Monday, May 10, 2010

Knives for Defense

Good observations by John Farnam in one of his Quips. Notice his observations regarding the Cold Steel Vaquero Grande, a knife I carry myself and constantly recommend.
Good comment regaridng leather jackets too. Dont think it would make much of a difference in a gunfight, but there's some slash protection there.


John Farnam
Knife Penetration:
Last weekend, as we cheerfully shot various handgun bullets into Mike Shove l' s gelatin blocks, some of us decided to also experiment with knife-blade penetration and cutting ability, especially when heavy clothing and leather jackets are involved. I'm still far from persuaded that gelatin is particularly useful for any purpose, nor am I convinced that penetration results from shooting such a unrealistically homogenous medium mirror reality to any specific degree. Conversely, I'm not sure we currently have anything better that is readily available, is as easy to use, and is as transparent so as to generate effective, visual results. We can probably describe ballistic gelatin as: " the best of the worst."

I "stabbed" the gelatin with two of my Cold Steel blades, a Ti-Lite and a Vaquero Grande. In bare gelatin (the "Nudist-Colony Test") both, of course, penetrated easily, requiring only a few pounds of insertive pressure in ord er to slide in to the hilt. When the same test was done where the blade had to first penetrate the leather jacket and then four layers of denim before reaching the gelatin, results were largely the same! Both knives effortlessly penetrated to the hilt. Even leather and heavy clothing provided scant shielding.

However, when we did the same test with differently-shaped blades, results changed radically. On student had a folder with a "bulb" point. The knife was reasonably sharp, but, when he stabbed the clothed gelatin, even with a great deal of strength, the blade refused to penetrate leather. He enthusiastically attempted several times, all with the same result. "Tanto" blades faired slightly better, but still not nearly as well as the stabbing point found on the Ti-Lite.

When we slashed the gelatin, we learned that "reasonably sharp" produces poor results! Leather effectively shielded the gelatin from even enthusias tic slashes from several utility blades, including the bulb-pointed one. Once again, however, both the Ti-Lite and the Vaquero sliced through leather and denim handily, delivering deep cuts to the gelatin beneath. The serrated Vaquero was particularly effective, slashing through both leather and fabri c with ease. 

My conclusions: Heavy leather is an underrated form of armor, frustrating both pistol bullet performance and knife attacks alike! Not long ago, it actually was used as armor. Even today, some folks routinely wear leather g auntlets around their wrists. I often see my good friend, Mas Ayoob, in a substantial, leather jacket. I now know why!

To be effective fighting tools, knives need to be (1) strong, (2) appropriately shaped, and (3) razor sharp!
Weak, flimsy knives (of which there are too many) lack the strength and structural integrity to get one through a fight. In order to "cut strongly," one needs a strong knife, not an anaemic toy that will break the first time it is put to heavy use!

I have become persuaded that the shape of a knife blade is important. Blades designed for skinning and utility cutting are poor for fighting. In order to stab deeply, the knife tip must be able to penetrate, and the blade behind it must be appropriately shaped so that you'll be able to cut ruinously as the knife is withdrawn. Otherwise, as we discovered, the entire knife is little more than an impact weapon!
Dull knives are basically impact weapons too! I've always marveled at the extreme degree of sharpness with which every Cold Steel knife comes from th e factory. Now, I see why! In a fight, you're going to desperately need every bit of that sharpness in order to cut through clothing and penetrate deeply into flesh. Don't carry a dull knife and naively think you'll be able to u se it as an effective weapon!
Finally, I'm going to follow Mas' lead and get a leather jacket!


The Urban Survivalist said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Leather makes great armor. Padded leather makes even better armor. Motorcycle gear is no joke. Buy a jacket that's designed to protect someone who's crashing their bike at high speeds (yeah...so no one actually expects to survive that but it's still good advertising) and you've probably got enough leather between a dull knife and your gut to avoid a mortal wound if you're quick. Heavy leather can stop serious damage and you still have full range of movement if you're even remotely in shape.

Anonymous said...

I almost always wear leather in cold weather.

Not many people know why lol.

A light leather for fall and a heavy bomber jacket for winter.

