What Is a Stiletto Knife?

Stiletto Knife

A stiletto (or stiletto knife) is a particular type of knife that differs from most knives we know. It is more similar to a dagger than a regular knife. It has a normal handle, but its blade is long, slender, and has a triangle shape – often ending in a needle-like, sharp tip. Because of its blade’s shape, the stiletto is believed to be used mainly for stabbing, unlike other knives that are designed to cut or slice things.

The stiletto knife originated in Italy, during the middle ages. The original design is similar to its modern counterpart, albeit the stiletto’s primary owners have changed. At its conception, the stiletto knife was primarily an offensive weapon, used by knights as a backup weapon or as a tool to finish off wounded soldiers. It eventually made its way into the hands of assassins and criminals. It obtained a bad reputation because of that.

This infamous knife made a reappearance in World War I and World War II, where closed combat quarters made a comeback in warfare – that’s where deadlier knives were needed. Many knives, like the British Royal Marine’s fighting knife, were based on the stiletto.

After World War II was over, stiletto gained even more fame than it ever did when Italian knife manufacturers started to create a switchblade-like stiletto knife and importing it to America. It is important to note that, even though most switchblades feature a stiletto-like blade, switchblades and stiletto knives are two different things. Not all switchblades are stilettos and not all stilettos are switchblades.

How many different models of stiletto knives are there?

The stiletto knife is over 500 years old. Because of its age, there are countless models and different types of stiletto knives out there. All stiletto knives are similar, but five types are historically important. Most stiletto knives feature a fixed position; on the other hand, the famous switchblade variant has a folding blade.

Classic Italian Stiletto: 

This is where it all began. It’s the original, classic look – albeit not too many people would recognize it as such. First made in the 1400s, this stiletto knife has a long, thin blade and a short handle. The blade ends at a pointy tip, almost needle-like. It was used at first by knights, and then by criminals.

Modern Italian Stiletto: 

The modern counterpart is similar to the classic model but with a few changes. The classic stiletto looks more like a dagger than a knife, a specific shape that the modern stiletto has lost after changing its handle. It also lost the pointy end of the blade, and instead has a one-side curved end, as most knives do.

Trench Stiletto: 

Also known as a trench knife, it is a bigger version of the stiletto with a completely different handle. The blade remains similar to the one featured in classic Italian stilettos, but the handle is bigger to ensure a better grip. It was designed to kill or incapacitate enemies at closed quarter scenarios, such as in a trench – it was made in World War I when trench warfare was key.

F-S Stiletto: 

The Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife is a stiletto knife variant created during World War II in the United Kingdom. The blade is a bit broader than the classic stiletto. It looks and works more like a dagger than common knife-like stilettos used to be when they were first made. Several armies throughout the world use it as their standard issue knife, like the British Royal Marines or the Canadian Armed Forces.

Switchblade Stiletto: 

The most well-known stiletto knife. It was also made in Italy. This stiletto features a folding knife, one that can go inside its handle and quickly be taken out either manually or automatically by pushing a button or some sort of trigger. They were first made in the 1950s and became a popular sensation almost overnight in America. Soon after they became popular, switchblades encountered pushback from the government and became somewhat illegal.

How Long is a Stiletto Knife?

As you know, there are a lot of different types of stiletto knives. There is no one measurement that fits all blades. Of course, knives have a certain length – if not, they are too short and useless, or too long and become a sword. Stiletto knives are no exception.

Most stilettos have a blade that’s 3 to 4 inches long. The entire knife, both blade and handle, is commonly found to be 8 to 9 inches long. Military-related stilettos are longer: the Fairbairn-Sykes model, used by the United Kingdom Royal Marines, has a 7-inch blade and is over 11 inches long.

There are American stiletto variants that are almost 20 inches long, but they are the less-preferred option.

How Do Stiletto Knives Work?

Stilettos are rather easy to use. You grab it, point it at whoever you want to hurt, and push it through him. In all seriousness, the stiletto is more an offensive weapon than it is a tool. Other knives, instead, are created with several purposes in mind.

Even though self-defense is one of them, there are countless other scenarios where a common knife is useful: hunting, opening letters or boxes, cooking, and countless other activities. Common knives work in almost all scenarios because of their blade and its shape. Most stilettos have a slightly different blade, a triangular one. This type of blade was made to damage your opponent – that’s why stiletto knives are often used only inoffensive ordeals.

If you are wondering about the switchblade stiletto mechanism, it’s rather simple. There are several switchblade lock systems. They are all similar and follow the same procedure. The knife is held back by the lock inside the handle and one trigger (either a button or lever) prevents it from moving. When the user activates the trigger, the knife quickly comes out.

What’s the story behind stiletto knives?

The stiletto knife originated in Italy. The very first designs were dagger-like knives that had blades with no sharp edges. This type of knife was used to finish off opponents in the battlefield or assassinate a target.

Stiletto knives became popular during the Middle Ages when knights started to employ them as their secondary weapon in close combat. Because of its needle-like shape, this knife could – given enough force – penetrate through body armor and kill a fallen opponent.

As time went on, knights stopped using the stiletto – and other types of citizens began using them instead. Robbers, assassins, and all kinds of criminals favored this weapon over others because of its effectiveness, size, and stealth-like attributes.

The 19th-century Italian immigration wave to the United States transported the stiletto from Italy all the way into America. There, it remained as the weapon of choice for criminals. It made its way into the hands of gang members and anarchists as well.

Because of its effectiveness as an offense weapon, it was later adapted by armies from different parts of the world.

What’s The Difference Between a Stiletto and a Switchblade?

A stiletto and a switchblade are two different things. They are often confused because of the 1950s Italian model that combined both things – the very same that made stilettos popular in America.

As you know, a stiletto is a knife mainly created for offensive purposes. Most models have a triangular blade with a thin, needle-like point. There are countless versions of it, the stiletto switchblade included. This model is, as the name shows, a switchblade. But not all stilettos are switchblades, nor all switchblades are stilettos.

Are Stiletto Knives Legal?

Here’s the thing: stilettos are legal. Switchblades, on the other hand, have a more complex legal status. During the switchblade stiletto craze of the 50s, politicians thought these terrible knives were a menace to society and would soon cause a surge in crime. So, they did what they do best, and banned them. That’s what the Switchblade Act of 1958 is for.

According to that legal document, a switchblade is a “knife having blade that opens automatically” this feature has to be applied by “hand pressure to a button” or “other device”. Did crime drop after the bill passed? Of course not. Did switchblades disappear? That didn’t happen either. Loopholes were found – specifically around the word “button”.

Most people can manufacture and own switchblades in America – albeit slightly different to the 1950 version – as long as they aren’t against the law – federal law, that is. Your state laws may vary, and you should check those before you buy a switchblade.

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  • Gross Weight : 210g / 7.5oz

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Conclusion

Stilettos are a piece of knife history. They have been around for long enough, and plenty of other models have spanned from the original design. One of those is the stiletto switchblade, but not all switchblades are stilettos – remember that if you are a knife enthusiast!

If you want to own one, you probably can. But you should check your state’s law before you decide to spend money on one!

References

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Ahmed

I’m Ahmed, the guy behind Knifepulse.com. I’ve owned several types of knives and sharpeners over the last few years and have become obsessed with everything to do with knives. I’m always trying to improve my cleaning and sharpening process, and always on the hunt for the next best knife. But when I’m not spending time with my hobby, I’m here, writing about Knives and Sharpeners on KnifePulse to share with you what I learn along the way.

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