There are a lot of different knife styles on the market — including outdoor fixed blades, kitchen cutlery, and (of course) everyday carry folders. However, even within those sub-categories, there are even smaller groupings based on shape, purpose, materials, and more. It’s easy to think that you’d have to be a lifelong expert to even start to understand the tremendous number of possibilities for knife styles. Then again, there are some that stand out even to those who have near-zero familiarity with the industry.
Butterfly knives are one such style — marked by a unique format that’s almost instantly recognizable to anyone with a familiarity with popular culture. Unfortunately, thanks to their portrayal in the media — often found in the hands of thugs, thieves, and any other manner of proverbial “bad guys” in movies and television shows — they’re typically associated with violence and gang activity. The truth, however, is that these are impressive, mesmerizing, and useful tools in the right hands. If you’re interested in learning a little bit about this class of folding knife and perhaps picking one up for yourself, you’ll find 10 superb options on our list of the best balisong butterfly knives for EDC.
The Birth & Evolution Of Balisongs
Tracing back the actual origins of the balisong — commonly known in western culture as the butterfly knife — is quite difficult, hinging largely on word-of-mouth history and conjecture. Most believe that this folding knife style dates back as far as 800 CE and can be traced to the Phillippines. There are also claims that the first balisongs were based on a French measuring tool called the “Foot of the King,” which was adopted by Spain and brought over to the Phillippines by sailors and colonists between the 1500s and 1700s. However, the truth eludes historians and knife fanatics alike. Regardless, in the Phillippines, balisongs have become a huge part of the country’s history and culture throughout at least the last century and can be found all over in large markets and tiny shops alike.
What’s perhaps even more interesting than the hazy history of these folding blades is the fact that their design has remained largely unchanged since their origins. While there have been some variations in styling — like blade shapes — and materials used, modern versions are shockingly similar to their historical counterparts. Typically, this includes a blade that attaches to a pair of handles via a pair of free-swinging pivots — which together allow the blade to hide snugly between the two handles when in the closed position, but also allow the blade to swiftly and elegantly (in the right hands) “butterfly” out into deployed position.
Furthermore, the free-swinging nature of the traditional design enables well-practiced users to perform flipping tricks with the knife — which can be mesmerizing in their beauty but also remarkably dangerous. There is a strong subculture in the knife community dedicated to the creation and showcasing of these flipping tricks. In fact, there are even sanctioned competitions where balisong fanatics can showcase their prowess and win awards.
Today, there are more varieties of balisong knives than ever before. And while most of them still fall within traditional guidelines, some knifemakers have taken the same general concept of the butterfly opening and applied it to knife styles that have otherwise not featured that type of deployment. The greater point, perhaps, is that there’s a butterfly knife out there for everyone, regardless of your style or functionality preferences and needs.
A Note On Legality
Learn Your Rules
Due to the nature of balisongs, there are a number of regions that have put restrictions and/or outright bans on the carrying, use, and even ownership of butterfly knives. There are plenty of arguments to be made that they’re tools rather than weapons — a fact altered solely by the intention of the user and not the device itself — but that doesn’t change the fact that these laws, restrictions, and regulations are already in place. As such, before even considering picking up your own balisong, you should look into the legality of butterfly knife ownership. And that’s not just limited to the place where you live, but also anywhere you plan to travel with your butterfly knife, as you will be subject to the rules of those locales while you are there.
Bear and Sons 517 Butterfly Knife
Beautifully meshing traditional American knifemaking style with the functionality of a balisong flipper knife, the Bear and Sons 517 is certainly a looker — and at a remarkably low price point given the typical cost of a knife of this quality. The stag handles are offset by nickel bolsters and they’re mated to a black-finished, Boron-coated, 440 stainless steel blade. Perhaps the best feature of all, however, is that this knife was crafted right here in the USA. Not half bad for a budget-friendly pick.
Blade Length: 4″
Mantis Vuja De Balisong Karambit
As mentioned in the intro, not all balisongs fit into traditional styles and formats. Nowhere is that more true, perhaps, than in the Mantis Vuja De Balisong Karambit. Rather than adhering to the traditional shape of the Filipino balisong, this one functions in a similar fashion — a butterfly opening with a 2-part separating handle — but the format, at least in the deployed position, is that of the Indonesian karambit — a tactical blade inspired by tiger claws and based on ancient agricultural tools. It’s certainly a unique take on the balisong, but that helps it stand apart from the crowd.
