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Concealed Carry: Gun vs. Knife

Most men and women who carry a firearm for personal protection have heard the old saying: “Never bring a knife to a gunfight.” But having a gun should never give you a false sense of security — even when your assailant is armed with “only” a knife.

Remember, you have no idea how skilled with a blade your attacker might be. You may be surprised at just how much damage he or she can do (even after being shot). Based on the graphic forensic photos I have viewed over the years, knife injuries are horrific … and often lethal.

When Facing a Knife, Distance Is Your Friend

The reason is simple: Unless your attacker is able to throw a knife with Ninja-like speed and accuracy, he or she will generally have to get close to do serious damage. So, as much as possible, keep your distance.

As always, awareness is critical. The sooner you notice a threat, the more quickly you can react. Most of you are familiar with the “Tueller Drill” (yes, it is a drill, not a rule as it is often incorrectly labeled), which has determined that a young, strong attacker can cover a distance of 21 feet (7 yards) in about 1.5 seconds.

For a comprehensive explanation of this research, including some of the legal aspects involved, I urge you to watch this 15-minute video featuring noted self-defense expert Massad Ayoob.

I often demonstrate the “Tueller Drill” to students in my concealed carry classes. Using a rubber training knife, I stand about 21 feet from a student. I arm that student — dressed as he or she normally would be while carrying — with my SIRT laser training pistol in a holster.

Without warning, I suddenly charge the student. Almost invariably, I am able to stab him or her several times before he or she can get the training pistol out. Remember, this is an individual who is fully expecting an attack. In the real world, an attacker may appear suddenly and from any direction, which means you will likely have even less time to react.

Now the Bad News: Be Ready to Get Cut

A friend of mine, a martial artist and former trainer of CIA covert operators, warns: “If you get in a knife fight, you’re probably going to get cut.” He points out that since knife attacks are up close and personal, they require what he calls “phonebooth fighting” techniques.

For those of us who carry, this usually involves practicing how to draw from concealment and fire one-handed — with the gun held close to the body and the support arm held up across the chest to block a slashing or stabbing attack. I usually teach this in conjunction with the “Tueller Drill.”

Professional Knife Training?

For those of you who want to get a better understanding of knife fighting in general, especially defending against a knife attack, I strongly suggest finding an expert in the field. Most major metropolitan areas will have several.

Even if you only want some basic defensive skills, you will learn a lot. If nothing else, you’ll discover how blazingly fast some people are with a knife. One such instructor I know, a former Army Ranger, can draw two knives — from concealment — in less than a second!

Just remember that even if you’re carrying a gun, when a knife is involved, there’s a good chance you’re going to get cut. But being prepared will at least give you a better chance of surviving the encounter.

Stay safe.

Want to learn more about defending against a knife attack? Be sure to sign up for our next Live Training Broadcast, July 16.

About John Caile

NRA Certified Instructor John Caile has more than 35 years of experience in the firearms industry, including training others in concealed carry and practical handgun shooting skills. As the communications director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, he was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is a contributing writer for Concealed Carry Magazine. He continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida.

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