Oct 9, 1998
Why are liner locks so much more popular than lockback knives? Lockback knives seem so much more reliable. Even those more expensive liner locks have so many problems. All linerlocks get misaligned after lots of use (as I hear so far), they are unreliable and will unlock, and the wear out quickly. I own absolutely no liner locks, so I wouldn't know, but I am considering buying one (a good one too). Should I stick with buying fixed blades and lockbacks, or start buying liner locks? I absolutely hate dealing with customer service from most companies because they don't listen to you, and when they return the item to you, it's not really any better. I need a strong, reliable knife that will last for years and years and not wear out... is a liner lock suitable?

I highly recommend that you look into the Chris Reeve Sebenza. Chris has taken the liner lock concept into it greatest height thus far--->the integral lock. Best locking folding knife I've ever owned.
Liner Locks are a mixed bag.

If you get one from a custom maker, make sure ahead of time that he or she will make sure it fits your requirements. Send them the liner lock tests that Joe Talmadge and others maintain, ask them to perform the test and make sure the knife passes. If you get it from a manufacturer, inspect before you buy it, or buy it from a dealer who will inspect it for you...

Liner locks have an interesting feature that some have neglected to mention, according to things I have read, Kim Breed(writer for Blade magazine) Kit Carson, and Michael Walker have all done destruction tests with liner locks, and found that when the lock fails, it locks the knife into the open position. That means, no chopped off fingers. NOW, yes some liner locks are crap, but there are good liner locks out there and if you want a certain model, from a reputable maker or manufacturer, I would get it.

I build a knife called the Krait. The Krait knife is built for a lifetime. It has a replacable leaf lock. The pivot of the liner locking type knife (or any folding knife)is the heart of the knife. If its not tight and dosent stay tight then the lock will fail on a lockback or liner lock. I can not say I havent ever had problems with locks . But after years of working out the bugs I feel the replacable lock is the best feature I have on the knife along with the pivot with a hardened bushing.
If the folks your dealing with do not preform find ones that do.
I like the lockback knives. But I like a replacable lock better. The titanium material that most custom made knives use as locks is inferior material compared to a spring tempered Stainless or spring steel.
Just look at the wear properties . That tells
part of the tail with your problems.
I know ill get slammed for saying that titanium is a fad but.. I feel better being honest. Dont get me wrong here .. I think titanium makes a good liner material. I just dont think it great as a lock.
Just got a new large SEBENZA cant ever imagine that lock failing. That knife is worth two or three other production folders. I would LOVE to get my hands on a knife my Darrel Ralph, Im saving for the next model. A less expensive alternative in a good liner lock is the EDI GENESIS. Has thick titanium lock. But that isnt what you were asking. I have a couple older lockbacks by BUCK. Those have never failed tough as nails. I suppose they fail if allowed to get full of dirt ect. One big thing about liner locks is one handed open and close also the "cool" factor when you can open one faster than an auto. I just like them better. Of course most of the newer quality knifes are liners havent seen many nice lockbacks except some beautiful customs. Hope you find the right knife for you. Im finding this is a personal choice factoring in what YOU like and are comfortable using. Good luck! (you really should try one good liner lock)

One of the considerations I make before even looking at a knife, is whether there is a left handed version of it. One thing I've noticed about liner locks, is that there are very few true lefties. Most Ambidextrous knives are lockbacks; just because there is a reversible clip, doesn't make it a true ambi.

My 2 cents

This may be throwing an apple in to the orange bag but as an alternative to the liner lock check out a rolling lock. The REKAT patented design is said to be stronger than any liner lock , I've had a few of the pioneer and Pocket hobbits and am impressed with the lock up, smoothness and design of both folders. I do have two CR sabenzas and am working on more. Oh and btw REKAT makes a totally left handed version of the pioneer and pocket hobbit. CHeck um out. MIke

The liner lock is definitely a mixed bag. In some ways it's been a real boon for knifemakers, because users love the smoothness and one-hand opening. In some ways it's been a disaster for actual knife users, because the makers are having a lot of trouble doing the liner lock properly, and liner locks that auto-disengage are epidemic.

The biggest concern with the liner lock is auto-disengaging. The first problem is that many locks don't quite engage the tang enough and/or stick out a bit from the handle slabs. When you grip the knife firmly, the flesh of your hand comes in around the lock and can disengage it outright, or else cause the lock to disengage in use. A disaster.

