Kershaw Launch 3 Automatic Knife Review

Kershaw was established in 1974 and ever since, they have been making excellent knives. Kershaw is actually a sub brand of Kai USA Ltd. Kai is a known company, especially in Japan, where they have been the leading producer of premium blades for over 100 years now. Kai has a commitment to innovation; they take an innovative approach to their product development, their research, their production, even their marketing and distribution functions.

Kershaw, as a member of the Kai group also has a solid commitment to innovation. Interestingly enough, this commitment to innovation has spurred the technologies in the knife community. Kershaw helped to pioneer the use of many of these technologies and their work with advanced materials have become the standard in the knife industry. One of these technological advancements include the SpeedSafe assisted opening. One of the world’s favorite technological advancement is that they have created knives that have interchangeable blades with their Blade Traders. One of my favorites with these technological inventions is the Composite Blade technology. For example, Kershaw will create a blade that uses a steel known for its excellent edge retention near the sharpened edge of the blade. But, for the spine of the blade, they will use a steel that is known for its strength. Because of this new technology, you can truly get the best of both worlds when it comes to your blade.

Kershaw’s founding mission is to design and manufacture tools that knife users would be proud to own, carry, and use. To accomplish this mission, Kershaw has chosen to use the highest quality materials. They believe that if the knife isn’t up to your standard, then it is not up to their own standards.

Kershaw knives truly last a lifetime. And you know that when you are carrying a Kershaw knife, you have a lifetime companion that is able to stand up to the tasks that you throw at it. Kershaw has said, “if this is your first Kershaw, be prepared. You just may be back for more. If it’s not your first Kershaw, welcome back.” They know that their knives are excellent, and once you use your new Kershaw, you will also know just how excellent they are. One of their popular knives is the Launch. And they just released a new version of it. This is the Launch 3 Automatic.

 

Kershaw Launch 3 Auto Knife
Kershaw Launch 3 Auto Knife

The Blade:

The blade on this knife is made out of CPM 154 steel. This is a high end steel. There is regular 154 CM steel which is also a high end steel. The 154 CM steel has extra Molybdenum, so it is a very hard steel. Because of the strength behind it, it can hold an edge extremely well. Surprisingly enough, even though this steel has less Chromium, it has fantastic levels of corrosion resistance. Even though this knife has a very high level of strength, it is also very tough. The CPM in this steel name stands for Crucible Particle Metallurgy. This Particle Metallurgy makes finer carbide particles, which results in a slightly superior steel. This superior steel is tougher and has better edge retention than the classic 154 CM steel. This Particle Metallurgy also helps to more easily grind the steel. Although, the regular 154 CM steel is already relatively easy to sharpen. The finer carbide particles also allow for you to get a finer edge and the polished finish looks better than if it did not have this treatment done to it. This new version of the Launch 3 features a combo blade. This means that part of the blade is a plain edge, and the bottom part of the blade is a serrated edge. The combo blade gives you the best of both worlds, because you get the benefits of the serrated edge, while also not missing out on the advantages of having a plain edge.

One the older versions of the Launch 3, Kershaw used S30V steel instead of CPM 154 steel. This steel also is able to hold an edge for long periods of time. However, S30V steel has a higher resistance to rusting or corrosion. All in all, this is one of the best steels on the market, and is considered a premium steel. It has the perfect balance between hardness, toughness, and edge retention.  However, S30V steel is a more expensive steel, so with the slight downgrade, the knife is a little more affordable.

 

There are a couple of different finishes to this steel. The classic and newest Launch 3 design has a black Diamond Like Coating on it. This coating is not painted on the steel like many of the other styles of coatings. This is actually molecularly bonded to the steel, so while it will eventually scratch off, it won’t scratch off as fast as other coatings will. There are a few pros and cons to having a coating finish. One of the pros is that coatings provide a barrier between the steel and the oxygen, so rust and corrosion levels are cut down. Another pro is that they are usually a darker color, so reflections and glares are significantly cut down. However, the biggest con to having a coating finish is that they will all eventually scratch off. The harder the coating, the higher quality it is, which also means that it is more expensive. The DLC is one of the hardest and thus, the most expensive coating finishes on the market.

One of the other finishing options is a stonewash finish. On this version of the Launch 3, the blade is not black, but rather an even gray. The stonewash finish is created by tumbling the steel around with an abrasive material, which is usually small pebbles. After this, the blade is smoothed over and polished. This finish creates a textured, rugged look. The resulting color is an even, matte, gray finish. Because of the matte, glares and reflections are cut down. Another big benefit to the stonewash finish is that it easily hides fingerprints and scratches, which cuts down on maintenance time.

