Concealed carry laws are so intricate in some states that they are confusing to law-abiding citizens. The end results of such restrictive statutes are predictable.
Some will opt out of carrying a concealed firearm in order to avoid inconveniences. Others will carry in spite of these laws. But all people will find themselves unarmed far too often. For those who want to protect themselves, there exists another tool capable of providing a formidable response to most life-threatening encounters. This tool is less restricted, and sometimes even easier to conceal—the defensive knife.

Deadly Force Encounters

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“The most important characteristic of a deadly force encounter is that they are typically spontaneous events. This means that the target has little time to recognize and react to the threat.”

There are some distinct differences in the dynamics of deadly force encounters that involve firearms as opposed to knives. Prior to electing to carry a knife for self-defense there should be a careful examination of these differences. Carrying any weapon for self-defense requires complete commitment. Anything less could pose additional danger since the introduction of any weapon into an altercation poses a risk to whoever lacks control of it. It is also necessary to identify the circumstances for which a knife is a suitable response. In order to do that, the user must understand the dynamics of deadly force encounters, both physically and mentally.

RELATED: 10 Fighting Knives For Self-Defense

The most important characteristic of a deadly force encounter is that they are typically spontaneous events. This means that the target has little time to recognize and react to the threat. The threat posed determines the appropriateness of the chosen response. Since a threat’s actions will always be quicker than their target’s reaction, a concealed weapon is most likely to be a successful option when the target suspects danger and can anticipate it through well-developed situational awareness. Heightened awareness of potentially dangerous situations helps to prime the mind, and later the body, to respond if and when a threat comes to fruition. When faced with a threat, human beings will instinctively experience a sensation to run, fight or do nothing. These physiological inclinations are sometimes referred to as the “fight, flight or freeze” response.

Freezing typically occurs because the threat was not identified (the victim was caught off guard) and the victim had not contemplated a planned response to such a threat. Freezing is really a panic response. Panic can only be overcome through advanced mental and situational awareness preparation. Those considering carrying a concealed weapon have likely begun this mental preparation process and would be more apt to react with a “fight or flight” response.

A body’s decision to respond to a threat by either fleeing or fighting is influenced by many sources. The human body determines which alarm to sound based on a rapid analysis of the totality of circumstances presented. Information such as the existence of an escape route, the availability of a weapon, the readiness of a usable mental plan, an assessment of the threat and an honest evaluation of one’s own skill and mental fortitude are just some of the considerations the mind uses to make a quick situational assessment. Once made, the mind sends a signal to the body to either fight or run. Flight is an option that should be exercised when possible. In a life-threatening encounter, however, it is not generally a viable option. When flight is not an option, those capable and committed to fighting for their life will be far better off armed with a knife than without.

Close-Quarters Security

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Each state’s laws are different regarding legal knife carry. Make sure you do your research before carrying a knife for self-defense.

When left with no other option than to fight, having a weapon may be the difference between living and dying. Many of the concealed carry laws are disarming citizens in locations where they are most vulnerable, such as parking decks, bike paths and parks, and private businesses. A knife is a weapon that may allow for self-defense in situations where a firearm is not a legal option since knife laws are typically less restrictive than those of firearms. Most laws regarding knives restrict the type of knife that can be carried based on blade length and opening mechanisms, such as switchblades and spring-assisted knives. Since state laws do vary, verify compliance with the applicable state laws or legal counsel prior to carrying a knife.

RELATED: 8 Essential Fixed-Blade Knives For Survival

There are inherent differences between knife defense and defense through other means such as a firearm, physical encounters or those while armed with a blunt object. These differences have to be considered in advance in order to avoid mental surprises, which can affect decision-making and your response times.

An obvious difference between using a knife for self-defense as opposed to a firearm is the distance of the encounter. Firearms may offer the advantage of allowing the victim to remain at a distance, or they may even create distance from the threat. Considering the fight or flight response, this is important to note. The most likely inclination will be to run, but carrying a knife requires a trained mental response to resist flight and maintain a close distance similar to a physical confrontation or a confrontation with a blunt object. This is also important to note because the likelihood of being struck or injured exists, and this is a fact that has to be accepted in advance in order to mentally prepare to fight through it.

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A knife defense is a better option than a physical response because it depends on speed, not strength. Speed with a knife is essential in order to inflict the greatest amount of damage as quickly as possible and end the confrontation. The wound cavities created by knives are different from a hollow-point bullet, which creates primary and secondary wound cavities that accelerate bleeding and incapacitation. Those who succumb to stab wounds were likely stabbed multiple times. Muscle and skin around a wound contracts, which may slow bleeding incapacitation. Any engaged physical encounter that lasts longer than a minute severely jeopardizes the victim’s ability to triumph. The best way to hasten the end of a violent encounter with a knife is to inflict as many wounds as possible.

RELATED: How To Conceal A Self-Defense Knife

One final consideration regarding self-defense with a knife is the recognition that this type of encounter is bloody and violent. It is much more personal than a firearm, and that can cause mental discomfort for some. Retention of the knife will become difficult once covered in blood and when striking bone. In order to win there must be a willingness to target areas of the body that seem taboo, such as the eyes or throat. Attacking these areas may disable the threat faster, which is the ultimate goal.

Even though every state in the Union has some form of concealed-carry statute on the books, that doesn’t mean that citizens are safer. Many of these statutes are so restrictive that they prevent permit holders from carrying firearms when they are most vulnerable to violence. For those willing to commit, a viable solution to these legal obstacles is the knife. With a proper mindset and some fundamental knowledge, a knife may provide protection in many life-threatening situations where a firearm is simply not allowed.


This article originally published in SURVIVOR’S EDGE® Spring 2015. Print and Digital Subscriptions to SURVIVOR’S EDGE® magazine are available here.