When out hunting, foraging, or camping in the great outdoors, there are items you cannot be without.
You need something to keep you warm, so flints, lighters, and anything else that can help you start a fire are good to have on hand. Articles of clothing such as jackets and beanies will also keep you protected from the chilly air, while the tent will provide you with some shelter.
Of course, if you really plan on roughing it and want to rely on nature to provide you with the supplies needed to get through the day, then a knife is also something you will need.
Among the many variants of knives that you can take with you is the one known as the OTF knife.
How to Choose Your Best OTF Knife?
For those who may be unaware, the OTF knife got its name from the way it opens up. “OTF” is shorthand for “out the front” and that is a reference to the way the blade of the knife slides out of the front opening after emerging from the handle.
The OTF knife is also sometimes referred to as a sliding knife or a telescoping knife. It’s that opening mechanism that differentiates this knife from other bladed tools.
Before you decide to get an best OTF knife, there are numerous factors you have to consider and we will get into all of them over the course of this article.
For now, let’s turn our attention to some of the top OTF knives that are currently available.
1. Schrade Viper 3 OTF Blade
When looking at which OTF knives to get, you should place a ton of importance on how safe they are and how easy they are to use. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the Viper 3 OTF Blade from Schrade fares in both areas.
In terms of safety, I like the way this OTF knife is designed. A safety mechanism has been added to keep the blade in place even when you accidentally hit the opening switch and it also does well to keep the blade where it should be even when you inadvertently drop this knife.
Ease of use is a bit of a different matter when it comes to this OTF knife as the opening switch has been placed in an unusual spot. That design choice makes comfortably using this OTF knife harder to do because your hand has to be in an awkward position.
Aside from the questionable placement of the switch though, there are no other glaring flaws with this item. The edge of the knife itself is very sharp and there’s very little blade play to worry about.
This is a great knife to use outdoors if you’re going foraging or hunting.
2. Schrade SCHOTF3B 3rd Generation Viper OTF Assisted Blade
I was able to quickly notice more than a few similarities between this OTF knife and the other Schrade product reviewed above. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing will obviously depend on how you feel about the other Schrade offering.
Once again, the switch for opening this knife has been installed at the bottom of the blade and that does make it a bit more difficult to grip this item comfortably in the conventional manner. If you want to be as comfortable as you can possibly be while using this OTF knife, you need to hold it upside down with the blade pointing to the ground. For that reason, it’s a good choice to use for carving up game.
The safety features are stellar again and you don’t have to worry about this knife catching one of your fingers in an accidental opening.
The blade used inside this OTF knife is suitably sharp, although it does seem to be a little less durable than the one featured in the item above.
Overall, this Schrade creation is another high quality knife especially considering its affordable price. There are some superior options available, but you’ll be fine with settling for this OTF knife.
3. Schrade Viper 3 OTF Bead Blast Plain Blade
We’re continuing with Schrade knives by taking a closer look at the Viper 3 Bead Blast Plain Blade. So, does this OTF knife compare favorably to the other Schrade creations reviewed above?
As you might have already guessed, this item is also quite similar to the ones we have talked about already. That also means that the deploying switch is located near the bottom of the handle in a tough to reach spot.
You can eventually get used to holding this knife in that manner, but that will probably take a bit of time.
One thing that I was slightly disappointed by while using this OTF knife is the way the blade is installed. Blade play is more noticeable with this OTF knife and it’s kind of unnerving to watch that edge move around. You’re still in no danger of cutting yourself, but you won’t be able to stop yourself from being a bit more wary of accidents.
The design of this OTF knife’s blade is something I truly adore. It’s nice and clean and quite useful for making precision cuts. It almost seems better suited to be used inside your because of that quality, but rest assured, this OTF knife can still be a helpful companion outdoors.
4. Schrade Viper 3 OTF Bead Blast Serrated Blade
This is the last Schrade knife we’ll be discussing in this article and yet again, it’s a quality offering.
