Uncovering the Butterfly Knife: Its History, Use, and Legality

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Balisong Trainer Blue

The Butterfly Knife, also known as a Balisong, has a rich history and a unique design, leading to its enduring popularity. However, its association with crime and violence has led to its criminalization in many countries.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of the Butterfly Knife, its origins, uses, and the legal restrictions surrounding its possession and use in various countries

Disclaimer: This article is meant for informational purposes only. Always consult appropriate legal guidance before purchasing or carrying any type of knife.

The Butterfly Knife: An Overview

The Butterfly Knife, commonly referred to as the Balisong, is a type of folding pocket knife that originated in the Philippines. Characterized by its unique design with two handles that counter-rotate around the tang, it conceals the blade within the handles when closed. The opening mechanism of the knife involves a series of fast flourishes, often requiring considerable skill, allowing the user to swiftly reveal the blade.

The Historical Origins of the Butterfly Knife

The Philippine Connection

The term Balisong is derived from the Tagalog words “baling sungay” which means “broken horn”. This term harks back to the knife’s initial use in the Philippines, where the handles were often crafted from animal horns. In its early days, the Butterfly Knife served as a self-defense tool and pocket utility knife.

Some reports even suggest that it was used as a razor blade before gaining popularity as a unique folding knife.

The French Theory

Another theory suggests that the Balisong could have originated from France between 1500 and 1700. The basis for this theory is the “Pied Du Roi”, a French measurement instrument from the 1700s, which bears a resemblance to the Butterfly Knife in terms of its design. However, the exact origins of the Butterfly Knife remain a topic of debate among historians.

The Butterfly Knife: An Irresistible Temptation!

Despite its often negative portrayal in modern media, the Butterfly Knife continues to captivate enthusiasts due to its intricate design and the skill required to wield it. Be it in the hands of a skilled martial artist or a talented knife flipper, the speed and fluidity of the Butterfly Knife’s deployment are undeniably captivating.

The Butterfly Knife has also found its place in the competitive world of knife flipping. A growing community of knife flippers have adopted the Butterfly Knife, showcasing their skill and technique in competitions and online platforms, further enhancing the allure of this unique knife.

The Butterfly Knife in Popular Culture

The Butterfly Knife’s unique design, coupled with its speed and fluidity, has caught the attention of Hollywood and the gaming industry. Its portrayal in movies, TV shows, and video games often emphasizes its potential for violence, usually shown in the hands of villains or anti-heroes. This portrayal has undoubtedly contributed to the stigma surrounding the Butterfly Knife, further complicating its legal status across the world.

The Butterfly Knife: A Tool or a Weapon?

The primary purpose of any knife is functionality. However, due to its unique design and rapid deployment, the Butterfly Knife is often perceived as a weapon rather than a tool. Its strength and versatility, combined with its potential for intimidation, have led to its criminalization in many countries.

In reality, a Butterfly Knife can be as practical and useful as any other knife if used responsibly. Its strength, derived from the sandwich or channel construction of its handles, makes it a durable tool. Meanwhile, its compact design makes it a practical choice for those needing a reliable pocket utility knife.

The Legality of the Butterfly Knife: A Global Perspective

Butterfly Knives in the United States

In the United States, the legality of Butterfly Knives varies from state to state. In some states, such as Hawaii and California, Butterfly Knives are completely illegal. In others, like Maine, it is legal to purchase, sell, and carry Butterfly Knives. The USPS prohibits the shipment of Butterfly Knives, further complicating their purchase and ownership.

Butterfly Knives in Europe

In many European countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, Butterfly Knives are classified as offensive weapons and are therefore illegal. In Switzerland, the use of Butterfly Knives is also prohibited.

Butterfly Knives in Canada

In Canada, Butterfly Knives fall under the classification of a “gravity knife” and are therefore prohibited unless exempted before prohibition.

Why Are Butterfly Knives Illegal?

The primary reason for the criminalization of Butterfly Knives is their potential use as a threatening weapon. Their rapid deployment and intimidating nature made them a popular choice for criminals, leading to their ban in many countries. The Butterfly Knife’s portrayal in popular media as a weapon of choice for villains further contributed to its negative reputation and subsequent criminalization.

Böker Plus Butterfly Trainer
An Butterfly trainer from Böker Plus

The Butterfly Knife Community: Flipping and Tricks

Despite its controversial status, the Butterfly Knife has fostered a vibrant community of enthusiasts who appreciate its unique design and the skill required to flip it. These enthusiasts, known as flippers, practice and showcase various tricks using Butterfly Knives, adding a new dimension to this misunderstood tool.

The Butterfly Knife: Collecting and Appreciation

For some, the allure of the Butterfly Knife lies in its aesthetic appeal and historical significance. Antique and beautifully crafted Butterfly Knives are sought after by collectors, serving as decorative items that represent a rich history and unique design.

Choosing the Right Butterfly Knife

If you are considering obtaining a Butterfly Knife, it’s essential to research and understand the various features of different models. Factors such as construction (sandwich vs. channel), mechanism (bearings vs. washers), safety (tang pins vs. zen pins), type (trainer vs. live edge), and the presence of a latch can significantly impact the knife’s performance and suitability for your needs.

Always remember that while Butterfly Knives can be fascinating and fun to use, they are still knives. They should be handled with respect and used responsibly, regardless of whether you’re using them for utility, self-defense, flipping tricks, or simply appreciating their unique design.

In conclusion, the Butterfly Knife, or Balisong, is a unique tool with a rich history, intricate design, and a loyal following of enthusiasts. Its criminalization in various countries is a testament to its potential misuse as a weapon, but it doesn’t overshadow its practical uses or diminish its appeal to collectors and flippers.

As with any tool, the Butterfly Knife can be a valuable asset when used responsibly and within the bounds of the law.


The Butterfly Knife is an interesting, with a long history and a large following of enthusiasts. Though it has been associated with criminal activity, its legitimate uses should not be overlooked. With the right research and respect for its potential, it can be an asset to many people when used responsibly.

Whether you are looking for a tool to help with everyday tasks, wanting to practice flipping tricks, or looking to build out your collection, the Butterfly Knife is worth considering.