<< Back to Shop Learn Knives

Why You Should Carry a Knife Instead of a Gun for Self-Defense

Before you leap through the internet and destroy me with facts and logic over my take so hot it rivals the temperature of the core of the sun, hear me out. 

The title of this article is admittedly a little click-baity. Perhaps the more appropriate title should be “Why a Knife Might Be a Better Self-Defense Option Than a Gun for You, or At Least Why You Should Carry a Knife in Conjunction With Your Gun for Self-Defense”, but that is really long, and you probably wouldn’t have clicked that article. We’ll stick with the controversial opinion, everyone loves those. 

Before I begin my arguments, I’d like to make clear that this article is not a hit piece on guns. I am a proud gun owner. I know that AR stands for ArmaLite Rifle, and I know that “Full Semi-Automatic” doesn’t exist. I can tell a Glock from a Sig, I can feel the difference between a two-stage and a single-stage trigger, and I am a proponent of adjustable gas blocks. I know guns and I love guns. I fully understand why we use guns instead of swords on the modern battlefield. I have not forgotten the truism that you should not bring a knife to a gunfight. I understand why for many, the best self-defense option out there is a concealed firearm. 

But I maintain that for many others, a knife may be the superior option. In addition, I strongly believe that everyone, even those with years of training and thousands of drills on a firearm under their belt, should carry a knife for self-defense. 

Here’s why. 


The big reason I don’t shoot guns more than I do is money. Simply buying a firearm is expensive. The run-of-the-mill striker-fired pistol available at your local gun shop will run you about $700 after taxes and a 4473. If you want a Taran Tactical, Wilson Combat, or some other custom-level high-performance gun, that price gets real big, real fast. And that is only the price of admission! If you’re lucky, you can find ball 9mm for ¢15 per round, which nets to $1.95 for a single 13-round magazine. That means a trip to the range can add up fast. 

And don’t forget, you should occasionally train with your carry ammo, which often costs north of a dollar per round. 

Shooting is expensive. 

Now consider the price of the knife. You can get a great self-defense knife designed by edged weapons legend Ernest Emerson for under $50. And if you want high-speed low-drag knives from renowned experts like Doug Marcaida and Bob Terzuola, you can have your pick for $300. 

Grab a sharpener and a trainer, and you’re in business. No ammo, no safes, no early retirement cashout. 


Concealed carriers know the tradeoff well. A smaller gun is lighter and easier to carry, but at the expense of ammo capacity. Larger guns are uncomfortable and difficult to conceal, but they have a lot more firepower. Then there’s the 1911. We don’t talk about that one. 

Most knives are smaller and easier to conceal than any pistol could ever hope to be. In fact, they’re smaller and easier to conceal than most spare magazines. They’re less than half the thickness, a fraction of the weight, and are easily concealed in the pocket or on the belt. 

That size makes it easier to carry at all times. Say you have a package delivered at 7:30 a.m. on your day off. Do you want to strap your sidecar inside your pajamas and walk out there, or just throw a knife in your pocket? 

Ammo Capacity 

When a gun runs out of ammo, it’s pretty much useless. I suppose you could throw it at a would-be assailant. That would probably hurt. But you know what would hurt more? A knife! 

Knives don’t run on ammunition, rather the force of the user multiplied over a sharp tip and edge. If you keep your knife sharp, it will maintain its edge for the duration of an altercation without any trouble, no matter how many times you miss. 

Use in a Grapple 

One of the core tenets of gun safety is to make sure your gun is pointed in a safe direction. Bullets have a way of traveling at supersonic speeds and punching through fabric, walls, people, etc. without remorse. Thus, in a scuffle, how a gun is pointed becomes a major point of concern. If that gun is pointed at you, it is no longer your friend. 

But say you’re in that same scuffle on the ground (where every scuffle is likely to end up) but you have a knife this time. The direction the knife is pointed in is still important, but if can still be your friend if you’re trained. In fact, there are many self-defense techniques and knife designs that benefit from hooks and pull cuts toward the user. Your training goes a lot further with a knife when a scuffle ensues. 

Sphere of Influence 

Guns are inherently weapons of range. They fire a projectile, which is designed to travel from the gun to the target. Knives are inherently hand-to-hand weapons. They are designed to affect only that which they can touch. 

