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I’ve started a new series over at The Truth About Knives: Confessions of a Knife Fighter. My first confession: I know noth-think! But at least I’ve passed the first stage of ignorance (I don’t know how much I don’t know) into the second (I know that I don’t know much of anything). And you, dear readers, can help me with a question that’s been vexing me: what do you go for in a close-quarters combat (CQB) situation: knife or gun? I know there are loads of variables: distance to threat, closing distance of threat, access to gun or knife, number of assailants, etc. Still, generally speaking, which weapon would you (yes you) reach for first assuming a knife-wielding attacker is within ten feet and closing fast? Firearm or everyday carry edged weapon? What about having a gun as a primary for your strong hand and a knife as a primary for your weak/supporting hand? [See: 4:45 in video above]

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      • No, the vice president is the one standing on his balcony firing a double biden shotgun into the air and proclaiming himself the winner.

      • I figured he would need a plan B in case he blasted both barrels and the bad guys were still coming.

        Hey, Joe, try throwing up or pissing yourself! It’ll work; Ken Salazar said so. Politicians wouldn’t lie about something that serious!

  1. I carry a knife on my weak side and a gun on the strong side. The only reason I would go for the knife first would be if the route to the gun was blocked or I didn’t have one with me.

  2. My first confession: I know noth-think!

    Believe me, you don’t want to know. Not really. Academic interest is one thing, but practical knowledge is only gained at a terrible cost.

    For close-up personal defense, make mine a snubby.

    • S&W hammerless – Airweight Centennial or Bodyguard in .38 – press to nearest massive body portion of assailant, pull trigger multiple times quickly until noise stops. No jammming on clothing, no jamming because the slide will not operate while pressed into the goblin’s body, no safeties to fool with, no fine motor skills needed (as in opening a folder). Can be fired while still in jacket pocket, if needed. Load with Hornaday 110gr FTX Critical Defense or similar. This may not be the equal of a black belt in Kungfootie, but it works a lot better for an OFWG than pretending to be Zorro.

      • Generally I agree with your points, but my understanding is that, technically, anything that requires finger (and hand or wrist) manipulation is a “fine motor skill” — such as holding anything in a correct grip, or pulling a trigger.

        Having said that, I think that operating a Centennial .38 at hand-shake distance may require generally less coordination than cutting/stabbing with a folder.

        • Yeah, I was kind of thinking of a spastic, wild hysterical clenching of my whole fist around the .38 – that’s why I suggested shoving it into a large body-mass portion of your assailant. No need for aiming then. And over 50+ years of handgun shooting, I have developed a pretty good muscle memory of pulling the trigger rapidly. I am pretty sure I would have a hard time opening a folder with any surety under those conditions, but go with whatever works for you.

    • Yeah… I need to carry my stick more often. Thanks for the reminder. I carry several knives, but not yet a gun. My apartment complex is pretty safe, but inside a larger area a bit less safe. Because there’s one way in and one way out, and it’s not on the way anywhere, violent crimes are restricted to the domestic sort, and break-ins are few. Outside of here, the danger rate ramps up a little. I want to get my CCW by summer’s end. And a Makarov to carry.

      I have a length of Chinese Waxwood I’d carry if it wasn’t so heavy. It’s a real skull-crusher. I can hardly put the tiniest dent in it.

  3. Gun cause I don’t carry a fighting knife. I’d be more likely to carry a stick or club than a knife for defense.

    • A large folder can be a decent fighting knife. I have several that I alternate from time to time. No reason not to carry a knife EVERYWHERE, unless you’re a lifeguard or the Naked Cowboy.

  4. So i don´t have a choice i would talk the knife. But it´s allways better that situation don´t get to this point of selfdefence. But this can only happen in my appartment. In germany is alsop difficult to carry a knife with you. There are very strict regulations too.

  5. Most people don’t have access to any training that would make them effective with a knife. Even the US military doesn’t do a good job of teaching defense against edged weapons. I’d use a firearm.

    • I’m in this category. I’ve never had any training with a knife, and wouldn’t know where to get it if I wanted training. Gun is my choice, by default.

