The misconception about pantographic knives and paratrooper knives is as old as the knives themselves. People often mistakenly assume both knives to be alike; due to the popular belief about pantographic knives being used in World War II by the German paratroopers. Even some learned knife enthusiasts foster similar thoughts.

However, contrary to this widespread anecdote, these two knives are completely different in every visible aspect, be it in appearance, functions, or the area of application. The knife that paratroopers used during the war was comparable to this; was a type of gravity knife, a completely distinct kind of knife. Here in this article, we’re going to explore in-depth about both pantographic and paratrooper knives; their attributes, why and how they are different, and settle this debate once and for all. If you’re as invested in this matter as we are, we can assure you this will be an interesting ride to get deep into. Let us jump straight in!


Overview of Pantographic Knives

Pantographic knives flaunt a sturdy and unique folding design. It resembles the scissors method of the balisong knife, popularly referred to as the butterfly knife. However, the construction of the pantographic knife’s handle differs from the balisong knife. It features a handle linked to the main body; whereas, the butterfly knife fashions an untethered handle that can be swung freely while extracting the blade.

The history of pantographic knives dates back to Pre-World War II, Germany; still, some knives can be found with Nazi swastika insignia engraved on the knife’s body. As far as data go, no such facts about pantographic knives being circulated in the 2nd World war’s German troopers were verifiable. To extract the blade, the sectioned part of the handles was to be pulled outwards, which semi-revealed the blade. Then, horizontally joining the handle and finally pull it back inwards to unsheathe the blade completely and form a whole handle.

Tang & Handle: Unlike the usual folding knives, the pantographic knife boasts a longer tang compared to the knife’s heel. Evidently, the feature that makes it distinguishable from other knives and thus earning it this name is the handle. The handle is divided consistently in the middle, in a way that unfolds the blade through revealing like a scissor, yet joint with the knife. This pantograph linkage contributes to the strength and stability of the construction. Such pantographic knives come with a catch that secures a locking position to keep the blade open or closed; by holding the handle in position.

Blade Length & Material: The knife houses a double-edged blade featuring 5-inches or over in length in usual, made from robust steel. The whole construction is metallic, so durability is guaranteed. However, the modern replicas of pantographic knives use stainless steel to forge the blade.

Size & Weight: The average size of this knife ranges from 4-6 inches in length while closed and 9-11 inches when opened. Even though these feature reliable build, the complex handle requires both hands to extract the blade, and on top of that, the heavier weight makes it uncomfortable to carry. Therefore, a pantographic knife may be an excellent collectible but not very practical for regular use.

Common Uses of Pantographic Knives: The use of modern pantographic knives are limited to cutting thin fabric, wires, opening letters, etc. like any other utility knife, whilst the initial design was favorable to use as an everyday carry, survival, and even for the tactical field.

Overview of German Paratrooper Knives

The actual German paratrooper knives were issued to the airborne soldiers, paratroopers and pilots, to free themselves from the envelope of parachutes swiftly, preferred because of its one-hand operation. That’s another reason pantographic knives cannot pass as paratrooper knives, as those features a complex opening method that requires both hands, therefore posing a significant disadvantage.

Types of Paratrooper Knife: The Fliegerkappmesser aka gravity knives, literally translate as Flyers Folding Knife. Due to its compactness and ease of use, paratroopers opted for this knife. Another design of the paratrooper knife used by the German soldiers in WWII was a fixed blade sheathed in leather. The troops equipped it with their gears for better access. However, the soldiers found more at home with the gravity knife, which required only a snap to draw out the blade, rather than unfastening leather sheath and withdrawing the knife; the promptness was an attribute to prioritize too.

Based on the timeline, the gravity knives can be divided into five wide groups. The first type was a pre-world war design, fashioning a bulky wooden scale for the handle. Later during the war, they updated the design with a lighter version due to its functionality. The third version was issued after the war with a slight upgrade. Afterward, the manufacturers used different materials to make the handle instead of wood, such as plastic polymer materials. Finally, the latest and most compact version of the gravity knife was introduced. It’s the modern gravity knife that’s still being used to this date.

Size & Weight: The overall length of this knife ranges from 8 to 10 inches while opened. The weight is kept to moderate of this solid blade, so it’s not uncomfortable to carry it anywhere for any period. Usually found between 4-6 oz, barely noticeable while carrying.

Handle & Locking Mechanism: The innovative layout of the gravity knife uses literal gravity in the operation. The blade is tucked in the handle and unsheathed via pulling a switch, very much like a switchblade knife. But dissimilar to a switchblade, a gravity knife requires gravity to get the knife out. The switch works as a stopper for the blade; through pulling the lever, the stopper gets removed and enables the blade to slide down by motioning the knife downwards. Pulling the switch again locks the blade in that position. For the same reason, the blade doesn’t slide down when it’s closed.

The handle used to be made of wood in the earlier times, but now the manufacturers go for a more popular option such as plastic, nylon fiber reinforced polymer, aluminum, etc. some even comes with scales and textures for a better grip while being airborne.

Blade Length & Material: Considering the urgency and importance, paratrooper knives are designed to be most functional in times of need. The length of the blade varies from 3.5-5 inches; as it’s meant to be compact and covert the size is kept in check. For the material, the manufacturers lean towards stainless steel or alloy steels now; to ensure it is lightweight and low maintenance.

Extra Features: The gravity knife may also feature a few extra attributes – a metallic loop for fastening, a marlinspike for unwinding knots, and ropes, which are a priority for paratroopers and naval soldiers. It may be equipped with a lanyard hole, which adds to its storage option. Gearing up with default storage made it easier for soldiers to carry this emergency knife.

Common uses of Paratrooper Knives: Apart from relieving from parachutes, gravity knives can also be used as a utility knife for soldiers to perform chores, such as cutting wires, setting up tents, self-defense, opening letters and packets, slicing small fruits, cutting plastics, and fabrics, etc. Upkeep was also kept to the minimum, pressing a switch unlatches the head of the handle, resulting in disassembling the knife, that way, it can be cleaned thoroughly with the least effort.



Q: Is it legal to own a pantographic or paratrooper knife?

A: Pantographic knives are legal due to their harmless in-home uses similar to regular utility knives. It’s also an adored collectible in most regions. Because paratrooper knives are military knives and are still being issued among soldiers, the public use of gravity knives is banned in England, Canada, and almost all the states of the USA except New York. Although, the ban stays during carrying the knife while taking public transportations.

Q: What can be perceived as the modern adaptations for these knives?

A: Paragon’s Warlock, Dredd, and Phoenix line feature an excellent and contemporary designed paratrooper gravity knife model that opens sideways.

Many manufacturers did continue the line to produce pantographic knives, but regrettably, it was discontinued. Though, modernized replicas are still available in the market.

Q: Should I get a gravity knife to take on the field?

A:  The sharpness comes decent enough to cut ropes and wires, but if you belong to delta force or navy SEAL, We’d advise against it. For the field of paratroopers and naval forces, much more functional and multi-purpose knives are available in the market; than such antique designs.



Pantographic knives and the German Paratrooper knives a.k.a gravity knives are originated from a similar root. Even so, the notion of them being the same knife has no solid backup. Still, pantographic knives are sold as paratrooper knives because of those prevalent misinterpretations. Both have unique features and uses. The point of this post is so those looking to buy or collect paratrooper knives; don’t end up buying a pantographic knife only to be dumbfounded later. We sure hope this helped!

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