Back in the 1960s, when I was a kid, you could find advertisements for inexpensive Japanese-made Italian-style pocketknives in various magazines. These knives were smaller-scale replicas of stiletto switchblades and were totally manual in operation.
I managed to purchase one with my allowance when I was 8. (I think I found it at an army surplus store.) It had a black plastic handle and silver-colored bolsters. The pointed blade had a nail nick with which to open it, locking it into place. It was so cool! When I saw Kershaw’s take on the classic fully automatic stiletto design — the new Launch 8 — it rekindled my memories of that little knife. I just had to test one!
I have reviewed a few automatic knives before, and all are good, solid designs that I recommend highly. But I can’t say I was personally enamored with them. They simply didn’t strike a deep enough chord for me to feel like they were vastly superior to spring-assisted manual blades. Kershaw’s Launch 8 changed that perspective.
The Launch 8’s Build
The Launch 8 is made in the USA and is designed as an EDC knife. Its 2.3-ounce weight goes a long way toward making it ideal for that purpose. It even meets the needs of those whose personal mission is keeping the weight of EDC gear to an absolute minimum for all-day comfort.
The Launch 8 features a 3.5-inch CPM 154 stonewash-finished, pointed stiletto blade that releases by pushing a button. CPM 154 holds an excellent edge and offers good corrosion- and wear-resistance. It is an excellent choice of steel for a knife that will often find itself deep in a pocket for extended periods. The blade features a single honed edge and deep top grind that also helps keep the weight down. Blade touch-up is quick and easy.
There is no separate manual safety lock, which initially caused me concern. I was worried about the knife unintentionally springing to life in my front pocket with disastrous results — especially considering the ultra-sharp pointed tip and blade. After carrying the Launch 8 for more than a month, I found there was no need to worry. The button is set flush with the grip and requires a good amount of pressure to release — more pressure than can be generated by car keys. The high-torque spring snaps the blade into place with a satisfying “thwack.” To close it, simply hold the release button and fold the blade back into place. There are traditionally styled opposing hooked fingerguards for protection.
Kershaw Launch 8 Specs
Steel: CPM 154
Handle: 6061-T6 aluminum
Blade Length: 3.5 inches
Closed Length: 4.75 inches
Overall Length: 8.25 inches
Weight: 2.3 ounces
The Launch 8 grips are gray anodized aluminum with a carbon-fiber insert on the push-button side. There is a slim opening on the bottom of the knife to help prevent lint and dust from building up. The pocket clip is reversible. On the pocket clip side, there is a stylized American flag that proudly declares that the Launch 8 was made here.
Launch 8 Shines as EDC Knife (and for Daily Utility Tasks)
Despite the purpose-driven appearance of the Launch 8, it lent itself well to the daily utility tasks that nearly all tactical folding knives are, truth be told, actually used for. The ultra-sharp edge and fine point tip were perfect for opening packages. The truly one-handed operation gets the job handled lightning fast. A tactical folder is useless if it can’t do routine stuff.
I took the Launch 8 along on our vacation to Michigan and put it to work on a very difficult task: cutting cattails. They are great to dry out and light. They burn down slowly and give off a natural insect-repellant smoke, but their stalks are very fibrous and difficult to cut, even with larger blades.
I ended up cutting about 20 cattails to bring home. The frequent rains this year ensured the plants had a lot of moisture. A downward diagonal stroke, rather than straight across, allowed me to cut the stalks fairly easily. I normally use a large fixed-blade knife for the task, but I was still able to get the job done with the Launch 8.
I really love this blade. It traces its lineage back to the original Italian stilettos, and it reignited a long-dormant memory about that cool stiletto from my youth. I can’t get the original back, but the Kershaw Launch 8 is a great successor. MSRP is $159.99. Check state and local laws before purchasing.
About Scott W. Wagner
Scott W. Wagner has been a law enforcement officer since 1980, working undercover in liquor and narcotics investigations and as a member, sniper and assistant team leader of a SWAT team. He currently works as a patrol sergeant. He is a police firearms instructor, certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun. Scott also works as a criminal justice professor and police academy commander.