(This site is reader-supported. When you buy something using retail links on our articles, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
A ballistic knife refers to a knife having a removable blade that can be ejected from its handle via a spring-based system. The ejection reaches several yards once you use a lever on the handle or press a trigger.
The blade resides in the hollow handle and remains locked. A spring inside the handle propels the blade when a trigger is pressed. Ballistic knives are ideal for use during an adventurous trip. For many, it is an essential tool for use in the outdoors.
This post aims to give you more information about what a ballistic knife is, how it came into being, and whether it is legal to use it or not.
Overview of Ballistic Knife
A ballistic knife is different from other knives. This is because it is a hybrid tool. While most people believe it to be a firearm, its spring-assisted version is not.
Its handle is a hollow tube inside which a spring that is double the handle’s length is packed inside when not compressed. Once locked, the spring is held by the blade.
There is a micro lever or a switch that you can quickly flip using your thumb (not really like the usual flipper knives). As long as the blade is locked, the tool acts like any other knife. You can use it to cut or slash without any hassles.
Some ballistic knives use gas propulsion or compressed air to gain more power while at work. These ballistic knives are more destructive than their other forms and do not witness any spring fatigue with time. However, as the projectile blade has no gyroscopic or aerodynamic stabilization, it is likely to tumble often after covering a short distance.
A spring-based ballistic knife is relatively less noisy than its firearm form. However, it lacks precision at a distance. When the range to be covered is more prolonged, a throwing knife would be a better tool to eliminate a troop silently.
Unlike other versions designed in different nations, the Russian ballistic knife does not need explosives or gunpowder for firing the blade. Instead, you can reload the blade by gliding it into the spring till it locks itself.
The Russian version features a metal tube and a robust spring to adopt the blade. In addition, the deployed blade stays attached to the handle, which facilitates its use as an Out The Front (OTF) knife that is an automatic knife.
It also allows releasing the blade from the handle as a projectile by pulling a pin or using a button. The spring is so powerful that it propels the blade approximately 20 feet. This knife penetrates garbs and flesh if used with an overhand throwing motion.
Even today, many consider it as a special weapon weighing under one lb., measuring 5-10 inches in length, and working on a spring mechanism. Its spring-propelled version can fire the blade to around 5 meters at 39 mph.
Watch a homemade ballistic knife in action
Evolution of Ballistic Knives
It is said that this knife was Spetsnaz’s special weapon. Spetsnaz refers to a Russian special force. Ostblock, a Russian company, made ballistic knives and were provided in big numbers to the Spetsnaz force groups throughout the 1980s. Unlicensed copies of these knives emerged in the early 1980s in the United States.
This knife is a tool consisting of a hybrid blade and a projectile. The former can be fired via a single button push, after which it travels for around 5m at a speed of 40mph. This was useful when a Spetsnaz soldier was unable to chase the foes.
The Spetsnaz troops used to get trained in throwing knives to eliminate their target in one go without making any noise. They also got trained in using the ballistic knives, which the troops used to know as silent killers. This was why these knives are unavailable to the general public even today.
Through training, a fighter learned how to fire the knife while grabbing it as a tool to stab with. This gave an impression to the gullible enemy that the distance is safe while out of arm’s reach. However, the blade flying from the knife would strike with enough force to pierce clothing and light shields.
Ballistic knives were formerly meant for the soviet military planners who used them for improving their training for teaching the skill of throwing a knife to new Spetsnaz trainees. Due to vast numbers of people being recruited into the army, there was limited training time available even for the elite forces.
Learning to throw a knife required several hours of practice and training. However, it was relatively simple to design and use a ballistic knife. At the same time, forces needed much less practice in learning the skill of throwing using this knife than what was required to throw by hand.
The main benefit was the surprise part. The blade could remain attached to the handle for use as an ordinary fixed-blade combat knife or ejecting as a projectile by pressing a button or using a pin.
Although easier to learn than throwing a knife, the vibrating shock due to releasing the expanding spring and absence of a sighting mechanism resulted in imprecision. Thus, it was wise to target a close range within a few feet to ensure that the blade transmitted a killing blow.
If someone gets hit in the face, the strike would still occur with enough force to upset the target, even if the blade would meander in the air. This one second is enough for the Spetsnaz to counteract the enemy by another means.
