Balisongs, better known as Butterfly Knives, have been rapidly gaining popularity in the knife market. They originated from the Philippines and later introduced in the USA by Benchmade (then Balisong USA). Since the inception of social media, people of all ages are slowly discovering the fun sport of “flipping”, a term that balisong owners use to describe the tricks they perform. For decades, balisongs have been usually depicted in films as gangsters’ crude weapon of choice, but the knives in today’s knife market are completely different beasts. Companies like Benchmade, BladeRunnerS Systems, and Hom Design have been putting out modern, precision machined balisongs that are nothing like the ones you’ll find at the local flea market. Whatever your budget is, this guide will provide you with the best butterfly knives and trainers your money can buy.
Best Balisongs: Summary
For those who aren’t familiar, balisongs are essentially gravity knives but with two nearly symmetrical handles instead of one. Instead of a button or switch to release the blade, a balisong utilizes a “latch” which sits on the end of one handle and latches onto the other handle. This part keeps the knife in open or closed (locked) position. Once the latch is unlocked, you open the blade by the force of inertia.
All balisongs are built with the same core features, but they’re usually separated into two categories: live blades and trainers. As their names suggest, the live blades are sharp-edged knives and the trainers are merely dull plates of steel meant to represent the weight and feel of a live blade. Although veterans of the butterfly knife community recommend starting with a live blade to learn proper handling habits, trainers are a popular choice for users who want to practice first without the danger of cutting themselves. In addition, live bladed balisongs are illegal in many states and overseas countries making trainers a great alternative to those who want to join the flipping community.
Know Your Balisong
As a precursor to our guide, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of the balisong and some key terms.
- Channel Construction – The handles are machined from one solid piece.
- Sandwich Construction – The handles are made by connecting two slabs of material and separating them by a spacer.
- Handle Tolerance – The amount of movement the handles can move perpendicular to their rotation (how much they wiggle). This also referred to as handle play. Although most users prefer minimal handle play, it doesn’t have any real impact on a balisong’s maneuverability.
- Bushings – A metal ring that resides inside the blade and wraps around the pivot. It is a device used to increase fluidity and reduce handle tolerance.
- Ball Bearings – Small spherical balls that are typically encased. These sit on the surface of the blade or in the underside of the handles and are used to greatly increase fluidity and reduce handle tolerance.
- Scales – The surface material of the handle that typically sits on top of the liners. These would be the black slabs in the picture above.
- Liners – Metal plates that serve as the back bone of the handle, residing beneath the scales. These would be the blue anodized plates sitting beneath the black G10 scales.
The Top Butterfly Knife Brands
- Benchmade – They don’t call it the Butterfly brand for nothing. Benchmade is the OG when it comes to balisong knife production in the USA. Since those early days the competition has increased but Benchmade continues to manufacture high quality butterfly knives at the higher end of the price range.
- HOM Design – Created by Jerry Hom the Hom Design brand has gained tremendous reputation among the butterfly knife community.
- BladerunnerS Systems – Founded by flippers, BladerunnerS Systems is now synonymous with high performance balisongs which typically command premium pricing.
- Bear & Son Cutlery – Aimed at the lower end of the market, Bear & Son offers entry level balisongs with decent quality for beginners.
- Bear Ops – Basically the ‘tactical knife’ division of Bear & Son with slightly higher priced offerings and a corresponding step up in quality.
In addition to the main brands above, you’ll find other established knife brands also with several butterfly knife offerings such as Brous Blades, Emerson, Microtech and Quartermaster.
It’s important to know the law when it comes to butterfly knives. The reality is that many jurisdictions consider these knives in the same category as switchblades and are illegal to carry. We recommend you do your research on the knife laws in your area – a good starting point is AKTI’s guide to state knife laws.
Our Top Balisong Picks
Now that you’re familiar with balisongs/butterfly knives check out our list of the best live blade and trainers in today’s market (from low budget to premium).
