15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

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15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)


This best-of list isn’t your typical top ten. It lists fifteen OTF knives that are the best in their respective categories. I’ll cover more than just our choice for the Best EDC OTF and Best Tactical OTF. Have you ever wondered what the Best OTF for Fidgeting is? Or the Best Weird OTF? What about an OTF hidden gem?

In addition to stating why each knife was chosen, they will be rated on a scale from 1-10 on the six points below.

  • Blade Steel: The quality of the blade steel.
  • Ergonomics: How comfortable the knife is to hold and use.
  • Fit & Finish: The quality of the build and the parts.
  • Operation: How practical, comfortable, and easy it is to open and close the knife.
  • Lockup: How tight the blade lockup is when the knife is open.
  • Affordability: How accessible the item’s price is.

The higher the rating, the better! Each knife will be given a total score to help you compare these models.

Without further ado, in no particular order, the 15 best OTF knives by category:

1: Best OTF for EDC: Guardian Tactical RECON-035Score: 48/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 9 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 8Operation: 9 Lockup: 8 Affordability: 4

The RECON-035 was the first knife to feature Guardian Tactical’s patented ultra-smooth slide mechanism. The mechanism consists of a thumb-friendly steel slide that moves up and down a polished steel plate on ceramic bearings. The result? The smoothest and most comfortable thumb slide operation on the market. Couple that with the 035’s fantastic blade-to-handle ratio, edge geometry, and premium American craftsmanship, and you have the perfect OTF for EDC. It’s user-friendly, the ideal medium size, and has reliable, satisfying action.

2: Most Accessible OTF: Kershaw LivewireScore: 48/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 9 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 7 Operation: 10 Lockup: 7 Affordability: 5

The Livewire, designed by Matt Diskin, is a hot pick for both longtime knife users and those new to OTF automatics. Not only is it extremely accessible, boasting a mechanism that anyone can comfortably use, but it comes with premium materials and premium craftsmanship at a very reasonable price! It makes a unique statement with its styling and angled pocket clip but doesn’t do so at the expense of user comfort. Kershaw’s USA team has been positively electric lately, and the Livewire is taking things to the next level.

3: Best Selling OTF: Microtech UltratechScore: 47/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 10 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 8 Operation: 7 Lockup: 9 Affordability: 3

The Ultratech is an OTF so iconic you could call it the OTF. Microtech has a reputation for excellence and constant improvement. Since the Ultratech’s release in 1999, it has undergone iterative upgrades, turning it into the precise, reliable cutting tool it is today. It’s great for EDC and tactical situations, with Microtech’s signature X-Button ensuring your thumb always gets enough purchase when deploying and retracting the blade. The Ultratech’s premium quality and unparalleled fit and finish are two of the many reasons it’s the best-selling OTF knife ever. Pick from a vast array of colors and blade shapes to get the Ultratech configuration that’s perfect for you.

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4: Best Tactical OTF: Benchmade InfidelScore: 42/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 9 Blade Steel: 6 Ergonomics: 9 Operation: 7 Lockup: 9 Affordability: 2

The Benchmade 3300 Infidel is a Bill McHenry design-the guy who designed the AXIS Lock with Jason Williams. The knife has reliable double-action, a grippy thumb slide, and solid lockup. Its double-edge blade is perfect for self-defense and can be perfectly controlled with its anodized aluminum handle. A pocket clip keeps the knife securely by your side until it’s time to deploy. The Benchmade reputation is one of enduring American quality and lifelong satisfaction, and the Infidel lives up to it completely.

5: Best Budget OTF: AKC F-16Score: 42/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 6 Blade Steel: 5 Ergonomics: 7 Operation: 8 Lockup: 7 Affordability: 9

The F-16 by AKC is a Taiwanese double-action OTF knife that brings a load of value to your EDC lineup. It boasts the unique design feature of having the thumb slide double as the Italian stiletto-style guard. If you want some awesome OTF action in your life and aren’t worried about getting the best of the best, look no further.

6: Best Premium OTF: Hawk Knife Designs Deadlock (Model C)Score 51/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 10 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 10 Operation: 10 Lockup: 10 Affordability: 1

The Deadlock, engineered by father and son duo Grant and Gavin Hawk, is a double-action OTF automatic knife with no blade play. That’s right: the blade doesn’t move at all when it’s deployed. Aside from that, it has an ergonomic handle, superb action, and a unique hinged pocket clip. If you need the best of the best and price isn’t an issue, this is the OTF for you—if you can get your hands on one.

7: Best Mini OTF: Microtech UTX-70Score: 46/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 10 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 7 Operation: 7 Lockup: 9 Affordability:3

Why is this the Best Mini OTF knife? Because it’s literally a scaled-down version of the best-selling OTF of all time-it’s a mini Ultratech! The UTX-70 gets its name for being 70% the size of the Ultratech. The two knives are congruent, apart from the lanyard hole that appears on the pocket clip of the Ultratech. It’s a super fun, cute, even novel knife, but it’s built like a tank and features all the positive traits of Microtech’s other OTF automatic knives. Without a doubt, it’s the best choice if you want a premium, fun-sized OTF knife.

