Switch Blades Knives VS Spring Assist Knives

The switchblade (aka automatic, spring loaded) knife has been around since the mid 18th century.  By 1890 because of new mass production techniques switchblades became readily available at lower costs. After WWII American soldiers returning home from Europe brought home  switchblades that would become known as the Italian stiletto switchblade. These Italian stilettos used a new style blade, a slender bayonet blade with a single ground dagger edge that had an opposing false edge, designed primarily as an offensive weapon which was optimized for thrusting rather than cutting. Many of these blades had no cutting edge, made only for fighting. Switchblades became very popular.


In the early 1950's switchblades became associated with gangs and violence. Jack Pollack wrote a newspaper article calling switchblades a menace with deadly consequences. He wrote the switchblade was Designed for violence, deadly as a revolver - that’s the switchblade, the toy youngsters all over the country are taking up as a fad.  He urged for new laws that would address these Italian Styled knives.  It became a popular belief that carrying a switchblade and gang warfare were one and the same.

It’s only a short step from carrying a switchblade to gang warfare. By 1954,New York passed the first law banning the sale and distribution of switchblade knives. New York hoped this law would reduce gang violence.

Then came the movies.  Hollywood became fixated with  switchblades. Movies like Rebel Without a CauseWest Side Story and High school delinquents lead to the public becoming aware of switchblades. The common belief that switchblades caused gang violence began to sweep the nation. In 1958 Congress passed the Switchblade Knife Act.

There were two problems with this act. The first problem was that the act did not distinguish between different types of switchblades.  There were many switchblades that were designed for utility use and general purpose use.  Ask any electrician or plumber how handy a switchblade can be when one hand is busy. But the new law banned all switchblades even those not used by criminals.  Stilettos without a spring were legal. Nothing stopped the gangs from carrying legal stilettos. With the flick of the wrist the blade of a legal stiletto snaps out as fast as any spring loaded knife and was legal.  The second issue was that gang members had no problems turning to baseball bats and guns to settle their issues over territory. The switchblade knife act failed. The law was ineffective but the public was able to take a small sigh of relief.

There are a few loopholes to the law.  If you are a civil employee, in the military, a police officer, or a fire fighter you can legally own a switchblade. If you are missing an arm, like myself, you can legally own a switchblade.   As with so many laws the loopholes make no sense. There are recent studies that have been unable to make any connections between crime and automatic knives. We can by Guns but not spring loaded knives.The second amendment does not mention knives. Laws are not always logical, but they are still laws.

However there is good news. While switchblades remain illegal in the U.S., in 2009 the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill focused on spring assisted knives and decided that the 1958 act did not apply to spring-assist, assisted-opening knives,  or knives with springs that require physical force applied to the blade that assist in opening the knife.  Spring assist knives are legal in all 50 states.

Spring Assist Knives

Types of Spring Assist Knives 

What is the difference between a switchblade and a spring assist knife? They have a similar function but their slight differences are important. A switchblade, opens its blade from the handle automatically with the press of a button, a lever, or a switch that is mounted in the knife handle. A spring-assist blade uses a lever or switch that is mounted on the blade or connected to the blade with a direct mechanical linkage. Manual pressure has to be put on this lever.  The pressure overcomes spring pressure designed to keep the blade closed, which in turn causes the blade to partially emerge from the handle. Just Push the blade out around 10% and the spring takes over, rapidly forcing the blade into an open and locked position. When observing both a switch blade and a spring assist knife I defy you to be able to tell which one is faster.

When thinking about purchasing a switchblade you may want to consider purchasing a spring assist knife.  They look and feel just like a switchblade, they function as well as a switchblade and there no legal hassles owning a spring assist knife.

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Posted by ES Team on 19 October, 2014 history, knife reviews, movies | 0 comments
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