Civilian concealed carry numbers have erupted over the last several years. Commitment level within this genre spans from barely ever carrying to dedicated practitioners. This includes those who regard a firearm as an integral part of an all-encompassing vigilant personal-defense approach/mindset. All of this is a personal decision with many passing to and from different stages during their lifetime. I am not judging. All I know is that I am glad to see our community/culture grow. But weapon retention also needs to be a serious consideration, and edged retention increases your chance of success.
Gaining the Advantage with Edged Weapon Retention
As concealed carry users multiply, the number of firearms in circulation increases. “Bad guys” will be glad to assume ownership with dire consequences. Law enforcement personnel have been aware of this for decades. This is the purpose behind the creation of retention holsters and training curriculum that focuses on gun-grab scenarios. Officer survival mindset training is also a crucial component.
Compared to law enforcement, civilian concealed carriers do not have to worry about actively confronting/engaging hostile personnel making arrests. This mitigates many gun-grab concerns. I cannot stress it enough that civilian weapon retention starts with proper concealment habits. (Open carry risks are a subject for another time.) Things like “printing,” a garment blowing open or carelessness can lead to a compromise of your concealed carry. Another scenario is when a random assault surprises a concealed carry practitioner. Here retention is critical to get firearm deployed for defensive purposes. Situational awareness is paramount, but things happen.
This article’s intent is to stimulate consideration of incorporating a dedicated edged weapon, not only as defense against a gun grab, but also as an overall personal defense and weapon retention plan. With non-permissive carry environments expanding, it would behoove a security-minded individual to have as many options as possible. Open-hand and blade skills are important components of personal defense proficiency.
While it would be optimum to be a trained martial artist with years of dedicated effort emphasizing combatives, unfortunately this is not the case for most of us. With that said there is nothing to say you cannot still be effective with a knife as a weapon using aggression, force and commitment to the task at hand.
The thought process is to treat the knife as a world-class sucker punch, coming from nowhere and deciding the matter in violent thrust/slashes. You don’t announce it or wave it around, you keep it hidden and out of sight, striking hard and suddenly without warning. Don’t discount the benefits of formal martial arts training—you grab, you stab/slash, repeat as necessary. There is a certain purity in simplicity.
This subject is not a whimsical one for me. I have carried a firearm for 30-plus years—most of the time as a concealed carry practitioner. While certainly not a martial artist, I have studied/attended dozens of knife and hand-to-hand CQB training seminars with Michael Janich, Tom Sotis and numerous other instructors. It is safe to say most gun culture members carry a folding knife. A quick look at all the pocket clips adorning pants confirms this. This is not the solution for the task at hand. Thinking you can bring a folder into action with your “weak” hand while engaged in a ferocious struggle with your dominant hand retaining your firearm is not realistic.
A myriad of fixed-blade knife candidates have been “interviewed” over the years for combatives and edged weapon retention. These include the Ka-Bar TDI, Boker Pocket knife and Benchmade 175 Adamas Push dagger. Each has its pros and cons. Lately, I have been exploring compact fixed blades from Spyderco.
The Spyderco Ronin 2
The Spyderco Ronin 2 features a 4-inch Wharncliffe-profile blade based on a Michael Janich design. The Ronin 2’s overall length is 7.84 inches with a skeletonized, full tang with thin-textured black G-10 scales that guarantee a positive grip. A multi-adjustable sheath with G-Clip attachment supports belt carry and clip-style inside-the-waistband carry. The G-Clip is also configurable for vertical, horizontal or diagonally canted carry and can be attached to both faces of the symmetrical sheath.
The Ronin 2’s Wharncliffe blade style is typified by a straight cutting edge with the spine rounded convexly downward to meet the point. Once the blade makes contact, it stays there regardless of whether initial contact was at the tip or midway down the blade. In addition, the large “wedge” that is apparent on the top forward edge of the Ronin 2 blade enhances the penetration of the blade when stabbing. As the blade enters, the “wedge” forces the cutting edge down as it moves forward, shearing along its length and penetrating extremely well. For personal defense, this allows the knife to penetrate very effectively, even through heavy clothing. The blade’s spine profile guides thumb placement, enhancing the ability to apply downward pressure. With a Wharncliffe-style blade, one can dump power into the cut regardless of whether they are stabbing, slashing or chopping with the knife.
