DISCLAIMER: Nothing which appears below should be construed as legal advice. The information, some of it opinion, is provided "as-is" without warranty, express or implied. Overall, the content of this page is incomplete with an expectation readers will take any necessary steps to research applicable laws in their state, county or city. (And laws can suddenly become more stringent when entering a campus, a goverment building or crossing a state line.) This page was created to inform you that carrying a knife specifically for the purpose of defense can put you in a mess of trouble if you are not careful.
It is not the purpose of this page to teach you how to use a knife for self-defense.

Keeping "Utility" Knives Concealed
Are you prepared for a fight TO THE BLOODY DEATH?

A look at issues regarding the concealed carry of knives as defensive instruments.
Avoiding nasty surprises. Is your knife legal? Are there more effective choices?


One great commonality amongst carriers of concealed firearms is also the carrying of a knife of some sort as backup, for a defense of last resort. And sometimes, all you can carry is a knife.

from www.survival-mindset.com

HAVE A BACK UP PLAN. CARRY A GOOD QUALITY TACTICAL KNIFE TO COMPLIMENT YOUR PISTOL AND TO PROVIDE YOU WITH ANOTHER OPTION IF THE PISTOL FAILS.
Ah, if only it were that simple...

Introductory Section

I know the basics, "JUMP AHEAD".

Take me to the "ADVANCED SECTION".

(While I suspect many fellow defensive knife carriers know some of this, my guess is they do not know all of it. And, hey, you new guys, listen up... No jumping ahead.)
The same statutes that prohibit you from carrying an unlicensed gun in public often prohibit you from carrying certain knives. In many places, the law does not allow you to carry a knife for the purpose of defense (or offense), but you can carry one for "utility" purposes (i.e., things other than stabbing, wounding or even killing an assailant). Statutory definitions of "utility" versus "defense" or "survival" may not exist in your area. Keep in mind that identifying a deadly weapon at the scene of an incident or a routine traffic stop falls under the broad discretionary powers which police officers have. And, if you are carrying a defensive knive, keep in mind Robert Heinlein's long ago observation that, "An armed society is a polite society."

The blade length for "utility" knives is often set at a max of 3 inches. (In some places, this length may be less, as little as 2 inches or more, sometimes as much as 4 inches.) In many areas, it is permissible to carry a "hunting knife" on your person in public. But... what, exactly, is a hunting knife? Or a "utility" knife? (They are seldom defined in relevant statutes.)

Okay, so you have a permit to carry a concealed handgun, your (defensive or "survival") knife is okay, right? Not so fast, blade breath... The law varies from place to place and can be unclear and confusing as well.

In Kentucky, for example,
Q: What weapons are covered under the CCDW permit?
A: Any weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or serious physical injury, may be discharged. Any knife other than an ordinary pocket knife or hunting knife. A "billy," nightstick, or club. A blackjack or slapjack. Nunchaku karate sticks. Shirikena or "death stars." Artificial knuckles made from plastic, or other similar hard material.

But in North Carolina,
Q: Does a Concealed Handgun Permit allow the carry of any other weapon, such as a knife, concealed? Is there a permit available that will allow me to carry a concealed weapon other than a handgun?
A: No. The Concealed Handgun Law was written specifically to permit the carrying of concealed handguns. Carrying of other concealed weapons in North Carolina is illegal, and there is no permit available for other weapon types.

Bernard Levine, writer and renowned expert witness in cases involving knives has this comment: [emphasis added]
"State laws are the most important knife laws, but they are certainly not the only knife laws. Some state legislatures have pre-empted weapons law (i.e., claimed a monopoly on making this type of law), but most have not. In states which have not pre-empted [the laws], individual counties, cities, and towns [may] have their own knife or other weapons ordinances, and many of them do.

"Even in states which have pre-empted weapons laws, big cities sometimes pass and enforce knife laws anyway. (Portland, Oregon, in an attempt to ban pocket knives, was a recent example; the ban survived three levels of appeal, until being overturned by the State Supreme Court). These unconstitutional ordinances place the burden of defense and appeal on the unlucky citizens who happen to get charged."

So... Your concealed carry handgun permit may not cover non-utility or defensive knives. To be safe, to be legal, check with local law enforcement for a reasonably authoritative answer. Reasonably authoritative? In many areas this is a matter of confusion and one which only the courts can truly decide. (We want to avoid going that far and paying an attorney for help and guidance through this minefield, though.)
In choosing a defensive knife or survival weapon, multiple functionality beyond inflicting wounds or death should be given serious consideration. Calling an edged instrument with utilitarian functions (other than stabbing or cutting flesh) a deadly weapon is then not so "cut and dried," do to speak. This would pretty much rule out sword canes, for example.
Local attorneys may be misinformed or confused as well. You, see, the 2nd amendment is not typically interpreted as your having a constitutional guarantee that you can legally carry a defensive knife. And even after you know how such hardware is regarded by the police, you might still chose to carry a defensive knife anyway. Just remember it may not be legal. And whether or not you could face charges if arrested with one in your possession will most probably be affected by the situation when the matter comes up and how polite and respectful you are to whoever is asking you about said deadly weapon.

