How Does a Butterfly Knife Differ from a Switchblade?

Benchmade Butterfly knives

Most people group the butterfly knives and the switchblade knives. First, both knives are pocket knives. Second, they are illegal in many western states. But these two blades are quite different in their features, design, and build. Here is how.

What is a Butterfly Knife? 

The Butterfly knife is also known as the Batangas or Balisong knife. The knife has a unique build, with two handles that rotate around the tang. When closed, the grooves within the handles hide the blade. 

A skilled person can quickly deploy and withdraw a Butterfly knife using one hand. No wonder criminals have a special love for the knife as they can attack and retract it in the blink of an eye.

Benchmade Butterfly knives
Benchmade Butterfly Knife

The History of the Butterfly Knife 

Most people believe that these blades originated in the Philippines. Others think that it came from Europe. But the Balisong Patent came from France in 1880, though it was already in production as early as 1500BC. 

Whereas the knife’s origin remains unclear, what is clear is that Balisong is a close combat knife. The blade traces usage to the Filipinos, especially those in the Tagalog region.

In the early days, the butterfly knife was popular as a combat and pocketknife. The Filipinos also used the hollow grind butterfly knives as razors. 

Features of a Balisong Knife


The Butterfly knife is constructed in two ways. The channel construction and sandwich construction. For the sandwich construction, the craftsmen assemble the parts in layers. They then screw them together to complete the process. When the knife close, the blade rests between the layers. 

In channel construction, artisans start by constructing the main handle. A groove is then made in the handle where the blade rests.

Number of Handles 

One of the unique features of a butterfly knife is that it has two handles. One is the safe handle, and the other is the bite handle. Both handles are foldable and movable and can conceal the blade. 

Concealable Blade 

The Butterfly knife has a concealable blade. You can conceal the blade inside the handle by folding both handles together. When folded, it is possible to confuse the Butterfly for a small stick that fits into your pocket easily. 

Safety Lock 

The Butterfly knife boasts a durable and robust safety handle. This lock ensures that the handles remain folded and locked. When you deploy the knife, the handles lock and are firm so that it is easy for you to use the knife accurately.

The Trickster Knife 

The Butterfly is generally referred to as the trickster’s knife. Various people use it to play different tricks. You can flip the knife interchangeably using the two handles. You will find the blunt version of the butterfly knife used for practice and training.

What is a Switchblade?

A switchblade knife is also called an automatic knife or flick knife. It features a blade that springs from the handle by pressing a button. A Switchblade knife looks like an ordinary folder that rotates around the hinge. 

The knife features a spring that propels the blade from either side of the handle. You can withdraw the blade very fast, and thus switchblade Knife is ideal for self-defense. But it is also popular with criminals because of the very same reason. 

Origin of the Switchblade Knife

The history of the switchblade knife dates back to the 18th Century. European artisans developed early flick knives using automatic folding spike bayonets. Some had wooden handles, while others featured stag handles.

Some switchblade knives from Sheffield, England, have crown markings dating back to 1840. In the 19th Century, flick knives marked “Châtellerault” were available in France. These knives were both in manual and automatic versions.

After the 1865 American civil war, the production of knives was industrialized. Producers started making folding blades at lower costs and in large numbers. Later, in 1892, George Schrade, a machinist patented the first automatic knife design. 

switchblade benchmade
Benchmade Switchblade

Features of a Switchblade Knife


The switchblade has one handle containing a groove for concealing the blade. You can easily open the knife with one hand. But to retrieve the blade, you need to use both hands. 

Automatic Springs

The switchblade knife features a spring-loaded blade that unfolds and folds very fast. The spring uses a button lever to deploy and retrieve the blade.

Concealable Blade 

A flick knife features a blade that is entirely concealable inside the groove. Due to the fast deployment of the knife, you need to be careful as you can get hurt when handling the knife.

Butterfly vs Switchblade Knife. What is the Difference?

Opening Mechanism 

A switchblade is an automatic knife. To deploy the knife, you must press a button that releases the blade from the sheath. Some producers also configure the button to enable retrieving the blade with ease. But manual blade retraction is common in most blades. 

To open a butterfly knife, you need to fold the knife and flip the wrist backward. This motion activates the safety lock, releasing the blade. You can deploy and retrieve the blade of a butterfly knife using one hand. 

The Type of Handle

Like conventional knives, switchblades have one hollow handle. The handle can eject the blade through the press of a button. The blade deploys either through the front or back of the handle. Butterfly knives feature two handles, the bite, and the regular handle. 

When handling the knife, you need to be conscious of the bite handle. As the name suggests, it can “bite” and injure you even when the blade is concealed.


These two knives are almost at par in terms of stability and balance. But the switchblades come on top. 

Butterfly knives have two separate handles that do not have a finger guard and hilt. When doing accurate or severe stabbings, you also risk hurting yourself. Also, the concealed blade may wobble from time to time within the handle. 

But the flick knife is not that stable, either. Using a press button to deploy the knife means that the blade is not a perfect fit in the groove. The knife may wobble from time to time, depending on its quality. 

Does a Butterfly Knife Count as a Switchblade? 

Butterfly knives and switchblades are two different types of knives. In some states, butterfly knives have the legal definition of switchblades. But their features and designs are different. They are illegal in Canada, the US, Mexico, and most parts of Europe.

The Butterfly Knife and the Switchblade, which one is Safer? 

When it comes to handling the knife, the switchblade knife is safer. First, the butterfly knife can harm you even when closed if you mishandle the bite handle. Also, most users have reported harming themselves when flipping the knife. 

The switchblade is not that safe, either. When drawing the knife, the blade opens very fast. If you are not a skilled handler, you can hurt yourself. 


The butterfly and switchblade knives are good pocket knives for self-defense. But looking at the two knives, their features are very different. The butterfly knife has two handles and users deploy it with a flip of the handle.

The switchblade knife has one handle. You can draw the blade by pressing a button. Before buying one, you must check if your jurisdiction permits owning the knife. 

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