Going into WW2, knife designs were primarily limited to basic fixed-blade items and pocket-style folders. Early on in the global conflict, however, Germany’s Luftwaffe pilots were in need of a new type of knife that could easily be deployed with one hand — allowing aviators to cut themselves out of caught or tangled parachutes while still providing utility as a survival or combat knife once on the ground. This would ultimately culminate in the invention of the Fliegerkappmesser (German for “Flier’s folding knife”) — also known as the “Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Messer” or the “Luftwaffe Paratrooper’s gravity knife.”

For much of their existence, gravity knife designs went largely unchanged, however, within the last few decades, this unique style of knife has greatly evolved, giving way to a host of contemporary gravity knives — the latest and greatest of which we’ve rounded up for this handpicked guide to the best gravity knives. 

Defining A Gravity-Deployed Blade

What Exactly Is A Gravity Knife?

Unlike most folding knives that are opened by unfolding the blade from the handle, gravity knives don’t require the user to ever touch the blade in order for it to be deployed. Instead, gravity knives — which are also known as “drop knives” — feature a button or locking mechanism that, when pressed or disengaged, allows the blade to fall out of the handle and lock into place — not unlike how an OTF blade leaves the handle, only operating via gravity rather than being spring loaded (and falling out of the knife rather than shooting up out of it). Some gravity knives also use mechanisms that allow the two sides of the handle to open up, allowing the blade to drop into place. 

Gravity Knife Legalities

70 Years Of Questionable Knife Laws

To say gravity knife laws fall into a gray area would be a massive understatement. Legally defined as a knife that opens via “operation of inertia, gravity, or both,” gravity knives have gotten a pretty bad rap over the years, beginning not long after they were invented. Not too dissimilar to autos or switchblades, gravity knives were used in a few high-profile crimes in the 1950s, giving them an association with criminals and ne’er-do-wells. These knives were also seen as being more deadly or more of a danger in part due to their association with war, military, and tactical use (not unlike a certain controversial ArmaLite rifle). As a result, gravity knives have been banned in most regions, and in some locales, they’re even classified as “deadly weapons” alongside handguns. 

The laws surrounding gravity knives have been further complicated by some regions’ questionable definition of what a gravity knife is, such as New York where local laws define it as any knife that can be opened via gravity or with the flick of the wrist — an umbrella that a slew of non-gravity knives definitely fall under. Despite not being any more dangerous or harmful than any other type of knife with a blade that can be deployed with one hand — i.e. the vast majority of modern EDC knives — gravity knives are still illegal in many, if not most places.

If you aren’t sure about the gravity knife laws where you live, we advise you to look them up — at least before carrying one — though probability states that it probably won’t be legal, as there are very few regions where one can be lawfully armed with a gravity knife in public. The good news is there are bills being introduced to change these admittedly questionable knife laws, though only time will tell how this plays out.

Handles, Blades, & Locks

What To Look For When Buying A Gravity Knife

While quite a few aspects of gravity knives are no different from regular folders or autos, there are a handful of finer points that are specific to the gravity knife space. Below, we’ll be breaking down the half dozen most important factors to consider when shopping for a new gravity knife. 

Blade Steel: Just like with practically any knife, it’s durability and ability to hold an edge and remain sharp largely boils down to the type of blade steel used to craft it — as well as how said blade steel is heat treated. While some of the more old-school gravity knives on the market employ more traditional low-end stainless steels and tool steels, many of the more modern gravity knives are equipped with more premium constructions that typically benefit from advanced powder metallurgy — such as Böhler M390 and any of Crucible Industries’ CPM blade steels.

Blade Profile: Like an OTF, the shape of a gravity knife’s handle largely limits the type of blade profile that can be used, though with that said gravity knives are still produced with a range of different blade shapes, namely drop point, clip point, spear point, and tanto/reverse tanto silhouettes. 

Handle Construction: The material used to craft a gravity knife’s handle will play a pivotal role in properties such as how durable or lightweight it is. While stainless steel — often paired with wooden elements — is the most common gravity knife handle construction, some of the more modern knives employ more premium materials such as aluminum, titanium, or Micarta. 

Locking Mechanism: Though they all simply disengage a lock and allow the blade to fall into place, gravity knife locking mechanisms can range from model to model, from the original leaver-operated spring catch systems used on the Luftwaffe Paratrooper’s gravity knife, to the more modern button and slide-operated mechanisms that see the handle open up so the blade can fall into place. 

Price: Compared to other genres of knives, gravity knives are somewhat rare. As a result, they tend to be produced in smaller numbers — an area that’s definitely furthered by the fact they’re unlawful to carry in most places. As such, these knives tend to be on the more expensive side — making price a crucial area to factor into your decision. 

Style & Design: Though there are plenty of traditional-looking gravity knives that are modeled after the original iteration from WW2, there are also plenty of more contemporary gravity knife designs that hugely range in shape, size, and style. As such, we recommend checking out a wide array of available options before pulling the trigger on your purchase — though this article will obviously provide a shortlist of what are objectively some of the best options currently available. 

Photo: Amazon

FreeDouble Folding Knife

The FreeDouble Folding Knife is an affordable modern take on the Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Messer that sees the regular OTF-style deployment jettisoned in favor of a blade that pivots out from the side like a regular folding knife. The knife is comprised of a stainless steel handle with genuine Wenge wood inlays and a leaver-operated locking mechanism, mated to a 3.66” stainless steel clip point blade. 

