When TTAG’s resident war hero and gun reviewer Jon Wayne Taylor draws a gun, finding cover or concealment aren’t his first priority. Eliminating the threat is. He gets off the proverbial X and moves towards the target. That makes sense on a bunch of different levels . . .

For one thing, the bad guy(s) are not going to expect a full-on assault. When facing a lethal threat, speed, surprise and violence of action is a highly effective strategic plan. For another, the closer you get to the target, the less likely you are to miss. (Not missing is the point of a defensive gun use.) That said, there are [at least] two caveats:

One, you’re in a situation where you have to draw your gun. Why do it if you don’t have to? In the video above, the guy on the left keeps arguing even after his enemigo draws a pistol. De-escalation should have been the dish of the day. If the eventual vic could have walked away from the situation, that would have been the optimal solution.

Two, you have time to draw your gun. If you’re about to be shot or stabbed, if the bad guy(s) already have their weapon(s) at the ready, you probably don’t have the time to effectively retrieve and deploy your gun. That time that could be better spent doing other, more effective things. Specifically, attacking or running.

Gun threat

If you’re unarmed — by which I mean you don’t have a firearm in your hand — and facing a gun threat, well, you can’t outrun a bullet, can you? So you have to attack, to buy time to get to your gun. You have to strike the bad guy(s) while not getting shot, then draw your firearm (if possible) and stop the threat.

There are lots of gun disarm videos on the Intertubz. I highly recommend Krav Maga-based techniques, which emphasize simultaneous defense and attack. But keep in mind that all of these YouTube gun disarms start with a firearm within arm’s reach. If that’s not how it goes down for you, you’ll need to do something to get closer before striking. Throw your wallet, pretend to be friendly, something.

Knife threat

“All” you have to do to not get shot is push the gun’s muzzle away from your body. If you’re trying to disarm a knife-wielder, you’ve got to make the bad guy drop his edged weapon (shooting him is pretty effective), make it impossible for him to use it (breaking his arm isn’t a bad idea) or somehow get the knife out of his hands (good luck with that).

Unless you’re a tactical ninja of the first order or you’re with friendlies you can’t abandon, your first priority when facing a knife threat is to GTFO. The good news: most bad guys are not knife throwers. And adrenalin makes you fast as F. So chances are you can successfully run away from a knife.

Again, distraction is an excellent strategy. If you have to strike, strike. And if you stop the threat, don’t forget to check yourself for injuries. And know how to use a tourniquet and or pressure to stop bleeding. But that’s a post for another day . . .

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23 Responses to Charge a Gun, Run From a Knife: Self-Defense Tip

  1. No, no, absolutely not!! Fall to the ground, roll into a ball and play dead. It is not up to you to be judge, jury and executioner of your attacker. Why do you gun nuts live in fear?? (sorry, I was getting in touch with my socialist self there for a second or two).

    • I’m having a hard time seeing things from your perspective here, adverse4. Truly, I want to understand how it is that you feel attacking back (i.e. “speed, surprise, and violence of action”) equates to “living in fear” while rolling into a ball and playing dead is…what?…normal/better/brave/noble?

      • Jeremy, turn around and look behind you. No, up a little higher. See that spot on the wall up there? That’s where his “joke” hit after sailing over your head.

      • Jeremy: not normal/better/brave/noble, but as he apologized, socialist self (AKA “What, me worry? The gummint gonna take care of me”)

  2. I always like to run scenarios like this, by thinking if I was the bad guy, what would be the worst/scariest thing my victim could do. The old “Turn and burn” army train of thought is certainly an effective one in an ambush.

  3. Action is faster than reaction. As to the knife attack. Talked to a Sgt in the CPD, he had a bunch of trainees with him at a property seizure. Asked him about the knife, he said they are taught to sacrifice their arm to defend. I mentioned this video.

