Despite the legal controversy surrounding gravity knives, workers and knife enthusiasts still find them alluring. If you’re considering gravity knives but don’t know which one to choose, this guide is for you.
What Exactly Are Gravity Knives?
One main difference between gravity knives and other types of pocket knives, like a switchblade, is on the way the blade is released. Switchblades, for instance, have a spring that helps release the blade by pushing a button. For gravity knives, you use one hand to point the knife towards the ground then flick your wrist or push the button on the handle (no spring assistance) to pop the blade out from the handle.
Since they require only one hand to open or close, gravity knives would come in handy in situations where your other hand is busy. That’s why they’re commonly used by skilled workers (e.g., carpenters, dock workers, and stage crew), campers, and hikers for a variety of tasks.
Although these easy-to-open knives weren’t designed for fighting, people sometimes use them for close combat and criminal activities. Because they can be dangerous if they fall in the wrong hands, lawmakers created laws to criminalize switchblades and gravity knives in the 1950s.
Fortunately, in the United States, laws and regulations against gravity knives are loosening. The New York State removed their ban on gravity knives on May 30, 2019. In California, under the Penal Code Section 17235, folded knives are legal and can be concealed if they’re in a closed position.
Today, only the State of Delaware has an explicit ban on these knives. Although Maryland has a confusing and strange law, which allows people to own a gravity knife but illegal to open carry and conceal carry it.
The Best Gravity Knives
Fallschirmjäger Gravity Knife
Finding an authentic Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Messer gravity knife is difficult. It tends to be rare. But if you’re okay with a reproduction of this World War 2-era general purpose knife with a few improvements, then the Fallschirmjäger Gravity Knife might interest you.
The Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers in English) is a “take-down” knife. Meaning, you can take it apart and put it together.
The handle is made of wood (exact species is unknown) with a walnut finish. The butt end of the handle has a steel hanging loop for attaching a dummy cord. On one side, there’s an awl or spike that you can use for puncturing and untangling knots.
The 4-inch steel blade bears the “RB Nr. 0/0561/0019/” mark, which is believed to be the code for the Weyersberg factory in Solingen, Germany. To open the Fallschirmjäger Gravity Knife, simply hold it downwards then push the lever forward (away from you) to release the blade. You can lock the blade in place by releasing the lever.
AKC (Automatic Knives Creations) is an Italian brand that makes handmade automatic knives using traditional methods. The Gravit-E is their modern take on the World War 2-era drop knife. But instead of a leaver-actuated spring latch, this gravity knife has a lockback (also called a spine lock) to lock the blade into the handle.
The stainless-steel blade is 0.11-inch thick and 3.75-inch long. It has a plain edge and a spear point style, which allows you to make fine cuts and pierce anything with relative ease.
Enclosing the OTF blade is a 0.56-inch thick, black-finished aluminum handle with a wooden inlay on both sides. There’s a stainless-steel pocket clip at the very end of the handle, so you can easily access and carry this gravity knife on a lanyard, on your belt, or inside your pocket.
Paragon Warlock Knife
Paragon Ashville Steel, a company based in North Carolina, is known for manufacturing original and innovative knives using high-grade materials. One of their amazing collector knives is the Warlock, which is a mixture of a switchblade and an assisted-opening knife.
For the blade material, Paragon used either CPM-S30V steel or CPM S35VN steel. These premium-grade materials are great for tasks that require a tough and wear-resistant knife, such as in bushcrafting and hunting. The dagger-point (aka spear-point) blade style helps the Warlock gravity knife excel in slicing and stabbing.
The handle material is aluminum. On the opposite side of the push-button opener, you’ll find a pocket clip for a tip-up carry.
But what’s special about the Paragon Warlock gravity knife is its opening mechanism. Here’s how it works:
- Press the push button on both sides to split open the handle to reveal the blade.
- Flick your wrist to swing out the blade with the help of gravity.
- The blade is locked into place once you release the double push-button opener.
Edge Knife Company Eagle
The Edge Knife Company Eagle is made in Seki, Japan. This knife is hard to come by because it has long been discontinued in the 1980s. However, when a store went out of business, a surplus of this knife that remained unsold recently became available for people to purchase.
The Eagle gravity knife has an all-metal construction with a chrome finish, which gives it an easy-to-clean, sleek appearance. Inside the leaver-actuated, spring-latch-assisted handle is a 3.25-inch, spear-point blade that’s made from corrosion-resistant and wear-resistant 440cc stainless steel.
