Back from the shop: my well-worn Benchmade 2550 automatic folder.

A few months ago, the automatic opening feature turned itself off by way of the mainspring snapping in half. Due to the stupid-ass federal law on shipping switchblades across state lines, I couldn’t send it back to Benchmade to get fixed, so I tossed it into a drawer and forgot about it for a while. Then I mentioned it on Facebook one day, and thanks to reader and new friend Michael (who is a police officer and thereby authorized by Federal law to receive such dangerous contraband in the mail), the 2550 has been serviced and returned to my (entirely legal) possession.

The switchblade law is an example of what happens when people who don’t know anything about a subject craft a law on it, with only newspapers and movies as a source for information. The Switchblade Knife Act of 1958 was the result of some hand-wringing hysteria on the part of suburbanites who thought that “Blackboard Jungle” and “Rebel Without A Cause” were documentaries.

The following is from the Wikipedia entry on switchblades:

In 1950, an article titled The Toy That Kills appeared in the Women’s Home Companion, a widely read U.S. periodical of the day. The article sparked a storm of controversy and a nationwide campaign that would eventually result in state and federal laws criminalizing the importation, sale, and possession of automatic-opening knives. In the article, author Jack Harrison Pollack assured the reader that the growing switchblade “menace” could have deadly consequence “as any crook can tell you”.[17] Pollack, a former aide to Democratic Senator Harley M. Kilgore and a ghostwriter for then-Senator Harry S. Truman, had authored a series of magazine articles calling for new laws to address a variety of social ills. In The Toy That Kills, Pollack wrote that the switchblade was “Designed for violence, deadly as a revolver – that’s the switchblade, the ‘toy’ youngsters all over the country are taking up as a fad. Press the button on this new version of the pocketknife and the blade darts out like a snake’s tongue. Action against this killer should be taken now”.[

The state laws on knives are as byzantine as the state laws on firearms. A knife that’s legal for me in my home state to own and carry would make me an instant felon, were I to cross the border into MA with it and get pulled over and frisked. For some reason, I can be trusted to walk around in New Hampshire with a switchblade or a locking folder, but residents of Massachusetts would turn into homicidal delinquents if they did the same. And while NH has no restrictions of any sort on knife carry, the Federal act makes it illegal for switchblades to be shipped across a state line to anyone but a licensed dealer, police, or military.

I don’t blame Benchmade–they’re just following the pointless law. For what it’s worth, Benchmade service is really good. They fixed the spring, bent the pocket clip back into shape, and re-sharpened the knife, all at no cost save shipping. But it’s ludicrous that they can’t ship my own knife back to me directly, despite the fact that it’s 100% legal to own and carry in my home state, just because a bunch of stogie-smoking old white dudes got their bloomers in a wad after watching “West Side Story”.


6 thoughts on “*snikt*

  1. Marko, speaking of inane laws, I spent 22 years as a U.S. Marine. I was issued an M1 Garand rifle, a 1911 A1 ACP, a bayonet with a 15″ blade, and from time to time 120 rounds of ammunition, three or four hand grenades and a dangerously sharp entrenching tool. Now that I am no longer on active duty, if I have ANY of theses in California (where I live), I also become a felon. What have I missed while trying to be a good and useful citizen of this country? I am preparing to move from California to either Arizona or New Mexico where I am still considered a responsible adult. I feel as if the state of California is the foundation of the Empire you write about. Oh yes, I have a knife that is called an “assisted opening” knife that is better than any switch blade I have ever seen but it is (as of this writing) perfectly legal. Go figure.

  2. I’ve got a cheap Gerber liner lock (not even assisted opening) from Walmart that with oil and a tiny amount of practice is indistinguishable in speed from a switchblade. My leatherman tools have blades that can be opened with one hand. If I were right handed, I think they would only be a half second behind a switchblade in opening speed–but I prefer them a bit slower for use at work without comment.

  3. Benchmade has an excellent service program. Only two quibbles:

    I went to a fair bit of effort to convert my knife to a left hand clip mounting. (drilling, tapping, thumb clearances and customized screws. They put it back to a right hand configuration, and tossed the screws.
    Second, it was the sharpest blade of ANY type I have ever encountered, including scalpels. It was scary. Every person who handled it, bled. And, it stayed sharp for a long time.
    They were not able to replicate that edge, although the tech at SHOT Show assured me they were still using the same technique. He was the sharpening guy at the factory. It didn’t stay sharp as long, either. AFCK-S with ATS-34, I think.

  4. “Snikt” made me giggle.

    “What are you smoking?”

    “A small bundle of toothpicks. They help increase my wondrous Wolverlungs to their full Wolvercapacity.”