There’s an old saying – made famous by Sean Connery in the movie “The Untouchables” – about guns versus knives:
“Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.”
That’s all well and good, but the old saying doesn’t apply to close quarters, the one place where knives can often be the better choice. In those situations, having an edge tool can make the difference between protecting yourself or not.
What do we mean? Check out these eight reasons knives are a better choice than guns when it comes to close quarters. This may close the knife vs. gun question for good!
The 21-Foot Rule
The 21-foot rule has long been used by police officers. Essentially, it says that when an assailant wielding a knife is closing in, they will cover 21 feet in the time it takes you to draw and fire your gun. That’s a lot of ground and it also puts intense pressure on the person drawing the gun.
And you might not even have that much time. Recently, a study at Minnesota State University- Mankato found that the amount of distance covered can be greater than 21 feet. Some in law enforcement suggest that training officers on using edge tools is necessary to provide them with choices for dealing with an attack.
No Line of Fire
For a gun to be effective, the target has to be in front of the bullet. In close quarters, knives will hardly ever miss the target – and can be deployed tactically in many different ways.
If You Miss…
In the movies, someone is attacked and somehow has time to pull out a gun, fire it and immediately stop the bad guy in his or her shoes. In real life, that’s not a likely scenario. What you are more likely to face is someone moving quickly and closing fast, not giving you time to fend them off with one hand while trying to take out a gun with another. And even if you do fire, there’s no guarantee you will hit your opponent, leaving you defenseless as they close in.
Ammunition Not Needed
Obvious, but worth mentioning. A knife is always “loaded,” no matter how many times it is used.
Nearly everyone can be deadly by simply picking up a knife – we all understand how to slash and cut with a blade. And while you can become much more adept at using a knife through practice, it’s nothing like the learning curve with a gun.
No Warning, Just Action
No one sees a knife coming. There’s no need to load it, unlike a safety and squeeze a trigger. A knife is simply unsheathed and deployed. This is especially important in a crisis situation where you likely are going to be given little time to think and not much room to maneuver.
Knife vs. Gun: The Lethal Force Question
If you respond to an attacker using a gun, it gives you only one option: using maximum, sometimes, lethal, force. While a knife is also lethal, it’s a more elegant weapon that can be used in a variety of ways to defeat an attacker.
It starts with awareness of your surroundings. If someone comes after you wielding a knife, the most important thing to think about is protecting your life, not trying to draw a weapon. Taking into consideration distance between you and attacker. If you are attempting to draw a weapon rather than creating space between you and the attacker and getting out of the line of attack, you are almost certain to get cut. As you do your best to avoid the initial attack, you are also preparing to draw you knife or defensive tool for tactical defense.
These are just some of the reasons a knife can be more effective in close quarters. While no one will argue that a gun is not a good weapon for security, having a knife – and learning how to use it – gives you options in situations where protecting yourself is the most important goal. To create a best chance of survival, as explained above, is through Practice, Practice, Practice until it becomes second nature and part of muscle memory. Find a good teacher, get some practice knives and train.
Now you have the facts to decide for yourself – which one wins a knife vs. gun fight in close quarters.
Someone should do an article about “clearing your house” with a knife. There’s nothing on the internet about it and I’ve had to do it on more than one occasion. I live in Canada our government expects us to curl up and die if someone kicks down the door and guns for self defense will land you in jail. What positions to hold the knife in at different moments (climbing stairs, opening a door, clearing a room after that &.c.)
I think it would be a valuable and well read article as there’s nothing about specifically house clearing with blades that I can find, on all the hundreds of tactical / survival sites!
I agree and believe one needs to be adept using a knife. Make sure weapons are finely honed. Practice throwing, aiming for target. Slashing stabbing as well. Point is practice. Practice sweeping a room.
Ive always made a point to have safely ladders for 2nd story. Practice drills for fires any situation are important. Especially with kids.
You may need to use grenade, flashbangs, smoke bombs along with a big knife (sword or axe)
You can’t clear a house with a knife. Cmon!! You’re just being sarcastic. Separated lethal weopon such as clearing a house will always be a ranged weapon. Knife will always win in close quarters less than 20 feet. Guns are good when you have distance. Trust me. I’ve been trained by some of the best.
And who are the best so that I may also be trained?
A few good thoughts here…some not so good. The 21-foot rule just means that you may not be able to take the attacker out before they get close enough to harm with their knife. It doesn’t leave you “defenseless.” Keep in mind, too, that it is just a “rule.”
One has to be in the front of the “line” of attack of a knife to be harmed by such, too. Now, maybe what was meant to be stated was that a firearm has a direct line of attack from the muzzle…using a fist or a knife can be more difficult to dodge, but bullets travel a lot faster…just a lot of trouble here in setting down some hard and fast rules of engagement differences.
If you miss…then you just continue firing as they move in closer. Yes, at extremely close distances, a knife can be very effective (tissue damage vs. shock, etc.)…but this article seems to be very one-sided.
