Knives in self-defense
Before we cut to the core of this article, let me say up front, for the vast majority of people, a firearm is the best tool for defense of self, family and community. Now, having gotten that out of the way, there are many arguments why a knife makes sense for self-defense.
Many years ago, one of my Police Academy mates got into a scuffle while on duty. The Officer was in full uniform and ended up on the ground, wrestling with the suspect. The suspect tried to take the Officers gun from his holster. The Officer resisted the grab, then, realizing he was in a deadly force encounter, reached for the fixed blade knife which he carried and then stabbed the suspect in the torso. The suspect immediately ceased fighting. The Officer was exonerated of any wrong doing and that was the end of the matter.
In my time on the streets I have seen a lot of people stabbed. Some were during felonious acts, a few were genuine self-defense cases. For example, a fight broke out between two men. One was an accomplished martial artist who studied ground fighting extensively. The other was not nearly as well educated in the matter at hand. However, the individual did posess something that, as it turned out, was better than skill. He had a folding knife in his pocket. While the martial artist took control of the fight, and was now on top of the would-be victim, the knife wielder was able to secure his knife and slash the throat of his attacker. By some miracle, the man lived despite a grievous wound to his throat. However, it did settle the issue in the street.
A good knife can be a very effective tool to defend yourself. There are some limits to the use of such. First, the knife requires that the defender be in extremely close proximity to the attacker. So close that they can touch. Any additional reach provided by a knife blade is mitigated by the need to penetrate the body. For all intents and purposes, you must be within arms reach to stab or cut someone with a knife. However, the mere brandishing of a knife, may, in some cases, cause a would-be attacker to seek work elsewhere. This is true of any defensive weapon be it knife, gun, impact weapon, or a well-practiced fighting stance.
Secondly, because of the intimate nature of stabbing or cutting someone, a knife carries with its use, a higher level of commitment to the act of self-defense. On the other hand, a knife may be carried in many places where a firearm is prohibited. State, and local laws might make the possession of a firearm unlawful. But a good utility knife may pass muster when carried, not as a weapon, but as a cutting tool normally associated with common tasks such as opening boxes, cutting food, and the like. In these cases, a well camouflaged knife, like a good quality folding knife, would be an excellent choice. While a sturdy fixed blade knife is surely better for knife fighting, carrying such a knife would attract more scrutiny than most people would tolerate. What makes a good quality folding knife? A well-constructed blade, a strong liner style lock, a clip for accessible pocket carry, and a thumb stud or other mechanism for easy and fast one-handed operation are all good attributes. A couple of strong contenders are sold by Security Pro USA. They can be seen here:
Both featured knives are reasonably priced and well made. I recently had a conversation where carry knives were compared. One party had a very expensive folding knife that on the average costs close to $400. Certainly, the quality surpassed that of those offered above. However, there are diminishing returns, and the salient point was made that sometimes knives, particularly pocket knives, get lost, misplaced, or otherwise disappear. Losing a $50 knife is much more tolerable than losing a $400 knife. A hunting guide friend of mine had just purchased a fine folding knife. We harvested a boar and after cleaning the animal, the guide realized he could not find his knife. He used it to clean one animal and that was it. Had he purchased a $400 knife, I’m sure he would have been much more distraught. Furthermore, if you do use your knife to defend yourself, you can expect it to be taken as evidence by investigators, regardless of justification in your case. Do you want a $400 knife sitting in evidence for two years?
So, when can you use a knife to defend yourself? Every fact pattern is different but there are some hard and fast rules. A knife will surely be considered deadly force, or force likely to cause serious injury. This is why Law Enforcement Officers are frequently justified in shooting people who brandish knives at them. Therefore, you should only use a knife to defend yourself, when you can articulate, based on facts, not bare fear, that you felt your life was in danger. The facts must show that you had a reasonable fear that you would suffer death, or great bodily injury, and your defense with the knife was therefore justified. If you do find yourself defending yourself with a knife, keep in mind, the knife is most likely a weapon of opportunity. That is to say, it was what was available at that moment, and not carried for the sole purpose of stabbing people.
Finally, if you are serious about using a knife for self-defense, you would be wise to seek professional martial arts instruction in it’s use. There are many good schools and styles that teach such things and you might be surprised at how effective the knife can be as a fighting tool and self-defense weapon.
About the writer
Military and Law Enforcement Veteran
FBI certified firearm instructor
MP5 and Sub Machine gun instructor
Defensive tactics instructor