Reviewing the Kershaw Launch 1 and 13 Automatic Knives

Growing up as a kid in the 70s and 80s you’d see some guy in a move whipe out a switchblade and you’d know a world of hurt was coming. For years, I wanted one but couldn’t own one. Now that I own two, I’m trying to figure out how they factor into my collection to be quite honest.

I’m not handicapped so I can’t speak to how they would use one but other than the “coolness” factor, I don’t see the point compared to the tons of flippers / assisted opening knives that I already own. To be clear, I am not bashing them but I won’t be buying any more either – my curiosity is satisfied. Please note – I am impressed by the design and the manufacturing but have decided they just aren’t my cup of tea.

With that said you are going to get my honest opinion.

Some Background

I like Kershaw knives in general so an ad for their Launch series of automatic openers caught my eye. I’ve always wanted to try a “switchblade”, or more appropriately termed an “automatic”, so I shelled out $114 for a Kershaw Launch 1 and $125 for a Kershaw Launch 13. I figured that would let me try a couple of different designs and they have a number of Launch models for you to choose from.

One thing that appealed to me with both of them is that they are made in the USA. Kershaw has a production facility in Tualatin, Oregon, that makes these models as well as a number of their higher end Kershaw and Zero Tolerance blades. Part of the premium pricing reflects being built in Oregon vs. China.

Note: You need to know the laws and regulations governing automatic knives in your area before you buy one. The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) maintains a page that can help at a state level but you still need to confirm about your county and city just to play it safe.

The Launch 1

This is a good size knife. The slightly “humped” design enables it to fill your hand and be held very nicely. Let’s talk specifications:

  • Blade length: 3.4″
  • Blade profile: Drop-point
  • Blade steel: CPM 154 – it is a tough stainless alloy that also holds an edge fairly well while being moderately easy to sharpen
  • Blade finish: Black Wash
  • Blade thickness 0.121″
  • Closed length: 4.6″
  • Handle material: 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Handle finish: Black anodized
  • Handle thickness: 0.47″
  • Overall length when open: 8″
  • Weight: 4oz

Pros: Weight and size are good, blade flips open with a snap when you push the button, very nicely made.

Cons: I honestly wish there was a safety. This thing opening in a pants pocket is going to really suck fast. Kershaw says it is “low-profile” to make it harder to trigger but even so – you push that button and it will open fast.

Launch 1 closed. Like the US flag. Lines are nice, clean and flowing. All of the screws on this side are T6 Torx. The handle is 4.6″ long, 0.47″ thick, 6061-T6 black anodized aluminum.
At the left are the two screws if you want to move the ciip to this side. The axle pin the blade rotates on is held in place by a T8 Torx. You can see the recessed push button that does dual duty both to allow the blade to flick open and also to unlock the blade once it is locked open.
Good view of 3.4″ CP154 blade with a blackwash finish. The blade is 0.121″ thick so just under and 1/8th inch that would be 0.125″.
Here’s a view of the other side. Note how the axle bolt uses the handle scale to elegantly hold the hex head in place so you can tighten the axle pin from the other side.
From top to bottom: 1. Kershaw Launch 1. 2. Kershaw Knockout with a Damascus steel blade.. 3. Kershaw Blur and 4. ZT 0357. These are all excellent blades. My favorite is the ZT0357 and the Knockout. All are made in Kershaw’s Oregon plant with excellent machining, fitment and finish.

The Launch 13

I like unique looking designs and the Launch 13 immediately caught my eye due to the futuristic look and wicked Wharncliffe style blade. It looks odd but it actually fits my hand very surprisingly – better than I thought it would actually. Let’s look at the specifications:

  • Blade length: 3.5″
  • Blade profile: Wharncliffe
  • Blade steel: CPM 154 – same as the Launch 1
  • Blade finish: Black Cerkote
  • Blade thickness 0.121″
  • Closed length: 4.5″
  • Handle material: 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Handle finish: Black anodized
  • Handle thickness: 0.471″
  • Overall length when open: 8″
  • Weight: 2.4oz

So, it is just a tad shorter but quite a bit lighter than the Launch 1. With all of the angles and skeletonized scales, I didn’t think it would be as comfortable as it is.

Pros: Light, A Wharncliffe style blade

Cons: Even though the push button is recessed, I am fearful of it opening in my pocket.

The scales are nicely done and are machined from 6061-T6 aluminum with a black anodized finish. The small screws are all T6 Torx and the nut on the axle bolt is a T8.
You can see the push button that both allows the blade to spring open and to unlock the blade once it is open. Interestingly, the axle bolt’s head is triangular instead of a hex head like the Launch 1 uses.
The Wharncliffe-profiled blade is very sharp. Yes the grind is simple but it’s a Wharncliffe 🙂
Here’s a view of the Launch 13 open from the other side.
The Launch 13 at the top and the larger Launch 1 at the bottom.
Notice the different handle angles when you get the blades in about the same plane.
From the top: Kershaw Launch 13, Launch 1, ZT 0357 and Kershaw Knockout with a Damascus blade (they also make one that is not Damascus wo that’s why I am pointing it out)
And the other side from the top: Launch 13, Launch 1, ZT 0357, Knockout with a Damascus blade.

Summary

The Launch blades are very well made. Of the two, I am partial to the Launch 13 because it is lighter and has a Wharncliffe profile blade – again, I like Wharncliffes. I can cross having an automatic knife off the bucket list but plan to stick with assisted opening flippers like the ZT 0357.

Would I recommend either Launch knife to someone wanting and automatic – yes, I would. The build quality is definitely there. How can I prove it? In the next post I will take the Launch 1 apart and let you see it.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

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