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Complementary page on Reviews of throwing knives

Off-the-Rack Throwing Knives

I have a few different kinds. I will comment a bit on them. Comments from others on these and other knives would be appreciated. I measured and weighed some of them, but my weights are good only to the nearest 10g

Click here for a hi-res picture of some of these knives.

1) Dragon Knives by John Goss
Without doubt, these take the current (June 2000) prize for being the finest professional style throwing knives on the market that are factory produced, especially at their price point. These knives are long (13.25"), heavy (about 13 ounces) and nicely finished for a retail price of $30.00. The primary dealership is through Ebay. I will have url and contact information here shortly if I can, but for now, you can reach the primary distributor Rick Lemberg by email, and there are some pictures, but see the warning at the end of the review.

There are two models currently in production. The PRO thrower has an arrow-shaped point, sharpened on both edges then flowing into a nice handle giving center balance, but the sharpened double edge in the last few inches behind the point makes these handle only throwers. The "Long Distance" model is so named because John Goss happened to win a long distance contest with the original small version of this knife. I own a set of these, and they do work well at distance, but they are just fine close up too. This model has simple straight ahead forward lines, a small thick flair at the guard, and a smooth handle with a gentle swell at its center then smooth taper to the end. This knife throws equally well from the blade and handle, really a nice statement in a simple design.

Years ago, a company called Blackjack produced a professional thrower called the broadhead. These are rare now, but in their time were clearly the best factory made throwers I had ever found. These new Dragon knives, particularly (in my opinion) the Long Distance model are as good or better than the BlackJack Broadhead!

My apologies. I had to delete these links because they no longer work. Ebay keeps changing database ids for their stuff, and neither the manufacturer nor distributor has supplied me with any pictures I can put on this web site. These are good knives, you can take my word for it, but good pictures tell the whole story a lot better. Their loss!


Technically, as this knife is manufactured by the Boker Knife Co. of Solingen Germany, it is "off the rack" and not custom made. It certainly takes first place now in being the most expensive off the rack ($160+) thrower on the market that I am aware of. I've never met John Bailey, but we've known one another for a couple of years thanks to being both knife throwers and Internet users where supporting web and email based communications services allow us to keep in touch easily.

When I first heard about the TanKri, I knew I had to try it eventually, but the Boker price put me way off. When a Blade Forums member offered to sell me one for $100, I thought that was still awfully expensive for a throwing knife, but for the sake of the experience, and my ability to give you a review of this very innovative knife, I went ahead with the purchase!

To set some context, it appears John set out to design a camp/hunting knife that could also be thrown. Not only would it have the toughness to be thrown, but it would have some specific design features related to throwing, as well as some features to facilitate use as a camp knife whether it was ever thrown at all. I know John is a hunter of big game so he knows more than a little about what a hunting camp knife has to do.

The TanKri is a little more than 13 inches long (332mm). It is a little under 2 inches (50mm) in width at the peak of its belly, and 5/64 inches (4mm) in thickness. The blade is flat for most of its width, with the primary bevel beginning a little less than 1/2 inch (12mm) from the edge. As you can see from John's picture, the 7 inch blade has a severe recurve beginning about 3.5 inches back from its reinforced, upside down tanto style point. The handle slabs feel like a plastic imitation of wood, and are held on by pins with a built-in release mechanism (one of the knife's salient features) that allow the slabs to be removed for throwing. This permits the knife to have a handle made from a comfortable material that might be broken or damaged when thrown (if you miss and slap it, or strike it with a second knife). It also makes for easy clean up of blood and dirt that has a tendency to get under slab handles when used for hunting and camp chores.

The TanKri is heavy as a good throwing knife should be. Some people also prefer a heavier sort of camp knife because the weight is suited to some of the most common chores such a knife is called upon to perform, like chopping wood, and possibly also the breast bone or pelvis of big game. Boker tempered the stainless steel to a RC hardness of 53, a little harder than is typical for a dedicated throwing knife, but the reinforced point, flat sides, and over all thickness permit the knife not only to stand up to the stresses of throwing, but also to serve well in the process of splitting fire wood or taking apart a large animal carcass. An additional bonus is the steel's ease of sharpening, something many people prefer to raw edge holding ability in a camp knife that may have to be sharpened on a flat rock. Because it is stainless, it will stand up well between cleanings. Because the handles can be removed, it can be washed in a dishwasher if desired.

As a chopper, the knife excells!. The recurve, along with a convexly curved spine, puts the chopping sweet spot way out on the blade where its forward balance and weight (the knife is widest at the peak of the belly) does the most good. I discovered that the TanKri behaves like a curved-bladed cleaver and chops better than any other knife anywhere near its length that I own, including my Busse Steel Heart! It is as good or better than a small hatchet, something like a small "Woodsman's Pal" or "Billhook" if any of you know those tools. I'm not a hunter and have little skinning experience, though I've gutted and cleaned my share of fish and other sea food. The TanKri has plenty of belly for skinning, and while its a little heavy and off balance for an optimal skinner, it isn't bad considering the overall compromises that have to be made when engineering so many features into one tool. I tried it in the kitchen, and found the recurve to be inconvenient for vegetable and fruit preparation, but the knife was great quartering chicken and slicing a rack of ribs!

