Fire in the Hole

Spyderco has long been known for one-hand-opening knives and their…

Spyderco has long been known for one-hand-opening knives and their patented Spyderhole opening method. It’s a system that works well and is very fast to deploy with a little practice. However, there are some folks in certain professions, such as soldiers and law enforcement officers, who occasionally need to get a blade out a bit faster, or at least while using less range of motion, especially while their other hand is occupied. For folks like that, Spyderco has decided to step into the automatic knife game with a strong showing of new models.

spyderco2.gifThe Citadels and the Embassy
Spyderco launched their first foray into the automatic world with three models for the customer to choose from: a large and small Citadel auto and a model called the Embassy. All three models use stout 1/8-inch-thick blades of CPM S30V steel at a Rockwell of RC 59-60. All have a flat saber grind and a weight-reducing swedge along the spine. Although it is nonfunctional on these models, the Spyderco automatics maintain the traditional Spyderco round hole in the blades. It’s a nice aesthetic touch and kind of amusing to watch folks try and open the knives by the hole when you hand one to them.

The Citadels are available in plain edge with a satin finish or with a non-reflective carbon nitride coated black blade. They have hard anodized, machined aluminum handles with a ribbing pattern machined into them. The pattern provides for a very positive grip and feels solid in the hand. Both versions have a reversible sturdy metal clip mounted that allows for left- or right-hand tip-down carry. The larger Citadel has a 3-5/8-inch blade while the smaller one sports a 3.25-inch blade. They’re listed as the 92mm and 83mm models, respectively, indicating blade length in millimeters. The 92mm model weighs in at 5.1 ounces, whereas the 83mm shaves off a bit to come in at 4.8 ounces.

To The Embassy
The Embassy comes in satin finish only in either plain or serrated edge. It has a clear, hard anodized and machined aluminum handle with inset G-10 scales. The feel is quite different from the Citadels but the G-10 still provides a firm grip in the hand. A machined-in finger choil helps you maintain your grip as well. The Embassy’s clip is a 3-way model that allows for either right-hand tip-up or tip-down carry and left-hand tip-down carry. The Embassy is slightly smaller than its siblings and carries just over a 3-inch blade and weighs in at a svelte 3.7 ounces.

Firing Impressions
One feature that becomes apparent immediately upon picking up one of Spyderco’s new autos is the firing mechanism. Spyderco uses a large smooth button positioned on the right-hand scale that falls naturally under your thumb when you pick up the knife (presuming that you’re right-handed). There’s a bit of resistance as you depress the button and then the blade springs forth with authority. The resistance provides a bit of extra security for times when you don’t have the safety engaged but is really unnoticeable when you engage the button firmly. You have to be paying attention to notice it. The Embassy and the 92mm Citadel had a bit more snap to them than did the 83mm model but all three were fast opening. 

Spyderco got the safety on these knives exactly right. They positioned it directly beneath the firing button, which means that your thumb is on it as soon as you grasp the knife. It’s a simple matter to slide the safety down and then mash the release to open the knives. No hand-twisting contortions are necessary to first disengage the safety and then shift the knife back into a firing grip to open it. With the Spyderco, your thumb naturally falls upon the right spot to both work the safety and fire the knife all in the same motion. 

On the Job
I brought the new Spyderco autos into work with me and passed them around the squad bay for general impressions and opinions. Most of the guys were familiar with Spyderco’s products but were surprised when I told them that these were automatics. To say the knives were favorably received was an understatement. I received many positive comments on quality and fit and finish, which is unsurprising with any Spyderco product. The style and feel were also well received. The general consensus was that the knives had a good feel to them in hand and that the opening button was well positioned for ease of use. The safety also received very positive comments. Many of the guys have other brands of autos with spine-mounted safeties and they agreed that having the safety positioned right under the firing button made a lot of sense ergonomically speaking. The Embassy and the 83mm Citadel proved slightly more popular in our plainclothes unit, but guys agreed that the larger 92mm Citadel would be just fine for uniform use.

I rotated daily carry between the three models over the course of three weeks to get a feel for them in everyday use. As my coworkers suggested, the 83mm Citadel and the Embassy proved a little more comfortable to carry in dress slacks and a sports coat. All three models deployed easily from the pocket yet stayed securely clipped when they weren’t needed. Uses were typical sundry tasks common to any daily carry folder. I cut open boxes and packages, cut evidence tape, opened mail, cut strings and cord as well and basically used them for whatever came up in my daily routine. While none of these things were really extraordinary, performance was still excellent. At home I did further cutting tests on rope and cardboard and the Citadel and Embassy’s S30V blades held up extremely well. I didn’t have to do any touch up on the edges at all during my time with them.

I also slipped back into uniform briefly to see how the Spydercos carried with a full duty belt and all of the sundry items you carry on daily patrol. While in plainclothes, I tend to favor my back left pocket for carrying a folder with a clip. It’s handy, out of the way and still easily accessible. While that position works in uniform as well, my favorite spot tends to be in the billy pocket that many of us have cut into the right thigh of our uniform trousers. It once again keeps the knife out of the way yet easy to access. It’s positioned right at the point where your hand naturally falls when you’re casually standing. You can keep the knife ready at hand but not look obvious about it while also keeping your hand away from your gun. It’s sometimes nice to know that you have something close at hand even when you’re attempting to be non-threatening and keeping your hands away from your obvious weapon on your belt. The draw from this position is quite fast and access with the dominant hand is good, even when seated in a patrol car.

Spyderco has made an extremely strong first entry into the world of automatic knives. They’ve taken their years of cutlery experience and created a line of tough working autos that are perfectly suited to military and law enforcement use as well as by civilians where allowed by law. The suggested retail prices range from $259.95 to $309.95, depending on model, and with some judicious shopping you’ll find them very competitive with autos from the other major manufacturers. If you’re a Spyderco fan and have always wanted to see them go automatic, comfort yourself in knowing that it was worth the wait.

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