Whether you are a survival enthusiast or looking to get into competitive knife throwing, you are going to want the best throwing knives you can find. But is there a single best throwing knife? What about knives for newbies? Does it matter where I buy them? In this guide we’ll walk you through the steps and options to get you on target without breaking the bank.
We’ll take you from knife basics, to recommendations, to techniques, and even cover a bit of history. But first, let’s establish a foundation.
Intro to Throwing Knives
The oldest set of throwing knives in our inventory is a set of three tiny throwing knives we got on a trip to Thailand. It was about twenty or so years ago and if memory serves; they were thrown in with a pair of janky balisongs to sweeten a deal from a street vendor.
We played with them a bit initially, but saw little attention after returning home. Their neglect wasn’t necessarily due to a loss of interest or a steep learning curve. They were just terrible knives… especially for a beginner.
Their lack of mass and size made them bounce of the target with both speed and unpredictability. Well that and a complete lack of a understanding what we were trying to do.
Lesson one: Don’t buy tiny throwing knives thinking that they’re easier to handle, throw, or anything else.
Well, since most are pretty affordable, price isn’t too much of a factor. But, you do need to be realistic. A gas station is definitely not the place to pick up your first throwing knife. Get something from a reputable knife maker and then focus on technique.
Fortunately for you even really good throwers are cheap and easy to make. In fact pretty much any beginner level throwing knife you’ll encounter is made in Asia, comes in a three pack, and doesn’t cost much more than fifty bucks.
When it comes time to buy your first set, it might make sense to buy a set of six, or two sets of three. We opted to buy two sets of three, but got two slightly different styles. That way we could try compare and contrast the two. But, we do sort of regret not getting 6 of the Gil Hibben’s mentioned below. As a beginner it would have been so much nicer to have six identical throws before the walk to collect your knives. Three is okay… but six is better.
Lesson two: Budget for two sets of three knives.
Types of Knives
Many seasoned knife throwers recommend that beginners start out with the hammer throw… it’s the easiest to master. We’ll get into technique later, but just know that for absolute beginners you’ll be throwing from the handle.
That technique will be most successful with a knife that has some heft to it. You can work on your pinch grip throw and lighter knives later on, but beginners are best served by a hefty full tang knife. And for that hammer throw the best type of knife will be a blade heavy knife.
As you progress in skills, confidence, and enthusiasm you’re next set of knives will probably be a balanced throwing knife. It is neither blade nor handle heavy and its well suited for beginners as well as competitive throwers.
Moving up from there… when you’re really honing your skills and are competition ready; you’ll be ready to move into the handle heavy variety. But, as a beginner you’ll want to avoid these knives. They require more power and efficiency to use effectively.
Lesson three: Blade heavy knives are best for beginners
Throwing Knives that Look Cool
A throwing knife is made with a simple objective in mind. To land on target. And, while it may be tempting to buy something that looks “cool,” any expert will tell you that simple is the way to go. Quality, durability and length/weight ratio is way you will select the best throwing knives, not their design. As a matter of fact, many throwing knives skip the fancy handle entirely and go straight for an all steel design. From blade to handle.
Throwing the knife toward a target is only half the battle, how you grip the blade and/or handle is the key to actually hitting your target… point first. To find the best grip and throwing technique, check out Gil Hibben’s book , The Complete Knife Throwing Guide. However, regardless of how many books you read or YouTube videos you watch, you will want an all steel throwing knife for your first attempts.
Circling back to the avoid something that looks “cool.” We all love cool looking gadgets and gear, you might be tempted to buy throwing knives that have cool cut-outs, a menacing appearance, and designs along the side. However, you are not going to want those. Crazy looking designs are a dead giveaway that the knife is not purpose built. Remember function trumps form in the world of throwing knives.
Look for Length / Weight Ratio
The ratio between length and weight is perhaps most important for an excellent throwing knife. You are looking for a length to weight ratios around 1 ounce per inch of overall length.
Length (more than 6″ less than 13″)
Length, in the world of the throwing knife, is your friend. You want your knife to be longer (relatively speaking) so it turns slower as it spins toward the target. When you throw a knife toward a target there is an infamous sweet spot, a longer blade helps increase the odds of finding that sweet spot.
