Never bring a knife to a gun fight


The more I learn about knives and how useful they are, the more that old adage could be reversed in my eyes: Never bring a gun to a knife fight.

I would certainly not pull a knife on a drawn gun aimed at me. But I might not be able to pull a gun and get shots on target on a knife-wielding attacker if they were rushing me from within 21-ish feet. The Tueller Drill points out just how lethal knives are within 21-ish feet.

Do you train for knife attacks? Do you know what your draw speed is? Do you know what your shot speed is - your accurate shot speed? Can you get accurate shots on target in less than 1.5 seconds?


There are so many aspects of the Tueller Drill that are important to the CCW community. The intent of the drill was to show that by the time a police officer recognized a threat from an edged weapon carrier, drew his/her weapon from their holster and reacted to said threat, they would be stabbed from the distance of 21 feet. Keep in mind, the drill was performed on officers who knew it was coming, and either all of them or the majority of them failed.

This lends to the importance of not only training, but probably just as importantly, situational awareness. Most self defense shootings happen within this range, however, the threat is probably exhibiting signs of their intentions well beyond that range.

Another offshoot of the Tueller Drill is the misconception that the legal definition of being able to use deadly force is 21 feet, known by many as “The 21 foot rule”. There have been many articles in reputable publications expressing the dangers of that thought process. Obviously if a threat is far enough away, you should take evasive action. Shooting someone 100 yards away will probably become an issue for you, depending on the circumstances, however, if someone with a gun is shooting at you from 20 yards away, you would be within your rights to use force.

I’ve taken many classes for defensive carry, most of them being geared towards the laws. No hands on stuff, just use of force justification. In one class someone brought up the “21 foot rule” in which the lawyer teaching the class pointed out multiple ways in which they’d tear that person apart on the stand. The most glaring was “But the person you shot was 29 feet away”. The lawyer was pointing out that this person just taught the jury about a “rule” for engaging someone, a rule that doesn’t even exist, but a rule they admittedly broke nonetheless.

In the end, train at close distances because reality is that’s the situation you’ll be in, not because that’s where you’re legally justified, but keep in mind, there are cases where you’d be justified taking a shot from further distances. Every case will be different and the weapon will dictate your engagement and distance. And when calling 911, talking with police, testifying on the stand, remember the statement “I felt that my life was in danger so I took appropriate action” and leave it at that. Forget about mentioning a non rule that could incriminate you.

1 Like

I think the Tueller drill taught me that you need to be moving in a fight. Any kind of fight. Once somebody starts running at you with a knife, you need to be drawing, moving, and shooting. That’s why I think magazine capacity, and always carrying an extra magazine is important.

The Tueller drill also really solidified to me that in a self defense senario, you will probably have holes in you as well.

Finally, I have taken all 3 levels of the Army combatives course. The instructor was an Army Ranger who was in the 75th Ranger Battalion. He killed an Al Qaeda militant with a knife, and basically said that it is super hard to kill a person with a knife, because you have to basically use the knife like a lever against bone to cut somebody bad enough to stop them in one go. Which means using a bigger knife. A bigger knife with a fixed blade.

Also from my experience making knives and breaking store bought ones, you really have to make sure what steel your knife is made from. You want something with a little lower carbon. So for instance, a non stainless steel chef knife is made from 52100 steel. The 5 designates the steel as a chromium alloy steel, the 2 means there are elements present that effect the attributes of the steel, and the 100 indicates 1.00% carbon, which is a lot. It means the knife is good for slicing, but not good for stress. I would want a steel like 5160, the five meaning chromium, 1 for other elements, and .60% carbon. 5160 used to be used for a lot of leaf springs on vehicles. I personally use that and 8670 for all bushcraft knives that take a beating. O1, W2, and A2 are also good for a knife that can take a beating. D2 is a type of steel that a lot of knifemakers frown on, because there are better and cheaper options.

Boy, that was some long and drawn out knife nerd stuff. Anyways, just make sure you get a good steel on any knife you have for edc.

edit, We’re out to stop threats, not to kill. So my vocabulary about my Army training wasnt spot on for our circumstances, but it provides a visual of my point, that it’s hard to stop somebody with a knife.