Blade Length: 2″
Bradley Kimura Butterfly Balisong
If you want a balisong with a bit more of a stylistic pop, you might find something you like in the Bradley Kimura Butterfly Balisong. What helps this particular butterfly knife stand apart is the fact that its stainless steel handles are also equipped with black-and-blue G10 handle scales. Pair that with its 154CM steel spear point blade, a reversible latch, and simple-to-manage Torx hardware (making it ultra-easy to maintain), and this is an all-around exceptional everyday carry knife that also happens to be a spectacular balisong.
Blade Length: 3.88″
Kershaw Lucha Balisong Butterfly Knife
Most folks in the knife community know Kershaw as the more budget-friendly little brother to Zero Tolerance. However, they broke the mold with their premium Lucha Balisong. This spectacular, traditionally-styled butterfly knife features a formidable 14C28N Sandvik steel drop point blade, KVT ball-bearing pivots, and a bead-blasted finish. Best of all, $120 is still quite the bargain price for a blade of this quality — proving that you can always count on Kershaw to deliver tremendous value at a fraction of the cost of most other similarly-reliable knifemaking brands.
Handle: Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 4.60″
Gerber Doubledown QuadLock Machete
Like the karambit further up the list, the Gerber Doubledown definitely doesn’t slot anywhere near what one might call “traditional.” That being said, it’s still absolutely a butterfly knife, if only for its deployment style. In fact, a first glance might make you think this is not that far off from a traditional balisong, as it does mostly look like one. However, once you realize that the blade itself is 6.75″ and the total length of this tool is 15.10″, it becomes abundantly clear that this is not a butterfly knife at all, but a full-on machete. Still, when it comes to outdoor functionality and packability, the butterfly-style deployment helps make this one of the more portable large-scale machetes around.
Blade Length: 6.75″
Terrain 365 Mini-Butterfly Böhler M390
If Terrain 365 isn’t a name that has crossed your lips, the time has come to change that. In the very short time this brand has been around, they’ve proven themselves numerous times over to be one of the best companies in the hardcore, hard-use knifemaking community. And their take on a balisong is definitely no exception. Measuring up at just 4.875″ overall, this miniature butterfly knife is tougher than just about any others currently available. And that’s due, in part, to its exceptional Böhler M390 and super sturdy, ultralight titanium handles. Made in collaboration with Darriel Caston of D Rocket Design, this might actually be the toughest, most outdoor-ready balisong ever built. And that makes it very special, indeed.
Blade: Böhler M390
Blade Length: 2.125″
Hinderer Knives Nieves v2 Balisong Butterfly Knife
Rick Hinderer is well-known in the EDC and tactical worlds for designing some of the most legendary knives of all time — including the Kershaw Cryo, the legendary XM series, and many more. As it turns out, his expertise extends to butterfly knives, as well — as evidenced by the Nieves v2 butterfly knife you see before you. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, per se, but the titanium handles, CPM-S35VN steel blade, and Torx hardware all serve to elevate this particular balisong up above the competition. This knife doesn’t break the mold, but it definitely has set a high new standard in butterfly knives.
Blade Length: 4.625″
Benchmade 87 Ti Bali-Song Butterfly Knife
As is often the case with everyday carry knives, Benchmade has managed to set themselves apart more than once in the realm of balisong blades. One of their newer offerings, the 87 Ti Bali-Song, simultaneously adheres to preconceived notions of butterfly knives while also offering something quite unique and new. It boasts a pair of single-piece, channel construction titanium handles that are both ultra-tough and extremely lightweight. Those handles are paired to a sturdy and striking CPM-S30V steel reverse tanto (or Wharncliffe, depending upon who you ask). And they’re mated via a pair of buttery-smooth pivots and held together with a handy magnetic latch. Brilliantly blending tradition and novelty, this is a special blade for those that can afford the admittedly exorbitant price.
Blade Length: 4.50″
The Best Folding Karambit Knives
Though not quite in the same class as butterfly knives, the tactical karambit has taken on a new life in the modern-day thanks to the inclusion of folding mechanisms. If you’re interested in EDC oddities, you’ll find some impressively unique options on our list of the best folding karambit knives.