Weight comes in handy for the idea of control and keeping the knife afloat in the direction you want. Without delving deep into the world of physics, we can assume that you need a bit of heft.
You want a knife that is heavy enough to stay true to its direction and keep a consistent speed. A lighter knife will need to be thrown very hard in order to keep direction and speed. Plus the light ones have a tendency to bounce back.
Your Knife should be Dull to the Touch
While you may not think of this right away, but for targets you are not planning to kill, you may not want the sharpest knife. Beginners are encouraged, for their own safety and throwing practices to avoid really sharp throwing knives. Instead, the best throwing knives aren’t too sharp. Just make sure the tip of the blade is pointed; it’s the end you want to hit the target. A sharp knife thrown incorrectly can cut when thrown or bounce of the target, cutting you or bystanders.
Now what to look for in the best throwing knives, we have a few options down below that will help guide your search for the perfect throwing knife.
5 Great Throwing Knives for Noobs
The knives we’re going to show you are not the best throwing knives for every thrower. For different throwing styles and for skill levels, some are better suited than others.
If you are buying for a beginner lean toward the United Cutlery products or SOG. Most of these knives come equipped with a cord-wrapped handle. Which is great for a beginner’s comfort and grip. The first United Gil Hibben we mention has no wrapped handle, but overall it’s probably the best for beginners.
1. United Cutlery GH2033 Gil Hibben
These stainless steel competition throwing knives measure 12 and 1/8 of an inch. United Cutlery emphasizes an ergonomic grip so you will have a comfortable grip and precise throw. These are excellent throwing knives for competitors and beginners alike. The edges are sharpened but not too sharp, they are properly weighted balanced and are center weighted for the beginning competitor.
So who the heck is Gil Hibben? Only one of the best throwing knife makers in the business. Gil combines years of experience with high-quality designs, making this name notable for those who want to impress their other competitors. And he can throw a knife with the best of them.
|Material||420 Stainless Steel|
|Number of Knives in Set||3|
2. SOG FX41N-CP
After a brief session with a few popular throwing knives… we grew to love this great looking SOG. It’s not the easiest knife to throw… but it feels great when you get things right. It’s also pretty easy on the hands thanks to the paracord wrap.
Are you looking for a more traditional style knife to add to your collection while not sacrificing throwing ability? The 2.8-inch edge is a spear point with a long steel handle covered in durable paracord.
Beginners really like these knives because they are durable and heavy making them easier to learn basic throws. That being said because it is a traditional style throwing blade, the spear edge needs to be sharpened often in order to stick to the target.
|Material||3CR13 Stainless Steel|
|Number of Knives in Set||3|
3. United Cutlery UC2772 Kunai
Just because they’re featured in an action movie doesn’t mean they’re all show and no go. These 12-inch throwing knives features cord wrapped handles and stainless steel construction.
So how do these compare United Cutlery knives we mentioned above? They’re a little light. The handle isn’t nearly as ergonomic. They are rather sharp.
|Material||AUS-6 Stainless Steel|
|Number of Knives in Set||3|
4. Gil Hibben Cord Grip
Here we have the classic Gil Hibben name on yet another set of excellent throwing knives. This knife has a similar construction to the last blade but the cord wrapped around the handle is of a better quality. These blades are much smaller than the others in the list and are meant for a slightly more experienced thrower.
Lighter and only 6 5/8 inches long, it takes a bit of skill to reach the target successfully. While aesthetically pleasing and well made, the knives are not as beginner friendly as others in this list. But, once you get the hang of it they’d make a great second set.
|Length||6 5/8 inches|
|Material||420 J2 Stainless Steel|
|Number of Knives in Set||3|
5. Cold Steel True Flight Thrower
Cold Steel’s claim to fame is in the carbon steel they use to create extra durable knives. Encased in a baked-on protective coating, the knife’s 1055 carbon steel construction will stand up to a lot of use and abuse.
So why choose the Cold Steel over the others in the list?
