What is a Ballistic knife? (Every Thing You Should Know)

Most people believe Ballistic knives were created in Russia, during the Soviet-era government. They were made during the 1970s by the KGB. Then given to the Spetsnaz, also known as Russian special forces. Unlicensed copies of the original ballistic knife made their way into America soon thereafter.

A Ballistic knife is a term used to refer to several types of knives that have a detachable blade. The detachable blade can be ejected using a spring-assisted system or compressed air.

When someone ejects the blade using either one of two systems, the blade can travel up to 20 feet at 40 miles per hour. The entire purpose of Ballistics knives is to use them in combat when firearms are no longer an option, but there’s not enough range for closed combat.

Most people believe Ballistics knives were created in Russia, during the Soviet-era government. They were made during the 1970s by the KGB. Then given to the Spetsnaz, also known as Russian special forces. Unlicensed copies of the original ballistic knife made their way into America soon thereafter.

No confirmed sources exist to claim why was the ballistic knife invented, but many believe it was created as an alternative to regular knife-throwing tactics. It takes several hours’ worth of training to throw a knife proficiently – something that is cut short by using ballistic knives.

After a brief period of commercial success, ballistic knives started to face legal issues as several senators from different American states became to deem them dangerous enough to ban them. Albeit they are not entirely illegal, it is not allowed to take a ballistic knife between state lines.

How are ballistic knives made?

Three things are present in all ballistic knives: a removable blade, a hollow handle, and a trigger.

Depending on whether you are talking about a spring-assisted ballistic knife or a compressed air one, you’ll either have a spring in the former or a compressed air system in the latter. Either way, they are both useful to generate enough force to eject the blade on a straight line.

Ballistic knife manufacturers tend to prefer the spring-assisted version if they aim for accuracy, but it’ll inevitably suffer more wear-and-tear than the compressed air counterpart.

There’s a third, more uncommon way, version of the ballistic knife. Instead of using a spring or compressed air, the knife would be ejected via an explosive charge, like a pistol cartridge. This is rather unusual because most ballistic knives aim to be silent. An explosion, no matter how small, would also damage the knife after several uses.

How Do Ballistic Knives Work?

ballistic knife

As you know, a ballistic knife has four things: a detachable blade, a hollow handle, a trigger, and a spring or a compressed air system. For this example’s sake, let’s suppose our ballistic knife is spring-assisted.

The knife would be attached like this:

The hollow handle would have the spring inside of it. Outside the handle, there would be a trigger, either a switch or a lever of some sort. All three things make the full handle, where the knife is then attached and locked into place.

The spring isn’t loose inside the handle, but instead, is compressed by the knife attached earlier on. Until you release that tension by pressing the trigger, the blade is locked into place and the knife can be used as a normal tool.

When the trigger is activated, the tension is released. The spring aggressively moves forward and thus the blade is ejected. Depending on how durable, maintained, and reliable the spring is, the knife can travel up to 20 feet at an average speed of 40 miles per hour.

Once you have ejected the knife, you can lock it back into place and use it again. The same mechanism is used for ballistic knives that use compressed air, but no spring is present in this model.

What’s The History Behind The Ballistic Knife?

Many people believe ballistic knives were created in the Soviet Union during the 1970s. It was probably designed by the KGB and then given to the Russian army. One Russian company named Ostblock manufactured them especially for the Russian special forces, also known as Spetsnaz.

The reason behind the creation of the ballistic knife was to have a silent, more accurate alternative to throwing knives. Even though you might think throwing a regular knife is silent, it’s not silent enough under certain conditions. You have to exert force to throw a knife into a long distance. That’s bound to make some sort of noise. With a ballistic knife, there’s no noise whatsoever.

Another theory behind the creation of ballistic knives has to do with Russian special forces too. Spetsnaz troops were trained in knife throwing techniques. But there was limited time to train everyone. Considering how hard it is to teach someone how to throw a knife properly, an alternative had to be found. And that’s when ballistic knives came into play for the Russian special forces – or at least, allegedly did.