[Mr. Levine again...] "The meaning of most of these state laws is ambiguous, their terms either poorly defined, or not defined at all. In large part this vagueness was intentional, for it gave wide discretion to local police and judges. These laws' practical day-to-day meaning can only be understood from a study of relevant appellate decisions..."
SPECIAL LINKS:
California Knife Laws or General Information on State Laws
However well or badly written local laws are, and while police encounters may focus on intent, avoid true switchblades, dagger and dirks. Do this even if you believe you can get by with, "My intent, officer, was self-defense."

Some knives have been traditionally defined as "too dangerous" or as "patently illegal."

A few terms

Clip point/drop point - These are the two most common types of points with the drop point dating back to the Vikings (or earlier).

Tanto point - A style from the Far East. See below.

Blunt point - found on knives used by divers, EMTs, firemen who have a need for prying rather than stabbing. Some knives carried by police officers and EMTs are used to cut seatbelts and clothes from accident victims and require a blunt point to prevent injury.

Extreme knives, Sporting knives, Tactical knives - marketing terms used to add texture and contrast to knife advertising to make it seem new products are hunting and pocket knives on steroids.

Gear knives - something beyond the Swiss Army style, consisting of one cutting blade and one or more other multi-function blades (e.g., saws, gut hooks, marlin spikes. Fancier than butt-ugly multi-tools and which retain a pocket knife appearance.

Lady's and Gents Folders - fancied up pocket knives which are designed more for show than function. However, some very serious (extreme) knives are very ornamental, perhaps to disguise their deadly functions.

A Blade Glossary page


Jump to "Skip the introductory stuff altogether."

Do we understand this is a twilight zone of potential legal liability? Well, it is... What is a defensive knife, anyway? We'll get to that, but first...


Things to know
about defensive encounters with a knife...


.............................................................Remember, this page is not about how to use a knife.

If you carry a knife for self defense you must be prepared to use that knife with lethal effect, if necessary. In a self defense scenario there should be no doubt that the attacker intends to perform serious bodily damage. To prevent that from happening, you must be prepared to take any action necessary for self defense. Any hesitation or withdrawal from the fight could result in serious consequences, even your death.

"You must consider the harsh reality of carving into a human body with a sharp edge, even in the context of defending yourself or your family. Think about what it would feel like to slash your tactical folder across an assailant's belly, tearing open his stomach wall and watching the wet loops of gray intestine spill into his lap. Imagine the sound of your blade scratching over a rib, sinking into your attacker's lung, his blood bubbling frothily from the wound. Edged weapons are brutally intimate. Know this before you deploy one. Understand exactly what you are about to do."
Steve Tarani, martial arts master, Karambit maker writing in "American Handgunner," November, 2001, on The Mental Aspects of Knife Fighting
If your adversary has a knife, or worse, if you drop your knife, expect to get cut. Don't lose focus when blood flows, yours or your adversary's.
"How can we prepare to deal with getting cut, especially in a knife fight? It all starts with the preparedness of the mind. In blade cultures of the Far East, masters of knife fighting, share with us their ancient wisdom in this modern day: "With the edge, you have already been cut or you have cut another. Surrender yourself to the fact that you have been cut or have cut another and do not focus upon the thought 'I have been cut' or 'I have cut another.' Now is the time to make your next move and not to assist your opponent by distracting your own mind.

"Accept the fact that the blood of the cut is inevitable. Be resolute. Be hard. Be fast. And don't let the sight of blood-- your own, or someone else's-- deter you from wielding the blade with all the fury and determination your very survival demands.

"Most of us lack any formal training in self-defense with an edged weapon or even with our bare hands, for that matter. While it takes a good deal of mental preparation to deal with the enormous psychological impact of slicing up another human being, it also takes some mental homework to deal with the eventuality of getting cut. The chance of getting cut in a knife fight is close to 100 percent. Even the most skilled practitioners of edged weapons, those who have studied the blade arts, admit that they would expect to be cut in a fight."

Steve Tarani
There are no rules. Be prepared to cheat; do not play "fair." Keep the blade hidden until the last possible moment.

Stabs also called thrusts, which are harder to block, produce more fatal wounds than slashes and increase odds of severing a major source of blood flow. Aside from the eyes, avoid stabbing at the head as skulls are very tough to penetrate. Facial wounds can be nasty but are seldom fatal.

The primary styles of cuts are the slash, hack and thrust. Secondary styles or backup cuts are scraping or skinning, the tear (as in using barbs on an edged weapon) and coring (as a major organ is penetrated)
Most fatalities in knife fights (or soon after) occur from blood loss which can take several long, long minutes and become a slippery mess. A little knowledge of human anatomy and blood flow can go a long way. (Refer to the chart near the end of this long page.)

