What Is A Ballistic Knife? How Does It Work?

A ballistic knife is a knife that has a removable blade that you can eject using a spring-based system.

You can eject the blade with either a lever or a trigger, depending on the knife, and the blade can travel up to a couple of yards once launched.

This works by having the blade rest inside a hollow handle and gets locked inside.

The spring inside the handle is used to propel the blade when triggered, making it an ideal tool for outdoor adventures.

In this article, we’ll be taking a close look at the ballistic knife to find out what it is, where it comes from, and why it’s illegal.

Keep reading to learn more.


What Is A Ballistic Knife?

As mentioned earlier, this is basically a knife that you can launch a blade out of.

It’s a common misconception that this is a firearm, but in fact, this is a hybrid tool, and a very useful one if you ever find yourselves in the outdoors.

The handle of this tool is hollow and inside is a spring that is about twice the length of the entire knife when not compressed.

When it is locked, the spring gets held in by the bladed and will stay compressed unless the trigger or lever is pulled.

While the blade is locked in, you can use this tool just like any other outdoor knife to cut and slash objects.

Most of these tools will only be powered by a spring, however, there are some models that use compressed air or gas propulsion so it has more power.

This will make the knife fly further, but since the blade has nothing to keep it straight and balanced in the air, it will probably tumble after flying a couple of yards.

If you have a spring-based ballistic knife, it will be relatively silent, especially compared to the firearm version of this tool.

That being said, the blade won’t be able to cover too much distance.

And since it’s a spring-based machine that doesn’t require gun powder, you can reload it by simply sliding the blade inside the handle again.

There are a lot of versions of this tool, and some have springs powerful enough to propel the blade up to feet.

It measures around 5-10 inches and can fire a blade at speeds of up to 39 mph.

So now that you know exactly what this tool is, it’s time to look at its history.

History Of The Ballistic Knife

This is a tool that was known to be the special weapon of the Spetsnaz back in the day.

The Spetsnaz is the term used to refer to the special forces of Russia, who were known to use this weapon in their operations.

Ostblock (a Russian company) produced a lot of these knives in the ’80s to be given to the Spetsnaz.

At around this time as well, unlicensed ballistic knives found their way to the United States.

It is made out of a hybrid blade and a projectile and when fired could travel up to five meters at 40 mph.

This was very useful for soldiers trying to pursue a target.

These troops were trained to use both ballistic and throwing knives to eliminate targets silently.

Using the tool in this manner is one of the main reasons that the knife remains illegal up to this day.

In their training, Spetsnaz soldiers learned how to launch the weapon in a way that made it look like they were going to stab their target.

This would fool their opponent who wouldn’t expect a projectile to fly out of their hand.

The tool was created because learning how to properly and accurately throw a knife could take several hours or even days of training.

And since so many troops were being recruited into the army and there was no time to train them in throwing, the ballistic knife was introduced to the army.

While it was much easier to launch the blade than to throw it, ballistic knives do not have a sighting mechanism or anything to keep the blade balanced in flight.

This made using it accurately very tough to do, so it was mostly used in close combat situations.

An important thing to remember though is to take this story with a grain of salt.

There are many online sources out there that say that the story of this being created for the Spetsnaz forces could be a myth and shouldn’t be believed.

Knifeup.com has even said that Spetsnaz knives were not the same as ballistic ones, proving that the hybrid tool was never used by the forces.

Though they were designed in Russia, they were actually made available for sale in the United States in 1985 before being banned the following year.

Uses Of A Ballistic Knife

The main use of this tool is for protection.

If ever you are threatened and have no weapon on you to protect yourself, a ballistic knife can help you out a great deal.

And since it operates on a spring-based mechanism, it’s also very quiet.

The fact that this is a very quiet tool is one of the main reasons people speculate that it was used by Russian troops, though that story has a lot of question marks attached to it.

Nowadays, a lot of people believe that Spetsnaz troops learned how to use the weapon but it barely had any practical applications on the field.

But aside from being able to fire, this tool will function and a regular outdoor knife when locked in place.

You can use it to cut branches, slice through vines, and find a lot of uses for it outdoors.

However, it should be noted that these knives are very sharp, and just like any other outdoor knife out there, could be lethal.

So remember to approach this tool with a lot of care and precaution.

Why Is It Illegal?

It’s stated in a Soviet training doctrine that throwing knives were used to silently killing a target who is at a distance.

And it was thought that the ballistic knife could count as one of these throwing knives that was described in the doctrine.

