Microtech Knives: An Exercise In Futility

From the moment I first handled one, years ago, I felt a strong urge to buy a Microtech OTF (Out the Front) automatic knife. It wasn’t just the “cool factor” of having the blade extend and retract with no more than thumb pressure…the knives seemed so well put together that the $400 price tag was nearly acceptable. Still, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one. As I did more research, I found that Microtech’s reputation was not as stellar as I was led to believe.

Last winter, though, I saw that Microtech had apparently lowered the price of some of their knives, for what seemed like the same model I looked at in 2004 was now less than $200. It was much easier to convince myself that I could afford the knife at that price, so I ordered one – an Ultratech DE. It seemed to be everything I remembered and more. I cast aside those reports of problems, for mine certainly seemed to work…at first.

I carried the knife for a few weeks, using it almost every day, until, suddenly, I noticed that the blade wouldn’t always lock in the forward position. The switch, at that point, was useless – it wouldn’t fire any farther forward, and it wouldn’t retract. I could pull the blade forward into the locked position with my fingers, but that defeats the purpose of an automatic knife. The failure rate was only about 20%, but even 1% would have been unacceptable.

“No problem,” I thought. “I happen to know a customer service guy at MSAR who can get this taken care of for me.” I’d met MSARDave in person at the 2009 NRA show in Phoenix, and had business dealings with him prior to that. I sent the knife to Microtech (in Pennsylvania) and went on a trip outside the country, figuring that it would be at the post office when I returned.

Unfortunately, it was not. Although Dave tried his best to keep me apprised as to the status of my knife, it was eventually lost by the repair folks. Dave happened to find it (in North Carolina) almost 5 months later, and immediately sent it back to me. I received the knife today and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had also been cleaned and sharpened. Whoever sharpened it really knew what they were doing – it is exceptionally sharp.

As I fired and retracted the knife, I noticed that it required more thumb pressure than before – not a problem, especially if it meant that the knife would always function. Unfortunately, after only 8 “in/out cycles”, it failed to lock into the fully retracted position – about 3/8″ of the blade protruded from the handle. Again, I was able to pull or flick the blade forward into the locked position, but I could also do that with an $8 knife from Walmart. This time, the failure rate is around 90% – it’s rare for the knife to lock into the retracted position at all.

The bottom line is that I will never carry this knife again. I simply have no confidence in it. I don’t really feel like sending it back to Microtech, given their past performance. I can’t, in good conscience, sell it.

As if to add insult to injury, Doug Ritter’s RSK Mk1 was briefly available in M4 high speed steel at around the same time I bought the Microtech – for $50 less. I bought two RSK Mk2s in M2 HSS – basically, Benchmade Griptilians with a really great blade steel – almost 5 years ago. I still have one, and it is superb. Had I known about the RSK, I would have ordered one in a heartbeat. Of course, it was a limited run, and they’re now sold out.

I never thought that the third most expensive knife I’ve ever bought would end up in my “broken junk bin”…but it has.



Filed under Lies, Errors, and Omissions

7 responses to “Microtech Knives: An Exercise In Futility

  1. MrMaigo

    They require tight tolerances to function. Wont even lock in water. The first time might just have been lint. This time might be dried lube, it might have been sitting that 5 months.
    Have you tried flushing it with break cleaner?

    They’ve said most of their sales military, I’d expect better.

  2. Andrew (Vuurwapen Admin)

    Well, after sitting overnight, it seems to function perfectly now. I didn’t do anything to it. Doesn’t change my outlook on the knife – it’ll never be carried.

    There was very wet lube on the blade when I received it, so I don’t think that was the issue.

  3. Mike W

    Do you have a “dollars I’ve saved Mike” calculator?

  4. Marv Harris

    I too was always intrigued by this type of knife but I wasn’t about to spend that kind of money for what I consider to be a toy. I have a nice Kershaw for everyday use. At a local gun show I saw a cheap knock off for only $10 so I figured it wouldn’t be a big loss if it didn’t last the day. I’m a fidgeter so sometimes when I’m sitting watching TV or on the computer I’ll be constantly popping the thing in and out. The clip was trash but I took it off and discarded it and I’ll occasionally give it a shot of spray grease. It has many thousands of operations on it and it’s going strong. It even took a good edge with my Spyderco sharpener. I’m sorry for your troubles but sometimes you don’t get what you pay for.

  5. mark

    So, will 15 bucks buy it?

  6. MCLMM

    I have a drawer full of broken Benchmade Autos, maybe we can set up a California Legal* auto knife store on the Internet?

    *Not sure what these knives are, but they sure as hell are not autos.

    • Andrew (Vuurwapen Admin)

      Ha. Yeah, I have never been a fan of Benchmade autos – they were issued to some of the units I was attached to, and many stopped working when they got dirty.

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