You should be aware of the issues this item possesses already thanks to the way that the folks at Schrade design their OTF knives. That switch is still tough to reach, but over time, you will get used to it. Alternatively, you can just hold the knife with the tip pointing down if you so desire.
This item is remarkably similar to the other Viper 3 OTF Bead Blast item and that holds true even when we’re looking at blade play. After getting the chance to use this knife for a while, I feel as though the blade play is more pronounced here, though that may just be a byproduct of the design of the blade itself.
The serrated blade featured in this item is pretty cool. It’s also great for shredding. If you need to get rid of some grass in your way, pull out this knife and use it to clear a path for yourself in a hurry.
It’s on par with all the other Schrade OTF knives we’ve already talked about and it would be a fine addition to any collection.
5. OTF Double Action Safety Knife
The last item we’ll be reviewing in this article is the OTF Double Action Safety Knife – an unbranded item aiming to serve as a suitable acquisition for lovers of the great outdoors.
Now, you may be thinking that getting an unbranded OTF knife is a risky proposition. With no company name attached to it, what can you expect from it in terms of durability, safety, and overall quality? That’s what I’m here for and I’m here to tell you that this is a solid, well-rounded OTF knife.
If you’re not a fan of the folks at Schrade continually placing the deploying switch at the bottoms of their knives, then you’ll like the way this item has been designed. This time around, the deploying mechanism is located at the side of the knife handle. All you need to do is to slide the switch up if you want to use the knife and then pull it down if you’re done.
Unfortunately, there is no safety lock installed on this OTF knife, so always remember to keep your hand away from the opening whenever you’re holding it.
As long as you remember that important tip, you should be able to get good mileage out of this OTF knife.
The Evolution of the OTF Knife
You can trace the lineage of the OTF knife quite a ways back into the past.
To be more specific, the ancestor of the OTF knife we know today emerged way back in 1860, according to Knife Planet. That was the year which featured the first patent being filed for a gravity knife.
A year after that patent was filed, the spring-powered OTF knife became a thing.
Over the years, other designers would continue to make improvements upon the OTF knife.
Due in part to them being seen as weapons favored by gang members, OTF knives have struggled to win over many fans. That is despite the fact that these knives are primarily designed to be versatile tools that can be used outdoors.
Understanding the OTF Knife
Due in part to their bad reputation, OTF knives are often deemed dangerous by those who have never held one.
Here’s the thing: All knives can cause injury if you don’t handle them carefully. What’s important to note about the OTF knife is that it is no safer or more dangerous than many of the other knives that are made readily available to people.
There are even certain situations wherein an OTF knife can be very helpful. In cramped spaces where you don’t have a lot of horizontal room to move around in, many mechanical knives may prove useless, but that is not the case with the OTF knife.
The Different Types of OTF Knives
The Manual OTF Knife
The name already gives it away. Manual OTF knives are those that you have to open and close using a switch on the side.
In the case of manual OTF knives, you can operate the switches by sliding your finger along them in different directions.
Typically, you open up a manual OTF knife by sliding the switch up and you close it by pulling the switch down.
The Automatic OTF Knife
Automatic OTF knives are designed pretty similarly to their manual counterparts, save for the fact that you open them up by pressing a button instead of using a sliding switch. A spring installed in the OTF knife is what helps it open up.
There are two types of automatic OTF knives.
The single-action OTF knives can be opened by pressing a button, but they have to be closed manually. Double-action OTF knives can be opened and closed with a press of a button.
8 Blade Types for OTF Knives
1. By Edge: The Straight Blade
Straight-edge OTF knives are great for executing clean and precise cuts. If you’re a hunter who wants to cook up a quick meal, this is the type of knife you want to have on hand to prepare the meat.
2. By Edge: The Fully Serrated Blade
Knives with serrated blades are typically used for cutting bread in the kitchen because they tear through the loaf easily. With that in mind, an OTF knife with a fully serrated blade should also be used if you need cut through something tough but have no need to be super precise while doing so.