This is a no-spin style throwing knife that is suited for many targets whether it is for game hunting or competition. The downside? It is an extremely sharp blade. In the hands of a beginner, mishandling or a bad throw could cause serious injury. However, customers do love the feel of the grip and the durability of this blade.
|Material||1055 Carbon Steel|
|Number of Knives in Set||1|
Care and Maintenance
As with all blades, you are going to want to maintain your throwing knives. Keep them clean, if their not stainless oil them, and ensure they’re sharpened for the task at hand. Not to pop hairs off of your forearm.
To increase longevity, make sure you keep the blades clean and sheathed when not in use.
How to Throw a Knife
We watched so many videos trying to figure out how to nail down any semblance of technique. There’s a lot of questionable stuff out there, but there are a few good ones. Here’s one of them.
As you can see from the video it’s a hard skill to learn. Get some knives, build a target, and start practicing. Oh… and forget everything you learned in the movies. Although it is kind of cool (and funny) to send a knife into wood and deliver the classic line from Predator with your best Arnold impersonation… “stick around.”
History of Throwing Knives
Throwing knives can probably trace its roots back to the first time a human threw something at prey or an attacker. They may have thrown a stick or club at a rabbit (perhaps a woomera or boomerang).
Or maybe they tossed a rock in the face of a charging attacker.
Either way… humans learned early that distance and kinetic energy provide a leg up on the competition. What about throwing knives and other bladed weapons. Well, that developed in most cultures as soon as edged weapons and tools were developed. But, not in the way we typically imagine.
Metal, be it steel, iron, bronze, etc. was very expensive and hard to come buy until fairly recently in human history. So, throwing a knife was most often a last resort. Doing so recreationally would risk either losing or breaking both a treasured possession and a crucial tool.
But, to be fair we didn’t just wake up one day and start throwing the knives we recommended above. There is a history, and we thought we’d take a stab at laying it out for you.
Aboriginals have been throwing things for a long time. And, while it’s hard to say when the first started using boomerangs and woomera we can assume it was a very long time ago.
Aboriginal peoples are believed to have inhabited what is now Australia (and surrounding islands) as long as 30,000-45,000 years ago. And, while they never developed a throwing knife or tomahawk they did develop some very effective tools.
Both the woomera and boomerang were crafted from wood and natural plant-based products. But they were incredibly effective and were likely the first “widely”used throwing weapons/tools. Although similar artifacts have been discovered elsewhere in the world.
A boomerang like tool that dates back some 20,000 years was discovered in Poland.
Early Throwing Knives of Africa
African’s (more commonly those in Central Africa) were throwing knives as far back as 1000 A.D. Some scholars believe that the blades found throughout this region were influenced by weapons depicted in Libyan wall art that dates all the way back to 1350 B.C. This perhaps reinforces our theory that shortly after humans created knives… they started throwing them.
Japanese Kunai and Shuriken
In Japan, for example, a farming tool known as a Kunai was adapted to be used as a thrown weapon/tool. Its history can be traced back to the 1500’s… and you’ve probably seen it used in Ninja or martial arts movies.
If you haven’t seen a Kunai, you’ve certainly seen a Shuriken of some sort. The most popular in pop culture is the ubiquitous throwing star. But, they’re not all throwing stars. Many Shuriken look a lot like throwing knives or spikes. And, while some historians believe that Ninja came to be as early as the 1200’s… most accounts of throwing Shuriken date back to the 1500’s.
Regardless of when exactly the Japanese began throwing edged weapons; the Kunai and Shuriken remain very popular even to this day. But, mostly with hobbyists and “mall ninjas.”
The Western Tradition of Throwing Knives
When we think of throwing a knife one of the first mental images (in our mind) is of a mountain man practicing throwing a huge Bowie-like knife into a stump. Practicing for the inevitable Grizzly attack… or so we like to imagine. And, our imagination is probably on the right track.
A lot of what we know as recreational and entertainment based knife throwing dates back to the 1800’s. A time when traveling shows were widely used to show the happenings of frontier life in the American West. Another early example of our modern interpretation of the art of throwing knives can be seen in early traveling circus acts. You’ve certainly seen the man or woman standing against a large board as another showman throws knives their way.
As far as we can tell… these are likely the roots of what evolved into the sport we discussed above. We could be wrong, but given how valuable a knife is (and has always been) throwing a knife is probably either purely for entertainment or as a last resort.