    • So… what makes the bad guy so good with his knife, then? It’s a question in search of an answer.

  6. In the city in which I work, I can legally carry a gun but not a knife, so…

    Regardless, I would go for the gun. I don’t know anything about how to use a knife (beyond kitchen duty).

  7. If he’s within 10 feat of you and you’re just reaching for your knife or gun you’re going to get cut. You might as well accept that and just mentally prepare yourself to fight thru the trauma and keep going til you’re covered in his blood.

    • Exactly.
      Having been trained by a knife guy, it’s the last thing I would want to do.
      It’ll get really ugly, really fast.
      I would prefer burn marks and holes in my adversary.
      My knife is mostly a tool, not a defense weapon. But, it’s always there, just in case.

  8. Go watch ‘Culture of the Knife’. If someone is closing on me with a knife It’s redirect, open the gap and go for the sidearm. If it’s too late and they’re too close then you should expect to get bloody.

  9. Maryland does not give me a choice. I have a duty to beat a hasty retreat. Failing that, knife.

    • Maryland gives you a choice.. to disobey their stupid, life-disaffirming laws!
      You might go to jail, but the other guy’s going to hell.

  10. Well the old saying us don’t bring a knife to a gunfight…

    Personally I’d choose a gun. But a knife in my free hand could go a long way. Shoot first stab after.

  11. Gun, accept that you’re going to take some cuts and block as best you can with the back side of your support hand forearm (arteries are on the palm side). Keep the gun retracted next to your side and empty the magazine. Hope you have trained one hand reloads recently enough that you can still do it without taking your eyes off the guy.

  12. After doing a 3 day class with Mike Janich- both. If you take one of Mike’s Martial Blade Concepts (MBC) classes, he’ll show you some excellent defenses to handle almost any form of armed/unarmed attack. After you work you way through the initial attack, you can chose to run like hell or go to another form of defense. I used a 3″ Spiderco Emerson Delica for the class and it made an excellent tool for CQB. I’ve done CQB training for both firearm and knife and the knife is the goto under 10-15′. After the CQB firarms training, I cannot move, pull up my cover garment and get a firearm out fast enough to deal with less than 15′, even in a retention position. Plus, that’s a whole lot of things to do. With the knife (especially with the Emerson Wave), it’s out of the pocket and deployed in one move and I have more time for assessment and planned follow-ups. We even used some of these types of scenarios in the MBC class.

    Being a gun guy is great, but there’s so much other stuff to learn for defense that firearms are only 20% of everything. Knives are important (especially in locations where guns are verboten), kubaton, unarmed defense, critical thinking and last but not least, good first aid skills are just as important as having a good 7 yard group.

  13. till, generally speaking, which weapon would you (yes you) reach for first assuming a knife-wielding attacker is within ten feet and closing fast? Firearm or everyday carry edged weapon? [See: 4:45 in video above]

    The first mistake is allowing them that close if you have a firearm, but hey, its not a perfect world. That close, must be a knife.

    • It isn’t like bad guys announce “hey I’m bad!” and then charge from across the block….

      • I was more referring to the turell rule. Generally when someone is within ten feet, you dont have enough time to JUST draw a gun and fire. They will guy you first. The video shows a cool alternative, but it is not just gun/knife at that point. Personally, being that close, means I go for my knife.

  14. At 10 feet you won’t have time to deploy either. Your better bet is learning enough self defense training to avoid the knife, gain some distance, and then deploy your gun. Even if you could get your gun put, unless it’s a .44 mag or something similarly powerful enough to knock the assailant back, his momentum will likely end up with you getting stabbed even if you do get a shot or two.

    In one of our training exercises, the instructor charged us with a shocknife from 20 feet away. No one could deply a gun fast enough to stop the charge and we all got zapped.

    • If, hypothetically speaking, a guy I knew was interested in acquiring said shock-knife, how would I, I mean he, go about getting one?

    • I’ve done the shock knife training also. It was eye opening how fast a knife wielding assailant can close the distance before you can draw.

