Since time immemorial, one of the oldest melee weapons has been the knife. Small, compared with most other weapons, simple and dependable, knife performance is directly related to the effort and practice one puts into their use. However, their compact nature also limits them to short-range defense. That is, unless you know how to throw a knife properly, thereby increasing their range and effectiveness.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of knife-throwing.
Know Your Knife Type
It’s not advised to just choose any old knife like a kitchen or survival knife. While you can still throw a survival, chef’s or other knife, those kinds of blades aren’t the best for throwing so they may not properly “stick” or penetrate the target. Apart from that, you may even just end up injuring yourself or breaking the knife.
For our purposes, you’ll need an actual throwing knife or, better yet, a set of throwing knives. Throwing knives come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes, but note that they’re mostly classified by how they’re “balanced” or, more appropriately, how their weight is distributed.
Throwing knives are usually of three types, and are self-explanatory in nature:
- Handle-heavy, which means heavier at the handle
- Blade-heavy, which means heavier at the blade
- Balanced, which means the weight is evenly distributed at both the handle and the blade
Most professional knife-throwers choose balanced blades. Since we’re learning as a beginner, choose either a handle-heavy or blade-heavy throwing knife (or set of knives). Whether you go for a handle-heavy or blade-heavy throwing knife, remember a very important fact about them: you throw the weight and hold the opposite end.
So, in the case of a handle-heavy knife, you hold it by the blade and throw the handle; in the case of a blade-heavy knife, you hold it by the handle and throw the blade. Note also that “proper” throwing knives will usually have a sharp point, and the sides will be dull to prevent self-injury.
Weight and blade thickness are important, as these factors influence how much the knife will spin. A 16-ounce blade should be enough, with the blade’s thickness at half an inch to transfer enough energy to your target and stick into it. Finally, choose a throwing knife or knives that don’t have any fancy grips or too many holes or perforations. While these may help decrease weight and adjust balance, a throwing knife with too many holes or perforations increases the likelihood of it shattering if it doesn’t stick.
Practice knife-throwing in an open area away from pets, people and property. You can opt to do this in your backyard be sure to let everyone in your household know what you’re doing beforehand and advise them to stay clear until you’ve finished practicing.
Don’t practice without wearing shoes. Use steel-toed boots if you have them.
As for targets, use something soft that the knife (or knives) can stick into and minimize ricochet such as a hay bale, old tree trunk, several plywood sheets glued together or a large, thick wooden board.
Use the Proper Grip
Key to proper throwing is, of course, applying a proper grip to the throwing knife. There are several ways to grip a throwing knife but, for starting out, we’ll look at two common ways: The McEvoy grip and the Pinch grip.
1. McEvoy Grip
Also known as the “hammer” grip, the McEvoy grip allows for the knife to be thrown vertically. For this grip, you hold the knife by the handle as you would a hammer, with your thumb resting on the spine. This style allows for more powerful throws.
2. Pinch Grip
This grip is more suited to shorter distances and results in more accurate throws. Hold the throwing knife by the blade or the handle, depending on how the weight is distributed (handle-heavy – grip blade; blade-heavy – grip handle). “Pinch” the blade or handle with the back of your thumb facing you. Position your thumb at the center of the width of the blade, with your index, middle and ring fingers on the other side of the blade and your pinky resting just off the handle or blade.
Be at the Right Distance
You won’t get the satisfying “thunk” sound of your throwing knife embedding into your target if you aren’t standing at the right distance from it. Start about 12 feet away from your target, then make adjustments after you’ve made your first successful throw and the knife has stuck in the target.
Make the Throw
Throwing the knife at your target is the same, regardless of the way you chose to grip it. To make the throw, follow these steps:
Stand with your non-dominant leg facing your target; remaining focused on the target.
With the knife in your dominant hand, bring the knife up to a point above and just behind your ear.
Throw the knife with an overhand motion, bringing your throwing shoulder forward and pushing forward slightly with your back foot.
Release the knife just before your hand becomes completely horizontal, ensuring that you keep your wrist straight throughout the entire motion and the follow-through.
Observe where your knife made the point of impact. Don’t be disappointed if your knife didn’t stick to the target, it’s extremely rare to score a hit the first time, or even the first few dozen times.
If and when your knife does stick into the target, take note of its position. If the knife stuck to the target with the handle slanted downwards, this means you are too close. If the handle is slanted upwards, you’re too far from the target. Make the necessary adjustments and keep practicing until you get the knife to imbed itself in the target as horizontal as possible. Have a cloth handy to wipe your knives clean after practice, and a pair of tweezers in case you get any splinters.
The “McEvoy grip” for holding throwing knives was developed by Harry K. McEvoy, founder of the Tru-Balance Knife Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. McEvoy also founded the American Knife Throwers Alliance (AKTA) in 1971.
AKTA was envisioned to “provide assistance and to offer guidelines to individuals and groups who may wish to organize for competitive sport in their local areas.” Since its inception, AKTA has grown to 1,200 members. And although Harry has passed on, his good friend Bobby Branton took the reins of AKTA in 1995 with Harry’s son Stephen’s blessing.
Branton is a longtime knifemaker and knife-throwing enthusiast and has sworn to keep AKTA and knife-throwing as a hobby, recreational activity and competitive sport around for years to come.
All are welcome to join AKTA, and you can get to know more about the organization here.
The allure of learning how to throw knives and becoming skilled at doing it is undeniable but remember that it’s a great backup skill and not something you should rely on in actual combat, self-defense or SHTF situation. You must also remember that, although there are “guidelines” for knife-throwing and actual science behind doing it successfully, knife-throwing is a skill that’s learned and mastered mostly by trial and error and plenty of practice. No two people are exactly the same, and this is a skill that’s largely dependent on a person’s physical build and coordination.
While knife-throwing is a fun activity and could even be a good competitive sport to join, it’s not viable in combat unless you’ve become so skilled that you’re able to hit a target with a high degree of force, speed and accuracy. It’s not advisable to throw your only knife at your opponent, as you could miss and will only succeed in disarming yourself and possibly giving them a weapon to use against you.
If you’re serious about becoming proficient at knife throwing and making it part of your repertoire of survival skills, study resource materials online, and join the American Knife Throwers Alliance (AKTA) to learn from the pros and throw knives competitively to perfect your skills.