    • If you are wearing a jacket, you can do better than merely sacrificing your arm. Use the jacket as a cape or as a wrap around the sacrificial limb. This is a good method to stop slash attacks and to allow you to close with the attacker IF you think that you can land a decisive blow.

  4. A point about knives.

    Making a determined and potentially intoxicated person drop a knife isn’t as easy as you might think. You can literally pin them to the ground and have four people beat the fuck out of them for quite a while before they drop it. (Been there, done that, T-shirts were out of my price range).

    The thing to keep in mind here at all times is that it’s very easy to switch hands with a knife and you may not see the person do it. As such, should you find yourself in such a bad situation and a quick exit isn’t an option do not take your eyes off the blade until they’ve dropped it, you own it or they’re incapacitated. If you can’t see a blade you know is present then you should assume you’re about to become very intimately acquainted with it courtesy of the asshole holding it and start making space to prevent that little personal introduction from occurring.

    You’re probably gonna get cut here but that’s the breaks of the game.

  5. “If you’re unarmed — by which I mean you don’t have a firearm in your hand — and facing a gun threat, well, you can’t outrun a bullet, can you? So you have to attack, to buy time to get to your gun. You have to strike the bad guy(s) while not getting shot, then draw your firearm (if possible) and stop the threat.”

    It’s rarely the case that you have to choose between doing nothing and attacking. If the guy is within bad breath distance, maybe. But if not running is a perfectly viable strategy. Use croc rules- run at an angle and get in cover (around a corner, etc) as fast as possible. First of all, not everyone drawing a gun is ready to shoot you- they may just want to rob you, etc. Obviously you can’t depend on this but you should keep in mind that if you charge at someone with a gun you are basically guaranteeing that they are going to try and shoot you. This is not necessarily a good idea.

  6. Matt at Scholagladiatoria has had good, if not very technical, knife defense discussion videos. Even one on the best way to use a carbine against a knife, sword, axe, etc attack (one that is from so close it can hit you and or your carbine is empty).

  7. This is in anticipation/response to the obligatory martial arts enthusiast who has a cool-looking knife disarm technique/video waiting for just this occasion. I’ve studied/practiced jeet kune do since 2004. My instructor/Sifu used to do this demonstration with $100 cash on the line, and as far as I’m aware he still does. He would put a white t-shirt on the person defending against the knife, and pull out a Sharpie to serve as the knife analog. A Sharpie has a tip about 1/4 long, as compared to most knives with several inches of blade. The goal is simple: disarm the knife wielder without getting cut(marked) by the marker, as many knife-defenses claim to do. He limited himself to standard street thug slash-style attacks and only hits to the arms/t-shirt would count. The vast majority of his opponents are/were multi-level black belts in various martial arts- usualy those who posited some form of cool-guy knife defense/disarm technique. To the best of my knowledge, even to those who took him up on his challenge, he has never had to pay up even once. Try it yourself if you want, but be honest. The point of this exercise is simple: if you’re getting into a knife fight, no matter how much a Billy-bad-ass you are you WILL get cut, usually severely. Even a seemingly minor cut to the forearm can be serious due to the proximity of arteries to the surface of the skin. This gets much worse and more likely to be life-threatening if your opponent has training and/or skill in the offensive use of a knife. The best defense against knives is two-fold: distance and your own equalizer(gun, stick, club, car, etc) between you and the knife.

    • I have had only a few tens of hours of knife/dagger fighting instruction and a similar amount of sparring. It is hard for me to even imagine not getting hit. I am too slow to run away from young hoodlums. My favorite tactic was to close to a grapple, often using my head as a bludgeon and trying to knee for the nads, kick for the shins etc. The sparring was brutal. Overall, I like to think my strategy is simply to have a bigger longer knife and just accept the double hits knowing that the bigger knife will likely kill/disable faster than a smaller knife. I call it going mathematical on ’em.

