Someone recently came to my blog by googling the question above. Unfortunately, the post they came to didn’t have the answer, so I also searched for the answer but couldn’t find anything in the top search results that really answered it.
So, in case that dude ever comes back — and in case YOU are wondering — here are a few reasons why knife makers put holes and slots in the handles and even in the blades of their throwing knives.
To secure cord-wrap or handle scales on the handle, like on the Cold Steel True Flight
To take away weight from one end of the knife and make it more balanced for consistent rotational throws.
To attach a streamer to the back end, like on some of the ninja kunais you see online.
NOTE: There can be very good reasons for those holes (some practical, some aesthetic), but keep in mind that holes in the knife can weaken the structural integrity of the knife and can eventually lead to bending or breaking at that point of weakness. The SOGs are notorious for this sort of thing.
I hope that helps. Yes? No? Let me know in the comments section below…
“How can I get my throwing knives to stick? I throw every day, but they keep bouncing off my target? What am I doing wrong?”
Does that complaint/question sound familiar? I read comments like that on pretty much every single knife throwing YouTube video I watch, every knife forum, every Q&A site, etc. Some of us just can’t get our throwing knives to stick, no matter how hard we try.
It’s frustrating, especially when we see others doing it so effortlessly.
What’s their secret?
The Secret To Effective Knife Throwing
How good are you at throwing other stuff? I mean, can you throw a football accurately? Or a baseball? Are you able to throw it right to somebody without them having to run all over the place trying to catch it? Can you throw that baseball consistently?
If you cannot throw a ball with consistency, then throwing a knife will likely be a challenge too.
Just like throwing a ball, or any other object, effective knife throwing is all about consistency. That’s the key. That’s the secret.
Sounds too simple? Well, hold on…there’s a lot to it. There are a lot of factors to consider. Just remember that consistency is everything in knife throwing.
The 10 Variables Involved In Throwing A Knife And Sticking It Consistently
The Knife Throwing Equation
Remember in your pre-Algebra class, when you started to work with variables? You’d have an equation like:
Then they’d have a string of questions that you’d have to “solve for.”
“1. If a = 2, then solve for b.”
“2. If a = 7, then solve for b.”
“3. If b = 14, then solve for a.”
So when you change “a”, then you’ll have to also change “b” in order to balance the equation.
Well, throwing a knife is just like balancing an equation that has 10 variables in it. Whenever you change one of those variables, you have to then go and change another variable to balance out the equation (i.e. to make the knife stick).
So if you’re doing half spin throws and you keep shifting your feet back and forth a few inches with every throw, then you’re gonna have to adjust some of the other variables too, or your knife will bounce.
Maybe you’ll need to stretch out your arm farther when throwing (shoulder/arm action), or you’ll lean forward more as your distance increases (stance/posture), or you’ll hold the blade so that it spins horizontally instead of vertically (grip), etc.
Changing variables around on purpose is all good for the experts. But that’s not us. As beginners, we tend to change our variables by accident — without even realizing it — that’s why we can keep changing up our distance yet still not stick the knives.
We go forward a couple inches…bounce! So we go forward a couple more inches…bounce! So we take a full step back…bounce! Then we go back a couple more inches…bounce!
“GGRRRRR!!! What the hell?!?!” Then we give up and throw it straight down at the grass, and that punk won’t even stick in the ground!
Then we go back inside, eat ice cream and play COD till the sun goes down.
Here’s your Tip Of The Day, boys and girls: there’s more to accurate knife throwing than just “finding your distance.”
Aim For Consistency With Every Single Variable
If you’ll notice, I put that list of variables in chronological order (mostly). We tend to think of distance as being the first variable to focus on, but I put that further down the list for a reason…
1. Your Knife — Let’s start with your throwing knives. If every knife performs a little differently, and if consistency is the name of the game, then what am I about to say next?
Use the same knives!
Did you buy one of those Ridge Runner sets that has six completely different little knives in it? Or are you throwing your Cold Steel, then your SOG, then your Condor, then your Ziel…
Oh myyy…no wonder you’re having such a hard time.
Buy a triple set or two of the same knife, and stay with that for your entire throwing session. Once you’re sticking those, then you can mix things up. But if you’re only sticking one out of ten throws — or less — then you need to work with just one model at a time until you’re sticking them regularly.
Also, if you’re using cheap, little knives, try getting something with more size. Go for something in the 10 to 13 inch range, and get at least 3 of them. Check the articles in the sidebar or the knife comparison chart for ideas.
