When I was a kid, switchblades were considered the equivalent of submachine guns – they were a thing of a bygone era, just not for people who wouldn't normally find themselves wielding a weapon on a daily basis…or hanging out in sock hops or speakeasies. However, as I got older – and became more familiar with all kinds of knives and weapons – the idea of an automatic knife started to make a lot of sense. When it became available to review the Kershaw Launch 1 automatic knife, I quickly volunteered (in fact, I just finished reviewing the Kershaw Link 1776). I was ready and my old prejudices were all but eradicated.
While the quick vertical thrust of the switchblade still strikes me as a fairly violent weapon, the automatic side slash makes a lot of sense. After all, one is already used to surgery assisted by technology such as SpeedSafe, and automatic surgery is just another step forward. Bring on the automatic knives – let's see if they're as cool as I hope they are!
understand the rules
Before going too far, it's best to point out that not everyone can legally carry an automatic knife (although morally and constitutionally I think they can). Pursuant to Title 15 of the United States Code, Sect. 1241, federal law defines a switchblade as "1) by hand pressing a button or other device on the handle, or any knife that has a blade that opens automatically; (2) by the action of inertia, gravity, or both."
So the definition of a switchblade knife now also applies to automatic side openers – obviously, anyway. If you have a concealed carry permit, you may have more "rights" in carrying automatic knives. Before you grab one of these, try to understand the laws in your own state and local jurisdiction — some of the penalties are so severe that it's not worth the risk.
Features and Uses of the Kershaw Launch 1 Knife
The Kershaw Launch 1 knife has a beautiful black anodized aluminum handle and a powder coated CPM154 stainless steel blade. This steel is harder, more corrosion resistant, and has better edge retention than 440C. The blade is sharp from the factory, even after a lot of cutting, chipping and (my favorite) cardboard slicing with it – the edge stays true much longer than I've experienced with softer steels .
Back to the design, the Kershaw Launch 1 knife is my favorite of the three Kershaw Launch models. The Launch 2 is almost bland—the streamlined handle just seems to continue the arc of the blade. There is absolutely no kick on the handle, the anodized aluminum is very plain with only one center milled out for design and grip.
The Launch 3 is pretty much the same, but with a simpler handle (although it has a slight recoil) and a bit of bounce on the rear of the blade. Some may like the simple look of these knives, but I prefer the more traditional, curvaceous look of the Launch 1. I might have wished for some trim on the back of the black anodized handle, but given the design, I can certainly understand its lack – the final look is very refined and undisturbed by false edges.
Kershaw Launch Series Knives
- Kershaw Launch 1 (CPM154 BlackWash steel, anodized aluminum handle) — $149.99
- Launch 2 (CPM154 stonewashed steel; anodized aluminum handle) — $139.99
- Kershaw Launch 3 (CPM154 Black Oxide Coated Steel, Anodized Aluminum Handle) – $159.99
Opening the Kershaw Launch 1 for the first time is an adventure – especially if you're not used to automatic knives. Basically, you have to hold on, or the knife will most likely fly out of your hand. That's not a negative — you want a nice, sturdy automatic knife, and the Kershaw Lunch 1 has you covered.
There's also very little danger of accidentally deploying the knife (that is, you're less likely to have it open in your pocket). Although it snaps out, the button activator is recessed to the level of the handle – making it nearly impossible to accidentally press. I admit, the first time I carried an automatic knife, it was a problem, but eventually, you realize that you're just as likely to have a secondary knife open in your pocket as an automatic knife. This knife does feel safe.
Speaking of feel, the smooth black anodized aluminum handle initially made me think I wouldn't like the grip this file folder gave me, but the spine of the handle has five oval dimples that make it a little "sticky" in your palm "feel. Finger grooves at the top of the handle also help provide more stability and control when you're using this automatic knife. Another convenience—which is becoming the de facto standard—is a reversible left/right belt clip that can be easily swapped with an Allen key.
The clip is medium wide and short, but the knife ends in a triangular shape and sticks out about an inch when carried. One surprise: When you switch to left carry, your index finger , not your thumb, activates the knife. I find this very natural – surprisingly – so this knife is perfect for left or right hand use.
The Kershaw Launch 1 is an American made knife produced at Kershaw's factory in Tualatin, Oregon. I love that I carry an American made knife and the quality of workmanship leads me to believe it will be a utility tool that will last me a long time. If you have a concealed carry permit but you've never carried an automatic knife, you really should buy and dispose of the knife at your local dealer. You might want to add this to your collection (yes, I tend to have a knife and gun "collection" and change my knives based on what I wear and where I go).
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