The typical modern torsion spring-operated automatic knife, as epitomized by the Florida Black Knife, has a handle frame made from machined aluminum alloy. The Pro-Tech Knives Company is easily among the highest quality manufacturers of such automatic knives. Until recently, virtually all of their knives had either handles made entirely from aluminum or made from aluminum with scale inserts made from other materials like G-10. Pro-Tech has begun to make their automatic knife line with solid 416 stainless steel handle frames with or without handle scale inlays and finished in a variety of ways. To the best of my knowledge, they are the first automatic knife maker to do so. The handle frames are machined from pre-heat treated bars of 416 stainless steel with a Rockwell hardness of Rc42. The result is an automatic knife of incredible strength and durability.

Pro-Tech’s Dave Wattenberg, recently sent me five examples of knives to evaluate from the Pro-Tech line that have a steel handle construction. All have the same 154 CM blades that are standard on their aluminum handled knife models, so I was not concerned with how the knives cut. Like the Pro-Tech aluminum handled knives, the fit and finish on these beauties are top notch. Similarly, the blades lock open without the slightest hint of play in any direction. The bottom line is that the stainless steel handle construction of these knives has not had any negative effect on their quality. All have pocket clips set up for right-hand carry with the blade tip up, so, unfortunately, these knives are not very southpaw friendly.

The Weight Difference
The big question is how do these knives feel considering their all-steel handles? Obviously, they are heavier since steel is about 2.75 times heavier than aluminum. Naturally, the weight difference varies considerably from model to model and whether or not there are handle scale inlays. In general terms, the steel handled knives are about 2.5 to 3.5 ounces heavier. It is a noticeable difference but not obnoxiously so. Almost everyone I showed the knives to liked the solid feel of the knives. One made the valid point that they were good weapons even with the blade closed!

I gave a call to Butch Vallotton, a longtime friend and one of the top custom automatic knife makers in the country, to discuss the steel handles of these knives. He said that many of his customers prefer heavier knives and he suspected that these new knives would be well received. The substantial weight of these knives, combined with their superb construction, definitely promotes a strong sense of value. From a practical standpoint, when you fire a lightweight automatic knife with a heavy spring, there is often a tendency for the knife to want to jump out of the user’s hand. With these knives that tendency is almost completely absent even if the knife is held very loosely.

As for carrying these knives, I did not find that an extra two or three ounces in my pocket was even noticeable. However, I am admittedly a poor person to make such a judgment because my trouser pockets routinely carry several pounds of assorted junk in them.

Limited Production
Pro-Tech is limiting the production of these steel handled knives to 100 pieces per year for each model variation. Each will be marked with the year of production and individually numbered. Prices run from about $500 to $600 for most plain models. The pearl handle scale custom model goes for $1,100. Typically, the custom variations have such niceties as push buttons inlaid with the same material as the handle scale.

In this group of knives there are two TR-3 variations, one with an all-steel handle with a satin hand-rubbed looking finish and the other with a unique angled machine finish. The latter creates an optical illusion that the sides of the handle have flutes machined into them when, in fact, the surfaces are flat. This is a fascinating and attractive finish. All black finished Pro-Tech blades, pocket clip, and steel handle frames are coated with Tungsten DLC (Diamond Like Carbon), the most durable black coating available for stainless steel. 

I think that the new Pro-Tech automatic knives with steel handle frames will be a big hit with both automatic knife collectors and users that want the ultimate in strength and durability. Regardless, Pro-Tech has another winner!

For more information visit or call 562-903-0678.

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