BBBARFLY BOTTLE OPENER
The BB Barfly Bottle Opener Butterfly Trainer is the perfect party trick and beginners trainer. It features a 4.75-inch training blade with 5.125 inch handles and uses roll pins as pivots, so you’ll never have to worry about losing screws or performing any maintenance. It utilizes large, blocky, Aluminum channel construction handles and a generic stainless steel for its blade. Although the BB Barfly is among the heavier options on this list at 6.23 ounces, it’s still decently balanced and great for learning the basics.
In comparison to the rest of the balisongs on this list and to every other balisong in existence, the BB Barfly Bottle Opener is arguably the loudest balisong of them all. The blade collides with the inside of the channel, creating extremely loud clacking noises, which can be a positive or negative depending on the environment.
The BB Barfly Bottle Opener comes in a variety of colors and decals for just $25. It also comes in a PRO version at around $90 which has a few more upgrades that make it a better flipper. If you’re looking for a cheap, durable trainer that has some utility, the BB Barfly Bottle Opener is a great place to start.
SQUID INDUSTRIES SQUIDDY
The Squid Industries Squiddy is a balisong trainer CNC machined from plastic. It features a 4.325-inch training blade and 5.50-inch handles which are both CPVC. CPVC stands for chlorinated polyvinyl chloride and this chlorination process makes the material more impact and heat resistant. The Squiddy is an astonishing 2.50 ounces, significantly lower than most balisongs of similar size, but with the placement of steel weights in the bottom of the handles, it can carry momentum and flip well. In addition, the channel style handles make the Squiddy much more durable than most people would expect.
With it’s light weight, round edges, and friendly face cut out on the blade, the Squiddy is a great option for people of all ages, especially kids. It’s also a great option for flipping in public areas where live blade balisongs might not be appropriate. The Squiddy is currently only offered in white and can be found on Squid Industries’ website for about $40.
SQUID INDUSTRIES SQUIDTRAINER V2
The Squidtrainer V2 is the ideal choice for people who are looking a high-quality flipper at a budget friendly price. It features 5.50-inch channel style handles machined from 6061 T651 aluminum and plated with a type II anodized finish. The handles are also milled with a unique surface texture for additional grip. Another notable feature is the steel rods at ends of each handle which give the handles more momentum and control while flipping.
The 4.50 inch blade uses a heat treated 410 stainless steel and comes with a unique feature known as the “tooth”–the sharp curve on the bottom edge of the trainer blade near the pivot area. This small protrusion is meant to simulate the blade edge by giving the user a slight scratch on their finger when accidentally flipping on the wrong side of the balisong. If you can flip the Squidtrainer without touching the tooth, chances are that you’ll have more success avoiding the sharp edge on live bladed balisongs.
The precision machining on the Squidtrainer V2 gives it an impressive handle tolerance and fluidity that’s typically only seen on more expensive balisongs. The Squidtrainer V2 is available on the market starting at $150 and comes in a variety of other colors including silver, red, blue, and black.
DOGBITE KNIVES DB3.1
The DogBite Knives DB3.1 is a fierce contender in today’s current market of knives considering its competitive price and impressive specs. The DB3.1 features sandwich construction 6Al-4V titanium handles and a 440C stainless steel blade. It utilizes an extremely smooth bushing system with virtually no handle tolerance. Coming in at 4.98 ounces, the DB3.1 is relatively average weighted but can feel a bit small considering its only 9.125 inches in overall length. Although the handle length isn’t ideal for most flippers, we think it’s a great balisong to EDC (every day carry) considering its small form factor and utilitarian drop point blade design.
Starting at around $220, the DB3.1 comes in the standard silver and a variety of anodized models. DogBite Knives plan to release another version to implement some of the balisong community’s feedback and improve their design to better suit flipping. If DB can keep the price low with these new features, the next balisong they put out could be game changing.
