Throwing Knives (Or, Alternatively, Stabbing People With Them)

So, apparently there is some debate surrounding whether there is any point in throwing knives as weapons. A lot of sources say no, they're not effective or reliable, and you'd be better off just stabbing people. A minority say they totally can be quite lethal, and I've seen guys on YouTube splitting pork ribs with knives, tomahawks and everything pointy. (Not sure how reliable those videos are but...This is coming from someone who regards Mythbusters as absolute scientific fact, so...)

It's really too bad if it's a useless skill, seeing that throwing knives is kind of my MC's thing. (She's not averse to stabbing either.) Now I don't think that it's her first choice in any situation, or that she relies on it, and she doesn't, like, kill anyone instantly with one throw, but she can do it, and she is good at it. What I'm wondering is, is there a reason for her to be good at it? Like, why would she bother learning? Or have I built a character around (well, not quite, but it is a big part of how I picture her to be) a flashy but pointless trick? That would be annoying. It does occur to me, why would throwing knives be a thing if it has no practical value?

Some people do the calculating rotations and everything but I've also seen some pretty badass no-spin throws. I have no idea what it would take to learn that. I'm assuming my MC is REALLY REALLY good at whatever she does, but I don't know how much I can stretch believability.

The secondary part of this question: does anybody care? Is realism my priority? Ummm...I don't know. I didn't have her use guns because I think guns are too boring. (That's a problem too. Why wouldn't she use guns? But I don't waaaaant her to use guns.) Not to mention that a good knife might be pretty hard to find.

I end up handwaving a lot of crap because I think it's cool (my race of winged people, for instance...the musculature is impossible, period, but do I care? Nooooooo...) but this irks me more than usual...
 

TheKillerBs

Inkling
I'm no expert myself, but it is my impression that no, it isn't particularly reliable, but it can be very effective if the circumstances line up perfectly. As to why someone would learn something like that... because it's cool and they found it fun? And why would one choose to throw their knife rather than stab someone? Range, for one. Or maybe it's one last-ditch attack before they leg it. I'm sure I could come up with some other reason if I really thought about it for a while but I really should get back to my story.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>whether there is any point in throwing knives
Well, if there isn't any point, then they aren't very good knives, are they? <gdr>

I gotta ask: what's so irky about this? You're willing to let some things slide but not this thing. Can you spot what is bugging you? Might find a clue there.

You're right about finding a proper knife. You could use that. She is a bit obsessed about retrieving the knives. Can only get what she likes from this one particular bladesmith. Maybe that bladesmith adds a dollop of magic that makes them especially throwable or something. She could also sort of moon over them--not just sharpening them but polishing them, keeping them in special cloth, fussing over how hard orc hide is on them.
 
The skill of throwing knives is absolutely useful, and can be quite deadly. However, and I'm sure you've looked at this so ignore me if I'm repeating what you've already considered, you can not use just any knife. The only way a thrown knife is anything more than an unreliable ballistic object is if it is a knife designed specifically to be thrown. Those blades have lighter (sometimes nonexistent) hilts, and heavier blades.
 
That's a problem too. Why wouldn't she use guns? But I don't waaaaant her to use guns.) Not to mention that a good knife might be pretty hard to find.

That's simple. Either make her an assassin, or constantly put her in situations where noise is the least desirable thing. Anybody who knows guns knows silence, even with a "silencer" isn't a thing you get there.
 
The skill of throwing knives is absolutely useful, and can be quite deadly. However, and I'm sure you've looked at this so ignore me if I'm repeating what you've already considered, you can not use just any knife. The only way a thrown knife is anything more than an unreliable ballistic object is if it is a knife designed specifically to be thrown. Those blades have lighter (sometimes nonexistent) hilts, and heavier blades.

I'm in need, first and foremost, of something she can both throw and fight with. Versatile.
 
That's simple. Either make her an assassin, or constantly put her in situations where noise is the least desirable thing. Anybody who knows guns knows silence, even with a "silencer" isn't a thing you get there.

She is an assassin...ok, she gets recruited as an assassin, but she has her skills long before that. But noise is definitely a thing to think about...thanks for mentioning it cuz I hadn't even thought about it. It's definitely a factor.
 
>whether there is any point in throwing knives
Well, if there isn't any point, then they aren't very good knives, are they? <gdr>

I gotta ask: what's so irky about this? You're willing to let some things slide but not this thing. Can you spot what is bugging you? Might find a clue there.

You're right about finding a proper knife. You could use that. She is a bit obsessed about retrieving the knives. Can only get what she likes from this one particular bladesmith. Maybe that bladesmith adds a dollop of magic that makes them especially throwable or something. She could also sort of moon over them--not just sharpening them but polishing them, keeping them in special cloth, fussing over how hard orc hide is on them.

Gaaaaahhh, the magic idea...I really like that but I don't know if I can make it work...