2. Stance/Posture — Second, check your foot placement and body positioning. Are you always standing with your left foot forward? Your right foot? Is your back foot coming off the ground and stepping forward when you throw?
Whatever you choose to do with your feet, make sure you’re consistent. If you keep changing your posture and foot position around on every throw, that will affect your throwing, so check your stance before you even look at your knife or your target.
I like to keep my feet — especially my lead foot (left foot) — planted firmly throughout my throw. So I’ll keep that foot planted, take my throw (I let my back foot step forward as I throw…but that lead foot stays planted). Then I see how my knife sticks (handle up, handle down, etc). Then I look down and check where my lead foot is and scoot up or back accordingly.
That way, I’m already set up for the next throw and can adjust my distance easily (or keep it right where it is and adjust something else). But if I keep mindlessly shifting my lead foot around during my throws, that makes it harder when setting up the next throw.
3. Grip — I like pinching the blade so that the tip of my ring finger is lined up evenly with the tip of the blade, bending my finger at the 2nd knuckle. If you’re holding your knife a little differently every time, then that’s going to throw you off a bit. Whichever way you choose to grip your blade, just take a moment to make sure it’s exactly the same way you held it on the previous throw…and on the next throw…and the next one too.
Obviously, the same principle applies for full spin throws from the handle. To develop consistency, don’t just grab and throw. Look carefully at how you’re holding your knife and replicate that grip on every throw.
4. Wrist Action — For evaluating your throwing/release action, you may want to record videos of yourself throwing. Is your wrist cocked back? Is it lined up straight with your forearm? Does it snap forward/down as you release?
There’s more than one way to throw a knife, so I’m not going to say that you have to do it this way or that way. But I can tell you that if your wrist action isn’t consistent, that will cause more bounces. I like to keep mine straight and tight throughout the throw. That just seems to be easier for me to keep track of.
5. Shoulder/Arm Action — This is where 90% of our inconsistency lies. All the other variables are a bit easier to control or monitor, but arm swing can be tough.
There’s basically two ways to go here:
1). I’m gonna break away from the common wisdom here and give you advice that makes sense to me.
Remember when I asked if you can throw a baseball with consistent accuracy? If you can do that, then you might actually want to throw your knives the same way — like a baseball. Why? Because that arm/shoulder action feels natural for you, and most importantly — you’re already doing it consistently without even thinking about it.
Most experts advise against cross-body, baseball-style throwing because it’s so loose and allows for so much variation (i.e. it can be so inconsistent). That advice is spot on…for people who can’t throw a baseball for crap. But if you can throw from left field to home plate every time, then your arm/shoulder action is already very consistent, and that means you can dial in the other variables pretty easily.
So if you are already pretty good at throwing baseballs or footballs or whatever, then go ahead and try throwing in a way that feels natural to you. But if you’re already throwing that way and not sticking your knives — or if you aren’t great at throwing balls anyways — then you can move right on to option #2…
2).. Keep everything tight, the way competitive throwers do.
Keep your elbow in and forward; don’t let it drift to the outside. After finding your stance, squaring your shoulders to the target, gripping just right, and setting up your wrist position, try extending your arm and knife straight out in front of you — pointing right at the target.
Now, bend at the elbow and bring the knife back to your shoulder, alongside your face. Keep your elbow facing forward. Do not let it drift to the side. Then whip your forearm forward and throw that sucker. You can rock forward to gain a little momentum if you need more power. Be sure to follow through after releasing the knife.
You’re trying to eliminate shoulder rotation and just focus on elbow/triceps action. It feels a little awkward at first, but it’s a great way to “isolate your variables” =) and keep your throwing motion consistent. I think Tim Rosanelli does a fantastic job explaining and demonstrating this technique in this video…
6. Timing — The point at which you release the knife will also affect its rotation. Throwing is a very natural movement for some people, and they will release the knife consistently without even thinking about it.
If you have to think about it, then think about releasing the knife just as it passes the peak of your throwing arc (i.e. where the knife is perpendicular to the ground). Again, make sure you follow through.
7. Release — The way that you release the knife from your fingers is another variable that you’ll want to keep consistent. Some knife throwers, like world-renowned knife designer Gil Hibben, prefer an abrupt release, where you basically just open your hand instantly to release your knife (think “hot potato”).
Other throwers, like knifethrower72194 on Youtube, prefer a looser grip and relatively gradual release where the knife just slides out of the hand.
You’ll eventually want to play around with both methods, but for now, pick one and use it consistently until you are sticking your knives regularly.
