Butterfly Knives, Are They Good for Self-defense?

The butterfly knives, also known as the Balisong knives, are some of the most fascinating pocket knives you’ll find.  Even if you haven’t used one, you surely have seen one of these knives in use on TV or in the movies.

The exotic design and the lighting fast trick movements of the knife are unmistakable.

Are butterfly knives good for self-defense?

Yes, butterfly knives can be useful for self defence if proficient in their operation. Buttler fly knives however would not be the quickest option and have more points of failure if needed to use quickly in a high stress situation.

The butterfly knife falls right in between empty hand self-defense techniques and a full weapon combat style. The sturdy blade is good enough for repelling attackers and you can use the knife as an impact weapon as well. However, one needs the right amount of skill for using it effectively.

Fair enough, but what about newbie knife users?

The truth is, the Balisong isn’t necessarily the ideal knife for beginners. So, before you’re tempted to buy one, you need to know a few more things about this knife.

Let’s get this show on the road.

The History of Butterfly Knives

The history of butterfly knives is as interesting as its design. Historical records about the origin of the knife aren’t specific. In fact, there are some controversies around its origin. 

Many analysts say that the knife originates from the Philippines and its history goes as far back as 800 AD. The knife is an integral part of Filipino martial art forms like the Eskrima. It’s a knife that’s also a part of the country’s folklore that has passed on for generations.

The origin of the word Balisong isn’t exactly clear. The majority opinion is, it originated from the term “baling sungay” which means “folding horn”. This goes back to a time when the knife was made from deer horns or bones.

The town of Taal, in Batangas province, is considered the center of Balisong production in the Philippines. Taal is the best place for purchasing and also to observe the manufacturing of these knives.

However, the other theory claims that the butterfly knives were originally designed in Europe. The design of the Balisong knife can be traced back to France in the early part of the 18th century. 

It is said that Spanish merchants and sailors used the knife. They spread it to other regions including the Philippines, which was a Spanish colony.

Besides, the German knife manufacturers of Böntgen & Sabin also submitted a design to the German patent office in 1880. The design of that folding knife was very similar to the butterfly knife.

While the exact origin of the knife remains unclear, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the most popular knives in the world at present.

The knife has become a part of pop culture due to its flashy movements. These are known as the flow of the Balisong or Balisong aerials. In fact, in a skilled hand, the flipping movements are mesmerizing for any watcher.

When in movement, the handles resemble the wings of a butterfly. And that’s the reason behind its name.

Types of Butterfly Knives

In general, butterfly knives are made in two different ways. 

Sandwich Construction

This is the cheapest and easiest way to manufacture a butterfly knife. The parts of the knife get assembled in layers and are then screwed or bolted together. A small piece of pacer material separates the handles.

These knives can also come with a ball bearing for smoother movement. The blade is locked between the layers in a closed position.

Channel Construction

In this form of the knife, the handles are crafted from a single piece of metal, with a groove for the blade. Due to the construction type, this design is also considered a more durable version.

Since the weight is distributed evenly across the handle, some users prefer the handling of the channel butterfly knives. However, when designed and balanced well, a sandwich Balisong can perform equally well.

The Anatomy of a Butterfly Knife

Basically, the butterfly knife consists of a blade and two handles that rotate around a pivot. These hollow handles can rotate freely around the blade or wrap around it as a cover. 

Also, there’s a latch that acts as a locking system to prevent the handles from opening themselves. Modern butterfly knives often come with a magnet instead of a latch.

Let’s take a closer look at the main parts of a butterfly knife.

The Blade

You’ll find three main parts in the blade of the knife. The outer part of the blade that connects with the handles is called the tang. The sharp edge of the blade is used for cutting and the dull edge is the spine. The bottom of the blade comes with two holes that connect it to the handles through pivots.

The Handles

It’s the handles that make the butterfly knife different from the other knives.

One of the handles is called the “safe handle”.  The other one is the “opposite handle” or “bite handle”. 

