Be honest. You think the idea of throwing knives is kind of awesome. The good news is that you’re not wrong! Few things are more satisfying than flinging a piece of steel and hearing a pleasing “thok” as it digs itself deep into a target. That said, few things are more frustrating than hearing a gut-wrenching “ding” and then diving for your life as your knife bounces back at you. My purpose here is to help you get more of the former and less of the latter!
Once upon a time when I was about 13, I saw a group of city workers placing flags on the side of the road. I watched as a man stood in a moving truck bed with piles of rebar, picked up single bars, and hurled them toward the ground with all his might. Every rod he threw lodged into the ground perfectly. I wondered how, so I carved a pointy stick and started trying. After only a few minutes, I could lodge my stick in the ground, just like the rebar guy. There was a large, melting snowbank by the driveway, so I thought I’d use it to see if I could stick it horizontally. It took some figuring out, but I got there! Once the snowbank melted, a dead tree stump looked fun, but I needed something metal. This got me thinking: What about a screwdriver?
Don’t tell my dad, but that worked too. Before long, I wanted more. I took my ten-dollar machete from a nameless retailer and a dusty angle grinder from a shelf in the garage and fashioned a “knife”, and I had never been prouder. I spent hours throwing that thing into any hunk of wood I could find, making some of the best memories of childhood.
I have a deep-seated love of throwing knives, and I know the learning curve of using one. I’m far from the best, and my way isn’t the only one, but in this article, I’ll help you get to the point that you’re having fun!
A Note on Safety
As much fun as throwing knives is, all it takes is one unfortunate accident to ruin the whole day. Luckily there are some easy steps you can take to maximize fun and keep hospital trips to a minimum.
Throw the right kind of knife.
You don’t have to buy fancy throwing knives, but your knife should have a few characteristics. It should have enough heft to stick into wood, it should be balanced about in the middle, and it should be roughly symmetrical.
Yes, you technically can throw your survival knife, but I wouldn’t advise it. Knives built for real cutting are heat-treated harder so they can hold an edge and are often balanced to one end or the other instead of the middle. This means they’re harder to throw and more likely to break.
Be careful of throwing knives with edges! Most dedicated throwing knives only have a sharpened point, and there’s a good reason for it. If you like to toss your knife around (you just can’t help it), catching a knife with the edge facing toward your hand is super lame, and I have the scar to prove it. Throwing knives with edges are fine, just don’t get crazy with them!
Throw at the right kind of target.
You want a target that is soft enough for your knife to bite into it. The dream target is a thick, wide, partially-rotten log round. If you must settle, think end grain, meaning the grain is facing you. If you can’t find that, an old pallet (which you can usually find for free) will work; just orient the grain of the wood vertically. Your knife wants to dig into a space between grains. End grain or vertical grain will give it the best chance of sticking.
Wear proper safety equipment
You know the drill: Glasses, closed-toe shoes, long pants, the whole nine yards. Be careful with gloves, especially if your knives are cord-wrapped. If your knife snags on your glove, it might swing back and bite you, and that’s no fun.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the fun part.
How to Throw a Throwing Knife
Mastering these four things is the key to sticking your throwing knife:
- Circular motion
In the movies, people throw knives hard, fast, and with a ton of spin. Blurry, spinning objects are easier to convert to CGI, making it so actors don’t really have to dodge knives. In real life, the more spin you give your knife, the harder it will be to stick it.
To give me the best chance of sticking it, I grip the knife so the blade is parallel with my thumb and I lock my wrist straight. If you can’t help but flick your wrist, try it with a medical wrist brace on. You want to have as much control over the knife’s spin as you can get.
In golf, every part of the golfer’s body is trained for a consistent swing. That removes all the guesswork from golfing – if you can do it the same every time, you don’t miss shots because of your swing. Throwing knives is no different. You want your angle to the target, your foot placement, the way you rock back on your hips, and your arm motion to all be rock-solid muscle memory. A consistent throw will make for consistent sticks. From there, you can start practicing accuracy!
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your knife is going to spin, and it only has one point. You have to know how your knife is going to spin if you want it to stick. For me, at one pace and a few inches, I hold the knife by the pommel and I can count on a half a spin. At three paces, I hold the knife by the point and I can count on one whole spin. Five and change, by the pommel. Seven, by the point. To gauge how accurate your spin guesses are, look at the angle of your knife’s impact. If it’s angled down, you’re too close. If it’s angled up, too far. If it’s perpendicular to the target’s surface, you’re right on!
Throwing knives is simple, but you need to spend a few hours at it before you’re sticking more than not. Find a good place to practice away from people, buildings, car tires (don’t ask), etc. A word of caution: the woods are risky! I lost my first throwing knife because I was throwing in the woods, missed the target, and my knife landed among the briars and bushes, where it lays today. Learn from my mistake, and choose a high-contrast, easy-to-search background.
Just remember: CCCP is the key to throwing knife success!
Best Throwing Knives
The best throwing knife is the one you are comfortable with, so there’s no one throwing knife that’s perfect for everyone. After a while of throwing, you’ll figure out your preferred length, weight, style, etc. Shop around, try a few out, and find out what you like!
Throwing knives for beginners are usually between 8 and 12 inches long and come in sets, often with a sheath! Check out brands like Smith & Wesson, Kershaw, Cold Steel, Ka-Bar, and Boker. Each of these companies offers a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles of throwing knives for great prices.
There’s more to throwing than just knives, too. Having a hard time getting the point to stick? Try a throwing star! Want a little more heft? Try a throwing axe! There’s a world of fun throwables for you to explore and hurl into things!
Here are some of our recommendations for sets to get you started!
Style, function, and durability come together with this set of three from SOG. These knives are tough enough to withstand hundred of hours of throwing without breaking, come factory sharpened, and are balanced perfectly for reliable aim. Plus, the comfortable grip, Bowie blade shape, and paracord handles make these excellent backup camp knives.
For the price, Ka-Bar knocks it out of the park with this throwing knife set. They’re balanced for good rotation, heavy enough to bite into your target, and have a simple user-friendly design. Add in the nylon sheath for storage and you’ve got a set that you’ll come back to time and time again.
With a sharpened tip and impact-resistant steel, these knives from Smith & Wesson follow the textbook for good throwing knives. They’re slightly more lightweight than the other options listed above but that doesn’t inhibit the performance and just makes them easier to carry in their nylon sheath.
Get Out There and Throw Some Knives!
Throwing knives is a fun, relaxing, and inexpensive hobby. You can get a great set of knives within your budget, or you can even make your own! The first sharp thing I ever threw was little more than a stick, but I still had a ton of fun with it. Throwing knives is a great way to show off to your friends around camp, release the stress of the workweek, build confidence, and get some exercise.
And remember, these are still knives, and unlike other knives, they’re made to be abused! In a survival situation, if you need to throw a spark off a ferro rod, pry up a rock, fish something out of a fire, chip a hole into a rock, or make a tent peg that fears no root, you could do a lot worse than a throwing knife!