What’s the Best Close Quarters Weapon: Knife or a Gun?

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Editor’s Note: This article was generously contributed by Orlando Wilson. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter the Prepper Writing Contest today!

I am always being asked which is better for close quarters self-defense a gun or a knife. Both are deadly weapons if used properly but what is properly. At a close quarter’s range, which is conversational range, say about 10 to 15 feet, the main thing will be if the weapons are deployed or not. Whichever one is deployed first gives the user the advantage. For the shooter at this distance you can forget the textbook formal line up the front sight shooting techniques, they won’t work and for the person with the knife forget the Dojo sparing techniques. A lot would have to do with strategies, which seem never to be covered in formal firearms or self-defense training and then non-PC aggressive action!

Knives are excellent close quarter’s weapons and have a lot of advantages over guns, like being legal availability in most places for one. If traveling internationally 98% of the time you can’t take firearms but should be able to pick up a pocket knife at the end location. The tactical knife does not need to be a $200 + custom tactical blade, if you go to Wal-Mart you can get a paring knife that can be concealed and can slash and stab very well for under $10!

When dealing in Eastern Europe in the mid 90’s I was surprised to hear from several law enforcement sources that the gypsy kids trained with knives, were skilled and were a not to be taken lightly. While in West Africa last year we were running all out tactical drills including hostage rescue with machetes, where the bush was thick it was very easy to stealthy get within a striking distance of a target. The proper use of knives relies on speed, surprise and aggression.

So, on the street for argument sake, who would have the advantage, the person with the knife or the gun?

  • Whoever was not caught off guard to start with!
  • Formally trained shooter against martial artists: Even!
  • Street wise shooter against martial artists: The Gun!
  • Formally trained shooter against someone who can use a knife properly: The knife!
  • Street wise shooter against someone who can use a knife properly: Depends on the strategies, training and luck!

I tell my students and clients to do everything possible to avoid any hostile situation as there are no good end results… Someone usually goes to jail and someone usually goes to the hospital or the morgue!

Stay safe,



  1. Nailbanger

    October 10, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Hand grenade!

    • Muhammad Abbass

      October 13, 2016 at 12:10 am

      Always my first choice too. Deals with even severe numerical disadvantage and rarely needs to be deployed. Two is better. In case you do need to deploy one. Nobody argues with number two.


    October 10, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Inside personal safety spaces (IE the distance all around you can touch arm outstretched) I go for knife or baton, outside that 360 arc I would choose a fire arm

    • Muhammad Abbass

      October 13, 2016 at 12:15 am

      Baton. A short axe or splitter handle of really good timber and a rubberised handle with a lanyard. You can use a length of bicycle tubing to make a rubber handle. I like them better than a knife in close and with more than one attacker especially. If I don’t happen to have a hand grenade anyway. 🙂

  3. EgbertThrockmorton1

    October 10, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Again, we make “assumptions” that WE, will be in Condition Oblivious so that we cannot see danger approaching.
    The best defense against being ON a CQB “situation”, is to not be in one, wherein you are “forced” to make a choice between the blade or a firearm.
    At that point, you are already screwed beyond belief.
    I have no intention of ever going to another knife fight, I will flee rather than allow anyone to get that close. Call me what you will, I can handle it.
    I prefer “conflict avoidance”, above all else, however, IF, that conflict keeps coming, I will end it with all the ruthlessness I have in me.
    Another good article (too short, Orlando!!) by Mr. Wilson

    • Muhammad Abbass

      October 13, 2016 at 12:16 am

      Naturally, and as one gets older, the avoidance strategies improve too, but it is nice to have options. We don’t get to write the script from day to day usually.

  4. Mike Lashewitz

    October 10, 2016 at 9:21 pm


    • Tom Schuckman

      October 10, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      Hi Mike, Your answer is also my answer, and it makes sense that Murphy’s Law is very dominant. Anything can go wrong, even when you are paying attention to all your surroundings. When a person has lived as long as me, age 67, and also been in combat, like my 2 years in Vietnam: 68-70, you learn to adapt, improvise and over come. You may never need a “2nd weapon,” but why take a chance. But I regard knives also as “tools.” My email: tschuckman@aol.com — My humble Blog: TOM’S JOURNAL. Jesus is Lord.

