Imagine you’re in a dark alleyway when some thug starts running at you, blade in hand. Not wanting to become today’s le déjeuner, you whip out your pocket knife and hurl it at the guy. You get him in the arm and start to do a victory dance when you suddenly realize he now has two knives are you have none.
Now stop imagining and realize that your trusty blade is only going to be helpful when it’s in your hand. Of course, we didn’t come here for helpful, so grab your pocket knife and a pizza box and hightail it up to the nearest vacant enclosure of wide-open space because things are about to get crazy.
There are quite a few things to keep in mind when throwing a pocket knife, most of which apply to knife-throwing in general. I’ll be covering all the basics including knife grip, body stance, and arm movement. That said, here’s a guide on how to throw a pocket knife like a champ.
Throwing Knife vs Pocket Knife
I’m not going to sugar-coat it—using a pocket knife as a throwing knife is mostly a bad idea. However, given the right knife and the proper technique (and a general indifference towards your knife’s well-being), it can be fun to be able to throw your folder when you feel like it.
The biggest reason throwing a folding knife is looked down upon is that they weren’t built to sustain the force of smacking into a tree. Unlike a throwing knife, a folder has moving parts and screws and things that are doomed to fall apart. And when you throw in that kind of unnecessary wear and tear, you’re just asking for a mechanical failure.
Another difference is that throwing knives have dull edges with the focus being on the tip on the blade (which is going to take most of the impact) whereas pocket knives were just designed to cut things. So just because a throwing knife can withstand being thrust into a block of wood, that doesn’t mean a folder will too.
Making a Good Target
Before you start throwing knives, you’ll need a target. A mistake a lot of beginners make is using wood or some other tough material as a target, which will only make your practicing that much more painful. If your knife never makes a mark in your target, it will be very hard to tell what you need to correct about your throw.
To avoid this problem, you can grab a simple pizza box or put some cardboard in front of plywood so that you can see where and how your knife is hitting the target.
How to Throw a Pocket Knife
The biggest component to throwing a knife successfully is practice, just like with most other skills. Of course, it is possible to practice in a wrong or ineffective way, so here are some basic things to keep in mind before giving your pocket knife a good whirl.
Just a heads up that there are virtually infinite ways to throw a knife from the grip to the stance to the arm movement, so the methods below aren’t exhaustive and they aren’t necessarily the best. However, they are fairly simple to grasp, so they’re good for starters.
Gripping the Knife
The simplest way to grip a knife when you’re going to throw it is by pinching it between your thumb and your bent index finger (the pinch grip), almost like you’re pretending to use a remote control. You’ll probably want to hold the knife by the handle so you don’t cut yourself, but holding the knife by the blade is ideal for certain distances.
This is because your knife will spin a certain number of times before it hits the target and you want it to hit the target tip-first. As an example, let’s say your knife spins around one time before it hits the target. If that’s the case, then the knife should start out tip-forward (by holding the handle) because it will end up facing forward when it hits the target.
However, if your knife only makes half a rotation before hitting the target, you’ll want to hold it by the blade to give it a bit of a head start.
Planting Your Feet
If you’re right-handed, you’ll want your right foot to be farther back then your left foot, with both feet about a foot apart. If you’re left-handed, do the same thing but with your left foot behind your right.
Throwing the Knife
Unlike throwing a baseball, you throw a knife by moving your arm directly towards your target as if it was restricted to a single plane of movement.
You’ll start by bringing the knife to the side of your head with your elbow pointed forwards. It may also help to point your other arm towards to target to get a better feel of where you’re throwing.
Keeping your wrist relaxed, bring your arm quickly forward and down, almost as if you were reaching for something directly in front of your arm. You’ll want to release the knife right after your hand passes your elbow making sure you don’t flick your wrist. During the throw, your body should rock forwards.
After you’ve thrown the knife, there’s a good chance it will stick in the target at an angle or bounce off the target. Either way, the most likely culprit will be your distance from the target.
Assuming you’re gripping the knife by the handle, you’ll want to stand about 11 feet away from the target. But if the knife is bouncing off, keep changing the distance until you get it to stick.
From there, observe the angle of the knife against the target. If the handle is tilted up, you’ll want to move a little closer. And if the handle is tilted down, move farther away.
Mastering Your Throw
When it comes to getting this skill down, it’s important to be consistent. Obviously, you should correct mistakes you make, but don’t try some crazy new technique after every couple throws. Once you master the simple stuff, then move on to the more complex.
How to Throw a Pocket Knife Without Spin
In case you’re not a fan of the spinning aspect of knife throwing or you just want to try a different technique, there is an easy way to throw knives without having to worry much about rotations.