Severing wrist, arm and ankle tendons incapacitates much faster than waiting for the effects of blood loss. (So does evisceration, but what a mess.)

When on defensive, keep as much distance as possible from your adversary. If fleeing is an option, it is worth considering.

Bigger blades are better but a mindset and a determination to prevail is far more important. In any case, keep things as unequal as possible.

[Hoping on] Stopping a knife fight via pain compliance is risky due to varying tolerences for pain. Via mechanical compliance [such as] exsanguination or severing a nerve bank [would be] more effective.
Steve Tarani

ODIAC Rule #1 for a knife fight:
ODIAC = Online Data for the Informed Armed Citizen

Bring a gun.

ODIAC Rule #2 for a knife fight:

If you don't have a gun,
bring two knives.

Facts of the matter are: a knife fight or a situation in which you must defend yourself with a knife will generally be "iffy." The outcome will be strongly influenced by your (or your adversary's) mindset, physical fitness, level of physical strength and hand/eye coordination, as well as stamina after several minutes' exertion under the influence of adrenalin. Avoiding a prolonged conflict is critical.


Available from Amazon or Paladin Press Principles of Self Defense by Jeff Cooper
If, as the author says in this essay/booklet, "The combination of modern medicine and the welfare state has brought about... an unconscionable drop in personal safety... Your physical safety is up to you." And if you agree that "the stake in personal defense is your life," then this slim 44-page volume may be just for you. He goes on to say, "This book was not written for cowards... Violent crime is feasible only if its victims are cowards." And, "The author assumes that the right of self-defense exists. Some people do not. This booklet is not for them." Further, "...many men who are not cowards are simply unprepared for the fact of human savagery... The techniques of personal combat are not covered in this work. ...this work is more basic than techniques, being a study of the guiding principles of survival in the face of unprovoked violence." And those involve Alertness, Decisiveness, Aggressiveness, Speed, Coolness, Ruthlessness and Surprise. (Available from Amazon or Paladin Press.)
No less a luminary on self defense issues than Massad Ayoob wrote in the June, 2003 issue of Shooting Industry a monthly magazine, (published by Publishers' Development Corporation, featuring industry news, product reviews and opinion) that:

"There are several good reasons for the law-abiding citizen to feel a need to carry a good knife. There are at least seven states where there is no provision for a private citizen to carry a concealed firearm in public. There are several more where only the rich, famous and politically connected can actually get the so-called "discretionary" carry permit. In most such jurisdictions, however, a concealed knife of some sort [may be] legal to carry. [Big maybe.]

This image for
satirical purposes only. "If one accepts the often-heard statement that most gunfights take place at a distance of about 5 feet, then most situations where you would need a gun can be adequately handled with a knife. Within its range (and, for a trained person who knows how to move, 5 feet is well within knife range), the edged weapon can actually be more destructive to the opponent than a gun.

"The knife never runs out of ammunition and it never jams. Some find a knife more intimidating to an opponent [than a gun]".

Click here for the full text of the above quoted article.


From the masterworks of Bernard Levine, Knife Expert

A database of U.S. laws about knives, Click here.

A source of expert testimony about knives in both civil and criminal matters, Click here.

A page of links about knives, Click here.

After reading your state's knife laws, if you still have a question on the legality of a specific knife, Mr. Levine will provide a brief answer based on the current laws for a small fee. Information at the database website.

An example from the law database:
Texas - Health, Safety & Morals - 46.02. Unlawful carrying weapons. (a) A person commits an offense if intentionally, knowingly , or recklessly carries on or about his person a handgun, illegal knife, or club. [Exceptions: official; actor was own premises; was traveling; engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting activity; security guard].
- 46.01. Definitions. (1) "Club"... includes... (D) Tomahawk...
(6) "Illegal knife" means a:
(A) knife with a blade over five and one-half inches;
(B) hand instrument designed to cut or stab another by being thrown;
(C) dagger, including but not limited to a dirk, stiletto, and poniard;
(D) sword; or
(E) spear.
(7) "Knife" means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument.
- 46.03. Places weapons prohibited.
(a) A person commits an offense if, with a firearm, illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon [includes switchblade knives], he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly goes:
(1) on the physical premises of a school [or school bus];
(2) on the premises of a polling place...
[(3) a court; (4) a racetrack; (5) secured area of an airport].
(This is not the complete entry for this state. Nor are all entries this long.)

Back to the question of what defensive knives are...

There are three types of knives commonly considered for defensive use. The simplest type of knife is the Full Tang Blade, this is a fixed blade knife that has a handle molded around or attached to the extension of the blade, i.e., it consists of only one piece of steel covered by a handle for the grip. Another type is the Folding Blade, some- times called the Tactical Folder, which is a commonly known knife that is compacted to half its full length by folding the blade into the handle (as with pocket knives).