Another disaster is the angle on the blade tang itself. If not done right, the lock can slide right off. Many liner locks can be made to fail by just putting palm pressure on the spine of the blade. This kind if pressure is often seen in utility use, and a lock failing like this is UNACCEPTABLE. Other liner locks can be made to fail by just a tap on the spine of the blade. Makers argue that such a test is unfair because a knife should not be used as a hammer. Nonsense. First of all, no other lock has this problem. Second of all, if you slam the knife into something, some of the force can be vectored into the blade spine, and act like an impulse force -- that is, it can act like a hammering force that closes the blade. Third of all, knifemakers listen up, if you're going to advertise your knife as tactical, I'm going to damn well test it as if it's tactical. Having the knife get struck on the back of the blade is a low-percentage scenario but a real one.

What's worse, even if your liner lock passes all the tests, it can wear in and someday suddenly start to fail them! I've had a lock that past all tests for a couple years before it suddenly started failing the impulse-on-spine test. You can't test your liner lock once and assume it will be sound forever.

All that said, there are a few makers who consistently make very sound liner locks. There are a few makers who consistently make bad ones. There are many makers who sometimes get it right and sometimes don't. The moral of the story: the liner lock is hard to do properly, even by custom knife makers, who I consider absolutely brilliant artisans and craftsmen. If THEY can't do it consistently, we should look for other lock types.

At this point I'm a fan of lock innovation. The rock lock, the rolling lock, the axis lock, I haven't tested them all. But I'm hoping new lock types will emerge that don't have the liner locks problems, and are easier for makers and manufacturers to consistently do right.

Phew. I think I gotta cut down on the caffeine.

Not to mention the fact that a ball bearing detent is not as reliable as a backspring for retaining the blade in the handle when you don't want it to be part-way open. That's why most liner locks with pocket clips have their clips at the pivot end - so you don't reach into your pocket and find the point. A knife with a backspring will pull the blade back in if it's jarred out a little bit. A liner lock's blade, once past that "speed bump", just stays out there. A good liner lock has a ball bearing that engages the detent with a definite snap, and doesn't rely on adjusting the pivot screw just so for safe carrying. I've met a lot of liner locks, some of them by expensive custom makers, with mushy detent engagement or no engagement at all. Likewise with some factory specimens.


This is a very good thread. It makes me wonder, in terms of locking mechanisms, whether the industry is moving backwards or forwards.

There are a lot of characteristics I like about a good lock back. You can easily make silent openings; something that's iffy at best with liner locks. Furthermore, lock backs are ambidextrous. The major complaint I have, however, is the very real possibility of your hands squeezing hard on the handle during a stressful situation and causing the blade to unlock. With a fully scalloped liner lock, this isn't as much of a problem.

One thing is for sure. Liner locks are not the answer people have hoped for. It's just another step in the folder's evolution. I await with anticipation to see what the next solution will be.
I think the industry is definately moving forward. Benchmade's two new folders are an integral side-lock, and the new Axis lock. As users become accustomed to getting more frequently reliable locks on high-end production knives they will start expecting the same from private makers too.
We have to remember that the way we use knives is not normal to say the least. The two locking surfaces are metal. Metal does wear after some time. I've had good lock backs fail after thousands of openings. I think it's just the nature of the beast. I agree with Joe that some simple lock tests should determine whether or not the knife is truly tactical. Putting on black handles and bead blasting a blade doesn't make it tactical if the lock fails by gorilla gripping the handle or tapping the spine of the blade. I know some may not want to hear this but I'm a firm believer in finding a knife you like to carry that has a decent locking mechanism and purchase two. One for training, and one for actual carry. Until someone comes out with a quick one hand opener and easy closer that is 100% failure proof, I think two knives is the logical solution. BTW there are thrust and cutout techniques that will cause the knife to twist in the hand. Any liner lock, including integrals, which the liner makes contact with the hand will fail when doing this type of stressed impact.

Bob Kasper

I'm a little surprised you can make an integral lock fail by torquing it. I'll have to try that myself. In fact, I think I'm going to add that to my standard battery of lock tests.

I'm 99% sure you're not going to make a rolling lock fail by torquing it. I like the lock as a whole, but some people find it cumbersome.

I'm really looking forward to the Axis lock. Maybe it'll meet our demands for the moment

It's one of the first things I do when I pick up a liner lock. Give it a good natural grip, grab the pommel between your thumb and index finger of the other hand and give it a twist. Unless the liner is resessed deep enough not to make contact with the hand it's going to fail. Our training group in VA had four guys cut themselves in one session doing impact with CQC7s and AFCKs. That's why we started to dremel the liners down below the handle. It won't happen with straight insertions and extractions but it will with hook thrusts and cutouts and serious impact on the back of the blade.
EDI has tried to remedy this problem with the Genesis and I commend them for it. Even though it is a vast improvement you still have to be careful. By the way, I've been carrying the Genesis for two months now in preparation for an evaluation. I like it.