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We’re stepping into the classy world of Italian knives. While stiletto knives aren’t as widely used today as they once were, they still have a lot to offer. We’ll get you ready to answer the question “What is a stiletto knife?” with confidence and poise. These snappy and unique knives have a long history and cultural influence.
Over the centuries they made their way around the globe, flirting their way into the hands of enthusiasts and collectors alike. We’ll show you what’s so unique about these knives. Whether or not you can own one, and why you should think about getting one. You’ll learn what to look for and how to use these timeless masterpieces.
Our goal is to get you informed and ready to make a decision – whether that’s to buy or if you’re just tinkering with the idea of these knives’ purpose and use. You’ll be able to hold your end of a conversation with an Italian knife enthusiast or possibly even become the proud owner of a flashy and impressive Italian stiletto knife! Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Definition of a Stiletto Knife
I’m sure you’ve heard of stilettos before (the ladies’ shoes). They’re just as famous for their extravagant and classy appeal, as they are for making thousands of women fall over the years. Stiletto shoes have a long and thin pole stretching from the shoe’s heel to the ground – and it’s this piece that the Stiletto knife was named after.
Put basically, a stiletto knife refers to any knife with a blade that has a long and thin blade that comes to a sharp point. The sides curved inwards and the blade’s overall profile is rather narrow. Stiletto knives have exceptionally sharp tips that are designed for quick and powerful piercing. The sides are often sharpened to improve its piercing power.
Any knife with a long and slim blade with a needle-type tip can be referred to as a stiletto knife (and usually with knives less than 13” in total length). Stiletto knives often have either a gravity-assisted blade release or a spring-assisted-blade release. Stiletto knives were once used by Italian knights as a secondary knife.
Although quite dark, these flashy blades were used to slide through the eye-slots of fallen enemies’ helmets/visors to deliver a mercy finish. This was usually done when one’s enemy had been downed/fatally wounded and was seen as an act of kindness. Today, stiletto knives are more commonly found in the knife collector or enthusiasts’ collection.
They’re not designed for extensive defensive or utility work and are often just showpieces. Their value and price are linked to how closely they can mimic original Italian stiletto knives – although you can still find stiletto knives that are designed to be carried and used for utility/defensive purposes.
What Is a Stiletto Knife Used for?
As we touched on above, stiletto knives were used by medieval knights and soldiers as a secondary knife. The long, thin blade was designed to slip through a mortally wounded soldier’s visor to finish them off. During the 1980s, especially across the US, stiletto knives became incredibly popular among teenagers and young adults.
As I’m sure you can imagine, they quickly started using them to show off to their friends and to do some not-so-legal activities. This eventually led to stiletto knives being banned in many states, and their transport and sales being severely restricted across the US (very similar to butterfly knives).
While there are places that allow you to carry a stiletto knife as an EDC (everyday carry). They’re mostly used as collectors’ knives or showpieces. Functional stiletto knives can be used for basic utility work like slicing, self-defense, and martial arts training.
How to Use a Stiletto Knife
Stiletto knives can be quite dangerous – especially the spring-assisted blade release variations. They’re fast and powerful enough to easily cut your finger to the bone if it gets caught between the handle and the blade. Start by holding the stiletto knife in your dominant hand (you can learn to use it with either hand later on).
Turn the knife on its side so that the blade will release sideways. Make sure the unlock button and the blade release button are facing directly up (this is for the spring-assisted knives). Unlock the blade by pulling the lock slider down toward the butt of the handle.
Once it’s unlocked you need to be careful as pressing the release button accidentally will cause the blade to shoot out (with side-releasing blades). Locate the blade-release button about half an inch above the unlock slider. Make sure your hands aren’t blocking the knife’s release path.
Most stiletto knives aren’t sharpened on their reverse side, but the tip can still easily cut you. Press down on the release button and watch as the blade rapidly flips out and locks in place. When you’re closing the blade, push up on the release flipper (where the handle meets the blade) and manually move the blade back into the handle.
Once in place, make sure you don’t accidentally push the release button. Push the locking slider up toward the handle to lock the blade in place and to disable the release button. This process works for the spring-loaded stiletto knives (the most common Italian stiletto knife). Bear in mind there are other types of knives on the market like gravity-release knives and out-the-front release knives.
These are less common and are a little more technical to open and close quickly. Take your time to build up muscle memory before you try to increase your speed (or change hands). After a couple of weeks, you should feel quite confident and should be able to do basic openings and closings without needing to look at the knife or your hands.
Once you’re at this point, feel free to practice opening and closing the knife in different starting positions and even in your non-dominant hand. In terms of using your stiletto knife, bear in mind that they’re not designed for extensive cutting and utility work. Edge retention isn’t fantastic and the cutting edges often don’t come very sharp.
Their tip is exceptionally sharp though, so take care when learning tricks or trying to pry open packages. These are fun knives to carry around and have in an emergency. But they shouldn’t be treated like utility knives (unless you’ve bought a stiletto knife that’s been made specifically for utility and handy-work).
What to Look for in a Stiletto Knife?
There are a couple of features to consider when you’re deciding which type of stiletto knives you’re considering. You should also bear in mind that the lower your budget. The further you’re likely to stray from the original Italian stiletto knife designs. That being said, you can find some awesome budget stiletto knives in the sub-$20 – $30 range (in the US).
It’s also important to know that most budget stiletto knives don’t use premium steel. As a result, they’re not immune to rusting and corrosion, and they can’t hold much of an edge if you decide to sharpen and use them. Before you get a stiletto knife, go and check your local laws regarding carrying concealed or automatic knives.
If you don’t know where to look, a simple Google search of “knife laws in (state/country where you live)” to give you a good idea. You can also contact any knife enthusiasts you know, or even visit your local knife store and ask them. In terms of what features to look for in a stiletto knife. Here are some things you should look out for.
Make sure there is a locking mechanism on the handle that either disables the blade-release button or stops the blade from shooting out when the release button is pressed. This is especially important for stiletto knives that have out-the-front releasing blades. Ensure that there aren’t big spaces between the knife’s scales and the blade itself.
Big spaces and too much give (free movement) often hint at poor build quality. When you’re choosing a stiletto knife, always check that the steel is stainless and corrosion-resistant. Since these knives have quite a few moving parts. It’s easy to miss a bit of rust (it spreads quickly) that can ruin your knife.
Make sure the handle is slightly textured and not too slippery. Otherwise it can slip while you’re pushing the blade back into the handle. The final pointer is to ensure that the flippers near the handle (for unlocking an already deployed blade) are easily accessible. You’ll almost always need two hands to close a stiletto knife, so bear this in mind.
You should now be able to give quite a competent answer to the “What is a stiletto knife?” question– so consider yourself more cultured than before! Jokes aside, these knives are incredibly fun to carry and use. Hopefully, you’ve got a good idea of what to look for in a stiletto knife and whether it’s a good match for you or not.
Whether you’re looking to buy a stiletto knife, or you’re still weighing your options. These knives have a rich and interesting history. You’ll be holding a knife that was once revered and respected by knights and warriors from another age!