Leather is stylish too

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a leather vest instead - the full size jackets are heavy and bleeping very hot, especially in warm climates. Plus you stand out. A leather vest otoh - just being fashionable.

Yep, I know arms are vulnerable to slashing, but instead of drawing knife, you should be either drawing a handgun or running like a mofo the other way - no one wins in knife fights unless you are the only one with the knife.

Ryan said...

Not much (even chain mail) will stop a powerful stab. Stopping slashes is probably more realistic. A heavy Carhart work jacket would probably be good also. I heard about a fellow who was hit by a car and drug for some distance, that jacket saved his life.

refuse/resist! said...

Are there some examples where knifes were actually really used for self defense?
They seem more like offence weapons, and your post about the knife vs. gun proves just this: you have to be skilled to defend yourself with a gun against an attacker who has already drawn the knife.
Drawing a knife also takes time, so the lesson that was drawn in that post remains the same.

What might make sense to me is to see the knife as a MAD weapon.
Another thing:
the krav maga instructor in human weapon says that the most dangerous usage of a military knife is to hit with the bottom - as an impact weapon. After thinking about it, this might be right: if the blow knocks your enemy out, that's even better stopping power than a cut on the throat.

russell1200 said...

If you do a search on "knife versus gunshot wounds". You can find some citations of medical studies of US Hospitals which indicate that people are much more likely to die of gun shot wounds.

Of course, some of this is flailing around by angry husbands/wives with knives, versus the gang bangers blasting each other on the street corner.

Most of the skilled people (with both) seem to prefer the knife when they are close.

As far as deadliness, the shotgun seems to be the close range winner: by a lot. It is even more dangerous than long arms.

Maybe Doc Holiday got it right.

Anonymous said...

It does not seem to be easy determining which knife is strong enough.
Determining which is sharpest or cuts best seems somewhat easier.

I like the Vaquero knife blade design.

The review didn't put down the Tanto design too much, so it seems to be a good second choice.

The Amazon page linked to in the post doesn't say how long the Vaquero knife is, I think it's over 3 and 1/2 inches, a length that is not permitted out in public where I live, except for while hunting or fishing. I'm still considering getting one though.

Any knife breaks with improper abuse. Surprisingly, to me anyway, after several successful attempts to throw a big hunting knife and make it stick into a wooden horseshoe backstop the knife snapped in half at the hilt.

The big hunting knife was like this one:


At first it was hard not to use my primary self-defense knife instead of my other smaller pocket knife for cutting day to day things like cardboard. Once I got used to it I had another problem, pocket lint collects on my knife from being carried all the time and not being used on daily things to maintain its razor sharp edge. While I can't think of a single thing I should be concerned about with having lint on my self-defense knife, sometimes a coin or two will lodge in between the knife and the handle, it doesn't stop up the action in any way as far as I can tell, but it seems like it could be a one-in-a-million problem. The only solution I've found is to only put coins in the other pocket.

Now I need to go look at leather motorcycle jackets... but not only just leather, I think there are some newer materials (ok, so it was newer material 15yrs ago)tougher than leather.

I once saw a motorcycle jacket with the newer material, after the person wearing it had slid on rough pavement for a long distance at a high rate of speed. The jacket wasn't torn up, the woman sustained no injury, no road rash, and it was a bad crash, the motorcycle didn't fair well.

Is black really the best color for such a jacket? Again, just kidding,... it's got to be brown.

Spring Assisted Knives said...

I live in hawaii. ill look like a fool wearing a leather jacket.. lol but a very good idea

Bill Wayne said...

I was looking online for some cold steel fgx knives when I stumbled on this post. I have to say that one must know the basic techniques in handling knives like this so that its use for self defense will become effective.

Anonymous said...

Something along leather but more practical would be the kevlar reinforced denim jackets and pants of Draggin Jeans, which are made for motorcycles.

They no also have light and cool wearing inner kevlar liners, to wear with any clothing.

They won't stop thrusts but, I'd say they would be better than leather for knife slashes.

Anonymous said...

Actually I changes my mind about the last comment. You would need to sew the kevlar patches in the correct areas. Such as the inner side of the arms or stomach/kidney areas for it to useful.