Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight…fact or myth?

Most people assume a gun will always be superior to a knife during a violent altercation. But is it true? Will a gun always be superior?

The answer is both YES and NO. It depends on the situation. If the statement is taken verbatim then yes, a gun will almost always be the better weapon. What do I mean by that? By taking the statement literally I mean looking at the word “fight“. “Fighting” and “being attacked by a criminal” are two vastly different things. Fighting implies consent where two parties agree to fight in a certain area, often within certain rule sets, whether it is official rules set by a governing body or whether it is social rules imposed by society. Fighting implies that two people face each other and test skills so that there can be a winner. The desired outcome is to prove that one person is more skilled than the other. So if you put two people in front of each other and arm one with a knife and the other with a gun and both can have their weapons ready to use, the weapon with the greatest tactical advantage will win. A knife requires that the fighter must be close to the target  to inflict damage. A gun can be used at a distance. The “action vs reaction principle” makes it an almost certainty that the bullet will be faster than the person running towards the other fighter with his blade if both fighters were facing each other with their weapons at the ready. The action vs reaction principle simply means that action is always faster than reaction. Test it for yourself, get a friend to stand in front of you and tell him that you are going to clap your hands together and as soon as you move he must also clap and try to be faster than you. You will always be faster. Every single time.  So, the gun is tactically superior to the knife in a controlled fighting environment where both parties are ready to use their weapons. Technically the statement “don’t bring a gun to a knife fight” is thus true.   

But what about a violent criminal attack?

I mentioned earlier that according to the action vs reaction principle, action is always faster than reaction. This means that the person who attacks first will always be faster. Criminals always control three aspects when they attack. They control the Time, Place and Method of the attack. In other words, the criminal attacker decides when, where and how the attack will take place. They thus always initiate the attack first and on their terms. The victim always have to respond to that. This means that if the victim carries a gun but did not spot the pre-attack indicators and  did not have an opportunity to prepare for the attack, the action vs reaction principle guarantees that the person carrying the gun will always be too late and will suffer a stab/slash or even multiple stabs /slashes before being able to get the gun out. But surely distance plays a role you may ask? Yes, distance plays a crucial role. Watch the classic video below: 

It is also worth noting that in the above video the Police Officers used revolvers which has a lower risk of jamming and malfunctioning. Pistols are known for jamming and malfunctioning and unless the weapon is carried in a charged  position with one round in the chamber, it must be charged and taken off the safety before it can be used. Simple actions such as charging and taking the weapon of safety requires fine motor skills. When subjected to adrenalin dump, most people’s fine motor skills either shut down completely or becomes severely impaired. A practical example: you use your cellphone every single day of the week and you can type text messages at a dazzling speed. However, when you are suddenly faced with a life or death situation, for example, you witnessed a serious car crash and you have to phone an ambulance, it becomes really difficult to dial that number. Not convinced? Get a friend and tell him to sit down on a chair. Let him hold a cellphone in his hand. Stand 5 meters away from him. Tell him that when you say “go!” he must  find your number on his phone and press the call button. As soon as you give the command “go!” approach him and start shouting confusing messages to him or swear at him and see how flustered he becomes and how this simple task becomes almost impossible. That is because he suddenly experienced an adrenalin dump. What I am getting at is that unless you do regular scenario training where you get used to using your gun under stressful situations while being attacked, chances are very good that you will not be able to use your gun in the same manner as in a controlled environment like at a shooting range. 

Over-reliance on only one weapon may prove to be fatal. Let’s say you did manage to somehow get your gun out in time, what happens if the gun misfires or jams? What happens if your gun does not have enough stopping power or your shot placement was poor and the attacker continues to attack as almost always happen in real situations? You have to have the ability to transition between weapons and also between empty hand tactics and weapons. Watch the video below:

C.O.B.R.A.™ Self-Defense South Africa specialize in law enforcement based self-defense training. C.O.B.R.A.™ Self-Defense training comes from extensive real-life experience gained in protective services, law-enforcement and maximum security correctional services. The C.O.B.R.A.™ training curriculum  is continuously updated  by attending practical training and facilitating joint training with international law enforcement agencies.

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