shape, and weight of the handle.

Brand Reputation 

One of the most underrated factors many people fail to consider when choosing an OTF knife is the brand reputation. Only buy knives from a reliable brand with credible experience and industry expertise. Learn about the materials used, their manufacturing capabilities, and costs. Go through the reviews and ratings on various platforms to gather more information about the brand. 

Wrapping Up 

The applications of OTF knives are very versatile, ranging from EDC tasks to survival and adventure activities. Because of their rapid deployment, robust blade, ease of use, and versatility, these knives are perfect tools for personal and professional use. Investing in premium-quality OTF knives is beneficial because they work well for a long time. 
There are plenty of brands that offer OTF knives, so make sure to order them from a reliable manufacturer known for their good-quality, durable, and affordable OTF knives. Contact Volken to acquire the best-quality, custom OTF knives at reasonable prices and get discounts on bulk orders.

We are ready to help at any stage of your OEM knife project.

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