BLADERUNNERS SYSTEMS REPLICANT
The BladeRunnerS Systems (BRS) Replicant is the quite simply best bang for you buck when it comes to balisongs. The Replicant is the second major flagship model in BRS’ balisong line and you’ll find that its among the most popular balisongs in the current market. It uses G10 scales and 6Al-4V titanium liners in a sandwich handle construction measured at 5.50 inches. The Replicant also has a variety of aftermarket accessories and replacement parts such as custom G10 scales and spacers to change the feel and balance to the owner’s preferences.
Like most balisongs in this price range, the Replicant uses a refined bushing pivot system for minimal handle tolerances and smooth motion. It features a wicked 154CM steel scorpion tanto blade that measures 4.50 inches in length and like all the other BRS balisongs, has a crowned spine which makes flipping more comfortable.
The Replicant starts at around $270 and comes in many different configurations such as a spear point blade style. If you’re looking for an upgrade in EDC experience, the Premium version at around $310 comes with anodized titanium liners and a pocket clip. Want to up the premium even more? The Select Replicant features black PVD coated blades and multi-colored G-10 scales. There’s even a carbon fiber scaled Replicant, so we’re sure you can find a variation that you enjoy.
BENCHMADE 51 MORPHO
The Benchmade 51 Morpho is the oldest balisong on this list with its release in 2009 and was designed for EDC purposes. It uses the same revolutionary technology pseudo spring latch technology from its predecessor, the Benchmade 32 Mini-Morpho. This spring latch is easily releasable by squeezing the handles together and it also prevents the latch from getting jammed in between the handles–a common issue on other balisongs.
The G10 scale handles and blue titanium liner configuration in the 51 also comes with a classy blue anodized titanium pocket clip. The 4.25” D2 steel blade holds an incredible edge and its spear point blade shape makes sharpening a breeze. In addition, the BM 51 surprisingly only runs on pivots and washers instead of the more popular bushing configuration which most of the competing balisongs in this price range use.
It may seem very similar to the BRS Replicant listed above, but the Benchmade 51 is significantly lighter at an 3.3 ounces. With this feather-like weight, the BM 51 is an excellent knife to carry without feeling bogged down. However, this reduced weight does affect the maneuverability as it directly impacts how much momentum you feel during flipping. For a flipper of advanced skill level, this can be easily adjusted to, but we wouldn’t recommend this knife for those who looking to learn the basics.
The Benchmade 51 Morpho retails for about $275 and has several variants from both Benchmade and third-party manufacturers. The stock handles come with black G10 scales and blue anodized titanium liners, but companies like Flytanium offer hot swappable parts like replacement titanium scales and a different spear point blade which utilize bushings. Benchmade offers the 51 Morpho blade in both silver and black and a blue G10 scaled model exclusively through BladeHQ.
HOM DESIGN RHAPSODY
The Rhapsody by Hom Design is among the highest quality balisong trainers your money can buy. The 5.50inch 6Al-4V titanium handles display a gorgeous milling design with incredible fit and finish—you’d be hard pressed to find any issues on a HOM Design product. The Rhapsody’s 4.50 inch 154CM stainless steel trainer blade also comes with an excellently tuned bushing system.
The HOM Design Rhapsody starts at about $290 for the stonewashed version but you can also find anodized variants for closer to $315. If you’re looking to pick up a durable, premium material trainer, the Rhapsody is your best bet.
BLADERUNNERS SYSTEMS ALPHA BEAST
BladeRunnerS Systems is famous for their motto: For flippers by flippers. The first balisong produced by this vision and their first flagship model was the BRS Alpha Beast. This knife was revolutionary for the flipping community as it was the first production balisong to use the now common 5.50 inch 6Al-4V titanium handles—one of many dimensional choices that BRS made to make this knife the ultimate flipping experience.
The Alpha Beast is also an excellent hard use knife with its 4.50 inch 154CM stainless steel scimitar blade. The Alpha Beast 3.0, released in late 2015, has significant improvements to the hardware over the original 1.0 version produced in 2010.