Finally, Specialty Knives such as belt buckle knives, credit card knives, neck knives, sword canes and push daggers exist in a category of their own.
Knives may be single-edged (more likely to be legal) or
double edged daggers and dirks (seldom legal for street carry by civilians).

The spectrum of knife products is truly surprising and is generally divided into three price categories. "El Cheapo" knives running under $30 but as high as $100-$200 use inexpensive steel and will not hold an edge very long, if at all. These are best suited as collectibles (for their shape), as conversation pieces and as letter openers. Mid range knives of good design, quality components, and which seldom need sharpening can work well as defensive knives for the civilian user. They are generally mass-manufactured. High end knives which typically run over $150 and sometimes several hundred dollars are usually handmade, exquisitely crafted. Some can even be called works of art. This last category is most commonly seen in the firearms press, though a few mid range quality products such as CRKT (Columbia River Knife & Tool) also show up in gun magazine ads.
"One of the hottest selling new trends is the assisted-opening folder. Once the [user's] thumb lightly touches the closed blade and begins the opening movement, ingenious-lever designs take over. Manufacturers assure us they are not switchblades, though they seem to open as easily. They're a natural for older customers, those with arthritis or other hand ailments or injuries, and for anyone who just doesn't see himself as sufficiently adept to thumb-open a tactical folder in 'the regular way'."
Massad Ayoob,
writing in "Shooting Industry"
The distinctions between an "assisted opening" knife and a switchblade are twofold. First, an assisted opening knife requires the user to move the blade 1/4th of the way through the opening swing whereas a switchblade opens on a simple button press. Second, where it is typically legal or permitted for law enforcement (and sometimes EMTs) to possess a switchblade (to quickly cut through seat belts clothing or shoe laces), it is not generally acceptable for a civilian to have any but assisted opening or manually opening folding knives. If caught with a switchblade, expect the minimum penalty to be confiscation. Anything worse would depend on the situation and the broad discretionary power law enforcement has.

Note that this distinction is not always clear to the Federal authorities and that U.S. Customs has periodically seized imported shipments of such knives. Then legitimate, law-abiding firms such as CRKT have had to engage expensive attorneys to get their property released. Similar delays of time and money are something which an individual civilian user may not be able to afford either to recover property or to avoid prosection. There are sources on the Internet to get law enforcement switchblades but they should be avoided.

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

  1. Knives sold in bulk, as on TV shopping programs. If you can buy 35 knives for about a hundred bucks which were shipped here from China, how much do you really think the cost of manufacture was? Enough, say, to rely on such junk to defend your life?
  2. Many, but not all, knives sold at gun shows for very low prices (which usually don't hold an edge worth a hoot and which will not stand up to much abuse). Price tells the story.
  3. Many, perhaps most, knives sold at sporting goods stores which may look good and well made but which also may not hold an edge well and won't stand up to abuse. Some "name brands" appear on junk knives. Some of the S&W; branded products are inferior, just junk. Not all S&W; branded knives are junk, but some. Again, price tells the story.
  4. Blade material identified only as stainless steel which is not necessary premium material for a knife. While it may never rust, the knife will not hold an edge long when used. This means it will require constant sharpening if it is used regularly (to cut. Remember it's best if it can be explained as a utility knife.)

Types of defensive knives
A representative sampling, leaving it up to you to find these products
and to avoid cheap imitations and knockoffs of proven designs.
(Google is a good place to start.)


The Colt Pathfinder
More than just a hunting knife,
this one will chop to the bone


A double edged boot dagger, not legal most places


Boot push dagger


Regular type doubled edged
dagger, (too big for a boot)
usually worn with a belt -
more for stabbing than cutting

Dirk, a type of dagger leaving a wound less likely to close and highly illegal


Singled edged belt knife
Disguised as a buckle

Double edged belt knife
This model by
Steve Tarani, Karambit Master
Classic fixed blade Karambit
Indonesian eviscerating weapon with many imitators

Hibben Claw II
Inexpensive clone Karambit

A large neck knife
Worn under the shirt

Double edged push dagger neck knife

Poor man's Karambit
about $14, from Pakistan (good design, but junk)

A better poor man's karambit
style knife, the CRKT Bear
Claw, under $30

Single edged push dagger

Avoid "skeletonized"
knives which become hard to hold when wet (or bloody).

Tactical folders come in a vast
range of styles and prices.
Many are of little use in a fight.
WARNING:
Slippery when wet
Spyderco's Claw, a precursor to the modern folding Karambit

The modern folding Karambit, pricey but of excellent quality

Variant of the folding Karambit

Tactical folding dagger is trouble looking for a place to land
Tanto point knives are available both as fixed-blades and folders.