As a thrower, the knife delivers on its design too. The handle slab mechanism works as advertised, though the slabs had to be pulled a little bit to get them off the handle once the release switch was pulled back. This took a few seconds, and a few more to secure the parts from being lost before one could focus on a throw. So you can't take the knife from camp chores to throwing in the short time necessary to take advantage of some opportunistic target, but the process is sufficiently convenient for sport usage, or if one chooses to go hunting with this thrower, something the sharpened edge, point, and weight make possible.

I thought the downward swell at the knife's pommel would interfere with throwing release. It didn't bother me at all, but it does constrain the release to a simple opening of the hand. You can't let the TanKri slide out of your palm. The knife makes a beautiful single turn from 12-14 feet. I may have found a new blade for PKT competitions! It throws well from the blade too. The sharpened edge forces one to use a sharp knife style grip, and while the overall weight and width of the knife make this grip a little more difficult than it is with lighter, smaller knives, the forward balance causes the knife to turn relatively slowly and my half-turn blade throws hit from 10 to 12 feet!

Over all, I'd have to say that John's design is a success. He and Boker both get an "A" for design and implementation. The knife works well as a camp knife falling short only in that it is heavier than some people like for this kind of work. The recurved blade is great for many camp and hunting chores but less suitable for others often better served by a smaller knife anyway. The TanKri is also a great throwing knife, having only those disadvantages associated with a large sharp-edged thrower in general, along with an excessive cost.

Would I do anything differently? Maybe not given the trade-offs John was after, though I think the handle slab mechanism is something of a concession to German fascination with intricate machining. If I were going to really use the knife in a camp environment and take advantage of opportunistic throwing targets, I'd loose the removable slabs and replace them with some composit material or leather like that used by a number of other throwing knife makers. To me, this would be a compromise that pushed the knife more towards throwing, though I have to admit the ability to clean under the handle after hard use as an outdoor knife is very appealing.

3) Mini-Hibbens (Hibben thrower I). Shaped a little like a hunting knife, this beauty is featured near the beginning of the Steven Segal movie _Under Seige_ It is 6" long (15.2cm) and weighs in at about 60g, a very light knife, good for indoor throwing.

4) BLAZING ARROW This is a spade-shaped (double edged, but edges are dull) target knife. It is a tad over 7" (17.75cm) and weighs about 90g. This knife is a chinese knock off of Harald Moeller's VIPER (see custom makers and custom knife descriptions). There are two larger brothers as well (8.5 inch and 10.5 inch), imitations of the Viper II and III respectively. While not as carefully crafted and detailed as the originals, it is a very good knife at the price, about the least expensive of the off-the-rack knives around. This mini is too small for much (ok indoors), but the larger ones are pretty nice especially given their low cost, usually $12 to $15.

5) Mini-Black-Jack. Like the one above, a spade-shaped target knife. 8.3" long (21cm) it weighs about 140g. OK for indoor work, a little too light for outdoor, but some like it.

6) Medium sized Hibben (thrower II). 8.5" (21.5cm) also about 140g. This particular knife is featured in the movie _Under Siege_ where Steven Segal first throws it dead center into a wooden cutting board hung on a pillar as a target, and later into the neck of the first bad-guy he takes out. Realistically, like the Mini Black-Jack, it is a little too small and light for outdoor work. OK indoors. Good with a pinch grip.

7) Fury 70000, a Hibben imitation (similar but not exactly the same), at 9.5" (24cm) and about 180g. This knife is cheaper then you find a Hibben most places and is every bit as good a thrower. In size and weight it lies in between the Hibben II and III. A good thrower from United Cutlery (UC51).

8) Large Hibben (thrower III), 10" (25.3cm) 240g. The only knife of the older Hibben style that approaches professional length and weight.

9) Cold Steel True Flight Thrower, 10.5" (27cm) 240g. This knife looks like a bayonet. It is bilaterally symetrical except that only one edge of the blade is sharpened, the other is thickend like the upper spine of the Hibben knives. Handle is wrapped in parachute cord which makes the knives quieter when you miss. Their length permits one to throw (from the blade) far enough from the center of gravity to spin the knife much faster then is the case with the Hibben III for example. Thus the TFT does 180 in only about 7 ft., and 540 in 15ft (about 4.6m).

As a rule, these knives are a bit too small and light to be really good throwers, but their biggest problem is that they are too brittle. I've broken all three of mine.