3. By Edge: The Partially Serrated Blade
It’s essentially a hybrid of the first two types of knives and because of that, it is also useful in a wider array of applications.
4. By Shape: Tanto Knives
Tanto OTF knives are beloved by hunters because they are remarkably sturdy. Their sturdiness comes from the way they are designed. The many angles integrated into its construction are responsible for that strong frame.
The spine of this type of knife is also reinforced to make it even stronger.
Tanto knives combine two straight edges. They are also incredibly sharp and great for a wide variety of uses.
5. By Shape: Drop Point Knives
You can tell if you’re holding a drop point knife by taking a close look at the tip of the blade. In drop point knives, you will see the blade gradually become narrower and narrower as the tip of the blade emerges.
6. By Shape: Spear Point Knives
Spear point knives are also known as double-edged knives. The two edges of these knives can be used for the purposes of cutting. Different types of edges may even be used in the construction of a single spear point knife.
7. By Shape: Clip Point Knives
You will be able to tell right away if the OTF knife in your possession is a clip point knife if there is an unsharpened edge that runs through the center of it.
8. By Shaper: Dagger Point Knives
Dagger point knives are quite similar to spear point knives because they are both double-edged items. The biggest difference between them is that dagger point knives usually have sharper tips.
The Size of the Blade
In most cases, you don’t need the blade of your OTF knife to be especially long. However, if you’re planning to be outdoors for a while, you might as well get a longer and more versatile OTF knife.
The Handle of the Knife
Try to look for OTF knives that come with rubberized handles. Those handles are far safer to work with because it’s easier to get a good grip on the rubber. If knives with rubberized handles are unavailable, the ones with aluminum handles also work just fine.
Will I Find OTF Knives Useful?
To determine if an OTF knife is useful, you will have to compare it with the other types of pocket knives that are on the market.
Upon doing that, you’ll realize that an OTF knife is not really that special in terms of how it functions. It’s not exceptionally good at slicing or incredibly durable. If anything, you can argue that other pocket knives are more dependable because they don’t rely on different mechanisms to work properly.
If you don’t have a pocket knife yet, then yes, the OTF knife will likely prove very helpful to you, but there’s no reason to go out of your way to purchase one unless you’re a collector.
Should I Get a Single-Action or Double-Action Knife?
When trying to decide between getting a single-action or double-action OTF knife, there is one question you should ask yourself.
Specifically, you need to ask yourself if you value convenience over dependability.
If it’s convenience you’re after, the double-action OTF knives will suit you as operating them requires only simple button presses.
If what you’re after is dependability, then go for the single-action OTF knives as they rely less on internal mechanisms to work properly.
Is the OTF Knife Legal to Own in the United States?
As always, answering a question about something being legal or illegal is quite tricky mainly because there are federal and state laws to consider in the United States.
According to Raven Crest Tactical, U.S. federal law notes that people can legally possess OTF knives. However, there are some places that deviate from that.
Parts of the U.S. where owning an OTF knife is considered illegal include Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.
In California, an OTF knife is considered legal if its blade is less than two inches. Illinois requires owners of OTF knives to be over 21 with a valid FOID card, while New York state asks owners to have a valid hunting and fishing license. In West Virginia, you have to be over the age of 18 before you can own an OTF knife.
Learning More about the Types of Steel Used in OTF Knives
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that different kinds of steel are used to make the blades of OTF knives because that’s the case for just about every other type of knife.
When it comes to the OTF knife, the type of steel used often impacts the durability as well as the performance of the blade itself.
1. CPM S30V Blades
While out looking for a new OTF knife, as much as possible, try to find one with a blade made out of CPM S30V steel.
Blades made out of that aforementioned type of steel excel at cutting through a wide variety of materials. What’s even better is that they produce remarkably fine cuts. You should absolutely reach for an OTF knife that uses CPM S30V steel if you need to execute some precise slices.
On top of that, CPM S30V blades are also quite durable. Even after using them regularly over a long period of time, they will remain sharp.
