When I was a kid, I remember some adult telling me that knives were the “weapons of cowards.” What this guy was actually trying to say, I think, was that cowardly killers pulled knives if they were losing a fistfight. Keep in mind: These were also the days when TV and movies had convinced everyone that Old West gunfights always took place with two men walking slowly toward each other down Main Street, their gun hands just over their pistol grips. The “white hat” always let the “black hat” make the first move, and people lined the streets watching, apparently oblivious to the concept of “stray shots.”

That said, let me address the two misconceptions I kept hearing when I was young. First, there are situations in which a weapon is justified against a barehanded attack. If an Oakland Raider defensive tackle starts beating my grandmother, I think she’d be perfectly within the law if she defends herself with a kitchen knife. Second, while keeping your knife hidden until the last possible second can be the action of a cowardly murderer, it is also sound strategy for the law-abiding citizen who carries a knife for self-protection. I mean, why tell potential attackers that you’re armed in advance? That gives them the advantage.

Up Next

Are Switchblades Extinct?

When I was a kid, I remember some adult telling me that knives were…