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On Guard: Tactical Knives for Self Defense

When looking for a tactical knife for defense, the most important aspect of your choice is how you plan to use it.

The term “tactical” sounds fancy, but really it is all about how you apply it. While the police may use one type of tactical knife, a naval officer may use another. The truth is that any given knife will work well under certain conditions and not so well under others. As many knives require a certain skill set to handle, how you envision using your knife for defense or on a daily basis should come into play with your decision to purchase one.

self defense instructor knife exercise

Legal ramifications of using a knife for defense

There are many great tactical knives to use for defense, but before getting into this, you may want to know how the laws regarding self-defense may protect you or can work against you. For instance, there are legal knives for personal use, and there are illegal knives. This also changes depending on where you live, so it is best to check the laws of your state and county before carrying a knife.

The idea of using a tactical knife for self-defense may seem great. However, the ways in which one can legally use a knife for self-defense are very specific. The three words to remember when presented with a deadly situation in which you are tempted to use your knife are opportunity, ability and intent.

  • An attacker must, in the present moment, have the opportunity to attack you.
  • They must have the ability to attack you (in other words, they can’t attack you if you are behind a stone wall).

And they must have the intent to attack you ( for example, they scream something along the lines of, “I’m going to kill you”)

The attack in question also must be lethal or extremely harmful in nature. If your sister is about to attack you — and she has the opportunity, ability, and intent — but she does so with a teddy bear, this is not a circumstance in which you can pull out your knife. One can quickly get a sense that while specific, the laws also leave a lot of room for interpretation and circumstance, so keep in mind that the law may not be on your side if you choose to draw your knife in self-defense.

kapap instructor defense knife attack

A short history of knives in combat

Knives have been used in the military and for self-defense for thousands of years, and they are usually predicated by close combat situations. While any knife can be used to defend oneself, the style of combat knives has changed over time. As body armor advancements were made, knives that could pierce or find holes in the armor were more and more valued.

While tactical knives enjoyed many years on the combat field, machine guns and other long-range attack methods became the standard after World war I, and knives rather retreated out of the spotlight. Even though knives aren’t specifically used for attacking in the military anymore, knives are great survival tools and are still used by soldiers for varying purposes.

Self-defense knives

Here is a list of a few well-known tactical defense knives and the companies that make them to help get you started:

  • Microtech Ultratech blades tend to be good for both utility reasons and self-defense. Theirs are known as some of the best in automatic knives that can be used with one hand, which is great for pocketing and pulling out in a pinch for quick use.
  • Spyderco Kahr is inspired by a similar blade made by Michael Janich, a self-defense expert in the field. At 2.5 inches, this blade was designed to be legal in urban settings and uses a similar design handle to Spyderco’s more popular models. Unlike the Microtech, though, this blade folds into itself. Folding knives can be more difficult to open but are discrete and easy to hide in a pocket.

emerson folding knife

  • Emerson’s Super Karambit tactical folding knife, with a 3.3-inch blade, is a cool thing to look at. Both sleek and curvy, the knife is inspired by a similar concept from ancient Indonesia. An easy knife to carry, it boasts a lightweight and ergonomic grip and is known to be deadly when in professional hands.
  • Jake Hoback Kwaiback tactical knife comes in several colors and is made from carbon fiber. This clip knife has a rugged look and is a mix of two different knife styles: the Hoback and the Kwaiken. Taking its inspiration from the Japanese samurai class of knives, this knife has been crafted with art and precision.

How to learn to use your knife

Although knives are extremely cool to look at, if you aren’t going to learn how to use your tactical knife, you are probably better off not carrying one.

There are six main attack angles when using your knife along with varying grips. Martial arts studios can help you to learn and practice these skills safely using fake plastic knives and markers. There are also more intricate details to know, like how to use your forearms in a knife fight and how to move to avoid getting attacked yourself.

Employ all these resources and more when contemplating your tactical defense knife purchase. The knife industry has a rich history and culture and is meant to be respected, but it is also there to help you learn everything you need to know, and of course, to help keep you safe.