10) Black-Jack Thrower One of the few off-the-rack knives that meets professional standards of size and weight. It is 12" (31cm) long and weighs about 14 oz., almost 400g. Alas, BlackJack appears to have gone out of business in late 1996 or early 97, and these knives are very hard to find. If you do find some, grab em!

11) Cold Steel WARHEAD Another off-the-rack knife of professional length (12 inches) and weight (about 15 oz.), really made as a thrower and makeshift spear-head. Double edged and sharp, very wide. Has slots cut into the sides of the knife in the guard area for lashing to a pole etc. Unfortunately, these are way too brittle. Miss a couple of times and slap the handle and I almost guarantee the knife will break in two.

The first 2 above would be the small knives, 3, 4, and 5 are the mediums, while 6, 7, 8, and 9 are the large. This is relative of course. Only the largest Black-Jack, and now the largest of the newer Hibben knives (which I do not own) are large enough to meet professional standards. The smaller ones are great for indoor practice. I have been working so much with the larger types of knives, that I do not throw these any more. When I do, I find I like the larger knives better, but can still throw the smaller ones.

12) Cold Steel Torpedos So many people on the thrower mailing list have asked me about the Cold Steel Torpedos, that I finally had to get them and try them out. Of course when I went to get ONE, there turned out to be two different models. The original is 14" long, about 1" thick at its widest point, and weighs about 2 lbs. The newer one is also 14" long, 3/4" wide and weighs about 1.25 lbs. These two are otherwise very similar. They are both black cold rolled steel cylinders that taper smoothly from their widest point in the middle to two wicked points on the ends.

They are not, therefore knives, but more like gigantic double pointed spikes, or modern versions of the "throwing stick". As for their flight characteristics, they are nothing short of superb! Both easily exceed the generally accepted McEvoy ratio of 1 oz per inch for a well weighted thrower. They are also, as one might expect from their shape, balanced EXACTLY in their center, and even better, have their greatest weight concentration in their center. Their release characteristics are nothing short of fantastic there being nothing to interfere with release as the cylinder tapers smoothly to its point on either end.

The bigger one is a true hunting weapon. If you can hit small or medium sized game with it, you are almost guaranteed at least a disabling injury by sheer impact, even if you don't hit with a point. The smaller one is also heavy enough to use for hunting smaller game, and is much easier to throw due to its being considerably lighter. I have been successful with it out to three turns, and with the larger out to two (I can hardly reach my target with the larger one from three turns out). The fact that they have points at both ends means the distinction between full and half turns is effectively oblitterated, increasing their value as hunting weapons, and making them easier to use for sport throwing as well.

PLEASE note however that they are not indestructable. True to form, CS has made them just a tad too brittle for rugged throwing weapons. I broke one of the tips off of my larger one when it torqued itself out of my target. This should not have happened. It didn't hit a rock or anthing, just wood, but about 1/4" of the tip broke clean off!

Prices on the torpedos are very reasonable, about $24 for the bigger one and $19 or so for the smaller (less if you buy three of more at a time). That makes them less expensive than any throwing knife anywhere near their size and weight class. These things are one good deal. I can highly recommend them.

13) Pananandata Knife by Amante Marinas

Designed by the author of the book Pananandata Guide to Knife Throwing these knives are 10 inches long (same as the Hibben III), but weigh in at 10 ounces, a perfect 1/1 McEvoy ratio of weight to length! They are handle heavy with their balance point a little more than 6" from their tip making them very good blade throwers, but heavy enough to throw from blade or handle. Because the designer is a martial artist, his knife reflects a dual purpose of being a thrower and a fighting knife, with a classic pinky index bump at the end of the handle, and a false guard at the front. When thrown from the handle one has to be careful not to let the fingers get caught up on this rear indexing bump, but it isn't hard to do. However because the handles are heavy, they turn very fast thrown from that side, and correspondingly more slowly thrown from the blade. Dr. Marinas tells me he designed them specifically for underhand throwing!

The knives are plain steel, no handle slabs, single edged, and spear pointed, with the longitudinal axis of the handle being a little higher than that of the blade. At $16.99 retail, they are comparable to the Hibben III. They are harder to throw from the handle than the Hibben, but throw even better from the blade. However, I have noticed that the 22' half turn I can achieve with the Hibben using the technique described in this article does not achieve the same remarkable distance with Dr. Marinas', knife thanks I think to the heaviness of the handle. You have to choke up so far on the knife that it gets caught up in the hand on release. All of the other techniques used for blade throwing with a sharp edged knife work well however.

Now some comments on the general subject from the list itself ...

Ilan I think there are a number of people who prefer throwing conventional "sheath" knives more then those designed for throwing alone. I think if it works and doesn't break that's fine. When you throw hard as I do, many ordinary knives will eventually break because the blade can not stand the stress (torque) applied when the tip hits but the much heavier handle is still moving. I understand old military bayonets are very good for throwing because they are reinforced along the sides of the blade (lots of torque in military use too I imagine).

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This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details