If you don’t already know this about me, let me be the first to tell you that I love my knives a lot. At the same time, I would not pretend like I’ve shot a lot of guns and I am the authority on these kinds of topics either.
However, I have ample experience and I have worked with those who have more experience than I do. That is why I have decided to explore the topic of the many reasons why knives are better than guns for self-defense and other purposes.
Likewise, I’ve added some extra gems that I’m sure you’d want to know about in the ‘knives vs guns’ scenario.
Table of Contents
Reality Check: Should You Carry A Knife or Gun for Self Defense?
When asked this question, I tend to stick with knives all the time.
Here are a few reasons (besides my sentiments) why that is.
#1 The 21-Foot Drill
Many of you might have heard of this before and it remains the best place to start for me.
If you are close to any police officers, ask them about the Tueller drill (also known as the 21-foot drill) and they will confirm this for you. I have also added a short but educational video to this effect for you below:
Developed by a police officer too, this drill shows that an attacker with a knife as much as 21 feet away can still attack someone with a gun effectively. Note that this will be dependent on a range of factors such as:
- A clear line between the two subjects;
- The reaction time of the gun wielder;
- The intentions of the knife user (sometimes, you don’t know someone wants to attack you for sure)
- And a host of other valid points discussed in that video above.
Likewise, I am not saying that this works every time. For there to be an official drill, though, that tells you how easy it is to deploy your knife in self-defense situations.
Knives can deliver mortal blows, same as guns. But when you look at the numbers, there is a low chance you have to attack with a knife than a gun.
In my guide to self-defense, you would observe that I am all for getting yourself out of the situation as non-violent and non-lethally as possible. I also mentioned that showing your knife should be enough to scare some attackers away as they would not expect that were armed in the first place.
Conversely, for guns, I have always heard that you better be ready to use a gun once you have it pulled on someone.
With a knife, an attacker knows that it is bad news when they are in your close range. With a gun, the advantage seems to be a long-range thing as the metal itself can do so little (if not triggered) in the close range.
Thus, you stand a better chance of warding off attacks with your knife in both long- and short-range scenarios.
#3 Applying Deadly Force
When you carry a self-defense weapon of any kind, the thing that comes to your mind is that you are increasing your chances of being protected against attacks and violence.
The sad thing is that most people fail to see the second part of the argument:
You are also setting yourself up to match deadly attacks with deadly force of your own. By doing so, you have put additional responsibility on yourself to be aware enough to determine when a situation requires restraint or deadly force.
Again, this is yet another reason why I recommend having a knife for self-defense, but not looking to go using it.
You can pull a knife as a warning sign, legally, but how many times can you do that with a gun before you are considered a nuisance? Likewise, if you are big on restraint, it is easier for you to go to a knife than you would be compelled to pick out a gun.
Considering how you can get picked up and charged for just flashing a knife, imagine how hard it would be to convince a judge or jury if you were found with a gun instead.
#4 Carry Restrictions
The aim of carrying either a knife or gun for self-defense is to, well, be able to defend yourself anywhere you find yourself. Imagine what happens if you constantly find yourself in places where you have to submit your weapons and you are left without them.
While there are strict laws on weapons as a whole, knife laws are more relaxed than firearm laws.
You can check out the various knife laws across US states here and you will still find that they give you the leeway to possess knives of certain kinds legally. With most business areas, commercial centers, and public locations, you would have to declare your firearms or even submit them to gain entrance.
Otherwise, you could be charged with a felony if the firearm is found on you.
I would personally not like to carry a self-defense weapon that could get me in trouble with the law before I even got to defend myself with it. That’s why I’ll stick with my old, trusted EDC knives.
#5 Less Fuss
Of course, you have to get your knife out of its sheath to use it. While there are some good folding knives for self-defense that I’d recommend, fussing with the opening mechanism can take some seconds off your total reaction time.
But that’s all good.