2. AUS-8 Blades
What I find most interesting about AUS-8 OTF knives is that there are different aspects of its durability.
In terms of being sturdy, AUS-8 OTF knives are absolutely worth having with you when you head outdoors. They should also last for a long time in your toolbox or hunting kit because they are very resistant to corrosion.
Unfortunately, AUS-8 blades are not on the same level as the CPM S30V variants when it comes to edge retention. You will need to sharpen OTF knives made out of AUS-8 steel regularly. The good news is that the aforementioned type of steel is actually pretty easy to sharpen.
3. D2 Blades
If there is such a thing as a perfectly serviceable type of steel to use for making the blades of OTF knives, D2 steel is probably the closest thing to it.
The most remarkable feature of this type of steel is just how above average it is in important areas. It is resistant to corrosion and it can hold up pretty well even when used regularly because it is sturdy and possesses the ability to remain sharp for a good amount of time.
It’s not exceptional in any one area, but it is solid across the board.
4. VG10 Blades
Two elements combine to make blades forged from VG10 steel truly stand out.
The first element is vanadium and this is the element that allows VG10 blades to remain incredibly sharp even when they are used regularly.
The other element that helps make VG10 such an exceptional type of steel is chromium. This element is responsible for giving VG10 blades top-notch corrosion resistance.
Those two elements combine to make VG10 knives excellent tools for hunters to have in their kits.
5. 8cR13MoV Blades
Last up are the OTF knives that feature blades made out of 8cR13MoV steel.
8cR13MoV steel also offers ample corrosion resistance. Toughness is where it shines though. You can take a knife made from 8cR13MoV steel anywhere and you can use it to cut a wide variety of objects without having to fear that it will suddenly break.
Edge retention for this type of steel is a different story however. If your OTF knife was forged from 8cR13MoV steel, count on it needing to be sharpened on a regular basis.
As long as you’re up for that type of diligent maintenance, 8cR13MoV blades should suit you well.
Maintaining Your OTF Knives in 5 Steps
Regular maintenance is required to ensure that tools function as intended. That applies to OTF knives as well, which is why you must be aware of how to properly maintain them.
Sharpening the knife is something you should do on a fairly regular basis.
For this article though, we’re focusing more on how to properly clean an OTF knife. Considering that there are blades involved, the cleaning process has to be done carefully to avoid any unnecessary injuries.
Step #1: Properly Discharge the Blade of Your OTF Knife
Before you can make any progress with cleaning the OTF knife, you first have to discharge its blade properly so that you can get into the mechanisms and the interior of the handle itself.
To accomplish this, you will first have to aim the OTF knife at a thick surface capable of absorbing the discharged blade. Once you’ve found a surface suitable for absorbing the blade of the OTF knife, go ahead and trigger it.
With the blade withdrawn, you should now be able to reach deeper into the OTF knife to clean it properly.
Make sure that the blade is properly discharged and will not suddenly retract, or else you might injure yourself.
Step #2: Access the Interior of the OTF Knife
Since we have to get inside the OTF knife to clean it thoroughly, we now have to open it up.
The item you’ll need for opening up the OTF knife is a screwdriver. Look over the outside of the knife first and locate the screws. Unfasten them, but go ahead and leave them in place so as to avoid losing them. These screws are quite small after all.
Lift up the handle of the knife next and then take out the parts inside. Be very careful when you’re trying to remove the blade.
Step #3: Clean Up the Parts of the OTF Knife
The next thing you have to do is to clean the components of the OTF knife itself.
Before you pick up any cleaning cloth, it’s important to remember that the internal components of the OTF knife are quite sensitive. If you leave any clumps of cloth behind inside the OTF knife, there’s a good chance that it simply will not work.
To prevent that kind of problem from popping up, you should use a microfiber cloth to clean the parts of the OTF knife.
Wipe down all the components of the OTF knife thoroughly but not too roughly to avoid injury and to prevent the item itself from malfunctioning.