The Spyderco Street Beat
The Spyderco Street Beat is a compact Bowie-style knife, patterned on Fred Perrin’s acclaimed original. The blade is 3.5 inches, with an overall length just over 7 inches. A non-reflective black ceramic coating covers the blade. The ergonomic handle is injection molded directly onto the blade’s tang. Perrin’s signature index-finger choil helps to keep the user’s hand locked in place during use. Textured grooves on the handle and blade spine, further support the textured grooves for increased thumb purchase. Which is important for control during cutting/slashing. The Street Beat features the same sheath G-clip attachment as the Ronin2 in terms of adjustability and carry options.
A significant characteristic of the Bowie design is the clip point. This brings the tip of the blade lower than the spine for better control. The clip point profile maintains a sharp, stabbing point. Most Bowie knives have a bevel ground along the top of the “clip.” This is referred to as a false edge, as from a distance it looks sharpened. It serves to take metal away from the point, streamlining the tip and thus enhancing the penetration capability of the blade.
No one can be all knowing in every facet of a subject as broad as personal defense. I spoke with two prominent instructors for their input on edged weapon retention. One was Michael Janich, a renowned personal defense instructor, author and founder of Martial Blade Concepts. The other was Athlon Outdoors’ own Fred Mastison. Fred is the owner and chief instructor of Force Options, a multinational firearms and combatives training company. Fred holds multiple blackbelts in different disciplines and is an authority on combatives.
The Importance of Training
Michael and Fred both stressed that training is the true key to success with any weapon, especially the knife.
Fred put it like this, “Knives can be a solid add-on to EDC but should be treated like a firearm. They require training and constant practice to be effective. I would venture to say even more than firearms because of the combative nature of knife work.”
Janich succinctly stated, “Carrying a knife you can’t realistically bring into action means two weapon-retention vulnerabilities.”
Mastison recognizes that a fixed blade is superior in many ways, but difficult to effectively carry concealed. He carries a folder with the caveat he actively trains in drawing/opening. As a proponent of stabbing techniques to effectively stop an adversary, he prefers a tanto-style tip. He feels push daggers can be a viable option as long as they are big enough to penetrate.
Fixed Blade Carry Options
Along with Martial Blade Concepts (MBC) duties, Janich is special projects coordinator for Spyderco. His suggestions regarding applicable fixed blades are reflected in the Spyderco Ronin 2 and Street Beat contained in this article. Janich concedes that fixed blades are obviously simpler and easier to deploy than folders. He prefers static-line carry versus attaching a sheath via clipping to your belt or pants.
The static line is simply a cord (550-cord for example) that is fixed to your knife’s sheath. Once you have the static cord tied to your sheath, you simply loop it onto your belt. This can be accomplished without even removing your belt with a simple girth hitch knot. Now you tuck the sheath into your waistline like you would an IWB holster with the knife handle exposed and oriented the way you want it for easy deployment. I heeded Janich’s advice on this years ago, finding it greatly aids in discretely carrying small fixed-blade knives, as well as yielding maximum adaptability and comfort.
Even a cursory glance at Janich’s MBC curriculum will show his commitment to biomechanical targeting.
Mike stresses, “In simple terms, you must accept the fact that the knife you will be using will feature a small blade.”
Based on this, the quickest and most efficient way to stop your attacker is to stop the specific body parts that allow him to be dangerous to you. You accomplish this by cutting the structures that instantly disable those body parts, like muscles, tendons and nerves. A knife that cuts well is key.
I’m not going to offer an absolute recommendation of a specific knife—just guidance based on my journey. I will advocate a fixed blade accessible from the “weak” side, optimally by either hand. The static cord carry method is a facilitator of this by greatly increasing comfort, flexibility and convenience of carrying a fixed blade.
I urge readers to make the commitment of being their own advocate by diligently carrying a firearm, along with an increased focus on overall personal defense best practices. This means actively seeking training on a regular basis, not just adding more tools to your repertoire.
Hopefully, this article has created food for thought or at least started a mental twitch to consider the subject matter in more detail going forward.
This article was originally published in the Tactical Life Aug/Sept 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.