      • Never forget that, as all butchers know, knives cannot cut bone. The forearm is the perfect knife blocking surface. If you catch the blade on the front of the forearm there are no arteries or nerves there to worry about, and the opponents blade will stick in your bone, leaving a minor wound and giving you the time to destroy the opponent, providing you know how to do so. Master Seiyu Oyata, when he was alive, had many scars on his forearms from just such encounters.

  8. I guess it’s good to think about things like this.

    You’re gonna get cut or shot. It may make you feel better to take it to them.

    Reminds me of all the “make like you have a knife” in karate class. They then tell you to stab straight down so they can deflect and disarm.

    Unless you practice escrima, silat, hapkido, etc on a regular basis, you’re gonna get stabbed and cut and die. If your good at it, you’re gonna get stabbed and cut and may not die.

    This is why we carry a gun. It’s no guarantee but it a lot better than trying to disarm a knifer.

    And what is his two buddies have bats?

    Then there guns….lmao.

  9. When I worked road patrol I decided the most dangerous encounter I would have was an opponent with a knife, an opponent with a firearm and an unarmed opponent in that order. The knife wielder was the most dangerous in my opinion because he had a lethal weapon, but he had to operate close in, to do so he needed a plan and some skill. An opponent with a plan and skill is a dangerous opponent. To that end I watched hands and body movements closely and was ready to break contact, get distance and draw in whatever manner I could.

    A number of my “customers” carried knives but never drew them on me. My experience and opinion for what it’s worth.

  10. Use a belt or a coat, plan on being cut. In my younger guys I trained with some bad asses with blades (note, I do not count myself a bad ass) and learned to disarm and use the weapon against them. I also learned to cause maximum damage with my own knife. Like any skill it diminishes without practice.

  11. Running toward a gun might be a good idea for a soldier, and it might be the best defense (or the only defense) for an unarmed civilian or for a defender at very close quarters, but not so much for someone who is carrying a gun and knows how to use it. Distance is that man’s friend.

    At a few yards distance or closer, it’s hard for the BG to miss if he is untrained. At ten yards or more, it will be harder for the BG to make hits.

    If I can’t outshoot a bad guy at distance, then why the hell did I waste my time popping off thousands of rounds at the range — and how do I get a refund for the money I spent on training?

    As for running away from a knifeman, that’s wise if you’re faster than the BG. At my age, I can’t outrun a retired nun in a wheelchair. I’m afraid I’ll just have to shoot the bastard instead.

  12. I attended a shooting class where the instructor was kind of a know-it-all. He insisted we witness the Tueller Drill, even though we had all seen it before and knew that the knife guy always won. So he gets his volunteer up there with a SIRT pistol. As soon as the instructor attacks, the defender grabs a desk chair and pulled it in his path, then drew and put three “rounds” in the attacker’s head as he was trying to keep from tripping over the chair. The dumbass instructor hollered, “What did you do that for?”

    The point is the drill only works if you stay on the X and don’t get distance or an object in the attacker’s path. I don’t think the default should be to fight or run. Fighting you’re gonna get cut. Running you lose time turning and accelerating. If you can’t draw and fire in time, unless you’re the next Carl Lewis, you’re sure not going to have time to turn and run and not have him catch you in the back.

    But if you can just to create a little distance/time to draw and fire, that’s the way to do it. Get an object in between you, or go down on your back with your legs toward him as you draw and fire, like in the Instructor Zero video. You could even throw your keys in his face as you step to one side and draw. All you need is an extra second.

  13. “GTFO”? Really?

    Ok, I am buying it at 30+y distance. Closer? 17y rule or not, a guy charging with blade (ready for good old stab-o-matic) is already ahead on the action curve. Unless you are freaking athlete with agility to instantly turn around and sprint, do not count on your ability to outrun knife wielder. It killed people before. Trading evasion (with almost inevitable, but hopefully less-than-life-threatening, cuts) for time to draw a gun might not sound prudent, but it is.

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