Since you’re already cleaning the OTF knife, it wouldn’t hurt to also do something extra to make sure that it will function perfectly once you are done. You can do that by spraying some lubricant on the components of your OTF knife.
You don’t have to use any specific brand of lubricant here, but if there is one that you like using, then feel free to spray some of that on the parts of the knife.
Just make sure that the lubricant you’re using is not too thick and also remember to avoid using too much of it so that the knife can continue to work as designed.
Step #5: Reassemble the OTF Knife
Now that you’re done cleaning and lubricating the OTF knife, it’s time to put it back together so you can start using it again.
This is relatively easy to do. Just go through the steps of disassembling the OTF knife, but this time, do them in reverse. If you were able to take the knife apart, you should have little trouble putting it back together.
This is where leaving those screws in will also help you out as you won’t have to look all over the place for them.
If you’re still struggling with the reassembly process, crack open the manual for your OTF knife and look in there for the instructions.
Answering Some Important Queries about OTF Knives
I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that OTF knives could actually hurt people if they were discharged next to the body. Action movies have certainly done a great job of making this tool appear quite dangerous.
Here’s the thing though: That’s all just movie magic. The springs that are responsible for discharging the blades of the OTF knives are not forceful at all. Even if you discharge the blade at close range, it will be hard-pressed to even leave a scratch.
OTF knives can be used as weapons in an emergency, but only if their blades are already drawn.
Will I Run into Issues if I Have My OTF Knife Shipped?
As noted earlier, there are certain legal matters you have to keep in mind if you want to own an OTF knife. On top of that, there are additional things to take note of if you’re thinking of buying one and having it shipped to your home.
Per Raven Crest Tactical, federal law dictates that the sale of OTF knives over state lines is illegal. Federal law also notes that the sale of OTF knives is illegal if they are imported from outside the United States.
It is worth pointing out that laws regarding the sale of OTF knives do vary at the state level though.
Just to be safe, it’s best to check with your state’s laws regarding OTF knives before you make any purchase.
Why Is the Blade of My OTF Knife Not Discharging Properly?
If you ever experience issues that result in the blade of your OTF knife not popping out as expected, there are only a few possible explanations for why that’s happening.
First off, it’s possible that the deploying mechanism is clogged up, which prevents it from working as designed. In that case, grab the lubricant and spray it on the OTF knife to get it working again.
It’s also possible that the blade may not be discharging properly because you didn’t put the OTF knife back together in the right way after cleaning it. In that case, you may have no choice other than to disassemble it again to see what’s wrong inside.
Should I Keep My OTF Knife Open if I’m just Keeping It in Storage?
There are folks who believe that storing the OTF knife with the blade discharged is a must if you want the spring included inside to last for a long time.
The reality though is that keeping the OTF knife’s blade discharged or hidden will have no impact on the effectiveness of the spring.
I would even advocate for keeping your OTF knives closed at all times.
You never know when someone might start digging around your tools and if they are unaware that there’s an open blade inside, they might get injured.
Plus, keeping the OTF knife closed will help the blade stay clean for a longer period of time.
When Should I Sharpen My OTF Knife?
Sharpening the OTF knife is an important part of its maintenance, but exactly when should you break out the sharpening stone?
The tough part is that there is no hard and fast rule for when you should sharpen your OTF knife.
The best thing you can do here is to just let the knife tell you when it needs to be sharpened. Keep a close eye on the quality of cuts it is providing.
If those cuts are starting to look more jagged than usual, then it is time to bust out the sharpening stone.
OTF knives are versatile tools that can come in really handy for anyone who likes to spend time outdoors. It’s never a bad idea to have a knife with you that you can use for processing food, gathering materials, or even just for defending yourself against wild animals or other people who may want to cause trouble.
Even if you aren’t planning to take OTF knives with you when you go outdoors, it’s still worth having one just to add to your collection.
OTF knives look really cool and they can make your collection of knives way more interesting.