Blade: Stainless Steel
Handle: Wenge Wood & Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 3.66”
Total Length: 8.97”
Lock Type: Leaver-Operated Spring Catch

Photo: Blade HQ

AKC Gravit-E

Constructed around a 4.75” black aluminum handle decorated with wooden inlays, the AKC Gravit-E is another contemporary interpretation of a WW2-era drop knife that swaps out the traditional leaver-operated spring latch with a pocket knife-style Lockback mechanism that’s set in the spine of the Gravit-E’s handle. Made by hand in Italy, AKC’s Gravit-E also boasts a 0.11” thick, 3.75” spear point blade composed of black-finished stainless steel.

Blade: Stainless Steel
Handle: Wood & Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.75”
Total Length: 8.50”
Lock Type: Lockback

Photo: At The Front

Fallschirmjäger Gravity Knife

The Fallschirmjäger Gravity Knife is a highly-authentic reissue of the Luftwaffe’s Fliegerkappmesser — more specifically the Type 2 variant (which, unlike the Type 1 Fallschirmjäger-Messer, can be broken down and fixed if jammed). Modeled directly after the WW2 era drop knife, this modern replica Flier’s folding knife features a classic steel and wooden handle design with an original leaver-operated spring catch locking mechanism that allows its 4.0” stainless steel blade to drop into place. 

Blade: Steel
Handle: Wood & Steel
Blade Length: 4.0”
Total Length: N/A
Lock Type: Leaver-Operated Spring Catch

Photo: Arizona Custom Knives

Edge Knife Company Eagle

Weighing in at only 3.3oz, the Edge Knife Company Eagle was originally produced and sold in the 1980s before being discontinued. More recently, however, a surplus of unsold units was unearthed at a knife store that went out of business — all of which are now being sold to the public. Not a modern reissue but the actual ‘80s-era production knife, Edge Co.’s Eagle Gravity Knife was made in Seki, Japan and sports a chrome leaver-operated spring catch-equipped handle that houses and deploys a 3.25” blade crafted from 440C stainless steel. 

Blade: 440C Stainless Steel
Handle: Chrome
Blade Length: 3.25”
Total Length: 7.75”
Lock Type: Leaver-Operated Spring Catch

Photo: Blade HQ

Paragon Warlock

The Paragon Warlock is unquestionably one of the two most popular modern gravity knives, in large part due to its top-shelf materials and unique blade deployment method. This gravity knife features an aluminum handle with a push button mechanism that allows its two halves to open up, providing space for its 3.875″ S30V dagger blade to fall into place — or to open back up when the blade is being put away. Paragon’s Warlock is also offered in an absolutely enormous range of colors and finishes as well as in a slew of different handle and blade constructions including titanium and S35VN. 

Blade: CPM S30V
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.875″
Total Length: 9.375″
Lock Type: Button Lock

Photo: Strata

Roberto Ottonello Gravity Knife

Designed by a legendary Italian knife-maker, the Roberto Ottonello Gravity Knife is a high-end drop knife with a sleek minimalist design and a mirror-polished finish. The knife sports a 3.93” handle with a hinged outer lock that pivots open, allowing its blade to pivot out from the opposite end of the knife — unlike most gravity knives’ OTF-style opening. Tipping the scales at 3.13oz and spanning 6.88” overall, the knife is also equipped with a 2.75” drop point blade composed of Austrian-sourced Böhler N690 blade steel.  

Blade: Böhler N690
Handle: Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 2.75”
Total Length: 6.88”
Lock Type: Hinge Lock

Photo: Blade HQ

Reate EXO

The second of the two most popular modern drop knives on the market is unequivocally the Reate EXO (or “Exoskeleton Design”). Arguably the most modern take on a drop knife to date, the EXO boasts a two-piece titanium frame with textured Micarta scales that opens from the bottom, with the two handle sections separating at a bottom pivot, allowing the blade’s slider to be smoothly guided up (or down) its integrated track until the blade is fully exposed and locked into place. Sold with an included leather sheath, the EXO also packs a 3.75″ drop point blade made from ELMAX “super steel.”

Blade: ELMAX
Handle: Micarta & Titanium
Blade Length: 3.75″
Total Length: 8.75″
Lock Type: Hinge Lock

Photo: Blade HQ

John Gray Custom Gravitron

Moving on to the most expensive model on our list, the Gravitron is a limited-run gravity knife that’s been meticulously crafted by Pennsylvania-based custom knife-maker John Gray.  Made in America, the John Gray Custom Gravitron starts with a precision-machined tumbled aluminum handle that’s equipped with a push-button deployment and lock before receiving a 3.625″ Tanto blade made from top-shelf ELMAX steel. Rounding out this spare-no-expense drop knife is a custom reversible (tip-up or tip-down) pocket clip made from carbon fiber. 

Blade: ELMAX
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.625″
Total Length: 9.0”
Lock Type: Button Lock

The Best Automatic Knives for Everyday Carry

Photo: Microtech Ultratech

Want to check out some blades that are deployed via spring-loaded mechanisms rather than gravity? Then be sure to check out our feature guide to the best automatic knives for everyday carry for a curated selection of tactically-inspired OTFs and switchblades that all perfectly lend themselves to EDC applications.