There are more types of knives in the world than you can shake your fist at — ranging wildly in size, shape, design, intent, etc. However, each and every one of them serves a purpose (and sometimes more than one). Exploring these variations, especially for someone with a penchant for bladed tools, can be rewarding, educational, and can even help increase a person’s skill set in some pretty meaningful ways. Though somewhat common in popular culture (especially blockbuster movies, as can be seen in The Expendables through Jason Statham’s character, Lee Christmas), throwing knives are actually one of the rarer variety of knives — and they require a greater skill level to be used properly and effectively than most other knife types.
That being said, there’s definitely an allure to the idea of whipping a blade across a room and into one’s intended target. Thankfully, though rare, throwing knives are not entirely unapproachable, even for beginners. It’s with this in mind that we’ve put together the following collection of the 10 best throwing knives you can buy right now. And we’ve bolstered said collection with a dive into their historical background, an explanation of the different types, and even some tips and tricks to assist you in learning how to throw knives.
What Are Throwing Knives?
History & Purpose
It might seem simple on a surface level — throwing knives are, put in the most basic terms, knives that you throw, right? Well, that’s not exactly true. Yes, you can theoretically throw any knife. However, some knives were actually designed to be thrown, just as others were designed for outdoor survival, combat, everyday carry, etc. To help you understand this class of knives, their origins, history, and purpose, we’ve composed the following at-a-glance overview.
Throwing Knife Origins: Seeing that the knife is likely mankind’s oldest tool (in a very rudimentary form), it’s probably safe to assume that throwing knives — or the practice of throwing knives — was born shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, as the usage of these tools predates recorded history, it’s difficult to pin down exactly when throwing knives were truly first invented. The highest likelihood is that it didn’t happen all at once or in one location, but rather that they were developed over time. However, examples have been discovered — “throwing sticks,” which are literal sticks with pointed tips intended to be tossed at prey or adversaries — that date back to the height of Tutankhamun’s rule over Egypt (roughly the late-1300s BC). Regardless, you can see examples of throwing knives in the history of cultures around the world.
Take, for instance, ancient Japan. Shurikens — known colloquially as throwing stars — actually come in two varieties and date back as far as the late 1500s. The hira-shuriken is what most people think of as a throwing star, with four (or more) points, meant to be thrown in a fashion similar to that of a frisbee. However, its sibling is called the bo-shuriken and looks more like a knife and/or spear tip. Central Africa also has a long and rich tradition of developing and utilizing throwing knives in combat — although many of these examples have an appearance much more similar to modern axes, tomahawks, and hatchets. Even the Aboriginal boomerang, originating in Australia, could be considered a throwing knife, as it was used in combat and hunting — albeit one vastly different from the modern examples we’re referencing.
Though once very widespread and even quite effective on the battlefield and on hunting trips, throwing knives took a big hit regarding their overall value as other forms of projectile weapons were invented and popularized. This likely started with the simple bow and arrow, although throwing knives were still decidedly more portable and retained a measure of value. However, as firearms grew in popularity and commonality, throwing knives took a big backseat and, eventually, became something of an oddity — used primarily in competitive sport and for entertainment purposes (as can be observed in circus and magic acts). And that’s where the practice has settled to this day.
Types & Intention: Stylistically speaking, there’s not really any definable designs to help you figure out what types of throwing knives there are on the market. Put simply: a throwing knife can theoretically have a design that fits any style — existing or not-yet-invented. However, most tend to conform to straight, rigid shapes (like other styles of fixed blades), as these tend to be better for the act of throwing. Karambits, for instance, have a curved blade and handle shape and, therefore, are far more difficult to throw with accuracy and, more importantly, are harder to score a “hit” with.
As such, throwing knives are better organized into three throwing knife-specific categories: blade-heavy, handle-heavy, and balanced. As their names suggest, blade-heavy knives have most of their weight toward the tip of the blade, handle-heavy knives are heavier at the handle, and balanced knives (in theory) have their weight spread evenly between handle and blade. Blade-heavy knives tend to be best for beginners, as they work well with instinctive throwing — meaning you’d throw from the handle either over- or under-handed — and the heavy blade is the likeliest portion of the knife to hit your intended target. Handle-heavy knives are typically thrown via the blade (typically with a “pinch” grip, meaning you’d hold the blade between your forefinger and thumb) and are much less suited to use by beginners, as they have a steeper learning curve. Balanced blades can be thrown via the handle or blade, thus making them the most versatile of the three and can be great for users of all skill levels, though we’d still probably suggest that beginners try a blade-heavy knife first.
How To Throw A Knife
A Brief Primer
Having been around for literally thousands of years across dozens of cultures, knife throwing isn’t something that can be pigeon-holed down to a single technique or style — nor should it be. However, there are some beginner-level techniques anyone can learn as an initial foray into the world of knife throwing. We’ve outlined some of those basic techniques, as well as tips and tricks below:
Disclaimer: Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to learn to throw knives without professional assistance and supervision. While this skill/sport can be rewarding and fun, it is still extremely dangerous and should be treated with respect and caution.