@James makes a really good point. In the original Tueller Drill, they just stood there squared up with the assailant charging at them while trying to draw their weapon. If someone’s charging at you, move and draw. Incorporate that in your training, especially if you do malfunction training. If I have a Type 3 malfuntion, standing in place trying to clear it isn’t a good idea. Take cover while simultaneously getting your weapon operational. Same thing with tactical reloads. Same thing with…you get the picture.


I’m learning so many different things. It makes me realize that there is so much more to learn.


That’s the scary thing about being a member of the USCCA (and working at the USCCA)! I’ve realized how much I don’t know or what I’ve picked up “along the way” that is inaccurate. I could spend an hour a day and read a book a day for the rest of my life and still not know everything I feel I need to know about self-defense, laws, training, guns and non-lethal options.

So we do the best we can, learn as much as we can and question what we’ve learned to make sure we’re accurate and evolving - constantly progressing on our self defense journey, right @mdstanzel?


I don’t know much either. That’s why I am super happy to be a part of this community! Anything that gets us to think makes us way more of a threat to criminals that would love nothing more than to strip away our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


Continuing the discussion from Never bring a knife to a gun fight:

I carry a knife but it is more as a general life tool, knives are just useful, than as a defensive tool. Most people aren’t going to carry a big Bowie knife concealed for defense, leaving you with a folding pocket type knife. In many ways, a good flashlight with a strobe function is a better option in the dark,few thugs are going to schooled in blind fighting. So blinding them temporarily will at least gain you the initiative.


Well said! I pretty much always have my streamlight on me with a strobe. I always forget about it when self defense gets brought up.


We trained in the Army in case phosphorous rounds are illuminating the sky. It helps identify positions of you or you enemy depending on who’s firing down range. But when that happens you close your dominant (sight eye) eye to prevent it from blinding you in the dark. That way when it’s clear you have the advantage. I assume using flashlights is the same way.


@James I thought there was a “What are you carrying right now?” topic somewhere that we mentioned lights or posted a pic. Anyway, I carry a Nitecore with the strobe feature too.

1 Like

@Kerryman71 yeah, and I posted a pic of mine, but I always forget to bring it up as an option or supplement to my edc.


Me too. I just wasn’t sure if that happened here and I’m too lazy to look right now, haha.

1 Like

Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened.

1 Like

Here’s the thread you were referring to. The magnifying glass in the upper right corner (close to your profile circle) is really accurate in the Community - that’s how I tracked down the post quickly.


I personally have been wanting to get a fixed blade knife and am probably gonna get myself a karambit from a company like Boker or something. And whether or not I keep it… well that mainly depends on the sheath.

1 Like

Here’s a training video we did about fighting with a knife - thought it might be an interesting change of pace for your training.

1 Like

I’m not going to lie, anytime blade to the armpit is brought up I cringe and squirm. There’s a nice artery there as well. But it’s a good video of what you can do with a folding knife, and I definitely learned a couple things.

Isn’t that instructor on a show called Protect Yourself on the outdoor channel? I think I saw some of his other knife training on that show. Ughhh I’m still squirming about a knife to the armpit. I hope I never have to see that, use that, be anywhere near something like that. I’ve seen nasty stuff in Iraq, but this along with needles in veins gets me light headed. Like sit down light headed.


The idea of a knife cutting into me anywhere has me squirming, @James!

I believe the gentleman in the video is Mike Janich of Martial Blade Concepts… and he is one of the hosts of The Best Defense on the Outdoor Channel. Good call, James!

1 Like

Well as much as it makes me squirm, it’s important to bring up, think about, and train for. Just another tool for the tool box of self preservation.

I read somewhere that most Americans are way more nervous with knives than guns, because we teach our kids that scary people use knives (serial killers, rapists, ect.) And good guys use guns (police, military, ect).

I am content using my knife as an expensive box cutter for the rest of my life. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than using a knife in a fight for your life.