Who hasn’t heard the old saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”? It’s usually followed by mumbled agreement all around, yet few consider the potential of a knife in the close distances where modern urban confrontations occur.
The knife has many advantages for modern private citizen defense. Primarily is its legality. There are still several states that deny their citizens the right to carry firearms. Yet these same states virtually ignore the folding knife. Many of our readers are from California, one of the most restrictive states in the nation in terms of concealed carry issuance. Unless you live in a county that issues permits, you cannot legally carry a pistol concealed in that state. You can, however, carry a folding knife of any length with you.
Some may ask that if you have a gun, why would you even bother with a knife. It’s a simple matter of access and deployment speed.
The smaller folding knives can be easily carried anywhere in total concealment. A few months ago a young girl was kidnapped right in front of a surveillance camera. Her fate was well reported in the news and her attacker was eventually captured. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had the young girl had a small Spyderco in her pocket and in one swipe of her arm removed several of the coward’s fingers. A small knife can be a girl’s best friend.
Another advantage is that it can be deployed as quickly as the pistol and loses nothing in terms of its damage potential unless the gun-armed adversary is distant enough to have the advantage. Urban gunfights, however, are often within arm’s reach so well within the realm of the blade.
All things being equal, I believe the bigger blades have advantages over smaller blades.
Many of you know that I like to carry large folding knives. One student in Africa commented, “Isn’t that a bit excessive?” Why yes! That is exactly what I want it to be when I have to use it to defend myself. The advantages of a big folder like the Cold Steel Voyagers (5” and 6”) is that they cut better than small knives. A longer blade will cut deeper than a short blade. The fact that the thrust will also be deeper and thus more devastating should be obvious.
One nice thing about these Cold Steel Voyagers is that there are no identifying marks and they are not extremely expensive tools thus easily replaced (you arrive at your own conclusions as to the importance of those characteristics).
One of our areas of study is the integration of all weapon systems with the goal of being able to transition seamlessly from one to another as the case requires.
A drill that we’ve been working on is the transition between knife and gun. Some may ask that if you have a gun, why would you even bother with a knife. It’s a simple matter of access and deployment speed. True covert carry makes it slower to draw than the shooting school vest and ceremonial fast draw rig. Consider how many of you carry in fanny packs, under shirts, in pockets, in purses and all manner of other ways that would not be allowed at the local IDPA match, yet totally required because of your daily dress requirements or habits.
In these situations, carrying a simple folding knife in your hand appearing as innocent as carrying your keys would be easily overlooked by both “good” guys and bad. But, a surprise ambush can be dealt with in the blink of an eye. This is much faster than even clearing the concealment garment over your pistol. A closed folding knife can be used as a lower level of force to strike kubotan-style to great effect. This can be an instantaneous response to a physical attack without having to go get anything else. A good firm smash in the temple or jaw line with a Cold Steel Voyager or a Spyderco Chinook will easy break bones and end the fight right then and there.
So don’t think of the knife as a lesser weapon to the gun. In areas where guns are prohibited, or in otherwise non-permissive environments, the knife can save you when the gun would be left at home.
If the level of force escalates, the blade itself can be deployed, as you literally cut your way to the gun. Again, the gun-oriented students will ask if the gun can’t simply be brought out and deployed. The answer is yes it certainly can, but a knife that is already in your hand is much faster and perhaps a more appropriate response if you are trying to evade an attack, or disengage from a grappling situation. The tempo of the event unfolding creates difficulties never evident on a firing range. These dynamics may be altered to your benefit buying you the time to grab up your 1911 with a knife already in the hand.
Once the time for the gun has come, don’t toss your knife away. A discarded knife can be recovered by any adversary and immediately used on you. Few fights today are one-on-one. Instead, I recommend that you transition the knife to the non-gun hand and draw into a Modified Harries position with the gun.
A Drill to Practice
Stand at arm’s reach distance from the target with your knife in hand. On the whistle, smash it with the closed knife bottom-fist style, move off line and deploy the blade. Execute a pair of cuts (basically an “X” shape), transition the blade to the other hand and draw into a Modified Harries (Integrated Weapons Stance). Create distance as you fire a burst of 3-5.
Take it slow first and train with a dulled drone knife before doing it with a live blade.
So don’t think of the knife as a lesser weapon to the gun. In areas where guns are prohibited, or in otherwise non-permissive environments, the knife can save you when the gun would be left at home. At arm’s length distances where urban attacks occur, the knife is the equal of the gun and a dangerous tool to have at your disposal. So instead of not bringing a knife to a gunfight, we say, “Don’t forget to bring your knife to a gunfight”.
[ Gabriel Suarez is an internationally recognized trainer and lecturer in the field of civilian personal defense. He has written over a dozen books and taught courses in several countries. ]
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