Growing up in Chicago, many in my neighborhood carried Italian stiletto folding knives, except they didn’t work. Oh sure, it had that button that you’d push, but it didn’t work…it was there for looks only, but those knives looked mean. Only problem was, they were pure junk, I never owned one that even had an edge on it – and odds were good if you dropped it or threw it, it would break. But still, a lot of us kids owned them. I will admit to being involved in a couple knife “incidents” that ended just as quickly as they started – first blood and the fight was over.
Even today, you can still find these Italian Stiletto folders in knife shops and other stores – they aren’t worth the money you’ll pay, but they look bad to the bone. The real deal – from Italy – next to impossible to find – you see, automatic folders – switch blades – can’t be imported into the United States, by Federal law. Some times it is skirted, when these knives come into the country, and then a company or individual will add the internal components, making them into an automatic folder. But those knives are still junk.
Many states and locales restrict the ownership of automatic folders for some stupid reason – most believe that a “switchblade” knife is some how more deadly than a manual opening folder, or an assisted opening folder – ignorance is bliss when it comes to politicians and the stupid laws they pass. There are several well-known knife companies in Oregon – where it is legal to own and carry an automatic folder, and even many police officers in my home state ignorantly believe an automatic folder is illegal to own, except by law enforcement.
Kershaw Knives recently released their version of the Italian Stiletto, called the Launch 8, and it is made right here in Oregon. This folder was designed by well-known custom knife maker Matt Diskin, and he did a great job on this “stiletto” if you ask me. I wasn’t familiar with Diskin’s work, so I did some checking around on the Internet, and found his custom knives are sure to my liking – every last one that I looked at, on-line.
The first thing you will notice, when you pick-up the Kershaw Launch 8 folder is that, it is very lightweight – it only weighs-in at 2.4-ounces, yet it is a good sized folder with its 3.5-inch CPM 154 stainless steel blade. The blade is stonewashed, and it looks good on this folder. The handle material is anodized gray Aluminum, with a carbon fiber insert in the handle for a great grip on this folder. Of course, there is “that” push button, and needless to say, it works, and the blade comes out of the handle with some authority, and I opened and closed the blade many hundreds of times and it remained locked open and closed without getting loose. The button releases the open blade, so you can manually close it back into the handle. There is also a reversible pocket clip, for carrying in the right or left front pocket, with the knife tip up. There is a cross guard on the front of the handle, and this prevents your thumb from slipping onto the open blade.
The blade looks like it is a double-edge, but it’s not. It is only ground and sharpened on the bottom of the blade. All-in-all, the Launch 8 looks like an update of a genuine Italian stiletto, but much better made than any Italian import I’ve ever seen. I’m still more than a little amazed that this folder only comes in on the scale at 2.4-ounces – great job Kershaw, keeping it so light, yet so well made.
I know I drove my wife crazy when I would sit there on the sofa, and press the button on the Launch 8, opening the blade, then closing it, over and over, and over again…but its part of the testing process, and it is just plain fun to do, too. It’s almost addictive.
Before I conducted any further testing, I took the Launch 8 to my local FFL dealer, and they are always interested in the knives I get for articles. To a man, they all fell in love with the Launch 8, and when they put it in their pocket, they simply forgot it was there – so lightweight. One of the owners of the gun shop collects knives – most factory, but a few custom handmade versions, and he just couldn’t say enough about this folder. Of course, a number of customers asked if they could check this folder out and every one who did, fell in love with it, too.
I didn’t do any abusive testing on the Launch 8, I sure didn’t try any knife throwing with it – it’s not meant for that, and I’m sure I could have put Kershaw’s lifetime warranty to the test if I wanted to. I did my usual cutting around the house and that meant lots of UPS, FedEx and UPS packages that needed to be opened. Of course the usual cutting tasks and this time I did a lot of meat cutting in the kitchen, as well as at the kitchen table when we had steaks or roasts to eat. The knife really performed well – no problems at all.
I tried my usual cutting on some tough blackberry vines, but the sleek blade had a tough time with some of the really thick vines and it took more than one swipe with the Launch 8 to slice through them. The blade was sharp, but there just wasn’t enough weight behind the blade to successfully beat the biggest blackberry vines all the time. Then again, the heavy utility tasks weren’t want this knife was designed for.
I could easily, very easily shave copy paper with the test knife, no problems at all. I worked on seeing how thin of a slice I could get from the copy paper, and I got some extremely thin slices. I even used the sample folder, to do Gent’s work – I cleaned my finger nails with – I don’t hardly ever do that, as I keep my finger nails trimmed close. Unlike the guys at the local gun shop, I don’t use the tip of a knife for prying – I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve had them show me a pocket knife, with the tipped broken off – from prying on something. I tell them, if they would just carry a multi-tool of some kind, then they could use that for their prying needs, or better yet, how about a screwdriver? They just don’t get it and send knives back to the maker for repair or replacement. And then they are shocked when they get a bill for the repair – that sort of abuse is not covered by most knife companies. Bottom line: Use the right tool for the right job.
I really liked the Kershaw Launch 8. This knife retails for $159.99.It is a “Gent’s” folder, without it actually being a Gent’s folder if you ask me…it screams “tactical”, without being tactical. If you can legally own an automatic folder in you locality then you should check out this one, it’s a winner. And of course, you will be the envy of all your friends, and you can count on at least one of them saying: “You know that’s illegal….” As I say, ignorance is bliss.