The BRS Alpha Beast 3.0 can be found at a variety of online retailers starting at around $370. Like the BRS Replicant, the Alpha Beast is offered in an alternate blade style and has many renditions including the Premium, Infinity, and Venom series. From green anodized handles to pocket clips to acid washed blades, BRS has provided every modification possible. If you’re looking to purchase a top tier flipper that also serves as a great cutting tool, the Alpha Beast 3.0 is nearly unbeatable for its price.
HOM DESIGN BASILISK-R
Jerry Hom founded Hom Design in 2006 with the goal of creating quality balisongs that could excel in both function and form. The Basilisk was his first venture into the industry as a custom balisong producer and despite its success and positive reception by the community, the Basilisk wasn’t up to Jerry’s standards. He upgraded his manufacturing sources, improved his designs, and continued to put out ground breaking designs across the next decade with the Tempest, Prodigy trainer, Specter, and Arashi. 11 years after the first run, the Basilisk returned to the market completely reimagined and re-engineered in the form of the Basilisk-R (Basilisk Revenant).
The Basilisk-R has a longer 154CM stainless steel blade using the original recurve bowie profile and sports major upgrades to the hardware. It also uses longer, thicker handles in the popular 10.00” total length which has proven to be ideal for most flippers. These handles feature jimping along the sides of for additional grip. Another unique trait of the Basilisk is the asymmetrical titanium spacers—the bite handle (handle that houses the latch) spacer is slightly lighter so that both handles, even with the latch on one, are similarly weighted. Like the rest of Hom Design’s balisongs, the Basilisk-R uses a high precision bushing pivot system.
The Hom Design Basilisk-R comes in G10 or Carbon Fiber scale with titanium liners for around $370 and $400 respectively. It’s also offered in a full titanium build known as the Basilisk-R Ti, starting at around $420. This titanium version is often regarded as the best rendition of the Basilisk-R for flipping.
The Benchmade 87 was the first balisong to be produced in 5 years after Benchmade released their 6X series in 2012. After receiving heavy criticism with the 6X series which was widely regarded as a major downgrade from its 4X predecessor, the balisong community has been yearning for Benchmade to release another major hit. While the 87 didn’t receive much acclaim due to its relatively high price and poor flipping mechanics, we consider it to be an incredible feat of engineering and an excellent EDC knife.
The Benchmade 87 uses CNC machined 6Al-4V titanium channel style handles and a CPM-S30V blade. More noticeable than the buttery smooth ball bearing system is the incredible magnetic latch. This patent pending device is a true marvel for the balisong world and it’s no surprise that it was developed by Benchmade—A company that pioneered the first spring latch. The magnetic latch functions identically to the spring latch, releasing itself by a simple squeeze of the handles, except that it’s made to function for a lifetime (the spring in a spring latch will slowly diminish in strength over a long period of time).
The Benchmade 87’s high quality blade steel and wharncliffe profile makes it the best cutting tool on this list. In addition, the solid channel titanium handles machined from large billets of titanium have milled recesses on the sides for additional grip during cutting. The Benchmade 87 is without a doubt the most rugged and sturdy of all production Benchmade balisongs to date. If you want the ultimate cutting utility that sports next generation technology and don’t care too much for flipping, this is the balisong for you.
Wrap Up and Honorable Mentions
We hope you enjoyed this balisong buyers guide. Our honorable mentions include the BRS Barebones and Microtech Tachyon III. Please keep in mind that the flipping ability and potential of each balisong is heavily based on subjective taste. This means that balisongs widely acclaimed for their flipping characteristics may feel awful in your hands whereas other unpopular balisongs may end up being your favorite to flip.
Bear in mind that a large majority of the balisongs in our list are consistently sold out and evaporate off the shelves within minutes of each batch release for good reason—they’re the best of the best.
Balisongs are an exciting niche industry that has been experiencing explosive growth within the past decade as knife companies such as Emerson, Brous Blades, Quartermaster, and WE Knives join the mix. If you haven’t picked up one yet, you’re sure to be missing out on the flipping sensation that’s sweeping the nation.