Never Bring a Knife to a Gunfight?

Firearms Experts Joke, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight”.  However they sometimes make a dire mistake with this mentality.

Now don’t get me wrong, firearms are to be highly respected. It doesn’t take much training in how to point and pull a trigger.  (Accuracy is a different story all together.)  However a blade takes even less training.  We’ve been building a proficiency in using blades our whole lives.

Here are some reasons a knife can be more dangerous than a gun.

1. Knives are deadlier.

According to FBI fatality statistics from officers killed in a fight, 10% of those who were shot died from their wounds. However 30% of those who were attacked with a blade were killed as a result of being stabbed or cut.

2. Knives don’t have a line of fire.

Knife Blade 1A gun can only kill you if you’re in the direct line of the path of the bullet. It is SUPER ACCURATE. Meaning it fires in the exact same place that it was aimed. Where even the smallest of twitches can change the destination of the traveling slug.

This also explains why officers who are trained to deal with high adrenaline situations at ranges of 3′ – 6′ will only hit with about 1 out of 4 rounds.

Knives however can do lethal damage from any angle. And they rarely miss their target.

3. Knives don’t run out of ammunition.

In a close quarter attack, you can be stabbed 3 – 5 times in a single second.  Now that’s FAST. A handgun is only going to give you about 15 rounds or so at best. So unless you are behind cover or at a distance far enough away to give you time to reload, that’s all you get.

And again, let’s review the FBI stats where only 1 in 4 bullets ever hit their mark, even at ranges as close as 3′. (This is also a portion as to why officers are trained to shoot at center mass.)

Now let’s consider that even if one hits the attacker, they may not drop from that round.  It’s not like what we see on TV and in Hollywood where one bullet stops someone dead in their tracks.  They may very well keep coming.

One of my teachers told me of a story where he asked a government officer that he was training “What was the scariest thing you ever dealt with while on the job?” His answer was that while dealing with a perpetrator who was charging him with a weapon, he emptied his clip into the man, yet he kept coming. They then got into a wrestling match on the ground. No bullets in his gun and the assailant still had his weapon.

Consider that it may take several rounds to finally stop an attacker. You may find your clip empty and still facing an even more enraged assailant with a blade that’s still going to be a threat no matter how many times he uses it.

4. Knives take no skill to use.

Since we were young, holding and cutting with a knife has been a part of our nature. Think of the number of meals you have had where you’ve used some sort of cutting utensil. You’ve had literally thousands of hours of use with a blade. (Hopefully not in a hostile context that an assailant would use.) However using a blade is second nature to most of us.

In the Filipino culture it is known that even a 6 year old with a blade can be a viable threat to the safety, health, and life of a 30 year old grown man.

For example, we can work a drill to show this. Take a child and give them a chalked trainer. Tell them to treat it like a paint brush and to paint a line wherever they want whenever they can. Even the most skilled at knife work/knife defense won’t be able to get that blade away without getting ‘cut’ in the process.

Yet firearms take lots of skill to become truly proficient with. With many, many hours logged in at a range practicing ‘target shooting’. Yet few train or prepare for shooting in a real close quarter gunfight. (Again, something which I truly hope that none of us ever have to deal with.)

5. Knives give little to no warning. Knife Blade 5

It’s often discussed. When someone is cut in a fight. They first realize that the blade is there after it’s cut them a few times. Oftentimes after seeing their own blood. While having no idea how or when the blade was deployed. They now have to deal with the shock of being cut or stabbed, and dealing with an individual who has every intent of ending you.  In fact, many victims in a knife attack claim they didn’t know they were being stabbed until it was too late.

A firearm will make a loud noise. As soon as it goes off, you know you’re dealing with a gun. Run and seek cover (better yet, keep running).

Yet the blade is the silent killer. It will cut you again and again without making more than a subtle noise.

6. It has the advantage of being a close ranged weapon.

Many discussions have been made of the advantages of a firearm over a blade. For the most part they are accurate. However there are certain details that are sometimes overlooked.

Two general assumptions are normally made.

The knife wielder starts at a distance, charging at them. They are not skilled in using a blade.

Building on our earlier point, a knife wielder is not likely to start from a distance to give you time to draw, or at least not easily. They will often be in close proximity before the blade even comes out. Knowing full well that they have a close quarter weapon, a knife wielder will want to be as close to their target as possible before drawing a blade. Oftentimes within grabbing distance or even in the middle of a confrontation where the fists are all ready flying.