      • I appreciate the thought, but just so you know, it’s not that I can’t see the inline video, it’s that it breaks my mobile browser if I try to reply. I can’t tell you why, but I can (usually) read comments fine, and even watch the video, but if I hit reply, the browser locks up and the phone gets hot. It happens in every browser I’ve tried, and only in posts where someone puts an inline video in the comments. Videos in the original post don’t cause it, either.

    • This is an important point. Trying to draw a holstered weapon on an already armed attacker actually increases my short-term disadvantage.

      If I reach for a weapon, I’ve already committed at least one arm to be useless for attack or defense until that weapon is deployed.

      In this situation, I totally agree that hand to hand (or foot to hand if I have enough space) is probably the best immediate option. At that range, I am probably going to get hit no matter what; training will let me mitigate that hit, counterattack, and get distance, but as the instructors say, “you WILL get cut.”

  15. I think it’s a better bet to carry both. Again, it goes back to having and not needing vs. needing and not having.

    Rule #9 of the Guidebook of Gibbs: Always carry a knife.

    • Seriously. I CANNOT FATHOM not carrying a knife. I’ve done so since high school. I got knives for Christmas! And if you live in a state that doesn’t affirm that right, WHY THE HELL DO YOU STILL LIVE THERE? You can carry a knife in RUSSIA!

  16. Depending on where im at (dictating what knife and gun im carrying) I would go for what ever is faster to deploy, however if i saw something developing i should have had a weapon drawn already.

  17. It will be a lot easier for me, under ideal conditions, to draw my gun than (with my off hand) my knife and then flip it open. Tennessee politicians recently shot down a bill permitting automatic knifes and since I am not a trained knife fighter, Ill be that much slower on the draw. Now, if my strong arm or gun is somehow blocked then the knife for sure. Otherwise, if Im being stabbed I wont hesitate for the attacker being shot.

  18. Within 10 ft, neither. I’d take my chances with my fists or award winning 400m sprint than fumble like an idiot with the gun or knife and cease to be so pretty.

    • Your award-winning sprint is good for a decade, maybe a bit more. If you don’t mess up a knee.

  19. I have an assisted opener clipped on my strong side pocket. But if I’m fighting with that a lot of things have gone horribly wrong and my survival depends more on the will to live than that knife or my ability with it. This assumes that my situational awareness, EDC pistol and pocket gun all failed me first.

    • Situational awareness, you said it. It’s your most important weapon, and you never need be without it. I learned it long ago, and no one had to teach me. Be aware of your ever-changing surroundings and everything in it. The closer it gets, the more it needs your awareness. Always be watching body language, evaluating. It doesn’t even require your full attention! In fact, full attention can make it less effective. Or ineffective.

  20. Aside from my running shoes and my fists and feet, I go about my day unarmed and in condition white, and I love it. I think the likelihood of engaging in CQB is so small in my daily life, that I prefer not to engage in the mental what-if game. Because each stage of progressive preparedness covers an increasingly unlikely scenario. (need to carry a gun in case attacked by carjackers… need to carry a knife in case rushed by muggers… need to wear body armor and stab-proof vest in case taken hostage in a bank robbery…) There is always a scenario that you will be unprepared for, and I feel safe enough unarmed that the additional mental cost of carrying a weapon is unnecessary. I have a CCW to keep my options open, but I choose not to carry. That being said, I think it’s important to train and learn to fight.

    • This is perhaps the DUMBEST thing I’ve read on the entire interwebz.

      I highly suggest you reconsider your loadout. No need to be paranoid, but unicorns aren’t real.

      • Seriously. If this is your evaluative procedure, you need to scrap the entire thing and start from the ground up. Being prepared shouldn’t be like that AT ALL!

      • I’m not saying that bad things can’t happen. But I believe for me it is unlikely to happen. You can make the joke about the guy falling from a tall building (so far, so good), but I think after 40-some violence-free years I tend not to worry much, and I’m fine with that.

        I don’t know your life, or how dangerous it is so I won’t say you are paranoid, but in my life it simply doesn’t seem warranted. I’ve seen people fall down while skiing or biking, but I don’t wear a helmet. Heck, I’ve fallen down while skiing myself. So why, if I have never even seen people fight with knives or guns or get into deadly brawls, would I feel the need to carry a weapon?

