Anyone who has flipped more than one butterfly knife will tell you that not all balisongs are created equal. The flipping performance of a butterfly knife depends on a multitude of factors such as handle material, overall weight, weight distribution, grip of the finish, length, size, pivot system…the list goes on, but you get the idea.
If even one of these factors is off, you may end up with a balisong that flips pretty poorly. Knives that are too heavy, too light, unbalanced, uncomfortable, etc., are not nearly as enjoyable to flip as one that was designed with flipping in mind.
So what are the best balisongs to flip? Nowadays there is no shortage of butterfly knives on the market that are top-tier flippers. Even many budget-friendly options are made with flipping in mind, so even if a lower cost balisong is constructed with cheaper materials it doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t flip well.
Certain knives, even if they’re not the best for flipping, are considered iconic nonetheless due to the influence they’ve had on the development of the hobby. Here is a list of the 8 balisongs that have shaped and helped define the modern art and community of balisong flipping.
Note - This list focuses on the 8 butterfly knives with the largest impact what could be considered the "modern" hobby of flipping, however the art of flipping balisongs has been around for hundreds of years. For more information about the history of balisongs, check out our article The History of the Balisong Knife.
8. Kimura Series - Bradley Cutlery Co.
The Bradley Kimura series earned a reputation of being a decent flipper for a good price during the early years of modern flipping. There have been almost a dozen iterations of the Kimura over the years, each with its own variations on handle and blade design.
Unlike many budget balisongs that are held together with pins through the pivots, Kimuras are built with adjustable pivots and run on washers. This allows them to be tightened and loosened according to a flippers preference, and unlike pinned balisongs they can have their tolerances adjusted.
The handles are made of stainless steel, which contributes heavily to their relatively low price tag. Though titanium is considered to be the preferred balisong handle material due to its low weight and high durability, steel is less expensive but comes at the cost of increasing the weight of the knife.
Though it’s never been considered a top-tier flipper, it has long been a great entry point for getting into the hobby. Although their popularity among flippers has waned significantly in recent years, with the latest versions not able to compete with other balisongs at the same price point, it has certainly left its mark on the flipping community and proved that you can make a decent flipping production balisong with stainless steel handles.
Let’s get this one out of the way - cccs don’t flip well, a lot of them are clones, and they have a tendency to fall apart and break over time. Mass produced from cheap materials, these butterfly knives and trainers are typically not designed to be good flippers.
That being said, cccs are still a staple in the balisong flipping community. They serve as a great starting point for people who want to give flipping a try before investing a lot of money in something that they’re not sure if they’ll enjoy.
In addition to being a great budget-friendly entry point into the hobby, they’re also a popular option for people living in parts of the world where balisongs are either illegal or simply too expensive to obtain. Most cccs are trainers, making them legal even where live blade butterfly knives are not, and the shipping cost is often much lower depending on where they’re being shipped to.
Note - cccs are not synonymous with clones. Although there is some overlap (some cccs are clones, and some clones are cccs), clones are direct copies of another maker’s product, whereas ccc is a more general term for a cheap balisong. Check out our previous article on Balisong Jargon for more information on cccs, as well as some other butterfly knife lingo you might not know!
6. Tachyon II - Microtech
The Microtech Tachyon II shares a lot in common with its predecessor, with one noticeable difference: it’s bigger. Similar to the Benchmade 51 vs the 32, the larger size of the Tach II made it a much better flipper, as knives that are either too large or too small make it difficult to perform most balisong tricks with.
Made with titanium handles and sandwich construction, the Tach II also had two different blade variants: a tanto and bowie. They are still highly sought after by both collectors and flippers, despite having been discontinued years ago.
Although the Tachyon II is no longer being produced, Microtech did release the Tachyon III in 2017. Despite not having as much acceptance among flippers as its predecessor, the Tach III still sold very successfully and are often sought due in part to the wide variety of themed colorways they were produced in.
5. Arc Angel - Cold Steel
The Arc Angel was another popular balisong among some of the earliest members of the balisong community. It is often compared to the Benchmade 42 due to both of them having skeletonized channel titanium handles and other similar specs.
Like the 4x series, the Arc Angel also came in several different blade styles, including a double edge variant. Additionally, both the Arc Angel and 4x series were discontinued and then later brought back from retirement, albeit in very different ways.
Arc Angel with a double edged blade
Whereas the successor to the 4x series was the Benchmade 6x series, which had little in common with the 4x aside from looks, the Arc Angel was brought back as the DDR "Genesis" by the original designer of the knife, the late Darrel Ralph. The Genesis was much closer to the Arc Angel than the 6x was to the 4x, sticking to the titanium channel handles that are much preferred by flippers, and also adding in more customizable options and features including anodization and bushings.
4. Replicant - Bladerunners Systems
The Replicant is the second production balisong to come from Bladerunners Systems and is still one of the most popular balisongs in the flipping community. This is due not only to the performance and durability of the knife, but also because of its ability to be modded and customized.