Here’s the most important part…

To handle the butterfly knife should always use the safe handle. Since the blunt side of the blade closes into this handle, you won’t cut yourself, even if your hand gets in the way.

On the other hand, if you grasp the opposite handle, there’s the risk of the sharp edge cutting into your hand.

The Pivot System

In most Balisong pivot systems, a torx screw connects the parts together. The pivot mechanism of a knife includes the hardware to reduce friction during movement. 

The pivot system has the following main components.

  • The mechanism often comes with washers that assist in the smooth movement of the blade. In cheaper models, the washers are made from steel. Materials like Phosphorus Bronze are used in high-end knives.
  • In other forms of the pivot system, bushings are placed at the pivot. These small metal tubes are combined with washers to reduce friction to a minimum. Since they come with perfect tolerances, manu users consider bushings as the best option for butterfly knives.
  • Some of the knives have a bearing that’s fitted to a caged washer. Ball bearings offer the smoothest movement for butterfly knives. Steel, teflon or ceramic materials are used to make these bearings. However, some users feel that ball bearings make the knife too fast for comfortable use.

Other than that, the knife also has Zen pins and Tang pins. The Zen pins are located inside the handles and the Tang pins are press-fit in the blade. The purpose of these pins is to prevent the handles from slapping or touching while in use.

Can Butterfly Knives be Used as a Weapon?

Apart from being used as a pocket utility knife, the butterfly knife can also be an effective weapon for self-defense.

Note, the butterfly knife is a very flexible option as a self-defense weapon. While it may look light and small, the sturdiness of the blade can surprise you.

Here are a few points that make it an effective weapon.

  • With the blade undeployed, you can use the knife as an impact weapon. While using it as a non-lethal weapon, the handle tips and edges are effective for striking an opponent in vital areas.
  • The butterfly knife doesn’t need a sheath as the blades act as the sheath, The foldable design also shortens the knife length by half. That makes it easy to conceal and it looks like a simple stick when folded. This allows you to surprise your attacker once the blade is deployed.
  • The design of the butterfly knife makes it simple and it doesn’t require a spring. With a simple hand movement you can deploy the blade at lightning speed. And once deployed and locked, the blade is as strong as a fixed-blade knife.
  • The knife can be easily and quickly transferred from one hand to another. It’s effective for both slashing and stabbing strokes. 
  • The knife and the blade are easy to maintain. The butterfly knife has minimum moving parts, so maintenance is easy. Since it’s a folding knife, it’s much safer for a user than a fixed blade knife.
  • When used in a skilled hand, the fast movements of the knife can intimidate or distract the opponent. Also, the “badass vibe” associated with a butterfly knife is undeniable. This can give you an edge in a critical scenario.

But make no mistake about it. Despite the flashy movements, the Balisong isn’t necessarily the best choice of defense weapon for a novice.

Here are a few factors that make this knife somewhat tricky to handle.

  • Firstly, handling the butterfly knife needs some training and practice. Using it isn’t the same as using any other knife. Without the right amount of effort and practice, you can end up injuring yourself with the blade.
  • The butterfly knife isn’t the best defense weapon in the hands of an untrained user. Unless you are trained to use it, an opponent with a stick or a fixed-blade knife can injure you.
  • It takes time and practice to learn the movements and use the knife in the correct manner. If you want a weapon for immediate use, pick a conventional knife that’s easy to handle.
  • Keep in mind, possessing a butterfly is illegal in some states and countries. You can face a jail term for carrying the knife. So, before you pick up a Balisong knife, make sure the laws in your state aren’t against it.

Like every other skill, handling the butterfly knife needs patience and practice. Quite simply, this isn’t a knife that you can afford to fumble with. 

However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, the Balisong can be an effective self-defense weapon. In a skilled hand, the sharp blade has the right bite to repel an attacker.

What is the advantage of a butterfly knife?

Balisongs are not just great for covert carrying and but they come with different blade shapes and lengths.  They are light and compact enough for carrying in your pocket. 

