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Knives

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[Why Carry a Knife] [What Kind] [How to Sharpen] [How to Use]

Why Should One Cary a Knife?

Knife Laws

One of the earliest laws enacted by the newly formed Colonial Government required every able bodied freeman citizen between the ages of eighteen and fourty-five, specified as the militia, to possess two fighting tools, a firearm and a blade.  It was assumed that the firearm would be the most modern and effective of the period within the individual's means to acquire.  The generally acceptable blade could be a knife, bayonet, sword, or tomahawk.  Freshly unfettered from foreign domination, distrustful of any central or federal power, and unable or unwilling to provide the resources for a large standing army, the young congress enacted these laws to guarantee the defense of the new nation as well as insure that the government would be of the people, by the people, and for the people.  The right, and the duty, of the individual for self defense was a theme woven through the writings of  most of the framers of the constitution and early leaders, or temporary guardians, of our constitutional republic.

Recently, the right of the individual to possess and carry the means for self defense has been reaffirmed by an overwhelming majority of states through handgun carry permit laws that resulted from a massive ground swell of popular demand.  Unfortunately, there are still many situations that prohibit one from having immediate access to one of the most effective defensive tools, a firearm.  Even small knives are classified as dangerous weapons and banned from certain areas by some jurisdictions.  The knife laws for most states may be found by visiting www.handgunlaw.us or www.gunlaws.com, both of which are listed on the links page.  In general, a small folding knife with a blade of less than 3" can be considered politically correct.  A small concealed knife, small, powerful flashlight, backup gun, and spare ammunition compliment the concealed handgun carried by virtually all experts in self defense.   Like the backup gun, the knife should be able to be used, opened and closed, by either solo hand.  Most importantly, the skill gained from the practical use of edged tools can make life easier, safer, and help one avoid  mistakes when defending against a knife wielding assailant.

 

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[Why Carry a Knife] [What Kind] [How to Sharpen] [How to Use]

What Kind Should One Carry?

King Arthur's Excaliber, D'Artagnon's musketeer rapier, or Blackbeard's cutlass would doubtlessly serve as better defensive tools than the pocket knife, but they would be sure to provoke unwanted attention and give meaning to the phrase "armed to the teeth."  A pocket knife requires a pocket which some garments fail to provide.  Small knife pouches, holsters, or sheaths require a belt or boot.  Some folding knives have a spring clip attached to a side that can be slipped over a hem at the waist, like the Barami Hip Grip on a revolver.  However, a visible knife clip, ammo carrier, holster attachment or flashlight could be an attention getter.   That goes against the principle of the "Grey Man", or a person who maintains an inconspicuous profile in public.  If it's possible, try to carry any tool for defense in a manner that conceals its presence.

Fixed knives are stronger and more reliable, but heavier and bulkier.  The Bowie, the Fairbairn-Sykes commando, and the K-Bar fighting knives are good examples of knives that could be carried in the woods or to the neighborhood methamphetamine lab bust.  Folding knives that lock back are popular with sportsmen, and the smaller, thinner lock backs like the Buck Adrenaline or diminutive Gent make good choices for everyday carry.  As a rule, the knife should be easy to open and close with either hand.  The Ken Onion assisted opening designs by Kershaw are excellent.   Be advised that coins or other loose items carried near the knife have been known to jam its mechanism.  Knives that don't lock back aren't recommended.  Nor are switchblades or stilettos recommended for legal reasons.  The combination tool may be a handy gadget for camping or survival, but sometimes a do-everything do-dad doesn't do anything well.

A good knife will have a bit of a tang or bump in a non-skid handle to keep the hand from sliding forward onto the edge.  A serrated or half serrated edge may allow a knife to saw through marine rigging, but a defensive blade should be straight, clean, and easy to keep ultra sharp. Some have thumb knobs for fast, one handed opening, but all will need some practice for efficient deployment.

Bowie style Buck Special® Buck's most popular fixed-blade hunting knife. Polished aluminum butt and guard. Beautifully balanced. Sheath included. Weight: 7.5 oz. (213 g.) Blade Length: 6" (15.2 cm.) Model 119

The British Commando Knife developed in 1939 by renowned British Army officer Col. Fairbairn and Hong Kong police officer Sykes. Manufactured to Ministry of Defense specifications and issued during WWII. A classic design which has seen action in WWII, the Falklands and Desert Storm. Features: 7" double edged parkerized carbon steel blade Cast metal alloy handle with legendary NOWILL trademark Leather metal tipped belt sheath. Overall: 11 3/4". Wt: 9 1/2 oz.