BRS has released Reps in a multitude of variants, with different versions of both blades and handles. The G10 scales of standard and premium Reps come in many different colors and themes, and more recently the Hybrid Replicant comes with titanium scales on titanium liners, leaving the door open for endless possibilities for anodization.
Additionally, the Replicant has become a platform for what is likely the largest number of aftermarket parts out of any balisong currently in existence. The number of makers and modders that make scales, liners, spacers, and reblades for this knife has even led to people making their own “Replicants” only with aftermarket parts - i.e. a BRS balisong that contains no BRS parts.
Due to the prevalence of customizability and aftermarket parts, Reps can also be personalized to match a flippers specific preferences when it comes to the weight, balance, and overall feel of a knife. Different scale materials and spacer options allow weight to be added, removed, and redistributed along the knife to make it more neutral, blade biased, or handle heavy.
3. Krake Raken - Squid Industries
Squid Industries may be mostly well known for their line of trainers, but their first production live blade, the Krake Raken, also played a significant role in the development of balisong flipping. While BRS was producing knives with handles made from titanium, g10, and stainless steel, Squid used aluminum, allowing them to cut down the cost of production without sacrificing flipping capabilities.
Since aluminum isn’t as strong as titanium or steel, it is more prone to damage when dropped. Despite this drawback, its light weight makes it a more desirable handle material than steel, and its lower cost makes it cheaper to produce than titanium.
With channel handles and a zen pin design, the Kraken Raken is still a favorite for the balisong ASMR nuts out there. Krake Rakens have been produced in several different handle colors and come in one of two different blade shapes: tanto and bowie.
The Krake Raken highly regarded in the balisong community both for its great flipping performance, but also because it paved the path for other aluminum-handled balisongs. Not only has Squid Industries released subsequent channel titanium balisongs and trainers, but others such as Machinewise, Flytanium, and BRS have also since produced their own balisongs fitted with aluminum handles.
2. 42/4x Series - Benchmade
The Benchmade 42 is one of the most iconic balisongs ever produced. The signature hole pattern is often imitated by knockoffs because of its classic style, and authentic 42s are still highly sought after despite the abundance of clones.
For many people - flippers and non-flippers alike - this might even be the first image that comes to mind when they hear the words “butterfly knife”. It’s also been featured in countless movies, contributing to its popularity even amongst people who know very little about knives in general.
To the flipping community, the 4x series provided a durable knife that was also a good flipper. Back in the early days of the hobby there were far fewer options available for people looking to get into butterfly knives, and of those few options most were cheap or had features that made them difficult to flip (including size, weight, curved handles, etc.).
There is still a large market for the 4x series, both among flippers and collectors. Despite the prevalence of available balisongs that were designed and produced with feedback from flippers, the 4x still remains a balisong line that defines the hobby and makes a great addition to anyone’s lineup.
1. Alpha Beast - Bladerunners Systems
Bladerunners Systems’ mission statement of “For Flippers By Flippers” initially manifested in their flagship balisong: the Alpha Beast. BRS was founded by two of the early members of the flipping community that recognized the need for a balisong that was specifically designed for flipping.
Every choice that went into the production of the Alpha Beast was geared towards flippers. The handles were made of titanium, allowing for an end product with a lighter weight and better balance than steel, but also durable enough to be dropped repeatedly and still able to be picked up and flipped without issue.
The cutouts in the handles removed extra weight and improved balance, the chamfered handles allowed for comfortable fanning, and a tuned bushing system offered tight tolerances and predictable handle swing. Even the signature BRS chevrons had the functional aspect of providing extra grip and tactile feedback for where your fingers were positioned on the handle.
Since the initial release of the Alpha Beast 1.0, several improvements and additions have been made to this knife model. Premium versions come with a pocket clip, different colors from anodization, and there are currently four different blade styles that it comes in: scimitar (original), alt, bowie, and kukri.
There have also been a few "spinoffs" of the Alpha Beast, namely the Alpha Beast Infinity and the Channel Alpha Beast, more commonly known as the “Chab”. The Infinity is essentially a regular Alpha Beast but with much more rounded handles, which was meant to improve the knife’s performance with certain styles of flipping.
The Alpha Beast was initially intended to be a channel balisong, but this design was not manifested until the Chab was released in 2019. The pilot run came with a laser engraved pilot image on the non-show side of the blade, and later runs of this balisong came in both latched and latchless variants.
A testament to their success, the Alpha Beast is still in production and in high demand, and is considered to be a grail knife by many flippers.
The quality of balisongs has also increased greatly over time, both with regards to flipping as well as artistry and uniqueness for collectability. Still, the balisongs that defined flipping during the beginning of the resurgence in popularity continue to define the hobby and are pervasive throughout the community to this day.
Although these balisongs are still prevalent throughout the community despite several of them having been discontinued, there are new high performance balisongs being released more and more frequently. Check out our articles on The Top 10 Live Blade Balisongs of 2021 and The Top 10 Balisong Trainers to see some of the best newer models!
Do you agree with this list? What knives do you think define the art of balisong flipping? Leave a comment down below and let us know!