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throwing blades

Discussion in 'Research' started by wordwalker, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Since this came up in the Knife-Fighting thread:

    What things make throwing a knife cinematic rather than real, so writers could partly acknowledge them if we still wanted to use it?

    I know one problem is that knives spin in the air, so every time you'd have to be positive the target is at one of certain distances from you to hit him blade-first. Another is that one toss with such a light weapon isn't as likely to do serious damage when the target can half-dodge it, and/or have armor or shield slow it down.

    Am I missing anything? How do other weapons change that: how much lighter would throwing stars hit (at least you wouldn't need to count distances with those), and how much harder does an axe (and does its heavy head make it more likely to hit right)? For that matter, how useful were thrown spears? I know they had one advantage: the sane answer to a spear coming at you is to bring your shield up, but then you've got a big weight stuck in your shield as your enemy closes in.
     
  2. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    The very light thrown weapons such as knives, darts, shurikens ("throwing stars") and so on and so forth were never weapons meant to be used in a traditional fight. Even against an unarmored target their chance of causing a grievous wound is low. The use of these light weapons, when thrown, generally fell to two main purposes:

    Delivery agent for a poison
    All you need to do with a poison is introduce it to the blood stream. This was especially the primary purpose of most thrown weapons used by the famous and oft poorly understood ninja clans. Shurikens took a vast number of forms, and nearly all of them were used during assassination attempts to deliver a poison to the target. These usually had multiple bladed ends (rather than a single blade like most knives) which reduced or removed the problem of potentially hitting the target with the blunt handle.

    Distraction
    In many action movies there is the old trope of the villain throwing sand into the hero's eyes to distract him. This would be followed up by another attack or an escape. The role of the thrown weapon in open combat is similar. Most of the time it will be blocked or fail to cause any real harm to the opponent on its own - however, it will make them respond in a predictable way at a predictable time (for instance, by shielding their face and thus taking their eyes off the enemy). A thrown knife would likely be followed immediately by a more serious attack, which then has a better chance of succeeding.

    There is always the off chance that such an attack could cause grievous harm on its own - striking the eye or perhaps cutting an artery.

    Heavier thrown weapons, on the other hand, often served as a real tool of war. Throwing axes were used by germanic tribes as well as Native Americans. Javelins were used throughout the world. Etc etc. The difference between these and the earlier mentioned "light" thrown weapons is exactly what the name suggests - weight. A javelin and axe could be thrown with sufficient force to penetrate armor and other defenses AND be expected to hit with the appropriate region (that is, the blade or point). They also had far greater effective range.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
  3. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    On practical terms, if I had a choice between throwing a knife and throwing a rock (even golf-ball-sized), I'd go for the rock.
     
  4. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    I don't know jack about thrown spears, but maybe someone can confirm my suspicion: that (as with most unarmed and weapon strikes) you'd want to try to deflect the thing past you rather than try to block it straight-on.
     
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I would say that is right but don't forget most weapons and tactics are designed for use in a battle. It would be very difficult to dodge or deflect when you are side by side with others. And that said there wouldn't be one spear but dozens[maybe] coming your way.
    From what I've read about the Roman use of Pilum was that it was break up tight formations and strip the shields from their opponents. They didn't see it as a primary weapon of combat.
    As for rocks [and I'm with you on rock over knife]... if you can use a Sling you can very dangerous to an unarmoured person.
     
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I had a couple of throwing knives years ago. Used to put in a lot of time tossing them at a tree, from a range of 10 - 20 feet. Three times in four - or better - it'd simply hit wrong and bounce off. A couple times, it would do a kindof 'slice' thing and trim off a bit of bark before bouncing away. Even when it did stick in point first, the blade never went in more than an inch.
     
  7. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    Throwing stars: I bought light ones, and a heavy one when I was a teen.
    The small ones had no sharpened edge but stuck most of the times in soft wood(1/8th inch or less) (basically sheet metal)
    The large one stuck rarely in soft wood, but left a mark where they hit. When it stuck I would say nearly 1/4 inch penetration, it had the tips sharpened.
    I think they are meant to harrass or slow down an attacker, not really a life threatening wound.
     
  8. craenor

    craenor Scribe

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    Just a note...there's no documented case that I've ever found of a knife being deliberately thrown by a trained combatant and killing the target.

    Ponder that before you make someone a knife-throwing expert - at least if realism is important to you. However, if you set realism aside, then the lethality of thrown knives is well-established in fantasy literature.
     
  9. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    The main problem with all throwing weapons is that once you've thrown them, they're gone. (With the possible exception of boomerangs!) So you need to carry more weapons in battle. This of course clashes badly with the aim of throwing a knife etc, if you want to hurt your opponent, it has to have some weight behind it. Of course the weight adds to the impact if you're lucky enough to hit, but reduces the number of weapons that can be carried.

    So throwing stars, which also have the advantage that they don't have a blunt end, are useful throwing weapons. They may not do much damage but you can carry a lot of them. Axes on the other hand, well try carrying a dozen or so of them around and you'll quickly get the point. (pun intended). I actually have thrown axes, long handle and short, for fun, and I can absolutely guarantee that throwing them in a battle would be a disaster. They're slow and clumsy, and if your opponent had any sense he'd simply dodge.

    I'm not sure whether its movie madness or history, but the Indian Tomahawk was thrown, though it too is a lot lighter then a modern hatchet.

    As for spears, traditionally (Greek Hoplites etc), didn't throw them. They used them as a hand to hand weapon mostly with a big round shield. They also carried a sword in case they lost the spear. Zulu warriors did throw their spears, but they were also extremely light weight so that they could carry a few of them.

    As to what makes a throwing weapon cinematic. Ask Croc Dundee. "That's not a knife - now that's a knife!" In short big and shiny, and if the sunlight can glint off their razor sharp edges so much the better.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  10. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    To my knowledge the Tomahawk was indeed a commonly thrown weapon. Because the native Americans wore no armor, their weapons did not need as much weight to be useful in war.

    While the Hoplites did not throw their spears, there was a class of Greek warrior known as the peltast which employed javelins as their primary weapon, acting as skirmishers.
     
  11. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    What about the knifes with a center of mass shifted towards the blade? I suppose they connect with the blade, don't they?
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2013
  12. Sea of Stars

    Sea of Stars Dreamer

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    The Franks used a throwing axe called the francisca which is suppose to be fairly effective.

    Thrown spears and javelins (along with axes) have enough mass to cause serious wounds, which throwing blades and knives lack.
     
  13. Sea of Stars

    Sea of Stars Dreamer

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  14. craenor

    craenor Scribe

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    That's a great video.

    As I mentioned elsewhere in this thread, my thorough (but far from exhaustive) research has never uncovered a single instance of a knife, skillfully thrown with deadly intent, actually killing someone.
     
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