Drawing Test: Some Spydies and a Fixed Blade

May 26, 1999
I did a little test a couple of weeks ago to see how quickly and securely I could draw a few different knives with different methods. The test was just to satisfy a personal curiosity, but I thought I'd share it after seeing a thread today about draw times. It might be a meaningless test, but I haven't seen one like it before. Three folders were tested along with one fixed blade for reference.

The folders were all Spydercos: a Military, Calypso Junior Lightweight, and a Native. I tested only Spydies because they're what I have the most of and I wanted to keep the opening device the same (in this case, it's a hole). The fixed blade was a Roselli "Carpenter's" puukko. It's pretty much your stereotypical puukko type of knife.

I opened the folders using three different methods: drop, flick, and thumb pad. The "drop" can only be done with tip down knives. You pinch the hole with your thumb and index finger, then drop the handle into your hand. With the "flick", you put the tip of your thumb into the hole and flick the blade open with your fingernail while slightly snapping your wrist. The thumb motion is a lot like shooting a marble. "Thumb pad" opening is done by placing the pad of your thumb in the hole and gently opening the blade in one continuous motion. There is no wrist action involved in thumb pad opening, unlike the other two methods.

The testing procedure: I stood at a fixed distance from a wall and touched a spot on the wall with my right hand. In my left hand, I held a stop watch that beeped when you started it. After hearing the beep, I drew from my right front pocket with my right hand as quickly as possible (the puukko was sheathed in my pocket and the folders were clipped there). When I held the knife in front of me, in a secure grip and at an "on guard" position, I stopped the timer (all knives were held in a forward grip, except when drop opened). This was repeated 20 times with each opening method and each knife (the Native is carried tip up, so it wasn't drop opened). I averaged the 20 times and just show that number here, as it would be a major pain in the arse to list all of the times in an HTML chart.

Sometimes the opening procedure would get screwed up. "Partial openings" are when the blade would open only partly and fail to lock in place. I would stop the timer once I completed the opening movements and if the knife had opened only partially, I'd note it on the chart but still count the time toward the average. "Aborted opening" are when the knife fails to open at all, usually because I miss the hole with my thumb or engage it wrong. Aborted openings are noted on the chart, but no time was recorded and they don't count towards the average. "No fumbles" means that the opening went smoothly.

<table align=center table border><tr><td colspan=3>Calypso Jr. Ltwt.</td></tr><tr><td>Drop</td><td>Flick</td><td>Thumb pad</td></tr><tr><td>1.68 sec.</td><td>1.87 sec.</td><td>1.84 sec.</td></tr><tr><td><font size="1">4 partial openings</font></td><td><font size="1">1 partial opening</font></td><td><font size="1">1 aborted opening</font></td></tr></table>

<table border align=center><tr><td colspan=2>Native</td></tr><tr><td>Flick</td><td>Thumb pad</td></tr><tr><td>1.93 sec.</td><td>2.10 sec.</td></tr><tr><td><font size="1">2 aborted openings,
3 partial openings</font></td><td><font size="1">2 aborted openings</font></td></tr></table>

<table align=center table border><tr><td colspan=3>Military</td></tr><tr><td>Drop</td><td>Flick</td><td>Thumb pad</td></tr><tr><td>1.71 sec.</td><td>2.04 sec.</td><td>1.95 sec.</td></tr><tr><td><font size="1">5 partial openings</font></td><td><font size="1">4 partial openings</font></td><td><font size="1">No fumbles</font></td></tr></table>

<table align=center table border><tr><td>Puukko</td></tr><tr><td>1.20 sec.</td></tr><tr><td><font size="1">No fumbles</font></td></tr></table>

  • Drop opening was the fastest among folders, but it led to many partial openings. Also, drop openings don't produce a very versatile grip. It looks cool, but it may not be something you want to try in an emergecy.
  • I expected that flicking would be faster than thumb pad opening with every knife, but it wasn't at all. Since thumb pad opening also seems to be more secure, that might be the better method for an emergency situation.
  • There doesn't seem to be a big difference between tip up and tip down knives in speed and security.
  • The Calypso Jr. Ltwt. appeared to do the best overall for the folders. I assume that's because I carry and use that particular knife almost everyday.
  • The Military opened completely every time when I used the thumb pad. That's probably because it has a huge opening hole. When I flicked it though, it opened partially several times. I'd guess that's because it has a large blade that's harder to get around.
  • Obviously, the fixed blade was the easiest and quickest to draw. It was about half a second faster than the quickest folder method and there was no fumbling trying to get it into action. If you're worried about drawing in a self-defense or emergency situation, fixed blade seems to be the way to go.
  • There wasn't a huge difference in draw times between the knives, but there were differences in how secure the draws were. Personally, I think security will be much more important than speed in almost every type of emergency situation.

Keep in mind that this test really isn't very scientific (despite the charts
), so I wouldn't take its results too seriously. And of course, YMMV.

