If you use a pocket knife as part of your every day carry kit, you want one that’s quick and easy to deploy. The spring-assisted selections below are the best on the market.
Before you shop for an assisted-open knife, it’s important to know if they’re legal to carry in your country, state, or municipality. Some places consider them close to switchblades. There’s a big difference: a switchblade uses a compressed spring with a one-button activation that requires no extra applied force to deploy, and makes it very dangerous (even to the user!).
An assisted-open knife uses a spring to help the blade fold out from the side in standard pocket knife fashion, the point being that it’s easy to use with just one hand. It’s a fine distinction, but an important one… and one you don’t want to try to make to a cop as you’re being arrested for carrying an illegal knife. If spring-assisted knives of any kind are banned where you live (or where you’re travelling), stick to a conventional pocket folder.
Checked your local ordinances? Good. Then check out our picks for standard, upgraded, budget, and small-sized knives below.
The Best Overall Assisted-Open Knife: SOG Twitch II ($45-60)
The Twitch II is a solid, reliable knife with all of the standard features of the every day carry regular. Its standard drop-point tip is accentuated with a spring mechanism that locks in place like a standard folder, with the release button and a manual blade lock integrated into the back. With a blade just over two and a half inches long it’s an ideal size for most basic tasks, but the model comes in bigger and smaller versions if you need something more particular, with partially serrated blades available for quickly getting through rope and other tough materials.
The heavy-duty, reversible pocket clip is particularly handy for pocket carry, and the handle is available in a variety of aluminum finishes and colors, with a rosewood upgrade option if you prefer something that looks a little more old-fashioned. The blade can be deployed with either a standard thumb stud or a finger “kick” protrusion on the back, dealer’s choice.
The Best Premium Assisted-Open Knife: Benchmade Mini Barrage 585-2 ($148 and up)
For those who use their knives harder and more often, Benchmade is an easy brand to recommend, thanks to their unbeatable lifetime warranty with free sharpening, maintenance, and repair. The Barrage model line offers a standard drop point blade style with the company’s Axis Assist spring mechanism, allowing for quick, loose blade deployment with a signature thumb lock release.
The Mini Barrage 585-2 combines an ideal size with a blade just under three inches and an upgraded steel for an extreme amount of edge retention, corrosion resistance, and strength. The 585-2 is available in standard and partially serrated edges with a variety of grip styles and colors, but for a more customized experience, you can check out Benchmade’s configuration tool, which lets you select every component and color available all at once. My favorite is the deep cover pocket clip upgrade, which can be applied to either side for righties and lefties. Be prepared to pay a premium (on top of an already-expensive knife) for some of the handle and finish options.
The Best Budget Assisted-Open Knife: Kershaw Filter ($19)
Among users who need good blades with quick access without breaking the bank, Kershaw is probably the most common recommendation. This basic Filter model includes the company’s much-loved SpeedSafe spring mechanism with a finger kick and a snappy-looking stonewash finish for the steel blade and aluminum handle.
With a price under twenty bucks you miss out on some handy features, like options for a partially serrated blade or a reversible pocket clip, but overall the design is more than adequate for anyone who needs a tool on the cheap. This is a larger, longer model with a 3.2-inch blade, so those with small pockets might find it a bit on the snug side.
Kershaw Filter (1306BW) Folding Pocket Knife with 3.2-Inch BlackWashed High-Performance Steel Blade, Stainless Steel Handle, Deep-Carry Pocketclip, Frame Lock and SpeedSafe Assisted Opening; 5 OZ.
The Best Small Assisted-Open Knife: Kershaw Chive ($30-60)
If you prefer a smaller blade for easier carry or you need to get it under length restrictions in your workplace or locale, the Chive model is perfect. It’s essentially a shrunken-down version of Kershaw’s super-popular Leek, with a blade of only 1.9 inches and an overall length of less than three, but otherwise keeping almost all of that design’s features.The aluminum handle with its integrated tip lock keeps this thing extremely thin, even while including a manual blade lock and spring adjustment.
Kershaw did have to restrict the pocket clip to a single position, but the knife is available in a variety of colors and finishes, with some of the more exotic options (like the rainbow or “Damascus” blades) costing quite a bit more. Whichever one you choose, the Chive is about as small as a pocket knife with an integrated assisted open function can get.