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Knives are essential items for everyday carry. I’m not going to name the one knife you should be carrying; but I am going to recommend that you carry two knives: one for general utility and one for defense.

For one, I don’t want everyone around me to know what defensive tools I’m carrying. And I don’t want to alarm anyone by whipping out a large, spring-assisted folder when I just need to open a package or clip a magazine article.

A second, smaller knife such as this Victorinox Swiss Army knife or a multi-tool such as this Leatherman Wave is preferred for routine cutting chores. Neither of these will shock onlookers and will save the blade of your defensive knife.

A second, smaller knife such as this Victorinox Swiss Army knife or a multi-tool such as this Leatherman Wave is preferred for routine cutting chores. Neither of these will shock onlookers and will save the blade of your defensive knife.

I cringe when I see someone use a good tactical knife as a pry bar or screwdriver. When I need utility, a Swiss Army knife or some sort of multi-tool (I prefer the Leatherman Wave) handles myriad chores, and no one gasps in horror or calls 911 if I take one out of my pocket. People are fooled into thinking I’m “one of those handy guys.” They’re not threatened.

Even if you normally carry a firearm, a defensive knife might become your primary weapon if your firearm becomes disabled or if you’re in an area where firearms can’t be carried legally. Keep your defensive knife extremely sharp and undamaged by using your second knife for routine cutting chores.

CARRY KNIVES: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Knives that are carried tip down don’t require you to dig far into your pocket to retrieve them.

For a defensive knife, I prefer one of quality steel that is sharp out of the box and has a sturdy blade and strong lock. The handle needs to be substantial enough to afford good control and a secure grip.

For one-handed opening, thumb studs and thumb holes are fine— if they’re positioned correctly. I’ve found that a flipper is the surest under stress with either hand, and it forms a finger guard when the blade is open.

I prefer tip-down carry. It allows me to pinch the knife between my thumb and forefinger to draw it quickly. With tip-up carry, I’m forced to reach deeper into my pocket. I find it slower and more awkward if I have the knife in my right pocket and need to draw it with my left hand. I’ve also had bad experiences with good knives that partially opened in my pocket with tip-up carry.

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I often choose not to use the pocket clip at all; instead, I position the knife in the bottom of a pocket, by itself. The advantage is that there is no pocket clip visible to show I’m carrying a knife.

You might want to consider a neck knife. It frees up pocket space and can be accessed with either hand easily when you’re seated—this is important if you’re trapped in the confines of your crushed automobile and you need to cut yourself out of your seat belt or break window glass.

Affordability is another factor: Don’t waste your money on a cheap knife. At the same time, a knife with a hand-carved mammoth bone grip and the engraved signature of the custom maker won’t give you an advantage in a fight.

Choose a good knife, because you could literally be living (or not) on the edge. Treat your knife the way you treat your gun. Maintain it, and keep it clean and rust free. And get some training in how to use it, because, as with a gun, simply buying one doesn’t prepare you for a life-or-death encounter.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.