Karambit?
(Some material below from Steve Tarani's FAQ at www.karambit.com)
A curved, shortbladed combat knife, "the Karambit as a utility knife. It can be also, however, be used for martial arts. [For] self-defense, the Karambit can be used as a means of ensuring your personal safety in the event you are... attacked.

"What makes the [Tarani] Karambit [somewhat] unique is it's pronounced curving edges and oversized finger ring. Providing maximum safety, the finger ring ensures a positive and non-slip hand-grip allowing optimal functionality in extreme weather conditions, under water, or in any hostile working environment. As a result of its signature curved edges and characteristic finger ring, the Karambit [can be] used for a number of practical functions including utility, personal defense, and martial arts applications."

The use of Tarani Karambits with (his) martial arts training material can probably make you using his (expensive) knives into a formibible opponent. This additional aspect is best suited to law enforcement and military users, though.

The re-emergence of this ancient weapon as a self-defense option is essentially in its infancy and the knife may emerge as one of the best and most concealible self defense options in the next few years.


Tanto point?

(From Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.)
"A Tanto is a Japanese blade or small sword. It is a smaller version of the Katana sword and the blade is about 6" to 8" in length. It can stab or it can slash. However, the Tanto knife is designed more to be a stabbing instrument."

A well-made 8" tanto blade will penetrate a car door (with the window rolled up), should you ever need to do that. (Requires above average upper body strength to do this, however.) Tanto points are available on both fixed blade and folding knives. The shape of the point and design of the blade gives it more lateral strength than other shapes. These are very rugged knives.


Plain edge or serrated?
The choice of which type of knife edge to get appears mostly to be one of personal preference. In general, avoid edges blades under 3" on that are only partially serrated as they afford little advantage. And keep in mind that once dull, serrated edges can be very challenging to resharpen. One product worth investigating for sharpening serrations is Gatco Sharpeners. But shop around for the best price. And DMT makes good products as well.


Okay, where are we?

  1. If we remain aware that an effective defensive knife will typically have a blade of 3" or more, that it may not be legal to carry without a CCW/CHL permit or even with one, that we may have a problem with John Law if we get into a situation requiring police presence then we may be able to avoid trouble or at least be prepared for surprises.

  2. An effective defensive knife may or may not be legal but certain kinds may be "less legal" and more problematic for a police officer who must confront us, however otherwise law abiding we may be. And civilian users should know to absolutely avoid certain kinds such as (true) switchblades. daggers and dirks.

  3. And, by the time we get to this part of this page we should be aware there may be more effective choices in regard to defense with an edged weapon than an oversized pocket knife or a bargain tactical folder.

Webmaster's Pick as the medium duty "Best Buy" folder

Click for larger image
The A. G. Russell FeatherLite Pocket Folder
a one hand knife
suitable for utility or personal defense

This knife is not very large, just under four inches closed. An oval hole is cut through the blade for your thumb, which enables you to flip it open with one hand. This makes the FeatherLite™ one of the easiest-to-open folders you may have ever seen. The blade and handle combination are engineered to give you very fast and sure opening knife. (Closes with one hand, too.) A little practice lets you open this knife with authority and speed.

A great all purpose knife;
Sleek and lightweight (only 1.5 oz).
Surprisingly thin but of very tough design.
It fits as nicely in your hand or pocket. Black Zytel® handle: 7" when open
Blade length 3-1/8"
and a choice of general purpose or clip point blades.
Provides True stealth carry.

Click here. Close window that opens to return here.


Advanced Topics and Links

Choosing a Good Knife

"Even with the wide proliferation of knife manufacturers, good knives are hard to find, and not every knife is suitable for knife combat. There are several factors to consider.

"The size of the knife is very important... a large knife can be uncomfortable to carry and very difficult to conceal. The generally accepted ideal knife size is a blade length of 3 inches and perhaps another 3 or 4 inches for the handle. At that size the knife can be carried comfortably, is of light weight and easy to conceal.

"Quality is another factor which can be very serious in the case of folding knives. A bad quality folding knife can close on the carrier's fingers when striking a target causing self injury. Quality should always be a deciding factor in the case of folding knives. Folding knives are usually chosen because when closed for carry they are small in size, fitting neatly into a trouser pocket. Unbranded steel types such as 'Stainless Steel' should be avoided as it is [generally] a sign of poor quality. It is preferable to select a special type of steel such as 'stainless steel 420' or 'stainless steel 440'. Other excellent types of steel are also available.

there are several
Nealy/Boker rigs "Finally, a few Full Tang knives come with their own carry system, i.e. a sheath in the form of shoulder, neck or belt carry that allows the user to conceal the knife very easily." Boker makes an excellent rig of this type and it is very sharp and generally a well-respected carry system available for several knives.

Source: http://www.linkbase.org/articles/Knife-Fighting.htm
And, another opinion:

"People who like guns like knives. It's not so much a 'weapon thing' as it is a 'craftsmanship thing' and a 'functionality' thing.' In selection, the tool follows the predictable task. In a fight, the blade follows the threat. Picking the knife is like picking the gun. It's not about image. It's about what you're likely to need it for.

