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Butterfly Knives

The butterfly knife is the original fidget spinner. While the latter will be a distant memory this time next year, the former will remain as coveted as it was when American G.I.s brought them back from the Philippines after World War II.

In recent years, balisong fans have grown into two camps: the collectors (mostly martial artists and knife nuts) and the flippers (who focus on the sport of twirling the knife).

While its future lies along these two branches, its roots are less clear. Practitioners of the Filipino fighting arts say that the balisong originated in the Philippines hundreds of years ago, possibly more than a millennia ago. Others argue that they first appeared in France in the 1700s and spread to Spain, where colonialists brought them to the Southeast Asian islands.

Whatever its origins, a balisong isn’t our go-to edged weapon because it requires too many steps to deploy under stress — despite what the movies and draconian knife laws would have you believe. Still, the butterfly knife remains dear to our hearts, which is why we’ve compiled seven of the latest models. Read on to see if there’s one you’d like to spin and fidget with.

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Make: Schrade
Model: Manila Folder
OAL: 8.95 inches
Blade Length: 4 inches
Blade Material: D2 tool steel
Weight: 8 ounces
MSRP: $133
URL:
www.taylorbrandsllc.com

411:
We dig the name and its faithful construction of the kind of balisong we fell in love with as kids back in the ’80s. The Manila Folder features a spear-point blade made of D2 tool steel and rectangular-ish split handles made from stainless steel. The materials make for a stout package, about half a pound, but that’s a good thing for producing momentum if you’re still perfecting how to twirl a butterfly knife. Made in the USA.

Pros:
> Retro aesthetics
> Sturdy materials and construction
> Pivot pins provide smooth opening and closing.
> Blade profile excellent for puncturing

Cons:
> We prefer the latch — which keeps the handles locked together — on the “bite handle” (where the blade’s edge closes into) rather than on the “safe handle” as it is here.
> Great tip, but not the sharpest edge out of the box.

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Make: Emerson Knives
Model: Bali 7
OAL: 9 inches
Blade Length: 3.5 inches
Blade Material: 154CM stainless steel
Weight: 4 ounces
MSRP: $430
URL:
www.helle.no

411:
This knife got us giddy like a schoolgirl. After all, Ernest Emerson’s first foray into knifemaking was a handmade balisong because he couldn’t afford to buy one at the time (see his profile in RECOIL Issue 21). This prototype is the most combat-oriented balisong we’ve seen. Its jimping, G-10 scales, pocket clip, and CQC-7-style blade all scream, “fighter.” It (and other balisongs) will be available exclusively from Blade HQ in November. Made in the USA.

Pros:
> Unexpectedly lightweight yet incredibly strong
> Blade cuts and stabs like a lightsaber.
> Pocket clip for everyday carry
> Stellar latch provides precise locking and unlocking.

Cons:
> Though extra grippy, which is a good thing, the G-10 scales on Emerson knives are known to be rough enough to sand down denim pockets over time, which is a not-so-good thing. The Bali 7 looks to be no exception to that rule.

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Make: Bear & Son Cutlery
Model: 114PK
OAL: 9.25 inches
Blade Length: 3.625 inches
Blade Material: 440 stainless steel
Weight: 5 ounces
MSRP: $55
URL:
www.bearandsoncutlery.com

411:
Don’t let the color fool you. This pink balisong is just as mean as all the other blades in this buyer’s guide. As the budget option of the group, this knife has a clip-point blade made of 440 stainless steel and handles made of zinc with an epoxy powdercoat. Bear & Son does everything in-house, from heat treating and grinding to assembling and hand-finishing. So naturally this is made in the USA.

Pros:
> In a time of $500 “sport” balisongs used only for spinning like color-guard flags, it’s good to see affordable U.S.-made blades with a utilitarian purpose.
> 440 stainless steel blade sharp out of the box.

Cons:
> The pivot pins required more lube, as the bite handle sometimes got hung up as we tried to twirl the knife closed.
> The epoxy powdercoat isn’t our favorite handle coating.
> Latch fits loosely in the safe handle when locked.

