If I pull my knife? And he is carrying a gun?
"If I pull my knife? And he is carrying a gun? Will this cause him to pull his gun out? Will I cause the problem to escalate?”
An attendee to a seminar in Kentucky, someone with zero martial or martial arts experience, just a regular guy legally walking around with a gun and a knife, asked me this question.
What did I say? I said “yeah, that could happen.”
“That’s pretty messy,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
And everyone stared at me for words of wisdom and solution. I have none.
So often people want Magic Bullet answers to a lot of self-defense questions. There’s always big talk in the self-defense industry about "avoidance." If too late to avoid, then next up in the event list is what they call "de-escalation." Avoiding and de-escalating a common knucklehead before a fight starts is a cottage industry. Some folks confidently dole out solutions to confrontations in three to five steps or present mandatory checklists.
“Say these things!”
“Stand like this!”
Now, I think it is certainly good to be exposed to all these ideas and methods. Sure. Do so. But as an obsessed skeptic, I see the caveats beyond the advice. I don’t know about certain kinds of solutions, magic words, or stances when confronted or attacked.
I have investigated a whole lot of crimes through the decades; and while there are identifiable patterns and surprises, chaos can sure still reign supreme. But let me summarize by calling it all “situational.”
In the end, solutions are situational. Like calling plays in a football game, it depends on the situation. How you stand and what you say or do should be situational. Custom-built. (This essay is primarily about pulling out a knife but does and could certainly relate to pulling a pistol, too. It's just that if this was a "pistol-centric" essay, I would be writing more about pistol situations.)
So there’s an argument! Then a fight! Given you have already performed all your pop/psych avoidance and de-escalation steps. You are armed under your coat or in your pocket with a knife or even a gun, and this verbal stuff just ain’t working! The mean man won’t leave! Or worse, the men (plural) won’t leave. Do you pull that knife out? That weapon out? There are some situational concerns with doing this; and these concerns certainly do involve his possible knives and guns and the overall escalating ladder of weaponry, violence, and legal problems.
Here are a few facts and related ideas on the subject to kick around:
Fact: Some people do leave. For many a year now, 65% to 70% of the time when a knife or pistol is pulled in the USA, the criminal leaves you alone. (old DOJ stats) Simple statement. I have often heard the easy average of 67% used (sticks, by the way, are not in these study figures.) I must warn folks that this is not as clean and simple an escape as it sounds. There are many emotional, ugly events that happen in this weapon presentation / confrontation, even if the bad guy does leave. In my experience and investigation, if the criminal is alone he might be quicker to leave, if he is in or around a gotup, “his” group, he puts on more of a show before leaving. Trauma and drama. We discuss these details in certain topical seminars and other specific essays.
Fact: Some people don't leave. The good news with the 65%/35% split is you may only have to fight about 30% of the time! So 30% of the time, the opponent does not leave and the fight is on, whether he is unarmed or armed. The bad news is when you are now in that "unlucky 30%," or you might say you are now a 100%-er. You are 100% there and stuck in it. A hand, stick, knife, or gunfight!
Fact: Some people are armed. General USA stats quoted for many years past say that 40% of the time the people we fight are armed. A few years back the FBI upped that anti. More being armed! And another gem to add in is that 40% of the time we fight two or more people. Hmmm. So 40% or more armed times 40% multiple opponents. Not a healthy equation. Lots of people. Lots of weapons. Lots of numerical possibilities. The "smart money" in the USA or anywhere else is always bet that the opponent is armed.
Facts: Times and reasons to pull. Logical and physical. Time and reason might seem the same, but defining times and reasons in your mind and for your training is smart.
Time equals “when” and reason equals “why.” Two different questions. The motive and the moment to move. Either way, remember there must be some real danger to you and danger to others for you to take weapon action.
* The Why? 2 Reasons to Pull: There are two reasons to pull your weapon out. The first is to stop violence before it happens. The second is to stop violence while it is happening.
* The When? 2 Times to Pull: There are two generic times to draw your weapon. The first is when you can predict problems and pull before the incident happens. It’s always said that the best quick draw is pulling out your weapon just before you really, REALLY need it. And the second pull is during the incident.
Some More Facts: Pulling during the incident. I have written and lectured in the past about why people do and do not draw weapons once a physical fight has started. They are in this quick review:
1: No Pull: He is carrying but does not draw because he
actually forgets he is armed. Oh, yes, this happens.
2: No Pull: He is carrying but does not draw because he is
smart enough to know that this incident does not
deserve the legal and physical consequences of pulling
a gun, knife, etc.
3: Pull: He does draw when he decides at some point in
the fight he is losing. It may not actually or legally be a
true life or death fight, but he thinks so.
4: Pull: He does draw when he loses his temper inside
5: Dominant fervor. He draws after winning. He’s essentially
won but hates for the victory feeling and moment to pass.
He further punishes the opponent by presenting a
weapon and scaring him with his glee and threats.
Recognizing these five situational events should shape good training drills and scenarios.
So, What Should You Do?
Before, during, and maybe even after, when a weapon is drawn in the fight by you, it can definitely stop or escalate the heat with intensity and/or even more weapons. But back to the original, scary question..:
“I live in a state where ‘everybody’ carries a gun, Hock. If I pull my knife to scare someone off? Or I pull my gun? And he is carrying a knife or gun? Will this cause him to pull his knife or gun out?”
Well, yes. Yes, that can happen. In the same way that your words, your facial expression, your clothes, or even your stance can escalate an encounter. But, yes, that can happen. Should you always pull your weapon with the first blush of a problem? Automatically? No. The problem must percolate to the level that reasonable and prudent people think it is justified. Police deal with this pressure almost on a monthly basis, or maybe a weekly basis, and in some tough places maybe even daily? It’s an acquired skill. A feel. A savvy.
“Should I always throw the long pass or always hand off the ball to the running back." No. I can’t answer that on paper or at the lectern. Not even Tom Brady can tell you what play to call until he is on the field. How could we? We can guess. We can bet. We can propose, but it is situational. It is best to have a few handy plays up your sleeve and wing it. (you need some tricks. Look at Brady's forearm wristband below!) So I simply cannot answer that hypothetical question with a "do-don't do." It’s a “call.” A call you must make in the moment just like a quarterback. HIKE! What's the field look like?
"HIKE! What's the field look like?"
I would like to start a list of very specific situations here to help out in the decision making, but then this little essay would grow to textbook size. But just for just one example, there are times that you might best-guess the enemy is or is not armed. One point is the physical assessment of the enemy at the moment – is he acting or dressed in a way to tip off a concealed weapon? This is tricky. I was almost shot one night by a shirtless guy in very tight pants – pants that I swore could not conceal a gun. A "Saturday Night Special" was in his front pocket. He shot someone else with it a moment later. Still, part of your draw/don’t draw decision is based on what you see and think and how well you are trained to think and see.
And, this brings us right back to the “who, what, where, when, how, and why” questions I have used as a foundation for decades now on just about everything we do. And I see the need to re-post the "quick draw" list again here for your re-consideration. The progression-
There/Not There (why are you there and can you not go?)
Bark/Don't Bark ( as in say something)
Leave/Stay (after the action)
"Draw-Don’t Draw." Then it becomes "Stab/Don't-Stab," or Shoot-Don’t Shoot?" So often people want a quick, magic bullet answer. There is none, and I'm sorry, I have no magic bullets like this for you. If anyone is selling you a box of those bullets? I wouldn't buy them.
Hock's email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
Some of these issues are covered in
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Knife Stress Quick Draws