6 Reasons Why Knives are Terrible for Self-Defense

self-defense knife

Are knives good for self-defense?  No.

Knives are among the most common tools carried for self-defense purposes globally.  Unfortunately, they kind of suck in that capacity.  Knives can be deadly and your attacker will almost certainly fear being stabbed or cut by a knife, but to wield a knife in such capacity takes a mental and physical fortitude that many aren’t prepared for.  It takes training and practice, and at the end of the day, you have to decide if it’s worth the prison time that comes from your act of self-defense.

If you have any other means of defending yourself, use it before you even think of brandishing your knife.  Words can do wonders to avoid a violent escalation, and things like pepper spray or a taser are very effective at deterring an attacker.

Why are knives so bad at self-defense?  These are six reasons.

Table of Contents

Knives Don't Finish Fights Fast Enough

knife fightKnife fights end rather quickly.  However, they still don’t end in an instant.  If you’re armed with a knife but your attacker isn’t, a relentless knife attack will put you on shaky legal ground.  The best thing to do would be to land a blow that staggers your assailant long enough to escape, but what if that doesn’t do it?  What if your would-be mugger, rapist, kidnapper, or killer is hopped up on something and keeps coming?  Judges don’t like knives, as you’ll learn in this article, so you have to show some restraint in an encounter, but that gives your opponent time to wrestle away your knife.

However, if your attacker also has a knife, then you’ve found yourself in a bonafide knife fight.  You WILL get sliced or stabbed, and you’ll probably both wind up in the hospital by the end because the fight will last at least long enough for both of you to get in blow.  Knife wounds are nothing to laugh about, either(NSFW).

You Won't Necessarily Scare Your Attacker Off

Brave OpponentSome people think that carrying a weapon will make them look frightening enough that anyone who assaults them will be scared off once they pull out their trusty knife.  Somehow, they believe that their knife is a deterrent instead of a weapon.

The problem is that you don’t know who’s going to be scared off by your knife and who isn’t.  Some people may underestimate the damage a knife can do and attack you anyway while others might be hopped up on drugs or in a mental state where they don’t comprehend the threat.  Are you prepared to get in a fight like that?  Most people aren’t.

You should never threaten anything you aren’t prepared to actually carry out.  Instead of thinking, “What if this works?” you should be thinking, “What would happen in the worst-case scenario?”

Would you carry an unloaded gun around in hopes that it would scare off any criminals?  No, you wouldn’t.  Don’t carry a weapon that you’re not willing to use and that you aren’t prepared to defend yourself against.

Knives Don't Work Well Against Multiple Opponents

Multiple AttackersIf you’re being attacked by multiple people, even if they aren’t armed, your knife isn’t going to do much good.  Pepper spray, on the other hand, is more effective when it comes to multiple opponents.  You can spray two people within seconds and give yourself enough time to escape.

In the end, after all, the idea is to escape in one piece.  If you have to use a knife, it should only be long enough to give yourself an opening to escape, and pepper spray is far more capable of giving you that opening quickly (remember that first reason why knives aren’t good for self-defense?) than a blade is.

You're Screwed if Your Knife Gets Taken From You

Stolen KnifeLet’s say it again: knives don’t normally end fights quickly.  Moreover, if your attacker is bigger and stronger than you are, then, unless you land a debilitating blow early on, there’s a good chance you’ll be overpowered and your knife taken.

Never underestimate the power of someone hopped up on adrenaline, especially if you’ve managed to already land a blow that didn’t force them to back down.  If your knife gets taken from you, it’s far worse than if your pepper spray gets wrestled away from you.  You could easily wind up severely injured or dead.

You May Not Have the 'Stuff' To Actually Carry Out an Attack

I said earlier not to threaten anything you can’t carry out.  There’s an episode of Monk in which an older woman finds herself confronting a home invader.  She pulls out a gun and orders him out, but he keeps approaching.  She continues to threaten, even as he closes in on her and murders the poor woman.  He knew she was never going to actually pull that trigger.

I remember watching it with my mom and hearing her exasperated, “Why didn’t she just shoot him?”

I stand by the answer I gave her at the time: having a weapon and threatening with it is way different than actually being able to point it at another human being and use it against him or her.  We all like to think that the gun we keep by our bedside or the knife we carry in our pocket will serve us well if anyone ever comes to harm us or our loved ones, but most of us, myself included, probably don’t have the ‘stuff’ to actually pull that trigger or swing that blade.

In the case of knives, it takes training to use them effectively in such a situation.  Even though I’ve taken martial arts and self-defense classes, I still don’t know if, physically, I have what it takes to actually take someone down with a knife.

You also have to contend with the likely possibility that you’ll be stabbed or slashed yourself, especially if your knife is wrestled away from you.

You need to realistically assess how far you’re willing to go if you decide to carry a knife or even a gun in self-defense.  Can you use it against someone, causing painful injury and watching them bleed?

Legally, You're On Shaky Ground

knife lawsA quick look at your state’s knife laws could easily deter you from even carrying a knife for self-defense purposes.  Why?  Because the whole ‘intent to harm’ thing they throw into their laws includes self-defense most of the time.  I mean, if you’re defending yourself with a knife, you’re going to harm someone, right?

The law tends to hate knives in self-defense situations, and most of the time they don’t consider intent.  If you assert that you were just defending yourself, the police won’t really care.  Why?  Because most courts only care about the disparity of force.

The disparity of force exists when the person being threatened or attacked is outmatched.  This doesn’t mean outnumbered; it can apply to a single assailant who’s bigger and stronger than the victim.  Generally, the playing field is supposed to be leveled with the introduction of weapons, such as a gun.

Now, let’s imagine a scenario in which a petite college-age woman is face-to-face with a big, burly ogre who has every intention to rape and possibly kill this woman.  She pulls out a gun and decides to shoot the lowlife.  The guy is far enough away that she doesn’t need to fear the gun being wrestled from her if she can land her shot.

But what does the law say about what happens next?  She must stop shooting once the threat is over.  If that means the guy makes like an accountant and books it, she has to stop shooting.  Now she is the aggressor, and the disparity of force no longer applies.

Not only must she act reasonably, but, depending on the state and the law, she may actually be required to render aid if she lands a debilitating shot.  Failure to do so may result in a murder charge.  Ridiculous?  Maybe, but it’s enough to make you pause and think twice before choosing a lethal weapon as your means of self-defense.

Knives can be even worse.  If our college woman pulls out a knife and stabs the would-be rapist in the chest and kills him, she could be arrested for murder.

According to the law, in order for your blade to make lethal or otherwise terrible injuries, it assumes that you have some sort of physical advantage over someone.  Otherwise, surely your knife would’ve been wrested from your grip, right?

The best tactic is to inflict an injury that allows you to retreat.  Don’t stick around, just take off.  Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.  Best to stick to pepper spray.

What Should You Use Instead?

Personally, I recommend pepper spray.  It’s a very effective method of self-defense.  Sure, it’s not as badass as saying you defended yourself with a knife or gun, but it’s more effective and it’s cheaper than a knife or gun.

You can get some on Amazon here and carry it on your keychain, so it’s within easy reach and the cops aren’t going to question it.

Have a differing opinion?  Sound off in the comments!

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