Because of its blade material, this gravity knife isn’t built to withstand hard usage, such as cutting wood and boning. It’s more suited for lighter tasks, such as fish preparation. Since it doesn’t lose its edge fast, it would make a great EDC (“Every Day Carry”) knife.
John Gray Custom Gravitron
We come to the most expensive gravity knife on this list: the John Gray Custom Gravitron. This limited-edition gravity knife is the creation of John Gray, a Pennsylvania-based knife maker who specializes in crafting practical and unique tactical knives and tools using high-quality materials.
The handle is made from precision-machined tumbled aluminum. On the handle is a button that you need to press to release the 3.625-inch blade that’s made from hard-wearing ELMAX steel (aka “super steel”). This type of steel—plus the Tanto blade style—makes the John Gray Custom Gravitron a crucial tool for a variety of outdoor and survival activities.
Like other gravity knives, the John Gray Custom Gravitron opens and closes with the help of gravity and by pressing a button while pointing it downwards. With the absence of a spring mechanism and other moving parts, it’s highly reliable and easy to maintain.
Reate EXO OTF Knife
The Reate EXO (“Exoskeleton Design”) gravity OTF knife boasts a flawless finish, versatile cutting edge, and unique design. When you press the two-piece titanium handle with textured Micarta inlay, an internal frame drops down (or up) to allow the blade to easily slide in and out with the help of gravity.
The blade is 3.75 inches long and 0.12 inches thick. Just like the John Gray Custom Gravitron gravity knife, it’s made from ELMAX steel that’s valued for its great balance between hardness and toughness. Combined with a drop-point blade design and flat grind, the EXO can fulfill a variety of purposes with efficiency and ease.
Reate gives you two options for the color (gray and green) and blade style for a more customized experience. Plus, they’ll also include a highly durable Kydex sheath and belt attachment with your purchase of this knife, so you don’t hurt yourself when carrying it.
Pabu Knives Gravity Knife
Pabu Knives is a small, family-owned business based in Portland, Oregon. One of the enjoyable parts of knife-making is you can use whatever material and turn it into a functional and efficient piece. That’s exactly what Pabu Knives did with this knife. They turned a steel file into a cool-looking gravity knife with a 3.25-inch-long blade.
A black-finished wooden handle houses the knife blade. It has a brass butt and dovetailed brass bolsters, which improve balance and make sure the blade doesn’t unexpectedly snap at the handle.
We wouldn’t probably subject the Pabu Knives Gravity Knife to hard usage. However, it’s durable enough for most tasks that involve cutting, piercing, and slicing.
Max Knives Aluminum LF&C 1918 OTF Icepick Gravity Knife
The Max Knives Aluminum LF&C 1918 OTF Icepick Gravity Knife is probably the gravity knife on this list that has the most interesting features. This vintage piece is designed more as a self-defense weapon than as a knife that can help you survive in the wilderness.
The all-metal construction has two features that can help you protect yourself from possible attacks:
- The first one is the handle that could function as a brass knuckle, which is useful in hand-to-hand combat.
- The other one is its 2.5-inch spike that slides out of the brass-knuckle-shaped handle when you push the button. If you want to retract the spike, all you need to do is hit the spike against something hard.
The Max Knives Aluminum LF&C 1918 OTF Icepick Gravity Knife has an overall length of 7 inches. It weighs around 5.2 ounces, so it’s definitely not a lightweight option. And, to make sure you don’t get stabbed while carrying it, Max Knives included a Velcro case with each purchase.
Gravity Knives: Brief History
Gravity knives have been around for more than a century. The first one was patented in 1906 by Swiss cutler and inventor Karl Elsener, who has been making knives for soldiers since 1891.
The earlier versions of gravity knives have a minimalist and simple design. To release the blade, all you need to do is push the button on the knife handle.
These knives were first issued to German paratroopers during the Second World War. The problem with standard knives was they were usually bulky and require both hands to open and close. As a result, their enemies often shoot them or take them as captives if they get caught in a tree during landing; because they couldn’t cut themselves loose fast enough.
So, they needed a more compact pocket knife that soldiers could quickly open with just one hand. That’s when they made the first gravity knife using Elsener’s design in 1937. They named it Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Messer.
During the war, American and British soldiers seized the gravity knives from captured German soldiers. Then, they brought them to their respective countries.