However, according to some online posts, it is a myth to believe that ballistic knives were developed for the special forces of Russia. This myth is widespread in western countries.
However, as per knifeup.com, a genuine Spetsnaz knife was not a ballistic knife. This means that these special units never used ballistic knives. Instead, they used the NRS-2 knife with an integrated firearm in its handle.
It is said that the ballistic knives designed in Russia were built in provisional conditions. By 1985, different publications promoted spring-assisted ballistic knives for sale in the US. By 1986, these knives were banned across the country.
Ballistic Knife for Sale
I guarantee you; there is no way you can acquire a genuine ballistic knife online unless you want to break the law in the US or most countries in the world. You may be able to find someone anonymous person selling these knives on the dark web, though.
Make one yourself, or ask someone to make it for you if you really want one. Please check your local law before doing that.
There is a tutorial on Instructables by dsirotic if you are interested in making one.
Wood’n Tech also has a video on how to make ballistic knives
Uses of Ballistic Knives
You can use a ballistic knife to protect yourself from any threat. It is reliable for cutting the branches on your way too. As the Russian ballistic knife works on the spring mechanism, it is much quiet in operation.
This can be why many online articles say that the Spetsnaz troops have used this knife. It could be possible that they also had mastered the art of firing a knife along with the art of throwing a knife. Many sources speculate that these troops, Spetsnaz, were trained to use the weapon but have hardly used it.
The major use of a ballistic knife is when a firearm is unsuitable. It is utilized as a secret or stealth tool. Yes, it is designed to act as a covert projectile in specific situations.
Still, one can use this knife without any requirement of firing the blade. Overall, the blade is still as sharp and lethal as any normal knife.
Legal Ban on Ballistic Knives
The soviet training doctrine accentuated using a thrown knife as a silent tool for killing or debilitating an unsuspecting adversary beyond dealing distance. A ballistic knife seemed to fit in that doctrine. Further, the blade can also be propelled using an explosive charge along with spring, air, or gas.
Thus, the spring-assisted ballistic knives quickly gained notoriety during the mid-1980s in the United States.
Since then, selling and marketing these knives to the citizens has been regulated or prohibited in many nations. After hearing the yet-to-confirm testimony from a witness according to whom ballistic knives can be utilized to defeat body armor of police officers, the Senator of New York of those days presented the Ballistic Knife Prohibition Act.
According to this bill, possessing or selling ballistic knives is prohibited. However, the bill was not passed.
Later, the support of Senators of Arizona and South Carolina quickly raised the need for a ban on possession and the import of ballistic knives. Finally, in 1986, the senators supporting this ban affixed their bill to the famous legislation meant for eliminating drug crops and stopping international drug trafficking tasks.
Finally, the bill became a law. The new federal act banned the possession and importation of ballistic knives in regional trade and commerce.
Current Legality of Ballistic Knives
Like standard automatic knives, the current federal law considers it illegal to own, sell, make, or import ballistic knives featuring a spring-operated blade.
In other words, it means that you cannot import these knives from outside the U.S. or buy and sell across the state lines, including possessing or designing them for selling across the state lines.
According to federal law, it is another crime to have or use a ballistic knife when committing a crime of violence. The consequence is imprisonment of at least five years.
However, the law does not forbid the sale, manufacture, or possession of a ballistic knife within a state’s borders. While this is good news for those who want to try ballistic knives, it does not rule out the need to check out each state’s specific laws.
It is wise to go through the local laws and determine whether it is legal to have, sell, or make these knives in the specified state. Several states regulate or prohibit the possession or procurement of these knives, for which penalties differ from one state to another.
An exception exists just as the law made for switchblades or OTF knives. Selling ballistic knives to the armed forces of the U.S as per the limits of a contract is legal. It is also permitted to possess these knives by the authorized members of these forces for performing their duties.
A ballistic knife is like a pistol, with the only difference being how it works. It ejects a blade rather than a bullet using a spring action, air compression, or gas pressure.
Ballistic knives are critically regulated for the citizens of the United States. However, armed forces can use them for their duties. It is still illegal to use, make, or import these knives throughout the vast territory of the United States of America.
These knives may be available online for sale. However, before buying it, it is necessary to look into the local regulations.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.