And yes, she loves her knives. Even though she can fight very well without them, they make her feel secure. You do develop an affection for something that saves your life again and again. Maybe she names them...

Some questions come up in my head...if she's so attached to her knives why would she risk losing them? Why would she make the effort to learn something that's unreliable? She's very practical. There are lots of situations where she might be forced into a tight spot and where throwing and hoping to stick it might be her best option, but would she practice for that kind of situation? Hmm...if a lucky throw saved her life once or something she might see the sense in practicing the skill.
 
Every source I look at tells me something different.

In any case she'd want a blade to stab people with first and a blade to throw second.

The problem you're running into is actually simple. A knife you would use for fighting has a specific set of needs. You need to protect your hand from cutting itself on the blade. That means you need grips in the hilt, meaning the hilt is now longer than your palm. The majority of the weight, in all honesty, is going to be concentrated here, because of the balance issues otherwise. Most combat blades are better served being used as a slashing attack rather than a stab. You can stab someone with almost any type of knife- even a throwing knife. But a throwing knife's needs are such that you're most likely to badly slice your hand if you stab or slash with it.
If you're looking for a close quarters combat knife that best serves a silent and swift assassin? I would recommend the karambit. From what I've seen, it has an amazing balance. It is compact. It is specifically designed for slashing, which makes it a good throat and artery slicer. It can also be easily, and quickly, concealed in most incarnations you'll see.

Throwing knives, as opposed to everything I've just said, have all, or at least most, of the weight in the blade. Although they can be thrown overhand with a spin, they function best when thrown underhanded with zero spin. Because of all of that, they tend to be a hunk of metal that is mostly blade, with minimal hilt protections involved. This is the most common variant I see lately, although they've been around for centuries and in almost every culture. There are hundreds of permutations of the throwing knife, some of which could in theory be useful to you as a combat knife, although there is still little or not protection of the hand.
 
The problem you're running into is actually simple. A knife you would use for fighting has a specific set of needs. You need to protect your hand from cutting itself on the blade. That means you need grips in the hilt, meaning the hilt is now longer than your palm. The majority of the weight, in all honesty, is going to be concentrated here, because of the balance issues otherwise. Most combat blades are better served being used as a slashing attack rather than a stab. You can stab someone with almost any type of knife- even a throwing knife. But a throwing knife's needs are such that you're most likely to badly slice your hand if you stab or slash with it.
If you're looking for a close quarters combat knife that best serves a silent and swift assassin? I would recommend the karambit. From what I've seen, it has an amazing balance. It is compact. It is specifically designed for slashing, which makes it a good throat and artery slicer. It can also be easily, and quickly, concealed in most incarnations you'll see.

Throwing knives, as opposed to everything I've just said, have all, or at least most, of the weight in the blade. Although they can be thrown overhand with a spin, they function best when thrown underhanded with zero spin. Because of all of that, they tend to be a hunk of metal that is mostly blade, with minimal hilt protections involved. This is the most common variant I see lately, although they've been around for centuries and in almost every culture. There are hundreds of permutations of the throwing knife, some of which could in theory be useful to you as a combat knife, although there is still little or not protection of the hand.

Thanks for the pics :D

And...I've seen people throw all kinds of knives, even combat knives with most of the weight in the handle, but are they ideal?...Hmm idk. It seems that you'd have to throw something large and heavy anyway, to do any damage.

Self-defense is her main interest at the start of the story. Later on I don't know what she might use.

This is getting really difficult...ugh. So frustrating. I fail to see how the problem is simple.
 
The weight isn't the issue, it's the distribution. For combat, you need weight in your hand. For accurate, piercing, throwing, you need the weight in the blade.
 

Malik

Auror
It's going to depend on your level of realism, too. Because throwing a knife is silly. I'm sorry, but it just is.

There is almost no way to reliably kill someone with a thrown knife fast enough for them to not cross the distance and murder you before they bleed out. Your best shot would be to hit them in the face -- most people will leave you alone if you stab them really hard in the face; handy life tip there, write it down -- and run like hell, and even then, you'd have to hit them just right. People walk into the ER with knives sticking out of their skulls. Look it up. If a guy has a knife and is threatening me, just about the best thing that could happen to me is for him to throw it at me. I'd much rather someone throw a knife at me than close on me with it.

First off, a thrown knife takes forever to get to its target. It's a half-step to one side or the other to totally negate the thing. You have plenty of time if you see it coming, and if you recognize the movement, anyone with a modicum of hand to hand training can slip it. If someone was winding up to throw a knife at me, especially overhand, I'd be in the next ZIP code or behind hard cover before it came out of his hand.