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Make: Quartermaster Knives
Model: QBS-2LT
OAL: 9.5 inches
Blade Length: 4 inches
Blade Material: CPM-154 stainless steel
Weight: 5.8 ounces
MSRP: $278
URL:
www.quartermasterknives.com

411:
Quartermaster Knives is known for futuristic designs and models named after ’80s pop-culture characters. Fans swear by the knives, while detractors call them tacticool. While the QBS-2LT doesn’t have a vintage moniker, it does have a high-tech aesthetic and a feature no other model here has: The blade can be swapped for the included blunt trainer by pushing in the pivot pins and sliding the handles off the tang. Made in the USA.

Pros:
> Ability to exchange the live blade for a blunt trainer is a boon for balisong beginners
> Pocket clip for daily carry
> Visually appealing

Cons:
> Quality control — Out of the box, one of the handle screws was loose, undoing the tightness on the tang, in turn resulting in the blade not lining up properly during closing; sometimes it’d bang on the outside of the handle rather than lie on the inside of it.

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Make: Microtech Knives
Model: Tachyon III S/E
OAL: 10 inches
Blade Length: 4.5 inches
Blade Material: Elmax stainless steel
Weight: 4 ounces
MSRP: $324
URL:
www.microtechknives.com

411:
The “S/E” in this bad boy’s title refers to its single cutting edge while the “III” denotes the latest generation of the Tachyon, which made waves when it was first released in 2000. A longer overall length paired with a redesigned silicon-nitride race bearing system gives this butterfly knife a smooth flipping operation and great balance. It features machined titanium handles and a blade made of premium Elmax stainless steel. Made in the USA.

Pros:
> Elmax blade with DLC coating
> Spring latch makes unlocking the balisong as easy as squeezing the handles
> Extra strong pocket clip
> Simple yet sophisticated lines give it an elegant look

Cons:
> The tough-as-nails titanium handles are super light … perhaps a little too light. We’d prefer a slightly heavier latch and pocket clip to add more momentum when flipping.
> Latch is rather bulbous, extending from the handle a bit too far for our liking.

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Make: Benchmade Knife Company
Model: 87
OAL: 10 inches
Blade Length: 4.5 inches
Blade Material: S30V stainless steel
Weight: 5.37 ounces
MSRP: $600
URL:
www.benchmade.com

411:
It would be irresponsible to have a balisong buyer’s guide and not feature a Benchmade, considering this company’s predecessor started off in the late ’70s by making butterfly knives under the name Bali-Song Inc. (If you ever wondered about Benchmade’s logo, now you know why.) Though the 87 we reviewed is a prototype, it’s clear the latest Benchmade balisong will be a winner, thanks to its S30V blade and quality construction.

Pros:
> The Wharncliffe blade is excellent for slicing — yes, it can stab, too.
> Perfect combo of old-school looks with cutting-edge (pun intended) technology and materials.
> Spring latch makes unlocking faster than a standard latch.

Cons:
> While 5.37 ounces seem almost perfect for a folding knife, the 87 is a tad long for its weight; long and light means the backend trails behind a bit when flipping.

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Make: Max Venom Product Group
Model: Duelo
OAL: 12.125 inches
Blade Length: 5 inches
Blade Material: Carpenters steel
Weight: 11 ounces
MSRP: $310
URL:
www.maxvenom.com

411:
This is what you get when you meld a balisong, a dagger, and a flipper tab. The “Treb” (as the tab is called) doubles as an index for your finger to go on top of during certain techniques — a nod to traditional Filipino dueling knives (hence its moniker). The Duelo is a collaboration between C. Despins of the Max Venom Product Group and Doug Marcaida, a kali expert. Despins says the production version will shrink down to 10.5 inches. Made in the USA.

Pros:
> Modified spear-point blade is razor sharp and ideal for thrusting.
> Great balance in hand with smooth flipping
> Bonus points for the hybrid outside-the-box design

Cons:
> Balancing the above pro is the con that its fusion-style looks might not appeal to traditionalists.
> Learning curve when it comes to applying self-defense techniques.

Fan Out
Wanna know how to use a balisong without fileting yourself? Curious to learn more about its historical context? Knife expert Jared Wihongi explains more at www.recoil.tv.

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