Sometimes it is necessary to have a blade that is faster or easier to deploy than a standard manual opening knife, either for everyday tasks or emergency use. For knife owners in the market for an automatic knife, the Kershaw Launch 4 is a good choice.
As the name suggests, the Launch 4 is the 4th in Kershaw’s line of Launch automatic knives. The knife itself is functional as an EDC knife but is also under 2 inches in length making it “California legal” to carry as an automatic pocket knife.
Blade length is a concern for many knife owners as local laws on knife ownership vary. For its size, functionality, and overall construction we give this knife 4 out of 5 stars.
- Solid steel blade
- Aluminum Handle
- Convenient size under 6″
- Ultra compact blade length
- Right hanged tip up only carry
- No manual safety
- Smaller than expected
- Blade deployment can be surprising
Features of the Launch 4
Blade – CPM-154 Steel blade. This is considered a “mid grade’ steel that holds up well to prolonged cutting and most everyday cutting tasks. The blade itself holds its edge nicely and is corrosion resistant. Suitable for daily household chores and outdoor tasks and is sturdy enough to stand up to tougher more strenuous use.
Handle – The handle is made of solid aircraft grade aluminum and holds up well to pressure and heavy use. The aluminum scales are quite durable when held and the shape of the grip fits quite comfortably for most tasks.
Deployment – This knife deploys using a push button feature that propels the blade out of the opening automatically. The launch mechanism is quite fast and exceptionally powerful for the size of the knife. The knife retracts safely into the handle when not in use with no issue of slippage or accidental opening.
Ergonomics – The handle features an hourglass design that allows it to curve in just the right spot to fit the hand without worrying about finger or palm size. This allows the blade to be manipulated with ease despite short overall length.
Blade Design and Uses
The launch 4’s blade is a compact 1.90 inches long and is made of solid CPM-154 Steel with a spear point blade. The steel itself is considered a grade above steel used in similar knives. The short blade keeps its edge for a decent amount of time and is corrosion resistant making it useful for outdoor tasks without worry about damaging or rusting the blade due to a little moisture.
Furthermore the CPM steel is relatively easy to sharpen should the blade dull or nick from use. This is a nice bonus compared to similar knives in this category.
The spear point is useful for puncturing and stabbing and the slight swedge makes this knife good for light to moderate cutting tasks such as cutting through clothing, netting, or even animal hide.
Handle Design and Ergonomics
The handle measures a minute 3.2 inches but is made of solid aircraft grade aluminum. The quality of materials in the handle make it exceedingly durable.
Despite the length of the handle, the hourglass design allows it to fit even large hands comfortably and makes using the spear point blade easier. The heel of the knife fits into the palm for a secure grip when cutting or stabbing with the knife.
The aluminum scales are sturdy and can withstand being gripped tightly or squeezed when bearing down on the blade for intense cutting tasks. Users do note however, that while the aluminum is sturdy, the finish tends to scratch easily which can lead to the handle looking rough and worn down. This does not impact the performance but may be an issue for those who are aesthetically minded.
There is a steel pocket clip mounted onto the side of the handle, though some users complain about the clip being right handed and tip up only carry.
The blade is also held steady within the handle during prolonged or heavy use. Similar automatic models have issues with blade wiggling and slipping during use.
Deployment and Lockup
The push button plunge lock deployment system is situated right at the base of the blade for extremely quick deployment. The launching mechanism is strong enough to make the knife feel somewhat jumpy when deployed. Some have described the knife as having a hefty kick and noticeable sound.
Aside from that, the button is easily activated, requiring no hassle or issues to find and press in the button for blade deployment. Compared to some others automatic knives, where it can feel a bit cumbersome, the Launch 4 is smooth.
The knife features no manual safety for the blade when it is retracted, however, no notable issues have been found with the blade slipping out of the slot during carry. The inset opening is fairly easy to clean so as to ensure proper deployment.
Look and Feel
The knife comes in at under 6 inches in total length and weighs under two ounces making it handy to carry when a knife is necessary but there is not a lot of room for larger full size knives.
The button placement is convenient, the scales, blade, and edge all work well for their intended tasks. The overall feel of the knife makes it more comfortable and easy to use.
Some users may argue over aesthetics or length, but from a functionality standpoint, this knife checks out fairly well.
Kershaw Launch 4 Review – Final Thoughts
The Kershaw Launch 4 stands out from the pack in terms of automatic knives. The quality of the construction alone makes it better in many categories than similar competitors.
Solid aluminum and steel construction coupled with an easy grip and quick deployment make this a great choice for someone looking for a smaller than average knife or someone simply looking to add an automatic knife to their everyday equipment.
While it may lack some of the features and finish of larger pocket knives, in terms of pure function the Launch 4 does exactly what it is intended to do and with good overall results.