If the knife hits a major organ, even the heart, you're talking minutes for the target to bleed out. If the target leaves the knife in place, it's likely plugging the wound; shock will swell the tissues up around it, slowing blood loss, and he'll kill you. And you just threw your knife. You better hope you have another one. If it hits the heart and the heart stops, you might outlive him. If it hits the throat just right, you might outlive him. If it hits the skull just right, you might outlive him.

You have to stab someone a lot to kill them. Like, a LOT. It's called the "sewing machine attack," and it's pretty much that: you stab them again and again and again, real fast, like a sewing machine, all over, until they shut down and slip into hypovolemic shock. Or you sneak up behind them when they're -- I don't know; mixing a drink, or texting, or something -- and then there are silent takedown techniques with a knife, sure. Cutting the throat, stabbing up through the short ribs into the lungs with a hand over their mouth, all that. However, the rear naked choke is more effective, quieter, and doesn't mess up your shoes. Personally, I'm partial to the "turtle****," where you slam the guy in the side of the head with your helmet. Or his, if he's not wearing a chinstrap.

4191_34_145-self-defense-attack-techniques.png

This is seriously my favorite illustration in the whole Army.

The whole TV thing about someone getting hit with a knife, or shot with an arrow, or even shot with a bullet, and falling down dead just doesn't happen.

Some people, not knowing any better, will realize they've been shot or stabbed or whatever and will, in fact, literally lie down and die because that's what they expect -- there are quitters in the world -- but generally speaking, people who fight for a living and take human lives themselves have likely seen people live through some crazy shit, which makes you way tougher. Especially if you have a competitive streak.

When I was convalescing in 2012 the guy in the next room had one side of his face blown off with an IED a la Gus Fring. The way I understand it, he came to in the middle of a firefight, stuffed a bandage in his own eye socket, put his rifle on his other shoulder, and got in the game using his good eye. I'm betting he didn't hit much, but don't tell me poking a two-inch hole in someone is going to make them clutch their chest and start singing "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie." Dude now has a glass eye with a Batman symbol for the pupil.

In the Vietnam war, SFC Benavidez took the title, here. He was shot, stabbed, and blown up a total of 37 times over the course of six hours, and kept fighting the whole time, sometimes hand-to-hand. 37 holes in that guy and he kept going.

I'd be very careful about whom I threw a knife at.

Throwing knives is really cool; it looks great, it reads great. It's impressive to watch, takes a lot of work, and is very sexy. There are guys in my archery club who throw great. But offensively, it's unwise. As an assassination technique, it's ridiculous.

Now, a poisoned knife . . .
 
Last edited:
It's going to depend on your level of realism, too. Because throwing a knife is silly. I'm sorry, but it just is.

There is almost no way to reliably kill someone with a thrown knife fast enough for them to not cross the distance and murder you before they bleed out. Your best shot would be to hit them in the face -- most people will leave you alone if you stab them really hard in the face; handy life tip there, write it down -- and run like hell, and even then, you'd have to hit them just right. People walk into the ER with knives sticking out of their skulls. Look it up. If a guy has a knife and is threatening me, just about the best thing that could happen to me is for him to throw it at me. I'd much rather someone throw a knife at me than close on me with it.

First off, a thrown knife takes forever to get to its target. It's a half-step to one side or the other to totally negate the thing. You have plenty of time if you see it coming, and if you recognize the movement, anyone with a modicum of hand to hand training can slip it. If someone was winding up to throw a knife at me, especially overhand, I'd be in the next ZIP code or behind hard cover before it came out of his hand.

If the knife hits a major organ, even the heart, you're talking minutes for the target to bleed out. If the target leaves the knife in place, it's likely plugging the wound; shock will swell the tissues up around it, slowing blood loss, and he'll kill you. And you just threw your knife. You better hope you have another one. If it hits the heart and the heart stops, you might outlive him. If it hits the throat just right, you might outlive him. If it hits the skull just right, you might outlive him.

You have to stab someone a lot to kill them. Like, a LOT. It's called the "sewing machine attack," and it's pretty much that: you stab them again and again and again, real fast, like a sewing machine, all over, until they shut down and slip into hypovolemic shock. Or you sneak up behind them when they're -- I don't know; mixing a drink, or texting, or something -- and then there are silent takedown techniques with a knife, sure. Cutting the throat, stabbing up through the short ribs into the lungs with a hand over their mouth, all that. However, the rear naked choke is more effective, quieter, and doesn't mess up your shoes. Personally, I'm partial to the "turtle****," where you slam the guy in the side of the head with your helmet. Or his, if he's not wearing a chinstrap.

4191_34_145-self-defense-attack-techniques.png

This is seriously my favorite illustration in the whole Army.

The whole TV thing about someone getting hit with a knife, or shot with an arrow, or even shot with a bullet, and falling down dead just doesn't happen.