8. Distance — Okay, finally we get to distance. The goal for every beginner should be to isolate all the other variables and keep them consistent. Once you’re doing that, then you will always stick your knife from a predictable distance. Perhaps your half spin distance will be 6 feet, then your full spin will be 9 feet, 1 1/2 spin will be 12 feet, etc.
“Finding your distance” is a crucial part of learning to throw knives, but it’s not all there is to throwing. That’s why you might find your 2 spin distance on Saturday, but then on Sunday you bounce 30 throws in a row from that same distance. Finding your distance only works when the other factors are consistent too.
9. Wind/Air Resistance — Hey, if you’re throwing outdoors and there’s a breeze blowing through your target range, then that’s going to affect your spin and accuracy. What can I say? Don’t throw knives during a hurricane…
10. Target — We don’t often think of this one, but even the target can throw us off. I made a big target board using several 2x4s, kinda like the one Xolette built on her Youtube channel.
We realize that moving our feet just a couple inches forward or back can mean the difference between a stick or a bounce, so we often focus on that.
But have you considered how you prop up your target board?
If you lean it against a wall or fence, be sure to have the bottom placed at the same distance out every time. Placing it a couple inches forward or back will change the actual distance from your fingertips to the bullseye, and even the angle at which it is leaning could have an impact.
Softer targets make for easier sticks. If you’re having a really hard time sticking knives in wood targets, try using cardboard targets instead (use several sheets glued together) as you work on dialing in your grip, throwing action, release, etc.
When your knife keeps bouncing off hard wood targets, it can be hard to tell exactly what you’re doing wrong, since it all happens so fast.
Did it over-rotate?
Did it under-rotate?
Did the handle hit the target?
What the heck happened?
But if you can get your knife to stick in a thick cardboard target, then you can figure out how much you need to adjust your rotation.
Also, keep in mind that you want the blade to strike with the grain (for wood plank/2×4 targets), not against the grain. If the wood fibers are running side to side and you’re throwing with the blade spinning vertically, then it’s going to bounce a lot more often.
Still, your best bet is mounting log rounds or end grain targets onto your main board. Throwing head on into the grain is going to help your knife tips hold up a whole lot longer.
Okay, so I hope that this gives you some helpful ideas for improving your knife throwing technique. If you have any tips that have helped you stick your knives better, or if you have any comments about this article, please share your thoughts below.
(Sorry, comments are closed, but you can still share your thoughts via my CONTACT page.)
Are throwing knives good to use as weapons in tactical situations? Is it ever a good idea to throw your knife – which may be your only weapon – at an attacker?
Those are some tough questions. Well in a way, they’re easy to answer. Anybody can blurt out their opinion (and I will too, about 5 seconds from now). But the consequences of following bad advice in a tactical situation could be disastrous.
Do You Really Want To Give Up Your Knife?
Once that knife leaves your hand, it’s gone. You only get one shot.
A good case can be made that in a self-defense situation, your knife will do you a lot more good if it’s held firmly in your hand. Someone might say that you shouldn’t ever throw your knife at an attacker, because…well, what if you miss?
But what if you don’t miss? What if that knife hits its target? So what? Will it matter?
This isn’t Call of Duty. In real life, it often takes a whole lot more to down an opponent than a single stab with a knife. So even if you stick your attacker, he might still be coming at you – except now he’s even more pissed and he’s got a knife!
So if you can’t hit a moving target every single time with enough force to knock the fight out of him (or even if you can), you’re probably going to want to hold onto it.
But what if the situation simply calls for striking from a distance? Are there such things as truly tactical throwing knives? Can throwing knives be used effectively as weapons?
Of course they can.
What Is A Tactical Throwing Knife?
Any knife you can throw effectively in a combat situation could be considered a tactical throwing knife. If you can manage to sink a throwing knife several inches deep into an attacker from ten feet away, that could certainly save your life. Even if that throw doesn’t incapacitate the attacker immediately, it might very well slow him down long enough for you and your party to escape with your lives. It might even make him change his mind and leave you alone, especially if you’ve still got another knife ready to go. And let’s face it, if you manage to sink a 10″ knife several inches deep into your attacker’s stomach, leg, shoulder, throat, etc., that just might end it right there.
So yes, there can be situations where you could effectively use throwing knives for self-defense. The bottom line is that if you’re going to throw your only knife at an opponent — and that is a big IF — then you’ve only got one shot, so you’d better be throwing a knife that can do the job. And you’d better already be very, very good at throwing it.
