Kershaw Onion a Switchblade?

Feb 20, 1999
Does anyone have any first hand experience regarding the Speed Safe Kershaws in regard to it being a switchblade? I would be interested in any LEO or DA opinions or court cases.I live in Va. and an examination of the Va. Code is not clear at best. Va. has a {or any like weapon} phrase in its concealed weapon law that gives a very wide interpitation to the LEO and Commonwealths Attorney.
Also the code prohibits switchblades but does not define them.Relying on the Federal Code defination is also very unclear when you read the part about gravity or inertia.
Recently brought a Kershaw Whirlwind from Knife Center of the Internet(great people to deal with)at a real good price and
was wondering if any one had any information on the real world classification of this fine piece.

Those who beat their arms into plowshares will plow for those who do not
The Ken Onion Speed Safes are not switchblades. Yes, they do have assisted opening, but the difference between a Speed Safe and an automatic is that the blade movement is started by the thumb as opposed to a release button. With this in mind, the Speed Safe is regarded as a manual action knife like a regular liner lock knife. This is how Ken explained this to me one time. Again, the key here is what gets the blade moving - the thumb. Hope this helps.


Dexter Ewing
Knife Reviews Moderator
AKTI Member # A000005

"They say I'm in need of some radical discipline"

Dexter has the Officially Recognized Explanation. Kershaw I believe had also claimed they ran the knife past the Attorneys General of many (all 50?) states, who blessed the knife as "not a switchblade".

That said, I would still be careful. A.G.s change their minds, and sometimes just plain change. Furthermore, the prosecuters in your local city might have different ideas about what is or isn't a switchblade.

Remember, a court ruled not too long ago that a Spyderco Mariner -- a sheepsfoot blade with no point -- met California's definition of an illegally-carried dirk because it was "capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon". A stabbing weapon, the mariner? Just goes to show how shakey things are.

Now switchblades are defined differently in different states. In California, part of the description is that it opens "by any mechanical means whatsoever". The Soque Lev-R-Lok was widely considered a switchblade here. Now let me ask you a question. How sure are you that a CA judge who finds that a sheepsfoot-bladed knife is a "stabbing weapon" will not also find that the Speed Safe is a switchblade? How much you willing to risk?

I bring up this cautionary tale not because I think the Speed Safe is a switchblade -- in fact, I think only an unreasonable interpretation of the law would make it so. But we're talking about the law here, not common sense, so it's worth checking up on.


[This message has been edited by Joe Talmadge (edited 05 July 1999).]
Under Pennsylvania's law the knife could be considered a switchblade. Because under Pa's law, anything that is opened via a "spring mechanism" is considered to be a switchblade. However I do not know any cop that would force the issue, including myself.

In NY state a switchblade is defined as, any knife that opens automatically by pressure being applied to a button, spring or other mechanizm inside of the handle. The Kershaw/onion knives are not switchblades as there is no preasure applied to anything inside of the handle.
But NY law also states that (gravity knives) any knife that opens due to the effects of gravity or centrifugal force is illegal. Which makes any knife that can be opened by flicking your wrist, ILLEGAL :-(


Louis Buccellato

there is one very large...make that LARGE problem in our politically correct world.. its not bad until someone decides it is.. then its all over....Ken took his knife design to the AG of the state of hi...the highest law officer of the state...and they said it was ok...way back when he was still fooling around with the design....and this is a very very strict state on weapons... but the first time one gets used wrong... and the police decide to prosecute the person for having a dangerous "weapon" things could change rapidly...just like a lot of the liner locks that can be flicked open/they could become gravity knives in the flash of a signature from some legislature.. making all of us criminals with criminal intent because we have a knife on our person that they do not appove a switch blade carries the same penalty as a firearm. the only justice in america comes at death....then you are free......if you go in the right direction that is....


Thanks for the feedback. The opinion of the Hawaii AG would not hold water in Va.As our local judges are fond of saying,"the opinion of the Commonwealths Attorney is his opinion,I have mine and this is my court."
I dont think I'll trust my butt to the whim on some judge who don't know a switchblade from a switch hitter. Not worth thousands of dollars in attorney fees to appeal to a higher court to prove a point.
Again thanks to all for their opinions.

Those who beat their arms into plowshares will plow for those who do not