Want to know what steel to fling and what at? We break down how to choose the best throwing knife and targets for high-flying fun.
Simply put, a throwing knife is an object that is either a true knife (capable of cutting and other work) or a pointed/tipped/edged object that is solely designed to be thrown with no other intended capability.
Any knife in theory can be thrown, however, most all knives are not intended to be thrown. There are several reasons for this, among them the fact that knives are edged tools and are reliant on their edge profile, blade shape, and handle style to be functional in their intended role. For instance, a chef’s knife isn’t designed to be batoned through wood. A knife it is, but it is not *that* type of knife.
Likewise with throwers—a throwing knife is purpose-made for the role and is usually stripped down to a point where it is not functional in most other roles.
Selecting A Throwing Knife
In selecting a throwing knife, you need to first look at what you want to throw it at and what type of throwing interests you.
The first criterion here is important because you want to choose steel of a high enough grade that throwing it doesn’t damage it. Knives break all the time and even the strongest edge can chip or even snap if it hits a hard surface with sufficient speed and force.
If you are a recreational thrower who likes to have some fun at your weekend cookout, you really can’t go wrong across the board. Lower-cost knives in sets mean you can get more of your friends involved and the good times can be made that much better. These knives are usually made of lower-quality steel, and it is not uncommon to see broken tips. These knives are usually inexpensive and are only made to maintain a tip, not an edge.
The medium-skill thrower is probably going to graduate to some better steels and more common profiles. It is in this category you start seeing true blade steels like 1055 and 1095 come up as opposed to just generic ‘stainless steel’. The knives at this stage are still affordable but are typically sold as individual pieces, meaning building a set gets pricey. At this level, you start to see real effort put into blade profiles and balance points, as well as an emphasis on the ability to throw repeatably.
Advanced throwing knives start to get expensive, sometimes into the hundreds of dollars—some even custom-made. These are the knives you see the most serious competition throwers using. The average recreational thrower would benefit from them, but unless you’re throwing every day the expense is not going to aid you. That said, an expert’s knives are going to be balanced perfectly as well as featured tailored grip style, tip and body to provide the most consistent performance. These are also nearly identical in weight and in the distribution of that weight along the blade and handle.
Some knives are tip-heavy, others handle-heavy. Others are slotted or have holes drilled to allow the addition of weight where necessary. The weight distribution of a knife largely depends on how you grip it—a topic too large to cover here. The abridged version is balance points vary depending on your throwing method, and as you learn you may gravitate to one or another depending on what works best. Typically, it is advisable to start with a perfectly balanced knife and then, once you have that skill, learn what style your body and throwing performs best.
Throwing styles vary depending on what you are trying to do and what style of knife you’re throwing. There are many methods to do this, not just the classic ‘hold by the tip and hope for the best’. There are two main types of throwing, rotational and non-rotational, and certain types of knives are balanced better for each.
Rotational throwing is where you throw the knife, and it rotates in the air before contacting the target. You’ll need to know or be able to estimate the number of rotations needed to arrive at the target with the tip. This is harder, but the more common type you see practiced in backyards everywhere.
The next is non-rotational, where the knife is launched straight on without spinning. This is usually for shorter ranges inside 15 feet.
Throwing Knife Targets
Throwing knife targets are wide-ranging. There are dedicated throwing targets that exist, but you should know examples made of foam or modern composite usually do not hold up for the long run.
Archery targets are commonly misused as knife targets, which is fine if you like wasting your money. Archery targets made of rubber foam are meant to stop target point arrows, in a sense, it catches them by means of friction. A knife can cut through these layers and ruin them and increase the danger of a rebound back at the thrower.
The best material for throwing knives is wood, especially slices of a tree trunk. It is not good to throw at living trees, as while the knives themselves won’t kill the tree, they can allow insects in which will destroy it.
Log slices have been used as throwing targets for time immemorial and there is hardly a substitute. They last for years, can be painted over again and again, and are cheap to replace. Most people make a stand to mount them on that can be folded up and moved.
If you are handy and like woodworking, you can make a wood block target using 4×4 posts cut into sections and glued together with the grain facing the thrower. This simulates a log slice but is more uniform in shape. The author has made this type of target and found it cosmetically nice, but not more functional than a log slice.
why Throw Knives?
To ask this question you need to understand that there is a very serious and well-researched answer… because it’s a hell of a good time!
Knife throwing has very little to do with self-defense these days, and while not out of the realm of possibility, it is just not a highly relevant skill. Today it is now common to find establishments called ‘axe bars’, where throwing blades and tossing back a few cold ones are the name of the game.
There are pro-level competitions out there, just like there are in any game or sport. There is some money in it if you’re good enough, but most people just like to do this because it is a good way to spend time together and win bragging rights.
Some Of The Best Throwing Knife Options
Cold Steel Perfect Balance Thrower
Resembling the company’s tough, powerful bowie knives, the Cold Steel Perfect Balance Thrower is every bit as rugged as its fellow products. But it is designed for the purpose of throwing, not necessarily day-to-day tasks. Though it is one of the few on this list with handle scales, it isn’t held up by this feature at all. This knife was designed to offer repeatable accuracy thanks to its well-managed profile, tip shape, and handle layout. A large thrower at 13.5-inches long and almost 1 pound in weight, it has no problem carrying enough energy to punch in and stick. The knife is not sold as a set, the price is for one without any carrying system.