Cos, you don’t have to constantly reload like you would a gun. How many people would carry their gun and a spare clip around with it anyway?
You also don’t have to worry too much about cleaning and maintenance on the knife like you would with a gun. Furthermore, you’d have to practice extensively with the gun to get accustomed to flipping it out.
Click off the safety, set your aim, and start firing. All that takes some time. You don’t have to fuss around that much with a knife.
If the situation requires getting the knife out, you know what to do:
Precise, swift, and violent moves that get you out of the situation, if the need arises, always remembering to only deploy reasonable force lest you become the aggressor.
#6 Nerves of Steel
I know we all think we have something in common with all those action heroes we see in movies, in being able to react to anything at a moment’s notice.
I’m sorry to be the one to burst that bubble, but you are not even close.
Anything can happen to throw you off your balance in a self-defense situation. Most of the time, you were not even expecting anything to happen (even though you carry a weapon for self-defense, yes).
So, when it does happen, you need a little bit of time (or a lot, depending on how calm and collected you are) to accustom yourself to the situation.
In the heat of the moment, with your adrenaline levels pumping and all that, it is easy for you to miss a target almost in front of you with a gun. The top carry firearm is a pistol and the small barrel means you need a clear line of sight and steady hands to make it work.
You don’t have to worry about all that with a knife. Most of us have used normal knives in one capacity or the other in the past so muscle memory does most of the work. Seeing the bulk of the attacker’s body in front of you, I don’t see how you’d miss with a stab or slash motion – unless you miscalculate and they move out of the way.
#7 Legal Interpretations
Even if you’re not an accurate shot, you have a higher chance of killing someone with a gun than you do with a knife.
Always remember that the aim here is self-defense, not to become the aggressor. Likewise, there is something called ‘reasonable force’ which I tend to hammer on whenever I talk to anyone about this.
Killing someone just because they wanted to steal your phone is not reasonable force. Killing someone in self-defense because they wanted to kill you too, or a loved one, might be argued as a reasonable force in the court of law.
When you draw a gun in both cases, you increase your chances of killing the assaulter. Now you’re at the mercy of a jury, judge, prosecution lawyer, and even the skills (or lack thereof) of your defense lawyer to get you out of the case. That’s too many variables that I don’t like.
But, say you injure the attacker with a knife, enough that you get free, I don’t see how you’d have a hard time explaining that away. If you ever get charged for it, that is.
#8 Improved Utility
Ask anyone who has carried a knife for self-defense for years and there is a high chance that they have never had to draw their knife against an attacker.
Still, we keep carrying. That is not for the thrill of knowing that we have a knife on us, but for the fact that the knife can do so much more than getting us out of a violent situation.
For example, I can cut packages with my EDC knife, cut ropes, unscrew/ screw back small items, go camping with and so much more. There are hundreds of uses that I can think of with the knife, but a gun wouldn’t enjoy the same range.
Same as with carrying a knife, you won’t always find yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself with a gun. So, why not carry something that truly works for you on a day-to-day basis and can come in handy whenever you are in trouble too?
Extra Benefit: The fact that you use the self-defense knife every day makes you so accustomed to it that your reaction time when you need it to protect yourself is faster. That is not the same with a gun you don’t train with enough to mentally associate with using it that fast.
#9 Easier to Conceal
I am not one to care about the poor things that others think of me, but I still like to consider a logical argument. While your workplace, public park, or such other shared spaces might not frown on having a weapon on you, some people might be unconformable around that.
This is one reason why I think I would freak out if I were ever in Texas during one of their public gun shows, knowing how many civilians own really big guns in that state. That’s an aside.
A knife is ultimately easier to conceal than a gun – and that’s for safety reasons. Try to conceal a gun too much and you might even hurt yourself with the thing. Even if you were going with fixed blade EDC knives, you can still keep them out of sight better than you would do a gun.