Even though it’s called a no-spin throw, this technique still involves a bit of spin during the knife’s air time, but the spin is drastically reduced.
The No-Spin Grip
To hold a knife for a no-spin throw, you’ll want rest the butt of the blade in your palm and hold it place with your thumb. The knife should line up with your middle finger or your index finger depending on which is more comfortable.
The No-Spin Stance
Most types of throws call for the same basic stance I outlined above and that goes for this technique. Simply place your feet a foot apart with your right foot behind your left foot, assuming you’re right-handed. Left-handed throwers should put their left foot behind their right.
The No-Spin Throw
To begin the throw, bring the knife to the side of your head with your elbow pointed at the target and your palm facing upwards. Quickly bring your arm forward and down and release the knife when it’s vertical.
Now comes the non-spinning part. After you release the knife with your thumb, your index/middle finger will stay in contact with the handle for a little longer than usual to slow the spin. It won’t stop it completely, but enough that it should only make a quarter spin before it hits a target about 7 feet away.
The No-Spin Correction
Just like with any method of throwing a knife, you’ll probably make a few blunders whether your knife bounces off the target or hits it at an angle. It’s important to know how to interpret these mistakes so you can correct them in the future.
Same as with the spinning throw above, adjusting how far away you are from your target can make or break a shot. If it looks like your knife is hitting the target too early with the handle pointed down, inch back a little. If your knife is taking too long to hit the target with the handle pointed up, inch closer.
Alternatively, you can moderate the pressure applied to the handle when you release the knife to slow or speed up the spinning. When the handle is pointed down after hitting the target, you’ll want to apply less pressure to help the knife spin more. When the handle is point up, apply more pressure to the handle, which will slow the spinning down.
The Important Points
Of all the tips and techniques mentioned, here are some of the most important to remember:
-Use a target softer than wood
-Move your arm directly towards the target
-Maintain a loose grip—don’t clench the knife with your fingers
-Keep your wrist relaxed and don’t flick the knife
-Adjust your distance to help straighten the knife’s angle with the target
-Practice consistently to build muscle memory
Some Pocket Knives for Throwing
When choosing a pocket knife to use as a throwing knife, it’s important to keep some things in mind.
First, the more expensive a knife is, the bigger risk you’re taking. You could accidentally throw it down a hill or into a hole—or just break it by throwing at something one too many times. On the flip side, though, only the most expensive knives with durable locking mechanisms will be able to take all that force. For example, Cold Steel triad locking knives are perfect for throwing.
Second, you want a knife that has bigger and tougher features over a knife with lots of small parts. The more intricate a knife is, the bigger chance there is for mechanical failure (the biggest reason throwing folders is looked down upon).
Third, your level of skill will play a part in your choice of knife. A pocket knife will last longer if it always hits the target and sticks than if it always bounces off. Also, if you’re new to knife throwing anyways, it might be better to get a feel for the whole thing with a cheap-o folder than with a hundred-dollar Benchmade.
That said, here are some good candidates for pocket knives that you can chuck at a tree without a guilty conscience.
Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops
Cold Steel Recon 1
CRKT Desert Cruiser
Some General Tips
-The methods listed in this article aren’t the only ways to throw a knife and there’s no “official” way to throw a knife. If you find a particular grip is more comfortable or certain throw better suits you, there’s no reason not to use it.
-Practicing with a single throwing knife can be a huge pain since you’ll have to go and retrieve your blade after every throw. To solve this problem, you simply need to get more knives. You can get some throwing knives for dirt cheap in case you need to practice your general form, but you can also just get a few cheap folders like the first one listed above.
-If you’re using multiples of a single type of folder to practice throwing, you can glue all but one open with an adhesive like Shoe Goo to keep them from falling apart. That way, you won’t have to wear out the one you carry around. Also, the ones you practice with will be more durable than the one you carry but will still feel the same.
-Instead of just throwing pocket knives at trees and pizza boxes, you could challenge somebody to a friendly game mumblety-peg, which involves throwing knives into the ground and pulling them out with your teeth. The game dates back to at least the 1800’s, so that means pocket knife throwing has been around for quite some time.
That was a quick rundown on all things pocket knife throwing. Now the next time you find yourself in a parking lot with nothing to do, you can whip out your folder and hurl it at the nearest tree. You could even try some fancy tricks like throwing five knives in one second or hitting an apple off the roof of your car. And with enough practice, you might even be able to gain enough backwards momentum to perform the reverse grip north-eastern angle underhand thrust in which your blade travels across the multiverse to hit a target in another dimension.
Hopefully you found this article helpful. If I missed anything or you have any questions or suggestions (or just want to type something), feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.