The old adage goes, “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”. The thought being that a gun outclasses a gun. Certainly guns provide numerous advantages, particularly to military and police operations. Guns are lethal weapons. However, it’s a mistake to underestimate the threat posed by a knife-wielding attacker.

Many police officers I have trained, trained with, or just spoken to have told me that they are more afraid of the suspect with a knife than the suspect with a gun. Current law enforcement rule of thumb is that an attacker with a knife can kill you before you can draw your weapon if he’s within 29 feet. I have seen some skilled individuals demonstrate this with training weapons – and it is truly frightening.

The main advantage a firearm provides is violence at a distance. Historically, it took less time to train soldiers to use firearms than bows and arrows. As technology improved, range, accuracy, and damage were also increased.

The drawbacks to a firearm (as compared to blade) include:

  • They need to be loaded and can run out of ammo
  • Particularly with handguns, the accuracy you see portrayed in movies and on TV is largely an exaggeration
  • Handguns have moving parts which must be maintained and are subject to jamming and malfunction
  • Ballistics are affected by weather, temperature, and wind
  • According to the FBI, there is no handgun powerful enough to guarantee a one shot kill for anything less than a hit to the brain-stem

Unfortunately, I find that most people I encounter get all of their ideas about guns, knives, and the martial arts from movies and TV. Frequently people survive even multiple gunshot wounds.

Knives, on the other hand:

  • Are extremely quiet and do not give a person’s position away
  • Do not need to be reloaded
  • Tend to create horrific wound-channels
  • Save for folders, have no moving parts
  • Have multiple methods of attack, stabbing, slashing, striking
  • Require almost no skill to wield very effectively

Now, dead is dead, no matter what the cause. In practice, it tends to be easier to defend against the gun than a knife. After all, you only have to get away from the end of a gun. Disarming a gun, after you are safe, tends to be less dangerous.

We know that, statistically, most police shootings happen in the space of 1-4 meters (about 3 to 13 feet). This is also pretty fair range for a knife.

Later, I’ll post something about skilled vs. unskilled knifers.

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