"There have been cases of hunters who've used their knives to defend themselves successfully against dangerous animals. There are far fewer cases of cops who've used knives to defend themselves against criminals. What you absolutely do have are cases of private citizens who've used knives to repel lethal assaults by criminals.

"For American gentlemen and 'Ordinary Joes' throughout this century, it has been the utility knife and the 'pen-knife.' The analogy to 'service pistol and backup gun' is achingly obvious."

from Massad Ayoob's, article, Blade,
in "Guns Magazine, July 1999
www.bladeforums.com A place to discuss knives. This website makes no claim to speak for or on behalf of the above listed forum.

A recent development in knife design: The Timber Pig. Click for review from "The Martialist"
Lowest price for the enthusiast magazine, "Tactical Knives" was found here. Click on the cover image to visit that site. (Cover shown is not the most recent.)


A less than lethal (but potentially deadly) alternative to knives, the Pocket Stick. Click here for a general article or click here for an article on its use (i.e., striking).


The Martialist, an online electronic magazine (e-zine) for those who fight unfairly (or aspire to). "...among the handful, dozens, or scores of people whose paths you cross on any given day as you go through your life could be individuals who represent a threat -- and you won't know ahead of time who they are. As a result you must maintain a perceivable level of alertness when you are out and about. You may choose to take this a step further and seek out the training and the tools -- including legally possessed weapons -- that give you an advantage should an altercation occur."

The publisher of this e-zine is literate, well spoken, appears to have been well influenced by Jeff Cooper and has an interesting website.


The Karambit is a tool/knife capable of being used for many different applications. (Wink, wink.) Its basic use that of a common tool – a utility blade, used to open boxes, cut twine, dig holes, etc. Today, it's most commonly owned by collectors and knife enthusiasts. It's also used as a martial-arts training implement. Lastly, it can be used to ensure personal safety should the need arise (i.e, as a personal defense or survival weapon).

Some thoughts about combat knives

    Combat knives? Not defensive knives? Not survival knives? That's correct, combat knives, because what we're dancing around on the page above are short, edged weapons with which to do combat with an adversary, an aggressor, a predator, someone who has attempted, is about to attempt or is attempting to put us in serious danger, about to set upon us with malice and intent to do bodily harm. And among the several differences from a defense using a firearm, this is about preparation for a close up, potentially close-in full body contact encounter.

    For this reason, and presuming we are making serious preparations to carry and to use a rugged and lethal tool, something other than a mere pocket knife or a "gentleman's" hunting knife or folder is required. This rules out El Cheapo knives with marginal steel and any which cannot withstand serious lateral torque. The knife must be able not only to stab repeatedly but also to cut repeatedly. Not just through flesh but through possibly thick outer clothing including denim or canvas types of cloth.

    If, in the course of using such an instrument for less than deadly encounters, the knife will be used for utility purposes, it MUST be able to maintain an edge. We cannot afford for it to become a (temporarily) useless tool after cutting up boxes, ropes or any materials which will make it less than very, very sharp. Between such utilitarian use and the next time we get out the sharpening tools, mortal combat may ensue. (Use of a knife for utility purposes has no parallel to using a firearm for such purposes. Guns do not have more than one base function; there are no such things as utility firearms.)

    Look, if you are going to cut things which will dull your knife, invest in a keychain box cutter or similar device. (Or go get a box cutter.) Using a defense knife for pedestrian chores does two things. First, it reveals to those around you that you are carrying the knife. Second, it may compromise your readiness to deal with terrible potential eventualities.
    So we must chose a combat weapon that can meet several criteria. There is more to a good combat knife than just being able to hold an edge (which will be a given for the purposes of this list). Personal preferences in knife design exist so the following should be considered as ideal criteria.

  1. The blade should be able to withstand a good deal of lateral torque (in case it needs to be twisted). If it is a folder, the point where the blade swivels is its weakest point but it must be able to handle torque almost as well as a fixed blade.

  2. The shape and design of the handle should be conducive to keeping a grip under adverse conditions such as cold weather, the presence of water, sweat or blood. Finger grooves or ergonomic handle design are desirable but a ring for at least one finger may be best. If the knife may be used with gloves, the finger hole must be able to accomodate the gloves. While there are many excellent all steel knives, material to give more volume to the grip facilitates holding on to the knife in the presence of cold, water or blood.
    It must be pointed out that while deep finger grooves or a finger hole greatly improve the grip on a knife, they will also adversely affect the ability to change the grip or hands in mid-fight and will usually require both hands to change the direction of the blade in the hand.
  3. [Add your own critera here.]