      • Mike Lashewitz

        October 11, 2016 at 7:50 pm

        Agreed we learned to do what we had to do in order to survive. I was 17 when I went to Nam. A stick skinny kid who had to prove himself to everyone. I hated being called “The Kid” so I wore ears….

        Link to Tom’s Journal? Knives are tools and I wear one all the time just like my CCW.

        • Tom Schuckman

          October 11, 2016 at 8:56 pm

          Tom’s Journal– Blog://tomschuckmanjournal.blogspot.com/
          Welcome home, Brother ! I wear a Cold Steel neck knife, too, buddy/ Man ! We should compare notes…. so email me, sir: tschuckman@aol.com I served with the 240th AHC, Helicopter door gunner on my 2nd tour. What a rush ! Take care of yourself and many I can help you with a few things. —Tommy S

  5. Bolofia

    October 10, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Good article, but as ET1 says, it was too short!
    Here is a question that other readers may have also pondered: I always carry a fixed blade survival knife (5″ in length) when out in the bush, as well as a folding Buck knife and a regular pocket knife. I view these more as useful tools for dealing with general survival issues, and that is all that they have ever been used for. But, what do you do when you aren’t trained in knife fighting? Most people aren’t.

    My preferred means of defense is a long arm and side arm, and I rely on careful recon, observation and situational awareness to remain away from (or above) potential threats. The emphasis here is that I am not (nor will I ever be) in a cityscape where criminal gangs operate. It seems to me that resorting to the use of a knife for self defense is a last, desperate, measure – even if you already possess the skill. At the distances that you reference (10-15 feet) a competent shooter should be able to take down an assailant with a knife. If you are completely unaware of the assailant, it doesn’t matter whether you are carrying a .45ACP or a Bowie knife. The last thing you will remember is the moment before your head hits the cement. I would very much welcome your thoughts!

    • BobW

      October 11, 2016 at 12:48 am

      Bolo, it would seem that the scenario you have described (10-15) would imply that you already have your opponent in your sights. If you have the drop on someone in a combative situation, I’d still only give you a 70% chance of dropping an aggressive, street-wise tough. Unless you have extensive CQB experience, tension, anxiety, adrenaline, fear, distracting thoughts about family will play a role in determining your reaction. Delay is at a minimum a serious detriment to ones health.

      The reality to me, is that unless you are a combat tested Soldier/Marine, chances are our balls are bigger than our brains. In a non-stressful event, I’m freakin’ GI Joe. In real life, a long list of internal and external factors will dictate ones ability to act ‘under fire.’

      At 10-15 feet, holstered weapon and a pocket folder (far more likely in the city) against a knife wielding adversary, I’d venture a guess that anyone’s odds suck.

      How fast can you move 10-15 feet? I’m old with a bad back, and I can clear that distance in under 2 seconds if I want to. Can you unholster, chamber a round, and get of a snapshot before a determined opponent closes and simply sticks you in the guts with a knife? How about a well-aimed shot?

      Have you thought about taking up action shooting? What about that other shooting school of thought? The one that can teach you to shoot without looking down the sights?

      • Bolofia

        October 11, 2016 at 3:10 pm

        Excellent thoughts, and I have practiced both shooting techniques that you reference. I should add that my carry in the field is in a shoulder holster, with a round always in the chamber. I don’t see how I could pull a fixed blade knife any more quickly. Having only a knife means that you are forced into a combat range of less than five feet. I like those odds far less.

        • BobW

          October 11, 2016 at 9:07 pm

          I wasn’t, and wouldn’t suggesting only carry a knife if at all possible. I was discussing the time it takes to bring a pistol to bare on an advancing aggressor vs an aggressor’s closing speed.

          As for carrying a weapon with a round chambered, all I would suggest is that you practice with it regularly. Not speaking about anyone here, but Iike I said earlier, many can manage the ‘handgun and chill’, but when there is no chill, bad things can happen.

          I don’t chamber. I still recall some excellent articles by Massad Ayoob (forgive any misspelling) about creating space, chambering, and bringing a hand gun into a ready position, that I prefer over the risk of stupids finding my gun at the house and carelessly picking it up by the trigger area.

      • Daniel

        October 11, 2016 at 8:02 pm

        Sir,who said any thing about chambering a round?