As ballistic knives gained popularity in Russia, unlicensed versions of this knife made their way into the USA. By the mid-1980s, they were a commercial success.

Unfortunately for knife-lovers out there, it got quickly banned across state lines shortly thereafter. A NY senator felt they were too dangerous for the general population and drafted a bill to outlaw them in his state. The bill failed to pass, but it quickly gained momentum around other US states. Eventually, the ban reached federal appeal and it was passed.

The ballistic knife isn’t completely illegal – you can own it if your state allows it, but you cannot take it with you into any other state.

Why Would Anyone Need a Ballistic Knife?

Its main use would be the same as any other knife you would encounter. A ballistic knife is still a knife, only with the detachable blade novelty added. With that in mind, a ballistic knife still meets the need of your average knife user: self-defense, hunting-related issues, cutting through obstacles (i.e., branches in the woods), etc.

When it comes to self-defense, it comes with an added plus. You can turn it into a gun-like weapon, albeit a short-range at that. Instead of throwing a knife against someone, you’d only shoot the blade. In case of missing your target, the blade cannot be grabbed and used against you as it would happen with a regular knife.

Among special forces, ballistic knives are called “the silent killer”, as they make little to no noise when they are used. They are probably used in military missions that require an increased level of stealth.

Can a Ballistic Knife Kills a Man?

It most definitely can. It can do the same damage as any other knife would do. If you take shooting the blade into consideration, there’s also a high chance that you can kill someone by using that method as well. As you know, a ballistic knife can be shot across 20 feet at around 40 miles per hour. If it is aimed at a vital body part, it can inflict lethal damage.

During the 1980s there were rumours about the sheer power of ballistic knives. It was believed it could pierce body armour. This is nonsense, and it was never proven. Unfortunately, sensationalism got in the way of common sense, and this rumour was the reason behind its federal ban.

Are Ballistic Knives Legal In The USA?

Ballistic knives are technically legal in the USA. It is illegal to import them into the country or move them across state lines. As long as your state deems it legal, you can buy, manufacture, or sell ballistic knives inside your state.

Under federal US law, it is illegal to buy, sell, own, or import ballistic knives across state lines. Simply put, you cannot own a ballistic knife and travel across state lines in the USA. Nor you can move ballistic knives across state lines with the intent to sell them someplace else. It is also forbidden to bring them from outside the country for either personal use or anything else.

This doesn’t mean ballistic knives are illegal in the USA. You can buy, sell, manufacture, and own a ballistic knife if it’s legal in your state. You cannot take it with you across state lines. Before you try to buy or make a ballistic knife, make sure you check your state’s law.

The United States Armed Forces can buy or own ballistic knives across state lines within the confines of a contract. Ballistic knives possession can also be authorized as long as it is used by a United States Armed Forces’ member in the performance of duty.

If a ballistic knife is involved in a federal crime, it will add 5 years on top of your sentence because of it.

Are There Any Legal Alternatives to Ballistic Knives?

Unfortunately, if ballistic knives are either outlawed or unavailable in your state, there’s not much you can do. There are no alternatives that you can consider. But don’t get discouraged, there are a lot of knives out there that you can buy – even if they do not have a blade you can shoot 20 feet away from you!

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All in all, it’s highly unlikely you’ll come across a ballistic knife – unless there is a manufacturer in your state. You can make the knife yourself, but then again, it wouldn’t have the same quality as a professional one. Even though they are an interesting novelty, the ballistic knife doesn’t offer a lot more than a regular knife.

If you decide to attempt to make your own, check your state laws to see whether it’s legal to own one or not.

References To Learn More About Ballistic Knife


I’m Ahmed, the guy behind Knifepulse.com. I’ve owned several types of knives and sharpeners over the last few years and have become obsessed with everything to do with knives. I’m always trying to improve my cleaning and sharpening process, and always on the hunt for the next best knife. But when I’m not spending time with my hobby, I’m here, writing about Knives and Sharpeners on KnifePulse to share with you what I learn along the way.

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