Otherwise, why throw it at all?
Of course, that’s assuming you only have one knife…
What Knives Are Best Then?
I couldn’t really find a lot of good info on this online, at least when it comes to using throwing knives, specifically. But there is an interesting thread on bladeforums about this topic (okay, there are probably several interesting threads…but this is one of them).
Most forum threads on this topic quickly degrade into, “Throwing your knife is stupid, and you’re stupid…” shouting matches, but this particular thread managed to stay on topic and provide some useful thoughts.
Any knife that can effectively take down your opponent would be a good choice. That means that little spades and spikes are probably out. And most of those cheap little 6″ kunais are out too. If that’s all you got, then throw it and run. Perhaps that distraction is all you need to escape. But if you’re going to choose a knife for self-defense, why not choose something beefier?
I would think that something with some heft to it would be best for tactical throwing; something with decent blade length/penetration potential. A lightweight, short, thin knife might not do much damage, even if it does manage to stick. If it only penetrates an inch or so, what good is that? Some, but not much. Good as a distraction, maybe.
There are two ways to go, here:
(BUT FIRST, A QUICK NOTE: Knife laws vary from state to state (e.g. some prohibit daggers or butterfly knives). Understanding and following the knife laws in your state is your responsibility, so take the time to look into it…)
1. Modify A Throwing Knife For Tactical Value
You could start with a solid thrower and just sharpen the edges. This makes sense, because a throwing knife is designed to be thrown. It’s well-balanced for consistent performance, and it’s sturdy enough — or should be — to endure all those hours of throwing practice. Moderately-sized throwing knives would be ideal…big enough to do some damage, but small enough to be used for everyday carry.
This is probably the best way to go.
Here are some possible candidates, but be sure to check out the knife comparison chart, where dozens of knives are given a “tactical rating” to help you narrow down your choices. These three Cold Steel knives are excellent throwers, and unlike many other throwing knives, they also have real tactical value as handheld weapons. The Shanghai Shadow may better be classed as a tactical knife, but it’s fairly well balanced for throwing. The finger ring can make no-spin throws a challenge, however.
Overall, the True Flight and GI Tanto are my top picks for tactical throwers, but you may feel otherwise…
Cold Steel True Flight Thrower
(Click image for pricing and reviews)
Cold Steel G.I. Tanto
(Click image for user reviews and pricing)
Cold Steel Shanghai Shadow
Click image for reviews/pricing
2. Learn To Consistently Throw A Tactical Knife
The other route would be to start out with a good quality tactical knife, and then simply learning to throw it effectively. You’ll also want to learn to throw without spin too. Spin throwing requires all the different factors (e.g. distance, body position, planetary alignment) to be JUST RIGHT, but no-spin techniques allow for more leeway. Ralph Thorn’s combat knife throwing motto comes to mind: “Any Knife, Any Angle, Any Position, No Games, No Gimmicks, No Limits.”
For a quick but useful look at no-spin tactical knife throwing, check out this video from MegaWinfrey on Youtube. (“Now, Daniel-san…show me…PAINT THE CEILING!”)
So you could start with a knife that has value as a handheld weapon, and then learn how to throw it reliably. That way you’ve got a weapon that is versatile and truly effective for self-defense, whether thrown or handheld.
So are there any good tactical knives that are also balanced well enough to make good throwers?
Here are some possible candidates:
(Note: I threw in the Recon 1 just for fun (see the video). It CAN be thrown, but it’s not IDEAL for throwing.)
Smith & Wesson SWHRT9B Black HRT Boot Knife
(Click image to see Amazon reviews and pricing)
Cold Steel Peace Keeper I
(Click image for Amazon reviews and pricing)
Cold Steel Recon 1 (G-10)
(Click image for user reviews and pricing)
What Do You Think?
Many good throwing knives are worthless as handheld weapons due to their impossibly dull edges or lack of grip, and many good combat knives are worthless for throwing due to balance issues or relatively weak/clunky handles. If you could have only one knife for tactical purposes — one that could be effective both handheld or thrown — what would it be?
DISCLAIMER: This article is for “purely entertainment purposes only” and should not be taken seriously as advice of any kind. Throwing knives at people can get you in BIG TROUBLE. When faced with a life or death tactical situation, please immediately consult your attorney before throwing your knife at someone who is trying to kill you. It may help to keep an attorney on speed dial in case of tactical situations such as these. The owner of this website cannot be held liable for anything you do or do not do with your throwing knives.