  4. In otherwords, an "ordinary" pocket knife and many inexpensive tactical folders simply will not serve well as defensive weapons. If you are going to carry a defensive knife, think it through. Get what you need. Don't scrimp any more than you have to. (But buying a moderately priced is fine if it is what you need, what you want.)

    Seen on the 'Net:
    "If you only have a $50 life, get a $50 knife."


Click for a link to Amazon.com then
close the window that opens to return here. Originally written in 1975, still relevant today. A good place to start, however you plan to use a knife carried for defense. 119 pages about Techniques, Tools and Tactics. Written prior to the advent of reliable tactical folders and the resurgence of Karambit style weapons. Informative, but not a how-to book, per se.

"Knives are remarkable instruments. They were, most certainly, among the first tools of man, and along the way they also evolved into his first weapon. There is, indeed, a difference between a weapon and a tool, although the difference does not lie in the instrument itself. The difference is of a finer stuff than mere iron or steel. It lies in the man who uses the instrument, the way he leads his life, and the choices that he makes.

"Through the course of time, knives, their makers and their users have progressed more or less together. We have seen knives for survival, knives for decoration, knives for ceremony, knives for sport, and knives for conflict; depending upon the needs of the times and the disposition of the parties involved. This is a book about knives for killing."

Reading this book will inform you how to at least look like you know what you are doing. It will show you the common mistakes made in gripping a knife. And it will help you with the proper mindset. Fierce determination and even facial expressions are powerful factors in dealing with an adversary.

No, this book is not going to tell you to go after the Bad Guy who has drawn down on you with a gun while all you have handy is knife. It was written about face to face armed combat and is of great use in letting you know whether or not a knife fight makes sense. Generally, it does not for the man on the street. This book will tell you the most savage and aggressive things to do to win should you be faced with no other options.

Capsule Knife Reviews

CRKT has become a well-respected manufacturer of edged tools and weapons in recent years. The table below shows but a very few of its products.

Click here
to go to the CRKT website
THE BEAR CLAW
Sometimes referred to as a "poor man's karambit," this little knife is probably a best choice as a deep cover backup (a second knife) worn as a neck knife. (As a sole weapon, there are better choices as a neck knife. Wearing the Bear Claw as a neck knife and presenting it take a bit of practice.) Of excellent quality and with a finger hole ensuring a solid combat or cutting grip, the length of the handle, while comfortable, will adversely impact leverage in the worst situations. Unlike many small neck knives, though, it has enough heft to stay in place while hanging under a shirt or coat. The scabbard can also be worn on a belt or carried using a clip that comes separately with the knife. Given its limitations, *** out of four stars and it can be found under $40.

THE CARSON M16
Comes in a variety of materials and sizes and therefore in a good range of prices. (There are other variations not shown here.) This popular clip-on tactical knife opens easily with one hand. (The clip can be removed.) While the perforated grip was probably developed to make the knife lighter, it improves the ability to hold onto the knife in wet conditions. Great for an inside coat pocket. **** out of four stars. Prices vary according to model chosen. Use Google to search for the best prices. (See below.)

THE CARSON M18
The M16's big brother is a bit heftier, bulkier and more difficult to conceal. Like so many of the CRKT knives, it is very affordable as compared to tactical folders by other manufacturers. And probably works just as well or better.(Not rated.)

A link to a source of this product United Cutlery sells a wide variety of fearsome looking knives many of which, while nasty looking, are really best suited as collectibles. (But not all of them.) Gill Hibbens' Claw II design is an improvement over the original Claw. It is available with or without a shaped grip.

The main fighting value of this knife is as a variant of brass knuckles on steriods, something like a fistful of dimes with teeth at both ends as you engage in a very nasty fist fight. The collectibility value is mostly its unique shape and affordable price (typically under $30).

Is it an El Cheapo? Not really, the box comes signed and it is reasonably well crafted. But the CRKT Bear Claw shown above would probably make a better karambit-type defensive weapon and is more concealable.


"It's not 'carry a Remington rifle, carry a Remington knife,' or 'wear a Beretta pistol, wear a Beretta knife.' Leave that label stuff to the lightweight yuppies. It's about function, not about 'look.' It also is not about 'big gun, big knife; small gun, small knife.' It's more about needs.

"It's not what works for somebody else. It's what works for you. What works for the other guy is just something to test, to find out what might work for you. Don't carry what you don't know how to use.

The gun doesn't define your knife; your needs at a given time and place define your choice of both tools. Don't forget that your carry gun is primarily a weapon, and your carry knife may be primarily a multi-purpose tool and only secondarily a weapon. Don't carry tools or weapons you don't know how to use effectively.

"Fixed or folder? That's kind of like 'rifle or pistol.' If I'm carrying only a knife, sign me up for fixed blade if the law allows it. It's stronger. It's faster. In terms of employment, drawing a folding knife is the slowest, drawing a pistol is faster, but at belly-to-belly range, drawing the fixed knife from a quick draw scabbard is the fastest of all.