        Everyone has their own risk profile/comfort level. Not carrying is well within mine.

  21. Gun first than a N.Y. reload (Second Gun), the knife is a last resort, such of out ammo, jam, gun gets out of your hand, if time always reload .. the reason is you will never know how many bad guys, never think the fight is over till you are well away and are sure to be in safe area, such as in a riot, you could run into more trouble that at first, and make your shots hits , NEVER waste ammo keeping bad guys heads down, (Hollywood style) . If you can go for head shot, or center mass double taps. A knife fight make take some doing until the bad guy bleeds out 2 or more mins. and he could still kill you same with gun shots ,, the bad guy may have 2/3 hits and still get back up and kill you. This part will not set well in before a jury , but in life or death fight put another round in the head of the down bad guy, and get the hell out of there ,ASAP.

  22. And when you fight GO NUTS, yell(rebel yell ) cuss ,become a complete MAD man , Get very WILD , put the knife right in the guys eye and brains, and close put the gun right in the guys face , or chest, and keep pulling the trigger till he goes down.Killing is bad news you are going to get covered in blood , and shit. No nice guys win, so train your mind no laws no rules , even grab a rock and bash his head in after his is down, THINK KILL and KILL AGAIN.and kill him the third time..

  23. I’ve practiced running and drawing from conceal carry. I don’t run in a straight line, however. Basically, I’ll run a button-hook pattern, drawing while running. As a bonus, practice in the backyard on wet grass. Get used to the idea of trying to get set up on a less than ideal surface.

  24. Someone with a knife at 10-feet and closing? Get separation and quickly. Get something between you and the attacker. Any object between you and the attacker will do as he/she can’t shoot a knife. Do all this as you start the draw. If after drawing, the attacker is still close shoot for the face and keep shooting.

    Also, an attacker with a knife seeing a gun might scoot, there is that chance…

    I carry a knife as an absolute last resort. And attackers with knives are not going to be black belt martial artists. They can’t even afford a gun.

    • They may not have different colored belts to wear but it’s a better than even bet that a man attacking with a knife on the street is a graduate of at least 1 gladiator academy. people doing this kind of crime are likely to have real world experience of violence going back into their childhood. Don’t under estimate them for a moment. Add drugs into the mix and you’ve got something more science fiction than human.

  25. Within 10 feet and closing, I think I would initially rely more on martial arts training in an attempt to disarm or control the attack. Then go for my gun when the opportunity became available.

  26. I always heard that if you don’t know how to fight, a knife isn’t really going to help you. So I wouldn’t bother with the knife.

  27. I read somewhere, sometime ago, Federal Agents are trained to run (if its not too late) if a Perp gets “the drop” on them and attacks with a knife.

    The thinking is you’ll get hacked to pieces before you even get a chance to counter-attack.

    Once you are a safe distance away you should then be safe(r) to go ahead and then draw your weapon on the subject.

    However, the FBI agent in FL interviewing what’s-his-name managed to get off a fatal shot without having to retreat first, and only suffered minor wounds. Maybe he got relatively lucky. Plus he had two Troopers with him.

    • that’s common sense. evade, get some space, then pull.

      unless you have already pulled. then just shoot. a lot.

  28. I’ll just say this, a person who has seriously trained to handle a knife is scary as hell.

  29. Gun first, knife second, Judo in reserve.

    You are going to get cut if you engage a guy with a knife. Just how bad and how much damage you are going to return is the question.

    You would be surprised how hard it is for the bad guy to stab you with both his elbows dislocated. It only takes 4 lbs of pressure to break an elbow joint when extended. I almost would be tempted to forgo the knife in the right situation.

  30. In public, I carry a knife as my first choice (or second choice after pepper spray, if in a victim disarmament zone), then my gun. Specifically, an Emerson CQC-7BW with the patented “wave shaped opening feature.” I know it really works, because I’ve had to use it before, and it’s a lightening quick presentation.. Fortunately, that alone was sufficient to hold the ne’er-do-well at bay while I beat a hasty retreat.

    I go with the knife first because:

    1.) I want to be able to show a range of options later to authorities if it ended up that I had to use my Glock, so they can’t say I was limited only to a gunfight response.