For defensive purposes, one should be not having to load their firearm…and there are plenty of firearms that do not have eternal a safety and such, Is a knife a more inherent defensive tool? Perhaps, but that’s a fine line…and no one near the given weight of this point in the article.
I’m not sure what the lethal force question point is really trying to say… A firearm and a knife are both always lethal/deadly force, as this article states. But a knife is a more elegant weapon? Okay…
Yes. Agreed that the focus should be on protection…by any means necessary.
I own several knives, but have never left home with one
Two questions: how large should a knife be for effective self defense, and also, how sharp? I am a vertically challenged older lady.
Barbara, To answer your 2nd question first, any knife you carry should always be sharp, as an example, the knife should be sharp enough to easily cut 550 paracord. The first question of how large of a knife should you carry, is really a personal choice. If you use the knife for purposes of everyday use, like opening boxes, or mail or cutting materials like rope, twigs, paper, cardboard, plastics, etc. then you want a knife you are comfortable handling. Rather than just looking at carrying a knife for self-defense, look at it like it is an everyday tool. This way, if you are ever in a situation where you need to rely on the knife as a self defense option, you will be familiar with the feel, sharpness, weight and capabilities you have with the knife. I always recommend training for such a circumstance. If you are considering that it is necessary to use your knife for self defense, then I recommend you find a class that is geared toward your particular situation that you mentioned above.
How do you find someone to teach you ?
What are you’re intentions is something to be considered. Bayonets are never sharpened because it is easier to repair a wound made by a sharp knife than a blunt edged bayonet used for thrusting.
Obviously mike doesn’t understand how to.clear your house with a knife..regular throwing knives usually are carried more than one at a time and a good knife person can throw them underhanded like a softball pitcher and your defense is basically zero..people speak without knowing much..
I have been training martial arts my whole life. In close quarter combat a knife is brutal. I have performed the experiment that was performed on me against my BJJ training partners, wrestlers I coach. At MMA gyms, Muay Thai, boxing gyms, wing Chun, Krav Maga (these guys got it the worst because they don’t spar and train k ice disarms that trains you to go for the knife- If you try this and you’re great at it you will still get the shit car you but hopefully survive) well rounded pro MMA fighters etc. Names you have heard of. All you do is take a large red magnum marker and give it to the less experienced man and put on the face shields and mouthpiece, shin guards and gloves (for the empty hand attacker) so that knife attacker is protected somewhat but can hold the knife (later when got practice knifes which were close to real knive in weight and ability to grip it and put red stamp ink all over the blade. Everyone wore cheap white long underwear to cover the kegs and arms so you could she the extent of the damage The unarmed man’s job is to disarm or defeat the opponent with minimal damage. So if he land a light overhand right out of the gate or a head kick, the knife guy losesWhat typically happens even with new guys, is the advanced guy thinks he did ok until he looks at his shirt and realized he got stab and sliced a dozen times before getting the knife away from the attacker or scoring a kill/KO shot. Whenever it went to the ground, the knife fighter would let himself get clinched and just gut the unarmed guy. On the way down usually switching hands and stabbing repeatedly into the neck bald eta Obviously the empty handed guy is not trying to kill the guys, but if a guy has a knife, it is so easy to duck someone up. All you need is contact. I practice with my push dagger on my BOB (Water loaded body opponent bag-the torso and head with the muscular build and thick neck. The push dagger cuts through this ultra dense rubber easily. It would cut through a body with less force than a light push. You could easily spill a trained fighters entrails all over the ground while carving their arms and kegs into carne asada. Martial arts other than the one punch or kick knockout assuming you take no damage is the only scenario that could go your way. If you are a huge trained fighter against an untrained small terrified man or woman you will probably get cut badly but survive and win. If you are against a. Committed knife wield who knows how to lunge swing and stab, the odds of not being killed or disfigured are not good. Those Kali knife fights have an advantage but they will get hurt even if they too have a knife. If the old days I used to think a guy with a bat had an advantage. Hii I s weapon is longer etc If a guy with a knife stays out of range or lets the guy swing then closes the gap the knives are nasty. I watched a prison b CO and Cop video on knife attacks showing footage and aftermaths. It’s horrible. Look at what OJ did with a knife or the Manson family (mostly females who were totally untrained with a folding buck knife. It was a massacre. If you have a knife and are a skilled butcher you will fuck guys up way better than any martial arts guy. You hack, cleave, saw, stab all day through heavy bone and connective tissue of much denser animal muscle. Watch z gangs of New York. Daniel Day Lewis plays a real character from American history named Bill the butcher. He was a gang member and a knife fighting expert. He would school some Kali expert, Because while they’re drilling with plastic knives, he spends eight hours a day lifting and cutting heavy hunks of meat. That is literally all it takes to be a bad ass knife lighter. If you’ve boxed and have some foot work and are aware of the deadlines of the blade. When you were armed with a knife you are unstoppable unless somebody has a gun drawn and it has a lot of stopping power. Some guy is 20 feet away with a 22 pistol he better hit you in the eyeball because you’ll get to him and get him before he kills you
So, let’s see….in a self-defense situation inside seven yards, I’m better off taking the time to draw a knife (which I’m carrying, where, exactly, that’s easier and quicker to get to than a gun?) and WAITING for the knife-wielding attacker to get close enough to cut me TOO, than I am drawing a gun and turning the attacker’s insides into road kill with several nearly-half-inch chunks of lead traveling at twice the speed of sound? Do I have this right? Check!