        • BobW

          October 11, 2016 at 9:08 pm

          Just be sure you know the laws of the areas you frequent and occasionaly visit.

  6. Bob

    October 11, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Be aware , be alert.Stay clear of trouble spots.IF a confrontation is unavoidable or sudden ,i carry a 5 inch spring knife but i can tell you ,always one in the chamber,8 rounds in the clip,weapon 22 cal. in my coat or pants pocket makes quite an impression at 8 rounds in 4 seconds.You will need a new coat but suprise is very effective.Even the noise akes an agressor hesitates.

  7. christopher

    October 11, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Formally trained shooter against martial artists: Even! — I dont agree, .. ask anybody would they rather have a gun or a knife, and I gaurentee you even the knife fighter will want a gun..
    Formally trained shooter against someone who can use a knife properly: The knife!
    -..I dont agree…do you really think somebody with a knife drawn same time as a gun, would be even or better? even if, you could throw the knife with any deadly accuracy, I could fire at least 4 times after knife hit me.. you only get 1 throw. I still have 3 rounds left and your knife stuck in my arm. not to mention the powder burns your going to get at close range when fired at. Even if i walk backward the same distance while your advancing, you cant reach me with knife at 15 feet, but a bullet can reach you. this is why ninjas & Indians dont go to war anymore..they died too quickly using knives! if I had the element of surprise, I could take out a person with a holstered gun with a lunch pail. I can maybe see this possible in Europe where handguns arent common, but not in the US. I didnt see the where the writer answered their own question of which they thought was better at close range.

    • BobW

      October 11, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      I suppose if you are dueling with a knife-equipped aggressor at range this would work.

  8. Muhammad Abbass

    October 13, 2016 at 12:34 am

    At home or office I like to have an nice bit of hardwood block splitter handle with rubberised grip and a woven lanyard. It can keep most knife attackers too far away to engage and do them the hurt in turn and within the couple of paces distance referred to it can deal with a gun and disable the arm holding it given sufficient reaction time which unless a gun is cocked and pointed at me I should have. It can be thrown effectively thus disabling someone long enough to allow a follow up attack as well. It gives a bit of an adge against multiple attackers as well. Too many attackers in close tend to get in each others way too and there’s a limit to how many you have to engage in close, I know having been there and a baton was my only weapon. That was when I learned to always have a good lanyard so you don’t drop it unfortunately.

    When I travel or are away from home, car or office I am usually wearing a very well made leather belt with metal studs all over. I can slip it off and have my hand comfortably locked into the buckle which is a handle in about a second and the belt itself is devastating quite honestly. It can be used to disarm a knife or gun at twice arms length and it’s weight as well as the rows of hard metal studs would render an arm useless, break a neck or flay a face open to the bone. I’ve demonstrated on a wooden crate which was splintered and torn to pieces on each blow until it was just a pile of broken tinder and the belt didn;t take a scratch. I highly reccomend a good leather studded belt. A very surprising and effective defensive weapon at close quarters and one which even in the first swing or two makes an intimidating sound like a sword in Hollywood movies. However you can swing it so fast from initially unbuckling in s single hand move that taking the gun or knife from somebody can be done so fast they wouldn’t even see it coming.

    My overall favorite if it can be done, is a hand grenade or preferably two in case the first one needs to be used. Some people can be stubborn. Guns are cool and knives too but the former is limited to one shot at a time no matter how good you are and a grenade doesn’t even require you to be a good shot or worry about how many of them there are compared to you.

  9. John Hattabaugh

    October 13, 2016 at 12:43 am

    the distance covered by the bad guy with the knife, versus a good guy and a holstered gun with both persons at a stand still, used be 21 feet (at least i was taught when I went to the police academy, not long after the invention of the wheel). then, later on in my refresher academy classes the distance was increased to 28 feet. now the distance taught by the instructors is 31 feet between combatants. either way, there were times when I thought getting shot was maybe a little better than being gutted with an edged weapon…however having said that, I still do not want to get shot either. the best scenario for me is as it always has been; be aware of your surroundings at ALL times, avoid the nastiness if at all possible. if you can’t, then, hope for the best. BUT, be prepared for the worst. your survival depends on it. hand grenades notwithstanding, of course…

  10. Benoît Mussche

    October 20, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Monkey fists!

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