Let’s think about a typical mugging for a second. Oftentimes victims don’t even know that the mugger has targeted them. Caught off guard and unaware, they often find the mugger in their face, making a threat, and their demands. The victim barely has time to register the close proximity of the individual let alone the threat.

In both scenarios, they are good at closing the distance before hand. Giving themselves the greatest advantages as possible.

7. 21 Foot rule (of thumb).

Law enforcement does have what is called a 21′ rule which is actually more a rule of thumb. This is a minimal distance of where a blade can be a viable threat to the safety of an officer. That being said if a blade wielder is 30′ or more away, I’m sure the officer is still going to draw on them.

This rule of thumb is about the amount of distance a knife wielder can cover before or after an officer can draw their firearm. If you think about it, that’s a significant distance. Some people will outright dismiss it, saying that there is now way someone could get that close that fast.  Yet the 21′ rule is known to all officers though out the country.

Allow me to tell you a story.  A long time ago, I was at a different school where a friend/student was also a local police officer. We were discussing this rule and decided to experiment with it.

Our friend had his training belt, holster, and rubber gun with him. So he put them on, and the rest of us went to the other side of the school marking off the 21′ distance. Technically, for the scenario to be worked out properly, the initiating action should have been on the knife wielder’s side. However we would only begin to close the distance on the ‘officer’s’ draw of the firearm.

While some had trouble closing the distance.  Others were faster and got dangerously close to the officer.

During my four rounds, I did a little better.

Round 1 – Based off of the ‘officer’ initiating the draw, I got close enough to bury my blade in his chest as the training gun was pointed at me. Yes, I would have been ‘shot’, but not before burying the blade into them as well.

Round 2 – I closed the distance even faster this time. Getting close enough to attempt to parry their pistol wielding arms. Yet, I missed the parry attempt and would have been ‘shot’ point blank in the chest. Yet still close enough to bury the blade into their chest again.

Round 3 – Deciding I had had enough of the distance factor and initiation on the officer’s draw. I threw the trainer from the beginning distance.  On target, but hitting the belt buckle of the rig. Resulting in the loss of that round.

Round 4 – I threw the trainer again, this time closing distance with my second trainer. Who says the knife wielder can only have one blade? (Mind you, I don’t do end over end knife throwing as seen in acts. I do what’s referred to as straight throwing. Where the blade literally travels straight through the air, blade always pointed at it’s target.) Unfortunately, my aim was slightly off with this throw and traveled higher than I wanted. Instead of heading for the belly (a relatively safe target), my finger twitched just as the blade launched, sending it towards my friend’s head. Luckily he ducked and was only grazed by the trainer in the hair line. Yet by the time he recovered, I was all ready on top of him with my second blade.

At the end of the day, we discovered that the 21′ rule was just as it is supposed to be. A guideline to the minimal safety distance for an officer.

Here is a separate video clip from a training session done in California back in the 1970’s. Check it out and see just how effective a blade can be.

Officer Training Knife Attack (640x481)Officer Training Video – Knife Attack

Now let’s consider this. If an officer is ‘interviewing’ someone. They are often within the range of 3 – 5 feet during this time. If the person in question decided to pull a weapon of some kind and attack, the officer will be very hard pressed to draw any tool available to them.

8. How do you train?

For those reading to carry firearms with the intent of self-defense or personal protection. I would like you to ask yourself some questions. How is it that you train with your firearm?

I’m sure time is spent at the range. Working on one’s accuracy. However what about when you’re not at the range in a safety oriented environment?  (Proper gun safety should NEVER be overlooked or forsaken for more ‘realistic’, simulated close combat training.)

Do you train to draw your carry under high duress situations. Such as when someone is yelling in your face, charging at you, or all ready raining blows down on your head? Do you train for situations where they have grabbed at your firearm, trying to get it away from you?

Are you aware of the possible effects of the adrenaline dump that is going to happen? Where your fine motor skills turn into gross motor skills. Where you may go through auditory exclusion which is where you hear all noises to an almost overwhelming level. Or the opposite where one becomes almost temporarily deaf where they will not hear anything at all. Time will seem to distort itself to where it appears to slow down to an almost complete stop it may speed up to where it seems that everything has happened in a blink of an eye. Or the affects of visual distortion (tunnel vision or having a hard time discerning depth perception).

These are all factors that should be taken into consideration when one carries some type of tool for self-defense.

Now understand. This blog post is in no way an attempt to say that knives are superior to guns or vice versa. It is simply an attempt to get one to think about and re-evaluate the potential threats that one could face when dealing with a blade wielding assailant.

Article written by:

Guro Chris Thompson

FMA Academy