Most self-defense involves your immediate bubble. If someone is hurling threats at your from twenty feet away, just leave. You don’t need to defend yourself if you’re not in immediate danger. You know you’re in immediate danger when a threat enters your immediate bubble, and that’s where a knife shines. At range, when someone is twenty feet away and only yelling threats at you, is it truly self-defense if you use a gun? I certainly hope the jury thinks so… 

Ease of Training 

Guns are their own beast. They have complicated mechanisms to figure out, recoil to manage, and a non-intuitive technique to master. To train with a gun, one needs a safe place (which is becoming increasingly harder to come by), a gun (which is expensive), ammo (which is also expensive), useful targets (keep that credit card out), and a qualified instructor (you guessed it, expensive). 

Most of the skills needed for self-defense with a knife have roots in martial arts, which makes much of knife defense a logical extension of whatever martial art you’re trained in. You can find MMA gyms all over the place, and many of them teach self-defense with knives in mind too. You can practice in city limits, and with training knives, you can practice full speed with friends in the gym. Heck, there are even competitions for this kind of thing, making self-defense training a sport, too. 

Yes, you still need to pay your instructor, but you’ve cut out most of your training costs simply by not using a gun, and your training is still useful even if you don’t have a knife. 

As an added bonus, training with a knife is great exercise. 


As mentioned earlier, guns are complicated, and often take muscle, skill, and conditioning to work. My coworker Michelle is a sweet mom who took her son to the range for his birthday. Here’s what she had to say about the experience. 

“I picked up the gun and had no idea what to do with it. The range officer had to help me. I thought it was so hard to pull the, uh, the thing back all the way. I have no idea how anyone could ever run around and use a gun. They’re so complicated and hard to use.” 

Listening to her talk about that experience quickly made me realize how much of a language one needs to know to operate a firearm. I explained to her what a slide is, and why they often have to be under so much spring pressure, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier for her to operate the gun! 

But a knife? Michelle uses paring knives all the time at home. She knows exactly how they work, what they do, how to safely hold and use them, and how to maintain them. She picks them up and uses them confidently. Which do you think would be the logical choice for Michelle for self-defense, a gun she doesn’t fully understand and struggles to operate, or a knife much like the one she uses every single day? 


I have a friend who is a police officer, and he sounds like a broken record when I tell him about knives. “Get a Glock,” he says. 

I tell him two things every time he tells me to “Get a Glock.” First, I have a Glock, and I like it very much. Second, knives do a better job of punching holes in bad guys than Glocks do of opening packages, slicing apples, and carving feathersticks. Critics of guns like to use the line “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and when you’re a gun, everything looks like a target.” Nobody says any such thing about knives. “When you’re a knife, everything looks like a, well, you know, a…” 

If a self-defense situation makes it to court, being able to say “I carry a knife for slicing fruit and opening Amazon packages” will endear you to a jury better than “I carry a gun for [insert literally any reason here].” 

Other Reasons 

Here’s a lightning round of a few other reasons a knife might be a better option for self-defense: 

  • Guns are more regulated than knives. 
  • Accidents involving guns are far more dangerous. 
  • Knives can be ordered online (especially from Blade HQ!) 
  • Guns are loud, knives are quiet.
  • Knives don’t have serial numbers. Every knife is a “ghost knife.” 
  • You can put a knife in a checked bag and not have to declare it to TSA. 
  • Knives don’t require special tools or skills to maintain. 
  • Knives don’t have jams, light primer strikes, stovepipes, etc. 
  • It is more socially acceptable to show off your knife than your gun. 
  • Knives don’t print like guns do. 

Why A Self-Defense Knife is Right For You

The gun world is hard to get into. Many of the people within it have experience in military and law enforcement, and as such create a culture of efficiency and merit at the cost of inclusion. Outsiders just getting into guns struggle to catch on, and experts often refuse to slow down for the newbies to catch up. This leads an unfortunate number of people to carry a gun for self-defense without the proper training on how and when to use it. 

The world of knives, especially in the realm of self-defense, is very different. Just about every martial arts gym out there offers an introduction to self-defense geared toward the general public at any skill level. You can get a great self-defense knife, the trainer version of it, and a month’s worth of training for less than half the price of the average handgun, and you’ll be better for it. 

If you have the resources and training to wield a handgun competently and ethically for self-defense, rock on. You are helping make society a safer place. This article did not cover assailants with guns, active shooters, multiple assailants, protecting others, dangerous wildlife, etc. Guns make handling those situations easier, which is why military and law enforcement personnel carry them. That said, you should also carry a knife! It will be good for you. 

But if you’re like me, a regular person without any training, experience, or preparation for self-defense, throwing a pistol in your waistband and calling it a day is not the answer. Go find some instruction and learn to use a knife. Find one that works for you, and carry it every day. It will become a trusted companion in your pocket, ready for whatever life throws at you.