Cold Steel Torpedo
Probably the most unique thrower on this list, Cold Steel’s Torpedo is deceptively simple, yet extremely effective. The Torpedo isn’t necessarily a knife. However, most throwing knives aren’t knives in the true sense either. They are in the same shape as a knife but aren’t meant for cutting or really anything else other than throwing.
The Torpedo is a 15-inch long, 1-inch thick, 32-ounce piece of steel sharpened into conical points at each end. It carries a tremendous amount of mass and is large enough it can be used for self-defense and even some types of hunting at close distances on small game. This thrower is a design that exceeds its simplicity and crosses into the practical for ownership.
Survival schools teach throwing for hunting, and many native and indigenous cultures have used similar methods for millennia. The fact that a direct hit from this massive steel cylinder results in a huge, deep wound is enough to convince even the most dedicated primitive survivalist of its utility.
MSRP: $38 each
Boker Magnum Mini Bo-Kri
Boker makes excellent knives and is known the world over for their quality. The Mini Bo-Kri is an example of this, as not only a well-balanced thrower, but unique in appearance and functionality. The knife comes with a dedicated leather sheath, which is an interesting addition considering most knives of this type aren’t carried in anything, but nylon covers. The shape is a hybrid profile featuring a Bowie tip profile and a Kukri blade curvature. This shape brings the tip to the centerline and allows for very accurate throwing using a few different styles.
MSRP: $43 each
Ka-Bar Thunderhorse Thrower
The only dedicated throwing knife to carry the Ka-Bar name, the ThunderHorse is a big knife at 15.6 inches in overall length and is made in the USA out of 1095 stainless steel. There are some important things to take note of when looking to purchase this knife.
The first is that it is relatively expensive for what it is, however, it is one of the better-rated throwers out there. It is very well-balanced and has a rugged surface finish. It is made of heavy-duty steel that can sharpened to hold an edge. Of note is that the handle has pinholes, so if you need to change the point of balance you can add weights or scales.
The ThunderHorse does not come with either a sheath or as part of a set, the price is per each. If you want the best in American quality from a well-known name, you should seriously consider looking at buying a few of these to complete a competition set for your next backyard BBQ or serious game at a local match.
Thrower Supply Traditional Mountain Man Knife
Any time you gather a bunch of guys together in the middle of nowhere with guns, knives, axes, and a plentiful supply of liquor you inevitably end up with a competition. Marksmanship has been the hallmark of these frontier gatherings, often called Rendezvous, for the past couple of centuries. This is not where knife throwing started, but it could be argued that it became a true sport.
The Traditional Mountain Man thrower considers not just how the original throwing knives looked, but also design features that are very close to what was used in history. The first camp throwers were just that, hunting and skinning knives that were thrown for accuracy. Over time, people inevitably realized that handles were easy to break, so stripped-down elements were added, and blades became heavier and stouter.
In historical fashion, the Mountain Man thrower has leather handle scales held in place with copper rivets. This is easily replaced in camp with basic tools if need be. The knife we see here comes with a matching, historical-themed sheath. It is sold per each, which is a bonus if you want to show off wearing your set at your buddy’s house. Nothing says you like throwing knives like three of these bad boys on your belt in matching scabbards.
MSRP: $47 each
SOG Fling Set
SOG is well-known for making affordable and rugged tools to cover all uses. The Fling knives are meant for the recreation end of the spectrum, and they sure are fun!
The knives come as a set of three, which is what you need for low-cost backyard fun. The blades are spade-shaped, making them strong and stout, ideal for common backyard targets that are less than professional in construction.
It should be noted that these knives are not what you’d call a ‘professional’ set. They come wrapped in 21 feet of paracord each—not something that cuts air easily and facilitates superior balance. However, these are fun knives and enjoy a far greater range of ownership than higher-end throwers.
For a person interested in getting into throwing or if you just want a fun day in the yard, these are an excellent choice at a very modest price.
MSRP: $47 set of three
Condor Dismissal Set
Condor makes a huge range of affordable weapons and tools for just about any use. Despite being an El Salvadorian company, it makes functional versions of just about any historical sword, including Japanese style, huge German Messers, right on down to survival knives and recreational items like the Dismissal set.
These knives are highly refined for the price and have a set of features that make them suitable for backyard use as well as for serious competition. The knives have four holes in the handle area, allowing the user to add weights or scales should they wish to adjust balance. The tip profile of this knife is aggressively pointed and can punch into most regular materials but is also obtuse enough to not to get damaged in the process.
If you are just entering the knife-throwing sports, this set is inexpensive enough to get you started but also feature-rich enough to let you hone your skills and truly improve.
United Cutlery Expendables Kunai Set
The Expendables movie series has been out for a while now, and it is always fun to watch. Many of the actors have a history with the knife industry, arguably none more iconic than Sylvester Stallone, who also happens to be the chief character in the series. While better known for Rambo and that character’s famous knives, Stallone’s crew in the films uses a wide range of knives and this set of throwers are replicas of the screen.
Anytime you get movie prop replicas you are reminded that most prop designers have no idea how they work, but this is not the case. These throwers are functional and feature unique ring pommels that can function in the same way as a karambit in the hand. This adds security for stabbing or slashing and also making it harder to get out of the hand in a fight. A word of caution, as much fun as these would be to spin on your finger, be aware that they are sharp enough to do some damage! The knives come as a set of three in a sheath.
MSPR: $55 set of three
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these are all terrible throwing knives.
Not all of them. However I expected a better article written by Blade Magazine.