Grip: This refers to the method by which a thrower holds their knife during the act of throwing it. The simplest grip, and the best for beginners, is the “hammer grip” — which, as it sounds, means you hold the handle of the knife toward the bottom like you would a hammer. This will allow you to throw the knife end-over-end (like a hatchet). However, there are other types of more advanced grips for different kinds of throwing. The second most common is probably the “blade grip,” in which the thrower will hold the knife with the blade’s spine (if the knife is only sharpened on one side) toward the palm and the wide, flat portion of the blade (between the spine and edge) gripped between the thumb and fingers. Finally, perhaps the most advanced technique of these basic grips is called the “pinch grip,” which requires a thrower to literally pinch the knife (via the blade or handle) between their forefinger and thumb. This takes a greater amount of grip strength, but it’s an important technique for throwing lighter knives that are either blade-heavy or balanced. Keep in mind: these are just three basic throwing grips, but there are variants therein and some professional throwers have even developed their own styles.
Stance: The way a knife thrower stands will affect their ability to put power behind their throw and will have an impact on stability, accuracy, and even safety. Much like throwing a punch, the best stance for most knife throwers, especially beginners, is with one’s feet roughly shoulder-width apart and the dominant foot (the same side as one’s throwing arm) further back than the non-dominant foot. As one throws, the thrower should shift their weight forward, putting their weight forward toward onto the non-dominant foot, to help with power, stability, control, etc. As is the case with all of these categories, this is not the only option, but it is well-suited to beginners.
Aim: As is the case with any target-based, accuracy-heavy activity, a knife thrower’s aim should be intentional. That is to say, you don’t want to aim at a general area, but rather a specific point. It may take a good deal of practice, but having a specific intention as to where you’re trying to hit your target is extremely important. Not only will it allow you to strike true (with enough practice), but it is actually safer both for the thrower and anyone else that happens to be around.
Power Consistency: For this metric, it might be best to think of it in more common terms, like those used in baseball. A pitcher, for instance, needs to practice consistency in the power they put behind the ball, as it will affect the overall trajectory and accuracy of a pitch. After all, a pitcher wouldn’t want to throw a change-up with the same power as a fastball, as that would defeat the purpose. Well, the same goes for knife throwing. In order to throw properly and with accuracy, a thrower must be able to intentionally throw their knife repeatedly with consistent power. Adjustments can then be made (increases and decreases) in order to refine and perfect said throws. The greatest purpose behind consistent power, as you might have guessed, is that it gives the thrower greater overall control.
Distance, Trajectory, & Spin: We’ve grouped these three factors together simply because they cannot be separated from one another. That is to say, altering one alters all three. First, distance is the space between you (the thrower) and your target. According to the American Knife Throwers Alliance (AKTA), there are four minimum distances (from thrower to target) for competition purposes: 7, 10, 13, and 16 feet. As these are intended for professional competition purposes, beginners are encouraged to adhere to these distances with a focus on shorter distances. Further throws are possible, but accuracy decreases as distance (and necessary power) increase(s).
For knife throwing purposes, “trajectory” can be defined as the arc through which a knife travels from the thrower’s hand to the target. Ideally, this arc would be kept to a minimum — meaning the thrower endeavors to throw in as straight a line as possible. This is because an arc will increase the travel distance of a knife and, therefore, decrease its accuracy. It also alters at which point in its spin a knife will strike its target, meaning there’s a higher likelihood of hitting the intended target with the handle rather than the blade. To avoid arcing your throwing knife, it’s necessary to increase the power behind the throw, as a stronger throw will reduce the necessity for an arc.
Finally, the “spin” is the rate at which a knife tumbles end-over-end on its way to the intended target. There are very advanced techniques which seek to eliminate spin altogether — meaning a knife would be thrown more like a spear — but that can take years and years of practice to master. For beginners, a good spin is a practical necessity. However, throwers will want to learn how to control the spin so as to ensure the knife hits its target with the tip of the blade. This will take some practice, trial, and error — and it will differ from knife to knife — but the end goal should be to learn to control the spin across the various standard distances. You can also think of the spin rate in a Three Bears context: throwers should seek out a spin that’s not too slow and not too fast — AKA “just right.”
Smith & Wesson SWTK8BCP Throwing Knives
One of the most approachable throwing knife sets around, the Smith & Wesson SWTK8BCP kit comes with three handy, well-balanced 2Cr13 knives — each crafted from 2Cr13 steel and weighing just 4.1 ounces in total. Ideal for all experience levels, the kit also comes with its own 3-knife nylon sheath, so keeping them secure and transporting them is as simple as slipping them into said sheath.
Total Length: 8″
Weight: 4.1 oz
Cold Steel Mini Torpedo Throwing Knife
Cold Steel’s Mini Torpedo might not look like a traditional throwing knife, but it’s actually designed like the aforementioned ancient Japanese bo-shuriken. Crafted from a solid piece of cold-rolled 1095 steel, this somewhat hefty 12″ throwing knife is perfect for professionals and amateurs alike — and it serves as both a great practice knife and one that can help those looking for something a bit different. Furthermore, if this one isn’t quite hefty enough for you, for whatever reason, it also has a larger sibling — which is 15″ in length and weighs 2 lbs, but is otherwise the same.
