What is a Butterfly Knife?

What is a Butterfly Knife?

Posted by Clayton on Dec 6th 2012

The term butterfly knife refers to a knife that has two handles that open like wings to reveal a hidden blade. The popular knife has many alternative names to show its popularity and can often be known as a Balisong knife, Fan knife or Batangas knife. All three refer to a folding pocket knife that has two handles that counter rotate around the tang allowing it to be concealed into the grooves of the handles when closed.

A fanning motion or quick opening with one hand not only looked cool it caught the attention of anyone around. Martial arts movies often revealed Balisongs in many fight scenes displaying cool tricks like that of the Nunchaku with a spinning and fanning motion.

Butterfly or Balisong

When I was a kid I remember the association of butterfly knives with common criminals, gangs or street thugs because of their concealable nature however that is such a cliche' and quite frankly a dumb one at that. You rarely hear of a criminal robbing someone with a balisong and these days all knives are concealable and can be virtually unnoticed if need be. I think because they were portrayed negatively in the movies and television that they got that mystique.

Truth is a butterfly knife can be very useful and convenient in situations where it is not possible to use two hands. In recent years automatic and assisted opening knives have garnered a lot of attention for their opening mechanisms like those made by Zero Tolerance.


The Balisong is still a very popular knife especially in America. Balisong USA manufactured them back in the 1970's with various blade designs and exotic handle inlays. Balisong USA would become Pacific Cutlery in the 80's before now being called Benchmade, a very popular knife maker.

Balisong knives are often scooped up by collectors and stored, never to be used. Brands like Benchmade, Microtech and Spyderco offer custom limited edition Balisong's every year and range in price from $100 to over $1000.

The Balisong name is said to have come from the Philippines in early 1900's where it was made traditionally and thought to be a utility knife used sometimes as self defense. However as one Balisong collector points out they quite possibly originated in France in the 1700's. Either way they have been around for centuries and don't look to be going anywhere soon.

Batangas is another term used to refer to the Balisong or Butterfly knife. The Batangas reference comes from the province in the Philippines where Balisongs knives are thought to be originated.


Watch this great collection of Balisongs and How he opens them


The legalities of the Butterfly have been a topic of much controversy and thus they are outlawed in many countries.  Just about every Country has banned them from being carried concealed and many have banned them altogether. They are often classified with "automatic knives" or "one handed opening knives" and because of their rapid deployment considered illegal in certain parts of the world.

Countries like Switzerland, Australia, Germany and Lithuania it is illegal to possess a Balisong Butterfly knife.

USA laws are vague at best but certain states as well as cities do not allow the carry of Balisongs and many consider them legal if they are not concealed. Some allow them in your home only. For example Hawaii does not allow any ownership of a butterfly Balisong knife but California allows them in your home only.

Be sure you know the laws in your local area before purchasing a Balisong or any other knife for that matter. To know the laws in your state simply visit  http://www.akti.org/legislation/finding-knife-laws

Watch Angelina Jolie, a collector of Balisong's work one for Conan.....