Plus, a lot of different knives and drawing/opening methods aren't covered in this test. If anyone wants to do another test, these are some things that might be interesting to see: auto vs. manual, waved vs. non-waved, fixed blade draw for different carry postitions, axis lock openings, balisong openings, and drawing when fatigued or stressed (maybe spar for a few minutes, then draw).


"My good reason to carry a knife is that God gave me rather weak teeth and rudimentary claws in an evolutionary trade-off." - J.K.M.

[This message has been edited by cerulean (edited 03-12-2001).]
Thanks very much for all your work, and letting us in on the results. Really appreciate it!

I particularly like the fact that the stopwatch puts a real element of tension/stress into your tests, though it isn't as stressful as a situation involving real combat. Those of us who fantasize about those potential combat situations need to think about reliable draws/opening, more than the speed of our draws. A blinding fast draw that fails to get the blade locked open is worse than useless.

While I agree that posting all results wasn't at all necessary, is it possible for you to provide us with at least your fastest times in the various categories? If guessing, I'd have expected somewhat quicker times. Guess tho, that the fixed blade results are pretty informative.

Again, thanks.

If you time it from in your pocket to in a target you'll get significantly different results, especially comparing folders to a fixed blade. You'll have to use a realistic opening technique that opens the folder all the way every time, too, or you'll cut yourself.

Seriously, if a folder often fails to open a all the way do you care how fast it is on the occasions when it opens? Is that useful information?

Reminds me of a sport that used to be very popular -- fast draw with a cowboy revolver loaded with wax bullets. They had to use wax bullets because they kept shooting themselves in the foot....

-Cougar :{)
Use of Weapons
No problem. Fastest times:

CJL drop - 1.33 sec.
flick - 1.42 sec.
thumb pad - 1.58 sec.

Native flick - 1.73 sec.
thumb pad - 1.77 sec.

Military drop - 1.44 sec.
flick - 1.60 sec.
thumb pad - 1.68 sec.

Puukko - .94 sec.

Bugs said:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">A blinding fast draw that fails to get the blade locked open is worse than useless. </font>

And Cougar said:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Seriously, if a folder often fails to open a all the way do you care how fast it is on the occasions when it opens?</font>

Those quotes sum up my thoughts exactly. Once you realize the blade is open only partially, it just takes a fraction of a second to flick your wrist and lock it completely open. However, in a combat situation, when you're under severe stress, it's possible that you might strike before you ever realize that the blade hasn't been locked open, which would be disastrous. Personally, I wouldn't even do quick draw test strikes to a target with an edged folder; just too dangerous.

I think that if I took it a bit slower and maybe added just 2 seconds to the times, I could have avoided most, if not all, of the partial openings though.

Of course, with a fixed blade, you always avoid partial openings! Some people say that "the only tactical knife is a fixed blade". I'm not sure I'd go that far, but you've got to admit that they have a point.


"My good reason to carry a knife is that God gave me rather weak teeth and rudimentary claws in an evolutionary trade-off." - J.K.M.

[This message has been edited by cerulean (edited 03-12-2001).]
I suspect that once you pick an opening method and a daily-carry knife, practice will make your opening method 100%. When you have a nice gripping hole you can put extra snap into your handle drop and achieve 100% opening. The real risk is not so much partial opening as accidental throwing of the knife in the operation. When using a Spydie hole the handle drop is the only method for me that is 100% safe and fast.
cerulean, thanks for posting!

Noting that in the history of me posting my theory on opening, no one has ever agreed with me, I'll post it again. I do find fast-opening an interesting and important feature in a folder. For me, I put a high premium on security: any bad openings, especially under stress, are unacceptable. I'll definitely sacrifice speed for security here, to a reasonable extent.

Anyway, it's the focus on quick presentation from a relaxed position that I question. It may be that someday, I'll be completely surprised by someone and need to draw quickly. But, so far, I've never been that surprised. Provided I'm alert, which I usually am, chances are I'll be in condition orange, and already have my hand in my pocket and on the folder way before anything else goes down.

As a result, I try to optimize my most-likely drawing scenario. That scenario is: I see what's coming and have time to take some hand-positioning action.

With tip-up, I can surreptitiously put my hand in my pocket, put my thumb on the opening device (hole, stud). So presentation time is merely time to draw and open. I can even slide the knife up somewhat, so the tip is well out of pocket, and start opening, all without anyone else noticing. Hell, I can pull it all the way out and have it palmed. With tip down, these movements can be spotted a million miles away.

As a result:
- tip down, drop-opening is a cool novelty, unacceptable in practice due to insecurity
- tip down and tip up are roughly equal in speed for drawing and opening from any random position.
- tip up allows for many more options if the threat is spotted early, including positioning thumb on opening device, and even fully drawing and palming in a manner that is unlikely to be noticed. tip down does not offer this option.

Since I feel it's most likely I'll spot the threat early, I optimize for that, and go with tip-up.


[This message has been edited by Joe Talmadge (edited 03-12-2001).]