The last finish option available for this knife is a Black Oxide Coating. This coating blackens the steel and is used to add mild corrosion resistance. It also helps to minimize light reflections.

Like I previously said, these last two finishing options are finish options that are on the older versions of the Launch 3.

OD Kershaw Launch 3 Auto
OD Kershaw Launch 3 Auto

The shape of the blade on the Launch 3 is a drop point blade. The drop point blade shape is one of the most versatile blade shapes on the market. The shape is created by having the back of the blade slowly curve until it meets up with the sharpened edge. This creates a lowered point, which helps to give you more control over your cuts. Because it is lowered, it ends up having a broader tip, which provides more strength and durability behind the tip. This way, you can use the tip of your blade more confidently than you would otherwise be able to. The drop point blade shape is a fantastic option for your everyday blade carry, because it features such a large belly. This large area for slicing lets you complete all of your everyday tasks. One of the only drawbacks to this shape of blade is that the tip is broader than most, so you really don’t have many stabbing or piercing capabilities.

 

The Handle:

The handle on this new version of the Launch 3 is an aluminum handle. This is a very durable and strong material. One of the biggest benefits to this handle material is that it provides you with a very hefty feel without actually weighing the knife down. This is a lightweight material, because of how low density of a metal that aluminum is. However, aluminum is prone to scratches, so to combat the scratches, Kershaw anodized the handle. The anodization process is the most common finish for aluminum knife handles. This finish adds hardness and protection to the handle, so it will cut down on how many scratches the aluminum would normally wrack up. It also works to add a color to the handle, in this case, black. In older versions of the Launch 3, the anodization process has also added an Olive Drab color to the handle. Another drawback is that aluminum is a cold material, so if you are working in a cold environment, I would not recommend having a knife with this handle.

 

The Pocket Clip:

The pocket clip on this knife is black to match the rest of the handle. There are pre drilled holes in the handle that allow the user to reverse the pocket clip in four different directions. You can either carry your blade with the tip up or down, or change which whether or not you carry your blade left or right handedly. This is a big benefit because it allows you to carry your knife as comfortable as possible for each specific user.

 

The Mechanism:

This is an automatic knife, so like always, make sure that you know your local knife. Automatic knives, or switchblades, have some very strict laws surrounding them. They are not legal in every state or city, so be sure you can legally own this knife before purchasing and carrying. An automatic knife is a knife that has the blade stored inside of the handle. Also in the handle is a tightened spring. To deploy the knife, you push down the button and the spring untightens and the blade will pop out. On the Launch 3, the name of this mechanism is the Push-button Lock. This is when the blade is locked open during use, and when you push the button again, the lock releases and you are able to store your knife.

 

The Specs:

The Launch 3 Automatic was made in the United States of America. There is also an integrated back spacer on it. The blade on this knife is 3.4 inches long. When the Launch 3 is opened, it measures in at 7.8 inches, with a closed length of 4.4 inches. The Launch 3 weighs 3.4 ounces.

 

The Pros of the Launch 3 Automatic:

  • The high end steel is tough, strong, and has great edge retention.
  • The high end steel is also resistant to corrosion.
  • The DLC adds strength, durability, and increases corrosion resistance.
  • The DLC is one of the hardest coatings on the market, so it will add the most durability and take the longest to scratch off.
  • Has a combo edge.
  • The drop point shape is one of the most versatile blade shapes.
  • The drop point has a large belly with ample cutting room.
  • The drop point has a lowered point that is broader than most, giving you some of the most strength.
  • The aluminum handle is strong, durable, resistant to corrosion, and very lightweight.
  • The anodization process makes the handle more resistant to scratches.
  • The pocket clip can be reversed in four different directions.
  • This is an automatic knife, which will deploy faster than other knives.
  • This is made in the USA.

 

Cons of the Launch 3 Automatic:

  • The steel is a little tricky to sharpen, unless you have the correct tools.
  • The DLC will eventually scratch off.
  • The drop point blade shape has a broad tip that takes away many of your piercing and stabbing abilities.
  • The aluminum handle will still get scratched, even with the anodization.
  • The aluminum handle will feel extremely cold if you are in a cold environment.
  • Automatic knives are not legal in many areas of the United States.

 

Conclusion:

Kershaw is a trusted, reliable knife company that will provide you with one of the most quality knives that you have ever used. To create their newest knife, they used a high end blade steel and cut it into one of the most versatile blade shapes. To compliment the great blade, they added a durable handle. Everything combines to make a truly exceptional knife. If you have liked the previous Launches, you are going to love this version of the Launch 3.

 

 

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