Aside from that, there are some models out there that don’t use a spring, gas, or air to launch the blade and instead use explosives, essentially making the tool a firearm.

In the middle of the 1980s in the United States, there were a lot of commercial versions of the tool being produced and marketed throughout the country, which actually had a negative effect on the public’s opinion of ballistic knives.

The ban on these knives formally began when a New York Senator at the time, Alphonse D’Amato heard unconfirmed stories from a congressional witness that these tools could actually pierce armor that police officers used at the time who witnessed a staged demonstration on a wooden target.

After hearing that, D’Amato introduced the Ballistic Knife Prohibition Act, aiming to completely ban the sale and possession of these tools.

The bill, however, eventually failed.

The quest of making these tools illegal eventually gained traction again as more and more senators began agreeing with the bill.

And by September 1986, the senators who supported the ban on the sale and possession of these tools attached the bill to another legislation designed to eradicate drug crops and halt international drug trafficking, and that is how the bill got passed into law.

Just like with regular automatic knives, federal law in the United States prohibits the sale, manufacturing, possession, or importing of spring-based ballistic knives.

In simpler terms, this means you aren’t allowed to own, sell over state lines, or even make one with the intent to sell over state lines.

The law also makes it a separate crime to use or possess a ballistic knife when committing a federal crime of violence with a minimum sentence of 5 years.

That being said, the law does not prohibit owning, selling, or manufacturing within a state’s boundaries.

That means you can have one of these tools as long as you don’t intend to bring it over state lines and as long as your state doesn’t prohibit having one.

However, a lot of states out there have laws that either strictly regulate or all-out ban the acquisition or possession of these knives, with the penalties and punishments varying from state-to-state.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however.

If you are part of the Armed Forces, you may be able to get your hands on one, granted that you are bound by a contract.

There are only a select few members of the United States Armed Forces that are allowed to have a ballistic knife, and they only carry it with them when they are acting on duty.

After being banned in the United States, a lot of other nations followed suit and prohibited the possession of these tools.

For example, in the United Kingdom, these tools are never specifically mentioned or aren’t banned in the country, however, they may fall under the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, the Knives Act, the Criminal Justice Act, and the Prevention of Crime Act.

All of these laws are an attempt to hinder violent crimes, and they all involve imposing punishments and penalties on the distribution of weapons.

And because of the nature of the ballistic knife, its complex history, and its notorious reputation with a lot of legislators, it may be considered a dangerous weapon.

That means that if you’re caught with one and do not have a reasonable excuse, the court could find you guilty and you could face a variety of punishments, depending on what you were charged with.

How Can I Get One?

While a lot of the things about this tool are unsure, there is one thing that is: you will not be able to buy one in the United States without breaking the law, and the same goes for most other countries.

Your best chance of buying an authentic ballistic knife is by finding one on the dark web (which won’t guarantee that you’ll get one), which is very illegal and could get you in some serious trouble.

However, if you really want one of these tools you can actually have one made for you within your state, as long as your state law doesn’t have its own ban on the knives.

Make sure to carefully read up on your state’s law before doing this to make sure that you don’t end up accidentally breaking the law and getting punished for it.

And if you’re really industrious and know your way around a knife workshop, then you can even make one yourself as there are a whole lot of different instructional videos on the internet on how to build your own ballistic knife.

You can also get one if you are considered under the exceptions from the law.

In the case of these blades, it will only work if you’re part of the armed forces and have a contract.

Other than those ways, you will have a hard time finding one for yourself without getting in trouble.


So there you have it.

That is about all you will need to know about the ballistic knife.

It’s a hybrid tool with a very complex history and reputation.

There are some out there that wholeheartedly believe that it is a dangerous weapon and it should be banned, prohibited, or at the very least, strictly regulated.

But there are also a lot of people who simply think that this could be a very useful tool to have, especially when you’re outdoors.

None of these groups are wrong, as they all have valid points, however, there tends to be a lot of misinformation out there about ballistic knives that hurt public opinion on them.

Regardless of your stance on this type of knife, however, you still will have a very hard time getting your hands on one yourself.

You’d have to jump through a lot of hoops and do a lot of research to actually acquire or make a ballistic knife, but it can be done.

Just make sure to read up on the laws before going ahead and doing it.

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My name is David Strong. I'm a knife expert and a US Marine veteran. I used to fight in Iraq, so I gained lots of combat experience there, especially when it comes to combat, tactical, and outdoor knives. And this blog is where I share my expertise with you alongside my friend Andy.