Spring-assisted knife on a budget?
November 9, 2008 6:50 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a reliable, reasonable quality spring-assisted knife on a budget.

I just lost my favorite knife and I'm in the market to replace it. I've been looking at spring-assisted knives, and I think I'd like to go with one. The catch is that I only have a budget of around $50 at the most.

I have been looking around at several websites that sell knives, and have found many budget options. Most of the sites, though, seem to be selling the same knives with different names. This gives me the impression that these sites are buying these wholesale from China or somewhere and selling them at a huge markup. As you can imagine, this makes me wary about the quality. Most of the knives I've seen that I like look like they're made by a company called Echo, but I can't find much information on this manufacturer/distributor.

So what is a good, reliable spring-assisted knife for $50 or less? I'm specifically looking for something that's very pocketable. I would like a blade that is 3" or less, but there is a little room to play with in that department. This eBay auction is an example of a knife I am strongly considering buying (it's one of the Echo ones). So, throw out your suggestions!

(Also, in case you're not aware, please do not confuse a spring-assisted knife with a switchblade. Switchblades are illegal in most areas and interstate sales of switchblades is federally restricted; however, spring-assisted knives do not carry any of these restrictions. So I don't need any legal advice, just purchase recommendations, thanks.)
posted by joshrholloway to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of Kershaw / Ken Onion knives. I think the "Chive" is under $50 and fits your requirements. It also has several big brothers if you want something larger.

It's technically not a spring knife — it uses a 'torsion bar,' allegedly — to release it you press a stud-like protrusion on the back side with your finger to start the opening motion, and once you get it going it pops the rest of the way. Supposedly it's legal in every state. I've seen them sold at Wal-Mart, at least in ME, CT, MD, and VA.

The Kershaw "Needs Work" is also pretty nice, and is assisted-opening. It's almost as fast as the Chive, although not quite since it's a lot larger, and larger = more mass to move.

Boker makes a nice series of knives called the "Top Lock" or "Speed Lock" … here in the States they are just lockbacks with a funny mechanism, in Europe they are spring-openers. If you can get one of them that's actually spring-driven, and it's not illegal in your state, they are quite nice. However I think they qualify as switchblades in many places. (They actually open on pressing the release, they are not really 'assists.')

But the next best thing is defintiely the Kershaws, IMO.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:22 PM on November 9, 2008

I have a Kershaw "ken onion" spring-assisted knife that has been quite satisfactory. (That link is just to the first google result for "kershaw ken onion"; there are thousands of websites to compare prices and selection; I think this gives you all the spring-assisted knives Kershaw makes on the factory website.)

I'm not sure exactly which model I have, but I bought it at Walmart a couple of years ago and definitely didn't pay more than $50, so it should meet your price limits. It keeps an edge satisfactorily, and didn't cost so much that I worry about losing it or giving it tough use. There's a pocket clip on it, to keep it hooked on the edge of your pocket, too. The one I have has a black plastic handle with rough bumps, so it doesn't slide around if your hand is covered in fish slime and scales.

(Also, that ebay knife sure looks like a switchblade to me -- it is hard to see in the video, but it looks like the blade flips out by pressing a button which gets you into ambiguous legal territory in a lot of places. The Kershaw knife I have has a spring assist, which means that you start the blade opening with your thumb, and then the spring takes over and swings the blade all the way open. Very different process, and very different legal issues in most places.

But more than legalisms, it's a question of function and style -- are you wanting a working knife, or something that looks like it would be carried by a fellow on his way to a rumble? If what you are looking for is a switchblade-in-all-but-name, ignore my suggestion and buy that ebay knife; if you are looking for a clearly legal workhorse of a knife, buy something like the Kershaw.)
posted by Forktine at 7:23 PM on November 9, 2008

Here (from the site Kadin linked) is the one I have ($2 over your price limit), with a video showing how it works. A couple of years of use later, mine still snaps open almost as crisply as the one in the video.
posted by Forktine at 7:28 PM on November 9, 2008

You might want to keep an eye on Steepandcheap.com as they frequently have CRKT and Sog knives, some assisted, for sale--SAC posts one (usually camping/outdoor) item for sale at a time for about 60% off, and leaves it up until it sells out. It's sort of like a Woot-off, but all the time. Warning: addictive.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:30 PM on November 9, 2008

While not specifically spring assisted, my preference for an easy opening basic knife is the Carson M16Z. It is opened with the stud thing that sticks out the back of the knife. While it has an MSRP of $59, it is readily available for under $40. This is what I carry on a daily basis to compliment my Juice Xe6.
posted by fief at 11:13 PM on November 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

This isn't exactly legal advice: That eBay knife may not be a switchblade, but if push comes to shove, you'll be explaining that to a judge. No police officer is going to believe it.
posted by bricoleur at 4:17 AM on November 10, 2008

I love my Ken Onion knife.
posted by dmd at 4:19 AM on November 10, 2008

I'm a bit of a knife nerd, so allow me to rant. There are two (three, if you're feeling generous) common, commercial knife companies that can. do. no. wrong. The two are Spyderco and Kershaw, both innovators and with high quality construction, fit'n'finish, materials, and customer service. The third, iffy one is Benchmade, because they tend to be jaggasses. Unfortunately, Spyderco chose to stay out of the assisted-opening game.

If you buy a Kershaw spring-assisted knife, I can almost guarantee that you'll be happy with it. I personally have a Needs Work (which, amusingly enough, needs work on the edge, but that's because I've had it for a year or so) and a couple Leek variants. I would suggest taking a look at New Graham Knives (newgraham.com) not because I have any affiliation with them, but because they're good folks, and are pretty much the NewEgg of knives (impressively wide selection, and always competitive on price if not the absolute cheapest.)

Yeahhhhh... this is my first post to mefi, and it's on knives, go figure.
posted by Lucky Bob at 4:45 AM on November 10, 2008

NewGraham are good folks. Josh, you could just ask them for a suggestion.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:55 AM on November 10, 2008

One more vote for the Ken Onion Chive, it's a great little blade. Got mine at a GI Joes.
posted by bizwank at 11:17 AM on November 10, 2008

Another recommendation for Kershaw. After a couple years' use my Baby Boa recently stopped opening, and they sent a replacement within a few days, no questions asked, no receipt required (it was a gift).
posted by zoinks at 11:25 AM on November 10, 2008

Thanks for your recommendations, everyone. I looked at the Chive and one of the larger Kershaw knives, but I ultimately went for the Buck Rush because I liked its design better and it has a safety switch, which I like. I decided to avoid that eBay knife and similar ones due to their cheapo-looking nature. I will probably pick up a Chive sometime in the near future to have a smaller knife for situations where it's more appropriate.

Thanks again!
posted by joshrholloway at 12:05 PM on November 12, 2008

Just as a FYI or for the future reference of anyone reading the thread, on the subject of safeties... the Kershaw / Ken Onion "Chive" has a safety that prevents accidental opening, the "Needs Work" doesn't.

(However the Needs Work requires a lot more force to actuate; the Chive can and will pop open if you have it in your pocket with your keys and are rummaging around without the safety on. I've never felt that was a risk with the bigger Needs Work.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:51 PM on November 16, 2008

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