Ball bearings, or BB can mostly be found in two different places when it comes to tactical gear.

  • As a way to make opening a folding knife more easily.
  • The ammunition used by airsoft guns resembles ball bearings balls and therefore is called BB.

With folding knives you usually want a way to reduce the friction between the blade and the handle. Only knives that are made for slow opening anyway skip this all together. All others either have washers made of teflon or bronze or they use ball bearings.

There’s a huge discussion wether ball bearings on a folder are a good thing or not.

  • Pro: The opening is very smooth. Knives with BBs are usually meant to flipped open in one way or another. It’s not only useful when you can easily open them but it’s also fun. Knife enthusiasts often strain the nerves of people around them by endlessly flipping their knives open and close.
  • Contra: The balls can carve into the material of the blade and handle. In extreme cases this can make the blade “wobbly”.

There are two potential solutions to this dilemma:

  • Use ball bearings only on EDC knives which aren’t made for extremely hard work
  • Use alternative systems like the IKBS system ANV uses on their “BB” models. These are ball bearings without cage. It means, the balls run freely in grooves. Therefore you can use a lot more balls in the same space, making the system more resilient against wear and tear.