"Drawing the pistol is a complex psychomotor skill, and opening a folding knife may be more so, but drawing a fixed blade knife is a simple gross motor skill of the kind that best survives 'fight or flight reflex.' Obviously, we'd all rather have the fixed blade knife in the scabbard, as we'd all rather have the 12 gauge at port arms, at the start of the fight. Realistically, though, most of us are stuck with the handgun in the concealment holster, and the folding blade in the pocket. In both cases, it's about convenience, discretion and constant availability."

again, from Massad Ayoob's, article, Blade,
in "Guns Magazine," July 1999


Death to our attacker(s).


FBI guide warns
of hidden knives. An FBI Lab has collected nearly 90 samples of weapons that could escape airport detection. Most of the samples photographed in the extensive database of concealable weapons are commercially available for less than $20, the FBI says. Click the image for more info and links to download this PDF file.

NOTE: Most of the knives in the document are essentially
useless for self defense. But it is an interesting study.


A closing thought:
Jack Collins, writing in Knives 2000

"Have you ever gotten into a knife fight? Do you even know anyone who has ever been in a knife fight? Neither do I. I would be willing to stake a small wager that there are fewer than 500 people in this country [who might be reading this] who have engaged in knife fighting 'for real.'

"...gunpowder has obviated the blade in any forum as a primary tool for self-defense. As a secondary, or back-up weapon, the knife has more validity, but not much.

"There is one overriding factor which makes fighting knives viable: THAY ARE USEFUL TOOLS! If one talks to veterens who carried the Marine Corps fighting knive (the KA-BAR) they will to a man tell you the knife was used almost exclusively as a utility tool. "...most martial arts of which I am aware advise: attack the gun, run from the knife. Reason: you can outrun a knife but not a bullet.

In other news,
New Trends in Combat Knives...

Cold Steel's new Black Talon will rip, cut, or slash through any material that's vulnerable to a razor sharp edge. Its curved blade cuts coming or going and terminates in a talon shaped, needle sharp tip that‘s resistant to bending or breaking. This appears to be Cold Steel's reaction to karambit style fighting knives now becoming popular.

Made of 440A stainless steel for toughness and edge retention, and hollow ground to a thin edge, it will “bite” at the slightest intention. The handle is made of two injection molded Zytel¨ parts or “halves” bolted to thick stainless steel liners. Reported to be a comfortable, non-slip grip, that’s lightweight and tough. To protect fingers from the Black Talon’s sharp cutting edge, it has a state of the art rocker lock and, in tests, rivaled, if not exceeded the strength of any other locking mechanism on the market.

Under $70, search for "Cold Steel Black Talon." Only a few dealers have it yet.


Back around the turn of the century (2000), Massad Ayoob designed a combat folder for Spyderco's ClipIt series of knives. It drew a little attention but it did not become widely known. The knife can still be found new at some dealers ($125 or so) but production has been discontinued. (Search for "Ayoob Spyderco Clipit.")

The most unusual feature of this knife is that the handle feels like an extention of the blade. Similiar to the concept of snap shooting in firearms, wherever you point your wrist is where the blade goes. This takes away the necessity of using valuable moments while you position/line up the blade. The handle is aluminum coated in black Almite. The blade is made of premium VG-10 high carbon steel.
His lastest knife design is for Masters of Defense and it is a fixed blade known as the "Razorback," sure to be a best seller. Mr. Ayoob came to believe too much time is lost getting a folding knife into action. So he teamed up with some forensic pathologists and medical examiners to design this tough fixed blade (and the kydex sheath) that will punch through and get the job done "right." His intent was to create a tool that would be legal for carry under most jurisdictions, be concealable with most dress codes and also fulfill the utility needs of a carry knife. More importantly, it is capable of delivering an assault stopping effect against a large heavily clad assailant or vicious animal.
Massad Ayoob is considered on of the industry's foremost experts on the use of deadly force in self-defense situations, and serves as an expert witness and trial consultant. A fully sworn police officer for over 23 years, he has risen to the rank of captain. He is the law enforcement editor for American Handgunner, handgun editor for Guns Magazine and director of the Lethal Force Institute.
The blade is a 154cm high carbon stainless steel alloy. About $120 if you shop around. Search for "Ayoob Razorback."


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Some knife links:

A.G. Russell Knives
Almar Knives
Benchmade Knives
Boker USA
Buck Knives
Camillus Cutlery
Cold Steel
Columbia River Knife & Tool - CKRT
Emerson Knives
Frost Cutlery
Gerber Legendary Blades
Imperial Schrade Corp.
KA-BAR
Kershaw Knives
Masters of Defense - MOD
MicroTech
Puma Knives
SOG Specialty Knives
Spyderco
United Cutlery Brands

Knife Care Accessories:

Diamond Mining Technology - DMT
Flitz Metal Polish
GATCO Sharpeners

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