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Author Topic: throwing knives
Member # 7664

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I'm currently working on polishing off a novel (it's done beginning to end, but in very rough state)... Anyways, I'm rewriting a scene possibly with a sort of dart-board/throwing knife contest or dare of some sort and wondered if anyone has any good sources of information on such weaponry: names, styles, techniques, etc...

The novel is SF and I'm dealing with a humanoid, but predatory race (strictly carnivores here). I thought it would make logical sense for the women to have particular expertise in archery and throwing weapons like knives, etc... as it would bve easier to tackle prey from a distance without endagering self (particularly if pregnant) or with children in tow.

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Did you think of bolos or boomerangs (maybe boomerangs with knife edges... but maybe you wouldn't want those to return. [Smile] )
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For target practice, knives are a popular sport. For actual hunting, a throwing stick or something similar is usually more effective. Either way, you are talking about small game at close range. Larger game would pretty much have to be brought down with a bow or a spear. Note that a woman can also throw a light spear a fair distance, especially if she uses an atlatl.

For throwing knives, there are three main styles. Each style has endless variations, but they are:

'True' throwing knives are perfectly center balanced. Their edges are dull to avoid cutting the fingers and the blades are usually rather wide. They can be grasped from either end. These knives tend to be somewhat longer and heavier than one is accustomed to seeing in general knives. They can be grasped by either the grip or the blade in a variety of ways.

Bowie style knives (i.e. the kind Jim Bowie carried) are heavy bladed weapons designed mainly for combat. The blades tend to be single-edged and wide, with a heavy spine along the back and sometimes have a false edge from the tip to approximately one fourth or one third the length of the back blade. These knives are thrown by grasping the handle, much like a tomahawk. They can also (theoretically) be thrown by grasping the back of the blade with he thumb parallel to the blade, and the other fingertips resting against the far side. From experience I can tell you that it is nearly impossible to get any power into a throw using this grip.

Bayonets and the like *can* be thrown but many of them are not ideal for the purpose. It depends on the type and style of bayonet. For practical purposes, think of a bayonet as a bowie knife with a modified "dagger-ish" blade.

Dagger style knives cannot be thrown by the blade if you want to keep your fingers. It is difficult to find a modern dagger that has a blade heavy enough to make a good throwing knife when gripped by the handle. One of the old poignards, or an old style dirk might make a decent thrower. There is one such knife, called an Arkansas toothpick, that was often used in dueling and was occasionally thrown - at least by anecdotal evidence.

I personally have my doubts. about the effectiveness of throwing a knife at a live target anyway. Why throw away your most useful tool and your ultimate close quarter weapon? FOr a throwing weapon I would recommend a small ax like the tomahawk, or something like the boomerang mentioned above.

The only throwing weapon that I know of which is effective at all against larger animals is the bola, also mentioned above. It's non-lethal, so you would need to keep a backup weapon of the kill.

You can make a surprisingly effective throwing weapon by taking two sticks, each about a foot long, and lashing them together in a cross shape. Sharpen all four points and you have a wooden shuriken that will fly at a fair speed, and carry enough weight to penetrate hard.

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One further note. It is entirely possible to throw a knife backhanded, or underhanded, although you almost never see it done on television or in a movie. An underhanded throw is an iffy situation, but it can be done. I recommend a light knife with a keen point, using a blade grip. A backhand throw is possible, but since I never got into it much I can't offer much advice.

Have you considered poison darts, as from a blowgun? Or steel shuriken with poison on them?

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Grumpy old guy
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There are special ops knives specifically designed for throwing. The blade is narrow with a very sharp point and virtually no edge on it. The only problem is, I can't remember the name of the style.

For hunting purposes however, rcmann is right. A bow is best, the arrowhead causes massive damage to the blood vessels and the animal will bleed to death very quickly. They don't die from hydrostatic shock as they would with big-bore gunshot wounds. The other option is a javelin thrown with the aid of a spear-thrower. This imparts a huge amount of kinetic energy that would incapacitate small game.


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For a throwing weapon I would recommend a small ax like the tomahawk, or something like the boomerang mentioned above.
I'd like to second rcmann's suggestion here. I remember a show on the History Channel, where they were talking about a tribe in Europe--the Franks--that had throwing axes that would bounce off the ground and leap at the Roman lines. It was a very effective tactic, as I recall. Wikipedia talks about it in the Francisca article.

Another feature of the francisca was the tendency to bounce unpredictably upon hitting the ground[3] due to its weight, unique shape, lack of balance and slight curvature of the haft, making it difficult for defenders to block. It could rebound up at the legs of opponents or against shields and through the ranks. The Franks capitalized on this by throwing the franciscas in a volley in order to confuse, intimidate and disorganize the enemy lines either before or during a charge to initiate close combat.
The weapon was named after the Franks (or vice-versa), and the Franks eventually became the French.

Any weapon that becomes the name of a nation is one worth considering. [Wink]

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Member # 8019

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The lowly sling is as ancient in origin as the atlatl, bow and arrow, spear, and stone hatchets and bludgeons. A sling can be as accurate, as lethal against unarmored foes as any primitive weapon, and as portable and ready to hand as needed. Slings are especially useful for hunting small game in woodland areas where the loss of a sling stone is not as costly as an arrow or spear.

River pebbles make great sling stones. Conversely, lead can be cast into an acorn-like shape, making the most effective sling bullet by simply pressing a finger into wet clay and filling with molten lead. An average sling stone or bullet is about three-quarters of an inch by an inch and a half.

While a sling is a low-status weapon, in ancient times most everyone across the globe knew how to make one from ready-to-hand materials and knew how to use one skillfully. Slings have a range up to 400 meters or 1200 feet, a quarter mile. Accuracy declines proportionately with distance, as with any weapon.

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Try this website:


And this one:


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