    2.) As a practical matter, I just can’t present the firearm anywhere nearly as quickly as I can the knife. With an IWB holster and a tucked into business shirt, there are just too many moving parts to draw that firearm in response to an instantaneous emergency. I keep that for an occasion where I think I might have more like a minimum of 2-3 seconds to respond.

  31. A folding baton first. If the baton doesn’t disuade him, then a gun might be called for.

  32. Robert,

    I echo what a few have said here. Do not go for either (immediately)! If you present either, especially a gun, it can be used against in the encounter. Your biggest advantage is your gun and to get the most out of it you need to create some distance. Present your gun when you have distance. Martial Arts that are practically grounded and have more thought than tradition put into them will teach you how to open and close gaps.

    Gaps are your friends if you have a gun – they give you options. If he attacks and you present a gun – it will turn into a grappling match. If it is a coordinated attack (multiple atackers) you are finished. Your body is your first line of defense so being in shape helps bunches. Passive defenses help bunches too – bullet and/or stab resistant vests.

    Short Answer: Neither
    Long Answer: Gun

  33. Also keep it mind ! What is the best defense ? Attack ! yes a very wild attack ! First it will throw the bad guy off. A back up ! to give you more distance , can and will work against you. First it makes the bad guys BRAVE! second you are now in danger , you are in flight mode! Always stay in FIGHT mode. attack,attack, and KILL!

  34. I have different pieces that I carry, but only two different knives. One, a Gerber folder in my left pocket (3″), and and coldsteel fixedblade tanto on my belt(4.5″), horizontally, across the small of my back. I replaced the handle with paracord for slimness sake, and am well practiced in drawing a gun and knife simultaneously. Holding the blade underhanded, it’s easy to maintain a two handed grip on the pistol, and hold the knife while firing, reloading, and racking the slide.

    But that’s just me.

  35. Also everyday as i walk the dog , i also carry stun gun , in my back pocket, bear pepper-mace in right front pocket, folder-knife in left front pocket, gun on left back side, and a cane that is hard walnut, but inside is a steel sword , as a have been attacked 3 times by pit bulls , they do not like it when i went into WILD attack mode , yelling, waving my arms wildly… it worked.. all the bad guys may not be 2 legged!

  36. Okay, I get that if a BG comes at me from ten feet away, I’m not going to have time to deploy my gun. Which means I’m not going to have time to deploy a knife, either. Which means that I’m going to get cut. Right?

    Well, then, if I’m going to get cut, I’m damn well gonna shoot the bastard that did it. And then I’m gonna shoot him again and again.

    • And again till I hear click or the slide locks back… I’m thinking of the Watch where all those guys are shooting the alien on the floor in cosco.

  37. The two biggest jokes to ever come down the pike is first the 911 system, and second the police, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN, we the people can use the jury to fix it. The system is broke, on jury duty YOU are the law, even your one vote stops injustice in it’s tracts. Forget all the bull from the judge, and lawyers . You the JURY say what the law is or is not. If not sure , vote no….they must prove the CRIME.. the system is broken , so vote to fix it….

  38. I carry my firearm and a knife every day of the week.
    Never leave home without the two.

    Have not had to use my firearm but did use the knife some years
    ago when a man tried to rob me. The situation called for a knife and
    that is what I used.

    These days I carry a Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto weak side and as I have not
    had a need to use it is is brand new I just oil it.

  39. *skipped over comments*
    my first weapon would be my boot. everything i have is slow to deploy. i have some martial arts background and if he is aiming at my chest with a knife, i can put my foot in his solar plexus fairly safely. that should slow him down, and possibly bring him to his knees. from there the fight should be won, but i don’t live anywhere near perfect so we’ll assume its not. truth be told i’d either continue to stomp on the BG or draw and run away and use the pistol for its stand off range. so sadly knife stays where it is.

  40. Assuming I can react in time: hop to the side, steel-toe to the junk, another to the jaw for good measure.

  41. Find a buddy, put on white t-shirts, and arm yourselves with a large black marker each. Then “fight”. Everybody gets marked. A lot.