That makes them a good option as an EDC knife. The Balisong is a great tool for handling regular tasks like opening cans or bottles and for cutting seat belts or ropes. All in all, the butterfly knife works great as a utility knife.

Also, the butterfly knife is a safe option. The handle conceals the blade securely. There’s no chance of it accidentally opening in your pocket.

But since the handling needs some practice, it’s not the best choice as an on-the-go survival knife. So, they are a favorite choice of knife enthusiasts. If you don’t have the time to learn to use a Bailisong, choose a normal folding knife for everyday carry.

Can You Hurt Yourself with a Butterfly Knife?

Yes, you can. But consider this…

When you’re handling any weapon with a sharp blade it’s essential to use it in the right manner. The butterfly knife is no different.

Now, the butterfly knife has a different design than standard knives. With two handles, the blade is difficult to control for new users. If you aren’t trained, you will surely cut yourself while using it. 

In fact, plenty of learners have hurt themselves while using the knife for practicing the moves. Some of the moves, like the pinwheel trick, can be dangerous if not done in the right manner.

To practice the moves safely, here are a few points you need to keep to do.

  • We suggest you enhance your skills by using a knife trainer before buying a butterfly knife. A knife trainer comes with the same design but with a blunt blade. That allows you to practice the moves without injuring yourself. 
  • The trainer knives also come with a comfortable handle. This is an important factor because after long hours of practice your hands can start hurting.
  • In addition to that, make sure you pick a knife of the right length. A longer design can be difficult to handle and train with. You can shift to longer models once you acquire the right skills.
  • When you have enough skills to move to a butterfly knife, make sure to buy a knife with the same configurations as that of the trainer.
  • It’s best to train under an experienced trainer to get your moves right. That way, you will be able to learn not only the handling but also the right moves for using it in self-defense.

The fact is, as long as you use them in the right manner, there’s minimal chance of hurting yourself with butterfly knives.

Are Butterfly Knives Illegal?

The butterfly knife is one of the most common criminalized knives in the market. They are illegal in many countries including Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Switzerland.

In the Philippines, carrying a Balisong knife is illegal without a proper permit. For that, you need to demonstrate the necessity of carrying a knife.

In the US, individual states have different laws regarding the knife. Here’s the list of a few states in the US where the butterfly knife is illegal.

  1. California- It’s illegal to carry or bear any knife if its blade is longer than 2 inches. However, knives with longer blades are allowed for home use.
  2. New York- The butterfly knife isn’t legal in the state
  3. Hawaii- It’s illegal to possess, transfer, or manufacture a butterfly knife.
  4. Oregon- Carrying butterfly knives in a concealed manner is illegal.
  5. Utah- Butterfly knives are legal as long as they aren’t concealed or covered,
  6. New Mexico- It’s illegal to carry a butterfly knife in this state as it’s classified as a switchblade.

Before buying a butterfly knife, check the latest state laws for any updates.

But what makes the exotic butterfly knife illegal?

Unfortunately, in the past decades, butterfly knives have gathered a stigma that associates them with criminals. In the eighties, a large volume of these knives was imported into the United States. As a result, crimes related to these knives rose steeply.

In most cases, butterfly knives aren’t categorized as utility knives. Rather, they are marked as “gravity knives” or “switchblades.” 

It’s also a fact that the incorrect handling and resulting injuries from butterfly knives are a cause behind them being considered illegal. The emergency centers saw a large number of patients with self-inflicted injuries from these knives. 

As a result, authorities decided that banning these knives was the best way to handle the situation.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, the Balisong, a.k.a the butterfly knife can be an excellent self-defense weapon. In reality, its flashiness can be distracting for some users. But that can be an advantage in itself while defending against an attacker. What’s more, the exotic design makes using it great fun to use.

Obviously, to use a butterfly knife safely for self-defense, you need to practice handling it. To use it effectively, it’s best that you get trained by a certified expert.

Can you handle it?


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