I agree with all that was said in this article. But, would these same rules apply to someone that is older but in reasonably good shape (over 70)?
There are many things to consider at any age, but particularly as we get older.
Do you practice deployment and use? Is your knife something you not only carry on a regular basis but are extremely familiar and comfortable with?
Do you physically train? These questions really lead to knowing and understanding your abilities as well as your limitations and your tools of choice,
You may have to adjust how you carry your tool. Maybe it is easier to draw your knife in reverse grip rather than point forward.
Sometimes a gun is just not an option depending on the state and the location, Regardless of what you carry, or your age, practice is a must.
On the bright side, an edged tool can peel an apple, open a box, cut a rope. It’s a great utility tool!
Seems alot of people missed the point of thr article. Yes in most situations a gun will be better.
The situation in the article is very precise. 21ft or closer. Gun is holstered knife may or may not be we’ll say it was.
Average sprint speed is 15mph for an average person. That’s 22 ft per second, this is where the 21 ft rule comes from btw.
So you’re standing there with a holstered gun, a guy pulls a knife and starts to charge. You have anywhere from a little less than a second to a little more than a second to draw your gun, make your gun ready if it isn’t, aquire a target, and fire. All the while dealing with the stress of a homicidal maniac charging you with a knife.
In the Marine corps martial arts program we did drills on this. I’d like to think we were well above average on both physical fitness and training on both weapons. Roughly 7 out of 10 times the guy with the knife won. This also didn’t factor in the stress of actually being killed either, no rounds in the pistol and the knife was a hard plastic dull knife.
Thank you, T Freedom, for your feedback, your support and for getting the “point”!
The importance of knowing how to use and fight with an edged weapon can’t be disputed. Often it is a better choice. However, unless you are exceptionally well trained and in excellent physical shape, there is no reason to believe that the person threatening you with a gun, no matter how close or far, can be neutralized by a weapon that requires them to be within arms reach. Clearly, the author of this post has never been in a combat situation. Or, ever have been attacked before. However, in the mundane but common situation that someone unwelcome enter my house, I’m picking up the pistol. Laws that prevent the common person from obtaining, using or keeping the best means of defense, do nothing but empower those who do not follow the law and who will be the threat!
Why not carry both if legal? Pocket knife (which is useful for more then just defense ) handgun (i use a g20sf) and a sheathed blade (i use a old ww2 bayonet when I do which depends on where I’m going to be honest)
Much more harm results when everyone equips themselves to deal with the very unlikely threat of unprovoked attack (dependent on your daily routine/profession/neighbourhood etc).
There are far more accidental deaths and injuries than good guy bad guy showdowns.
Knifes are available in anywhere but gun and bullets are not available everywhere
This is quite possibly the dumbest article I have ever read.
I think there is a basic flaw to the premise of this article. If the choice is between a knife of gun, then we should assume either weapon starts holstered/sheathed, or drawn and at the ready. If this is the case, then the gun has the advantage of reach. Neither has the speed advantage if both are started at the same position of being holstered/sheathed, or at the ready. If knives were superior for CQB, both cops and military would holster their firearms for room clearing. They don’t and neither should you. The knife is primarily for backup in case the firearm malfunctions or otherwise cannot be brought into action.
Who wrote this article, Don Lemon?
Any tips on how to throw a throwing knife?
How about a club? A club makes a good weapon and can, because of being a bit bigger, allow the man with the club, (walking stick) to outreach and disarm the knife man. If you are thinking self defence, a club is good for that., you don’t always have to kill someone to protect yourself from them.
Collapsible metal ball tipped baton vs knive…bet on the baton! You can hit extended knive, hand, wrist or forearm. Knee and shoulder are good follow up hits. The head hit should be avoided as it could be fatal. Jury will admire your skills unless you pound the perp in the head while he is down. Then you might be looking at manslaughter. Don’t forget your handcuffs and take control of the knife too.
Hey it’s a hell of a choice,.A gun or a knife.An old saying,Long distance the next best thing to being there,…
What most people don’t realize is that you can’t legally defend yourself with a knife in the USA. You would be charged with a criminal offense. Don’t believe me just look it up. If you’re getting your ass handed to you and a guy is about to beat you to death and you stab him you will go to jail for assault with a deadly weapon.
More important than the weapon of choice is the intent of the person wielding it
Under most confrontations one attacks with a knife and defends with a gun
It takes motivation and courage (or insanity) to initiate a knife fight
By comparison a gun is more of a psychological protection and a cowardly offensive means
The knife attacker has serious intent to inflict serious harm and the defender just finds themselves in a wrong place/time
Also, the “proper” way to attack with a knife is to swing upward This motion is harder to deflect and takes advantage of a larger target area