Steel: Cold Rolled 1055 High Carbon
Total Length: 12″
Weight: 15.8 oz
Cold Steel Pro Throwing Knives
While the Torpedo above is certainly a unique offering, it’s far from the only Cold Steel throwing knife available. And since the brand is so prolific in the space, we’ve also included another of their noteworthy options here in this Pro Throwing Knife set. These black carbon steel blades are perfectly balanced, designed to be thin and manageable, are crafted from 1055 carbon steel, and come in a three-pack. Of course, if these still don’t strike your fancy, you can check out Cold Steel’s other offerings.
Steel: 1055 High Carbon
Total Length: 12″
Weight: 8.16 oz
Kershaw Ion Dagger Throwing Knives
Those with a familiarity with Japanese pop culture might recognize the styling of these Kershaw Ion Dagger throwing knives, as they look quite similar to the kunai that appear in various works of entertainment, including famous anime Naruto. These, however, are very much the real deal — crafted from 3Cr13 steel with a blade-heavy orientation and a paracord-wrapped handle. Furthermore, their wide, double-bladed, spear-point tips will help users of all levels strike more hits on their target(s).
Total Length: 9″
Weight: 4 oz
SOG F041TN-CP Throwing Knives
One of the more unique silhouettes of the throwing knives on our list, the SOG F041TN-CP Throwing Knives look a lot like pared-down, skeletonized versions of bowie knives, which gives them bonus points for style in our opinion. But it’s important to note that these are still the real deal when it comes to throwing knives, and they’re made from solid black-finished 420 steel and feature skeletonized handles wrapped with paracord for extra grip (and to serve as an emergency contingency). That means, while they’re intended for throwing, these knives are also useful for general fixed blade usage, as well.
Total Length: 10″
Weight: 6.53 oz
Ka-Bar ThunderHorse Throwing Knife
Ka-Bar only has one throwing knife in its lineup — probably because this sole offering, created in collaboration with KJ Jones of ThunderHorse Blades (who also happens to be a member of the Knife Throwers Hall of Fame), is just that good. Crafted from a single, sturdy piece of 1095 steel, this blade-heavy beauty is a hefty offering beloved by those in the knife-throwing community and trusted by professionals and amateurs alike. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is the best of the best on our list, but we’re not going to discourage that line of thinking, either.
Total Length: 15.625″
Weight: 19.8 oz
United Cutlery Gil Hibben Gen III Throwing Knife Set
You’d be hard-pressed to find a throwing knife designer more impactful and masterful than Gil Hibben. And that’s probably a part of the reason that United Cutlery’s Gil Hibben Gen III Throwing Knives are so spectacular and beloved. These perfectly balanced throwing knives come in a pack of three, are built from 3Cr13 stainless steel, and measure up at a manageable 11″ each. Crafted for the perfect throw every time, you can’t go wrong with these.
Total Length: 11″
Weight: ~10.6 oz
Condor Dismissal Throwing Knife Set
A good deal heavier than most of the other minimalist throwing knives on our list, Condor’s Dismissal Throwing Knife Set is perfect for anyone that wants to put a bit more power behind their throws without sacrificing control. They’re also blade-heavy, making them ideal for those with a bit more experience, and they each built from solid, 5mm-thick 1075 high carbon steel. Finally, they’re finished off with a black epoxy powder coat, giving them plenty of durability — which means these knives were truly made to be used over and over again.
Total Length: 12″
Weight: 10.7 oz
Spyderco Small SpyderThrowers Throwing Knives
While we’re highlighting the Small version of Spyderco’s SpyderThrowers throwing knives — made in collaboration with master Canadian knifemaker Harald Moeller — this set is actually available in three different sizes. However, apart from their length and weight, these knives are practically identical — built from solid 8Cr13MoV steel and boasting a perfectly-balanced format. As a clever added touch, Spyderco still managed to include its signature thumb hole, albeit a much more tame and tiny version, on the blades of these throwing knives.
Total Length: 9″
Weight: 7.1 oz
Boker Magnum Bailey Ziel Throwing Knife Set
If you’re interested in getting into genuine knife throwing competitions, you can’t go wrong with Boker Magnum’s “tournament-grade” Bailey Ziel set. These handsome tools are each crafted from a single, solid piece of 420J2 steel and are perfectly balanced from tip to tail. Best of all, they were made specifically to meet the standards set by most, if not all, knife-throwing clubs.
Total Length: 13.25″
Weight: 14 oz
The Complete History Of Fighting & Combat Knives
The story of the knife is the story of mankind. So, to better understand ourselves and what is likely our fist, most trusted tool, we’ve put together this comprehensive history of fighting and combat knives to help those interested become more acquainted with our intertwined stories.