This ain't your Daddy's KA-BAR! This stealthy version of the American legend features a high carbon steel blade with a combination, straight and triple peaked, serrated edges for cutting versatility. Epoxy powder coating to prevent light reflection Oval shaped, non-slip Kraton G® handle Metal butt cap can carbon steel guard Durable, all-weather Kydex® sheath is ambidextrous and Airborne operational. Blade: 7". Overall: 11 3/4". Lifetime Mfr's Warranty. Black.

The boot knife ultimate in double-edged blades. Features: Quick Draw™ self-locking, quick release system and Kydex® sheath. This sheath is extremely versatile, allowing for multiple attachment options including: Boot or belt clip Horizontal belt (front or rear) positioning Inside or outside pant holster Removable Steel Boot Clip Parachute cord attachment.  MADE IN USA. 4 1/2" blade, 8 5/8" overall.(large) 3 1/2" blade, 7" overall(medium)

Buck/Mayo TNT  High-tech, lightweight, ultra-strong folding knife for everyday use. One-hand opening/closing thumb hole. Titanium handle with lightening holes and strong frame lock Weight: 2.7 oz. (77 g.) Carry System: Titanium pocket clip Blade Length: 3 1/8" (7.9 cm) Model 172

Buck Adrenaline-BK™ Lightweight, strong, folding everyday knife with high-tech styling. One-hand opening/closing thumb stud. Black anodized aluminum handle.  Weight: 2.6 oz. (81 g.) Carry System: Stainless steel pocket clip Blade Length: 3" (7.6 cm.) Model 177BK

KA-BAR Dozier, designed by Bob Dozier, with a thumb blade to make it even easier to open and use. Features: AUS8 stainless steel blade Slip-resistant handle Reversible thumb stud Reversible pocket clip Zytwl handle 56-58 Rc. hardness.  Mfr's Limited Warranty. Import. Blade: 4.25"". Overall: 7.25"". Wt: 2.25 oz.

Buck Gent™  Classic SlimLine stainless steel lock-back pocket knife. Thin and light weight.  Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) Blade Length: 1 7/8" (4.8 cm.) Model 525

 

The Kershaw Leek is an award winning cross lock with assisted opening.

 

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How to Sharpen and Maintain a Blade

The blade should be hollow ground, or slightly dished in as it tapers to the edge.  As sharpening will remove metal from the edge, it won't become thick as fast when the blade is shaped with concave sides.  The first step in producing a cutting edge is to quickly grind away metal from the sides of the edge with a coarse stone to make a support edge.  A fixture to keep the angle consistent on both sides makes the job much easier.  Grind one side until a slight burr, or roll of the edge, can be felt by the finger when pulled across from the opposite side of the edge.  Then grind the other side to feel the same burr rolling over the other side.  No cutting oil is needed, as that will only plug up the stone and lessen its effectiveness.  This takes very little time to do when using the coarsest stone available.  As long as the slight burr can be felt along the full length of the blade, and no bright spots or dents can be seen on the edge, the support edge is ready to accept the final cutting edge.

The ultimate cutting edge will be ground onto the top of the support edge using the finest stone available.  The grinding angle on each side should be increased slightly, so that the fine stone only needs to remove a small amount of metal from the very top of the support edge.  Give each side the same stroke count and pressure until single, light strokes are alternating, and no burr is left.  When finished, the edge will show a wide band of fresh coarse strokes with a very narrow but mirror bright band of the cutting edge capping it.  The cutting band may be refreshed with the fine stone as often as desired for a razor sharpness, until it becomes so broad that the coarse stone is needed again to erase the old cutting edge and reduce the support edge into new metal, prepared for a new cutting edge.

The two angle grinding produces the fastest and sharpest edge on any cutting tool, from axes to razor blades.  Edges on draw knives, chisels, and scissors should be perfectly flat on one side, and then sharpened only on the other side.  The best tool available to control the grinding angles on knives is the Lansky Sharpening System.  Just discard the medium stone and cutting oil.  Use the pilot holes closest to the body to create the support edge angle on a small knife.  Then move out one hole on each side with the fine stone for the cutting edge angle.  Reverse the blade in the Lansky fixture, and sharpen the top from the tip to about 1/8 inch back.  This gives a double edge to the tip for a reverse slash, so be cautious when folding.

The support edge may be ground or scrubbed out in any fashion, with a few light strokes along the blade to finish.  Use no cutting oil, for as the coarse stone crumbles, it will present new grinding pores and work faster.  On the other hand, for the cutting edge to do the best work, it needs a lighter finishing touch for a microscopically smooth finish along the full length of the blade.  It's all right if particles of metal powder clog the pores of the fine stone,  that will make the stone even finer.  All stainless steels will hold a good edge when kept clean and wiped.  If heavy work is required of the blade, both the support and cutting angles can be increased to give more strength at a very small loss of potential sharpness.