    I never want to be in a knife fight. The difference between the winner and the loser of a knife fight is that the winner dies at the hospital.

  42. Sadly, I spend too much of my time in Kalifornia. Can’t carry either. Not even a baton. (Maybe a teeny knife, but not in a government building.) So I have to improvise.

  43. Knife fights in the movies are bullshit.

    When it is over, even the most highly competent knife fighter is getting stitched up in the hospital.

    Save your knife for the utilitarian value or when you run out of bullets. You may be able to get a couple of stabs into me, but i can promise you will have a full magazine of 9mm HP inside of you. well see who has the better odds of survival.

  44. Whichever one I could get to, with a preference for the gun. To use a knife, you by definition need to be in very close proximity, IE arm’s reach. There is no using a knife defensively to cover a withdrawal. Whereas with a gun, you can shoot and move at the same time, keeping lethal defense available while clearing your personal space. I’ve had enough training in knife fighting to know that someone who has trained extensively could still take me handily, and that I only have a marginal advantage over someone not trained at all.

  45. Within 10′ and closing? From a standing start I’ve probably got no choice but to meet the threat barehanded (or with whatever is already in hand). The Tueller drill applies to drawing and opening a knife, too.

    I’d rather face a knife wielding attacker at HTH range with a knife in my hand than empty handed, rather have a firearm in my hand than a knife if I have enough separation to use it, but frankly, facing a knife at close range, I’ll take a metal trashcan lid, an aluminum architect’s scale (I have an 18″ one on my desk), or pretty much anything large and rigid rather than empty hands. I’ve done limited play with a looped sarong or belt, and it’s interesting, but I don’t know that I’d count on it in a crunch until I’ve done it a few hundred more times.

    Regardless of staging and weaponry available, the goal is the same: keep the attacker from hurting me (or limit the damage as much as possible) while ending the interaction as quickly as I possibly can. Two 9mm JHPs (repeat as needed) at 15′ sounds safer to me than my Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara (smooth edged) or CRKT Hissatsu folder, which is still working in and remains a bit hard to open, which in turn sound safer than bare hands (although I’ve certainly “cut” myself in the dojo using training knives, so it’s entirely possible to do so in a real encounter).

    Barehanded, the notional sequence is “deflect, control, sieze, disarm”: do your best to redirect the knife away from your tender body; restrict the weapon by controlling the weapon hand or arm, manipulating clothing, applying body pressure to trap the weapon, etc.; grab the weapon, if necessary around the weapon hand; remove the weapon from the attacker’s control. Depending upon the circumstances (largely the commitment in the attack) you may be able to disarm the attacker with a relatively simple block or bar, but we generally train to manipulate a knife from their hand to ours.

    For those of you who, like me, have been told that you’re always going to get cut in a knife fight, I refer you to Rory Miller aka “Chiron” who spent years as a correctional officer in California and has been in many knife encounters but has never been cut. I don’t know if it’s magic or what, but if I were facing knives on a regular basis, I’d certainly pay attention to what he has to say.

  46. If someone is within 10 feet and closing fast, you had better already have something. If not, it’s time to evade until you can get something in your hand.


  47. The knife is fastest to draw, and surely the most reliable, but truly, according to every bit of my training the debate should not be simply knife vs. Gun…The true debate is knife vs. Gun vs. Running shoes. The best way to deal with a knife wielding attacker within 21 ft is to increase that distance exponentially. Should you draw what ever is handy ? Yes…and if possible you should draw both, the knife and the gun, while putting as mulch ground between you and he as possible. But at the end of the day, your best defense is a good pair of running shoes.

  48. Now we see why all law enforcement officers are taught to place their hand on the weapon in the holster(to shorten draw time) and if bad guy with any kind of weapon is 21′ or closer, they draw and achieve low or high ready, depending on the attitude (once the officer shows the intended use of deadly force) of the idiot who is challenging them with a weapon.
    Keep this in mind and be aware of your surroundings, you can really shorten or eliminate the ID-10-T from choosing you as his intended target.
    That being said, you must know multiple methods of self defense or badguy elimination techniques. Tools for the toolbox.

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