I can remember the first time I cut myself with a pocket knife. I was whittling, believe it or not, a wooden knife and the blade slipped past the wood and into my hand…ouch.
Correct, but maybe not right
I may be a firearm instructor, but since then I have had an intimate relationship with knives, too. They are one of the easiest self-defense tools to acquire and carry. And with a modicum of training, the can be incredibly effective.
Today’s modern pocket knife has evolved, not so much in its lethality, but in accessibility. For a knife to be used in a self-defense setting, speed of deployment will be a major factor. I hear so many folks talk about the advantages of a fixed blade and they are all correct. But they may not be right. A folding knife carried in a pocket is ideal for just about everyone.
What’s the Appeal?
There are a number of factors that make a good folding knife so appealing. The biggest point I make is the legality of the item. Many states have restrictions on fixed blades regardless of blade length. But folders are legal virtually everywhere. If we were to steal a phrase from the gun industry, first rule of winning a knife fight is to have a knife. It’s a very rare occasion I don’t have some kind of pocket knife on me or within easy reach.
The next point is the ease and convenience of carrying a pocket knife. If you have a pocket there really isn’t a reason you can’t have a knife stashed in it somehow.
The last point is the utility of a pocket knife. They’re useful for everything from cutting a seat belt in an emergency, to opening packages to defending your life. There is a lot of utility in a good pocket knife.
The Nuts & Bolts
What are some features you should look for when purchasing? The four main features are blade type, opening mechanism, locking mechanism and carry features.
When it comes to choosing a knife, you can get lost in the weeds really fast with the kind of steel, the length of the blade and point type. My rule of thumb is 2.5 inches is a good blade length. While 3 inches is usually the legal limit in most jurisdictions (be sure to check yours), I like to come in under that to be on the safe side.
I prefer a standard blade versus a serrated or combination edge. As for point type, I prefer a drop point style for its versatility and ease of sharpening. Since I don’t have a specific purpose other than as a self-defense tool, this blade type gives me a fair number of options.
Consider the Details
Opening and locking mechanisms to me are the small print features of a good folding knife. Since speed of deployment is critical, I need a three-dimensional feature to produce a reliable opening sequence under stressful conditions.
Whether it is a thumb stud, thumb hole, flipper or a wave design with T-post, it has to have something to grip for reliable deployment. Once deployed, I need the blade to stay open despite the violence being perpetrated.
Liner locks and lock backs provide good security, meaning the blade cannot fold back on you.
Something I have grown fond of is the ability to secure the pocket knife once I have deployed my handgun. The way I think about it is I am always working towards and improved weapon and/or improved position. These features a few others allow me to safely secure my pocket knife with one hand, a major bonus.
The utility clip is one of the features that makes the modern folding pocket knife so popular. Having it clipped to the top of your pocket ensures a quick deployment. That availability does come at a cost, however…you’re advertising the knife’s presence. For everyday carry purposes, good concealment practices can help mitigate this issue, but you must be aware of the message it conveys.
The deployment sequence starts by moving to the pocket knife’s location and clearing the pocket. Then using what I call a hip check to ensure my grip is optimally positioned to ensure a positive deployment.
Many times folks will run short of their thumb’s range of motion and resort to flicking or using momentum to open the blade. That’s something you should avoid and is unnecessary when you use good technique.
There are virtually no downsides to carrying a good pocket knife. Learning how to choose, carry and deploy the blade in a self-defense situation should be a priority if you are a serious student of the art.
Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.