The Lansky basic sharpening system for everyday sharpening tasks includes:  Coarse Hone - Medium Hone - Fine Hone, and all Lansky Sharpening Systems include:
    Patented precision engineered multi-angle, flip over knife clamp
    Sharpening hones on color coded, finger grooved safety holders.
    One guide rod for each honing stone
    Specially formulated honing oil
    Extra long knife clamp screws.

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How to Use a Knife

Many different tools employ sharp edges to solve a variety of chores, and each requires a skill or technique that uses common sense for efficiency and operator safety.  Arrange the work so the knife is pushed away from the body, leg, and holding hand.  If a knife must be drawn toward the body, use the thumb of the knife hand to control carefully the progress of the work into the blade.  Sawing, stabbing, and chopping are best done with other tools.  If the edge is beaten or dented, it may take several sharpening sessions and the loss of a lot of metal to restore it.  Fold a knife before passing it to another, otherwise grasp the back of the blade with the dull edge in the palm, the sharp edge outside the curled fingers, the point exposed in the air above the bent wrist, and the handle presented to the other person.  Maintain control of the blade until a verbal confirmation, or "thank you," acknowledges firm receipt.  The defensive knife is best used only for slicing, cutting, and slashing.

Many experts consider the knife, even a very small one, to be more deadly at close range than a gun.  In the hands of a predator, a knife is many times more likely to be used that a gun.  A gunshot wound may allow time for medical intervention, but a small slash to an exposed artery can mean loss of consciousness within fifteen to thirty seconds and certain death soon after from loss of blood.  The prime targets that need to be attacked or defended can be seen in pictures of circulatory anatomy.

The sides of the neck hold the jugulars and carotids close to the skin.  Exposed under the upper arm close to the armpit are the brachial arteries.  The arteries under the wrist are close to the surface.  The femoral arteries are exposed inside the thighs near the groin.  Inside and above the ankle are exposed arteries.   In fact, all the pressure points that are described in first aid manuals to stop bleeding or to find a pulse are actually soft targets to a knife attack.  In a knife fight, the first small nick in one of these targets will decide the issue.

Some parts of the body are more impervious to knife wounds, and they can be used for protection.  The hands are mostly bone and tendon, which are difficult to cut through.  The outside of the forearm and elbow can protect the head and neck, but raising the arm too high exposes the brachial arteries near the armpit.  The back is more immune to slashes, but not to stabs.  The outer thighs, knees, and feet are more difficult for a knife to incapacitate.

As it is with any assault, the best defense is a violent counter attack using the most effective weapons at hand.  A determined attacker who quickly closes the distance, should never be underestimated.  The 21 foot rule often quoted may not be enough separation to save you.  Even if you have time to draw and fire a handgun, the momentum of the attack can still be deadly. When a knife wielding assailant rushes toward you, sidestep away from his line of force.  Note that a right handed assailant has a wide arc he can slash, but his most powerful strikes and fastest turns will be to his left, opposite his knife hand.  Only move back or opposite the knife hand, to his stronger side, if you can escape or find defensive obstacles immediately.  Otherwise, feint a move to his power side but then sidestep forward to the knife hand side and minimize his effectiveness.  Moving forward will confuse his telemetry, delay his reactions, and allow you to parry, grab, or dislodge the knife.  In close quarters, do whatever it takes to grab the attacker's knife hand and control it with both of yours.  You must try to stretch his knife hand up and out away from his body to prevent him from gaining the leverage to break your two handed hold while exposing his body to your counter attack.  At the same time fight, screaming into his eardrums, and keep on fighting with a constant whirlwind combination of strikes to his face, groin, and neck with your forehead, knees, and elbows.

After an encounter, check for slash or stab wounds, as they usually go unnoticed until too late.  Be prepared to stop any bleeding quickly with contact pressure, pinched pressure points, and improvised tourniquets.  Perhaps the foregoing sobering thoughts will strengthen the resolve to use preventative awareness of distance, avoidance, and open avenues of escape.

 

From John Farnum:

14 Apr 06

Knife Penetration:

Last weekend, as we cheerfully shot various handgun bullets into Mike Shovel'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, aTi-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 order 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.  One 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 enthusiastic 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 fabric 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 gauntlets 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 the 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 use it as an effective weapon!

Finally, I'm going to follow Mas' lead and get a leather jacket!

/John


 

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 [Gun Cases & Safes]  [Cleaning Tips] [Knives] [Reloading Tools]  [Black Powder]  [Optics & Lights

[Why Carry a Knife] [What Kind] [How to Sharpen] [How to Use]

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