#10 Risks of Error
If you pulled a gun in a space with more than one person, you need to get prepared for the fact that you could shoot someone other than you intended.
Now, let’s take the same scenario with a knife.
I would not want you to break the law so the EDC knives I recommend are always only a few inches long. There is no way those knives would penetrate someone so much that they would hurt another person.
See where I’m going with this? One collateral damage might be all that’s between you and some serious jail time, so do consider that when choosing your weapons.
Is A Knife Always Better Than A Gun?
If anything I said suggested that, this is me clarifying that part for you.
In the hands of trained personnel, a gun is designed to do serious damage from a distance. Even before the attacker knows what is happening.
However, handling guns take a lot of practice, and shooting one right is a game of nerves too.
The sheer damage you can do with a gun can prevent you from shooting an attacker right in front of you because, as a reasonable person, you are thinking of the consequences. If the attacker gets the gun, though, it could spell game over for you.
With a knife, your chances are bettered, legal is a little bit more on your side and you don’t have to fuss with the thing too much. Like fans say about iOS in the mobile tech world, the knife just works.
What Are Self-Defense Alternatives to Knives and Guns?
For some reason, you might not want to carry a knife, nor might you want to have a gun on your person.
If you must have a self-defense weapon with you, that is not a problem. I know that there are a series of other items you can take with you daily to keep you safe too.
Here are some I’d recommend:
People who are good with tasers will do well with self-defense knives too, seeing as both usually require some short-range movements. At the right voltage, tasers will incapacitate your attacker long enough to give you the room to run.
For inexpensive yet efficient tasers, I’d recommend this ViperTek VTS-195 Stun Gun that doubles as a harmless flashlight. Read through the reviews yourself and you’ll see why they are a great pick.
If you’d prefer something you can use from a little bit of a distance, go with this easy-to-use Taser Pulse Gun instead.
Be sure you can pull off a distance stun, though.
Pepper spray will irritate your attacker so much that they will probably stop the attack for enough time that allows you to get away. Remember that the aim is not to beat your attacker but to get away from them.
There are some pepper sprays like this SABRE Advanced Pepper Spray Keychain that will UV-mark the attacker so that it’s easy for law enforcement officers to identify them. If you don’t want all the bells and whistles, you can simply go for this 18-Foot Range Pepper Gel from the trusted SABRE brand.
For those who do not like any confrontation, personal alarms and sirens are a good way to go.
Most attackers are cowards (yes, I said it) who only prey on the perceived weak, and in moments of opportunity. They would not do what they do if they knew attention is being called to them.
If you are in a situation where others can hear you when loud enough, deploy the siren to get someone nearby alerted to your situation.
Consider the stylish yet functional She-Birdie personal sirens/ alarms as they can be carried around as everyday items and remain hidden in plain sight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a knife or gun more deadly?
In the right hands, a knife and gun are equally deadly tools. Both weapons can be used for self-defense and they can also deliver fatal wounds to an opponent. That is why there are laws and restrictions around them, how they can be carried, where they can be carried into, and what justifies the legal usage of these tools.
Is it safer to disarm a gun or a knife?
If you don’t have any training in this capacity, I’d say you should not try to disarm any.
Depending on the level of training of the attacker and what moves you make, you stand a higher chance of getting hurt by trying to disable an opponent with a weapon. Even an untrained attacker could hurt you badly if you ever tried to disarm them.
If they are asking for your wallet, watch, necklace, or anything else that can be replaced, please, give it to them and report the crime.
What knife is best for self-defense?
I would not like to pick out a single knife for self-defense as tastes differ.
For starters, I would say you should stay away from the swiss army knives here. While they are good multi-tool knives, they are not as great as knives only. By extension, they don’t make great self-defense knives.
Likewise, folding knives can be dicey. This is especially true if you haven’t spent some time learning how to swiftly open and close your folding knife. While I recommend some folding knives for self-defense, the best bet would be a solid, legal fixed blade knife that holds its own well.