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Making stealth kills with a throwing knife is a common trope in popular culture, from movies like Rambo, 'realistic' spy novels like Jason Bourne to video games like Far Cry 4. Additionally, several sources claim that they were utilized by special forces for similar purposes. The defense website, GlobalSecurity.Org claims that:

The practice of silent killing is an important skill to the spetsnazovets. During the Soviet period, the entrenching tool was commonly seen as the usual weapon of choice for killing an opponent from a distance. The shovel could be thrown or, if close enough, swung, to kill an opponent quickly. Penetration by a sharp entrenching tool spade was usually sufficient to cause severe internal injuries and immediate death. ... ... In the early 1990's, elite troops gradually turned away from the entrenching tool and began to rely more heavily on various specially-designed knives and bayonets. Knife throwing became an important part of the soldier's training in his basic course.

This is further corroborated by the wikipedia page on ballistic knives which cites pg 45-46 of Steve Crawford's "Deadly fighting skills of the world" as saying that Soviet Doctrine emphasized on the use of the thrown knife for making silent kills at 5-6 paces.

I still feel a little skeptical as I can't imagine how this would be possible without the victim screaming. An instantaneous kill seems challenging as well given the protective chest muscle and rib cage surrounding the heart.

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    I think, spetsnazovets will kill with knife (or with special silent firearm) without throwing it. There are several targets for silent kill with knife without throwing: majors veins and arteries. Source - "Knife Fighting, Knife Throwing for Combat" 1978 book, page 27 books.google.com/… Knife throwing is very rare practice; it acceptable to throw only knife you want to throw out. – osgx May 8 '15 at 2:39
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    Maybe you should ask if a thrown knife can reliably be used to kill silently. Because a thrown pretty-much-anything can kill silently if you get all kinds of lucky... – Grimm The Opiner May 18 '15 at 11:45
  • Hmm what do the others think? I'll change the title if everyone agrees. – Twilight Sparkle May 18 '15 at 12:09
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    You could ask whether any soldiers (or any country, or specific countries) were ever trained to do it, and did it (according to their training): for example, during WW2 (or, citing Rambo, the Vietnam War) commando raids. Also decide whether you're asking about killing in general (with a thrown knife), or (more specifically) killing silently. – ChrisW May 18 '15 at 12:37
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    @ChrisW Hell my Grandad (WWII vet) reckoned he was taught to throw a knife at close ranges, held by the handle and one half turn to impact, but he was dismissive of the idea and never claimed to have used it. Might be it's one of those things that's worth trying if you have no other options. (Even a webbing strap would deflect a thrown knife and just a heavy canvas greatcoat can be surprisingly resistant to sword blows!) – Grimm The Opiner May 18 '15 at 16:29
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As far as US Special Forces training, the most efficient means to silently kill using a knife would be from behind, in between the ribs puncturing the lungs, using the off hand to cover the mouth and lower the fighter to the ground. Or through the use of a garrote.

Knife throwing isn't practical in use for many reasons. Limited range and supply, along withe the fact that if you have time to aim, you have time to close the distance or engage in a different means. Any hasty use of a throwing knife greatly decreases your chance of striking a killing blow, and the last thing you need is a piece of metal clanking around if you miss, while trying to maintain noise discipline.

Historically, however Spetsnaz have been rumored to use spring-loaded knives as projectiles (aside from Deadliest Warrior, not much historical data is provided on this), however it was doubtfully intended for silent purposes.

Spetsnaz Ballistic Knife http://deadliestwarrior.wikia.com/wiki/Ballistic_Knife; Not to be confused with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NRS-2

  • Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. – Oddthinking May 17 '15 at 1:32
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    @ChrisW: Unfortunately for the site's policy, for a question like this there IS no answer that doesn't reduce to the first-hand experience of people who've actually done it in combat. Unless perhaps the Nazis did experimental tests... – jamesqf May 18 '15 at 18:59
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    @jamesqf I think that, on this site, published history (published in a newspaper or in a book) is accepted as "peer-reviewed evidence", whereas a first-hand account isn't. – ChrisW May 18 '15 at 19:19
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    @ChrisW: So if I write my first-hand experience in a book, it's acceptable to reference that book (even though I might be 'improving' on the facts a bit), but if I write the exact same thing here, it's not acceptable? Is that insane, or what? – jamesqf May 18 '15 at 23:21
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    @jamesqf I think the argument is that if it's published then it's maybe reviewed by the publisher (or fact-checked by the newspaper editor), and it's possible that other people have reviewed it too: so, i.e., it will have been "peer reviewed" as much as it can be. If you want to discuss site policy the place to do that is on the meta site. See for example this comment confirming that a newspaper article would be allowed. – ChrisW May 19 '15 at 7:08

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