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8: Best Large OTF: Guardian Tactical RECON-040/Heretic Cleric II/Microtech Combat Troodon

It’s a three-way tie for the Best Large OTF knife: The Guardian Tactical RECON-040 is the biggest and most user-friendly, featuring Guardian Tactical’s patented thumb slide system; the Heretic Cleric II is the best long OTF, featuring a slender profile and a blade stretching over four inches long; and the Microtech Combat Troodon is the OG big-boy OTF. All three are excellent options. Pick the one that suits your style. Are you looking for big and accessible? The 040 is for you. Want something agile and sleek? Try the Cleric. Want all-around beefiness and unparalleled quality? Go with the Combat Troodon.

9: Best Single-Action OTF: Para-XScore 46/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 10 Blade Steel: 8 Ergonomics: 9 Operation: 6 Lockup: 10 Affordability: 3

The Para-X was the knife that got Paragon off its feet before the introduction of the Warlock gravity knife. Paragon recently took its knives to the next level with help from Hypercut Manufacturing, and the newest version of the Para-X is hands down a masterpiece. The action is smooth and powerful, the button is responsive, and the blade locks firmly in place when deployed, ready to meet your cutting needs. Single-action OTFs are a dying breed, mostly due to requiring two hands to close, but the para-X proves they are still desirable today!

10: Best Gravity OTF: EXO-MScore: 48/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 10 Blade Steel: 9 Ergonomics: 8 Operation: 9 Lockup: 8 Affordability:4

The Reate EXO-M is a more EDC-friendly version of the fan-favorite EXO gravity knife, featuring a pocket clip, a safety lock to prevent the blade from opening or closing unintentionally, and a slightly shorter overall length. The EXO-M is a joy to use: Sliding its blade in and out with nothing but gravity is addictive!

11: Best Spring Assisted OTF: Smith & Wesson OTFScore: 39/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 7 Blade Steel: 4 Ergonomics: 5 Operation: 4 Lockup: 9 Affordability:10

Spring-assisted OTF knives were created as a workaround for the Federal Switchblade Act. Initially, this made them more widely legal. A nudge on the blade via a switch pushing the blade passed a detent so the spring can carry it the rest of the way open. A big perk of Smith & Wesson’s assisted OTFs is that they’re affordable and come with much of the fun you want when buying an OTF. Closing the knife gets a little complex, but its satisfying blade deployment easily offsets that.

12: Best Manual OTF: Boker Plus SlikeScore 39/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 7 Blade Steel: 6 Ergonomics: 5 Operation: 6 Lockup: 6 Affordability:9

The Boker Slike is an extremely lightweight manual OTF knife. It has a button lock that can secure the blade while it’s all the way out or just halfway out, making it a fantastic utility cutter. It has a tough D2 steel blade, a secure pocket clip, and a wicked-sharp double-edge blade. The Slike is perfect for those wanting a low-profile utility knife with some gangster flare.

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13: Best OTF for Fidgeting: GTX-025Score: 49/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 9 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 7 Operation: 10 Lockup: 8 Affordability: 5

When I first got my hands on one of these, I knew I was holding something special. The Guardian Tactical GTX-025 has that same buttery action that the RECON-035 and the RECON-040 have, but it’s on a much smaller knife that uses a lighter spring. The result is fidget heaven. It’s hard to stop flicking the blade in and out once you start. And the best part is, it’s not just a fun OTF; it’s a premium one that will hold up for years and cut like a chainsaw. If I had to pick one knife on this list that I recommend the most, without a doubt, it would be this little guy.

14: Best Weird OTF: Heretic ROCScore: 45/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 10 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 8 Operation: 6 Lockup: 9 Affordability: 2

Looking for a non-standard or “weird” OTF knife? Check out the Heretic Knives ROC: it’s curved! The karambit-style blade shoots in and out of the curved handle with snappy automatic action. It seems like it should be impossible, but it works like a charm! If you want a real conversation starter that doubles as a serious cutter, the Heretic ROC is here for you.

15: Best Underrated OTF: Hogue CounterstrikeScore 49/60

15 Best OTF Knives (By Category)

Fit & Finish: 8 Blade Steel: 10 Ergonomics: 10 Operation: 8 Lockup: 9 Affordability: 4

Last but not least is the Hogue Counterstrike. This hidden gem is the perfect size for EDC, has a textured handle that’s very tactilely pleasing, boasts a removable glass breaker, has a discrete pocket clip, and has fantastic lockup. It disappears into your pocket when it’s not in use but comes out with a bang when it’s time to work. When I first handled this knife, I was instantly impressed. Well done, Hogue!


So, you ask, is there really one overall best OTF? Maybe there is (looking at you, Ultratech), but I think the answer is more complicated than that. Different types of OTFs fill different roles. I hope that by perusing this list of the best OTF knives by category, you better understand the sort of knife that will meet your needs and scratch that OTF itch.

You may not agree with our list, but now you know the types of OTF knives out there and the features you might be looking for in your next (or first) OTF knife buy.

So…which one will it be?

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>