Some people, not knowing any better, will realize they've been shot or stabbed or whatever and will, in fact, literally lie down and die because that's what they expect -- there are quitters in the world -- but generally speaking, people who fight for a living and take human lives themselves have likely seen people live through some crazy shit, which makes you way tougher. Especially if you have a competitive streak.

When I was convalescing in 2012 the guy in the next room had one side of his face blown off with an IED a la Gus Fring. The way I understand it, he came to in the middle of a firefight, stuffed a bandage in his own eye socket, put his rifle on his other shoulder, and got in the game using his good eye. I'm betting he didn't hit much, but don't tell me poking a two-inch hole in someone is going to make them clutch their chest and start singing "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie." Dude now has a glass eye with a Batman symbol for the pupil.

In the Vietnam war, SFC Benavidez took the title, here. He was shot, stabbed, and blown up a total of 37 times over the course of six hours, and kept fighting the whole time, sometimes hand-to-hand. 37 holes in that guy and he kept going.

I'd be very careful about whom I threw a knife at.

Throwing knives is really cool; it looks great, it reads great. It's impressive to watch, takes a lot of work, and is very sexy. There are guys in my archery club who throw great. But offensively, it's unwise. As an assassination technique, it's ridiculous.

Now, a poisoned knife . . .

Well, shoot.

(That illustration did crack me up.)

Suppose I shoulda done my research before writing the whole book? (Less self explanatory than it looks, apparently.)

To be fair, this project is not heavy on realism. When I started out the details were meant to be a little overly flamboyant, so, it did fit. I wasn't taking anything dead seriously. Now I'm thinking I want a little more realism and, well. This isn't the first problem that's caused and it won't be the last.

What to do? Decide I don't care? Write it out of the character (actually wouldn't be that hard because the knife-throwing thing doesn't come up that much. She stabs a guy in the throat in a flashback, though.) which, I still don't want to do? Come up with a magical explanation? (Even though that would stretch my magic system significantly?)

(Every time I write a book: "This will be a low magic setting!" I always hate myself for it. Always always always.)

It was a really cool idea, k? Allow me to mourn for it. Wait, will my readers even care? My sense of realism is continually at war with my sense of cool. (Dragons, winged humanoid race, flying machines...I have a thing for stuff with wings.) On the one hand, I like being realistic as much as I can; on the other hand, reality is tedious and disappointing.

(Really starting to wonder why throwing knives are a thing if they're useless.)

What now then?
 

Malik

Auror
Really starting to wonder why throwing knives are a thing if they're useless.

Throwing knives are really handy against small game. Like, really, really handy. Stapling an unsuspecting squirrel to a tree from ten yards is not a skill to be underestimated, especially if you already have potatoes and the means to make gravy.

ETA: I've worked with foreign militaries who would sit around during lulls and bet about who could throw a knife to hit what. It's weird, because it's almost completely useless in combat yet nearly universal among soldiers. As such, it's a skill that I could completely envision evolving around the campfire with bored warriors throughout history and maybe coming in handy once in a great while. Also, never play mumbletypeg with anybody who's served with the Foreign Legion.

Go ahead and keep it. Make the knives poisoned. Or make them magic. Or make the MC blessed so that her knives always hit something vital. Or something. You don't have to do away with it if you do away with realism to some extent. This is where the whole fantasy part of fantasy comes in handy.
 
Last edited:
Throwing knives are really handy against small game. Like, really, really handy. Stapling an unsuspecting squirrel to a tree from ten yards is not a skill to be underestimated, especially if you already have potatoes and the means to make gravy.

ETA: I've worked with foreign militaries who would sit around during lulls and bet about who could throw a knife to hit what. It's weird, because it's almost completely useless in combat yet nearly universal among soldiers. As such, it's a skill that I could completely envision evolving around the campfire with bored warriors throughout history and maybe coming in handy once in a great while. Also, never play mumbletypeg with anybody who's served with the Foreign Legion.

Go ahead and keep it. Make the knives poisoned. Or make them magic. Or make the MC blessed so that her knives always hit something vital. Or something. You don't have to do away with it if you do away with realism to some extent. This is where the whole fantasy part of fantasy comes in handy.

Again, hating myself for the relatively low magic setting. :( I could make it work, though. Possibly. There are a lot of magic elements left unexplained.

Poison doesn't need magic though. I can come up with something that'll kill you with just a nick.

I keep leaning toward just handwaving it. As I said, it all has an over-the-top kind of aura about it. And I doubt my readers might care. I wince every time I have to handwave something, but I do it when the concept is attractive enough. The whole idea of fantasy, right?

I strongly feel that this is my own nitpick and none of my readers would care.
 
I probably should actually look at how much the knife-throwing enters the plot. I wanted it part of the character, but can't remember if it's an essential part of any scene. (Haven't read it all the way through yet.) It's more of a trait of the character than anything.

She can carry both a sturdy combat knife and some throwing knives tipped with some nasty poison, sure.
 
Top