TACOP: Always Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

There are some out there that will look at the title of this and say, “Jeff, I think what you meant to say was never bring a knife to a gunfight.”

And my response would be, “no, my objective as an instructor and educator is to enable an operator to kill enemy combatants or a concerned private citizen for that matter to stop the threat from harming them or their family members with a firearm, knife or be it unarmed, under extreme stress.

Furthermore, he or she must be able to transition with speed and accuracy from and to any weapon system in that threat environment and survive the conflict.

In order for you to do this effectively, your training must account for a number of critical factors:
  • Personal readiness – this is both your mental and physical being.
  • Body Stress Response and its affects on you in that high stress environment or situation.
  • Tactical readiness – your training must be congruent with the threat environment, and allow you to engage threats with a tactical advantage.
  • Environmental readiness – your training must include and account for whatever environmental conditions you may be subjected to in the course of conflict. These may include such things as slippery or wet grounds, gravel, ice, snow, wooded or urban area, low or no light conditions, cold, heat, sweat and more.

This is no easy task for most people. I know from personal experience what sets apart the real world operator from the concerned private citizen, so let’s review that first and then move onto empowering you with some of these elements that will help you onto the right path of understanding why you always need to bring a knife to a gunfight.

What sets apart the real world operator that has “killing” experience from the private citizen?
  1. When your area of operations (AO) is a high threat environment or your job or mission repeatedly places you in a high threat, high stress environment, it changes your entire way of thinking and executing. For example, as an operator, I would have certain tools of the trade with me at all times.These might include a primary weapon system such as a rifle and a handgun as a secondary weapon system. I would also have at least a half dozen blades on me at any given time. However having these weapons on your body does not make you a warrior. You see I would spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about how I would employ those weapons to kill an enemy.
  2. Next, I would utilize “visualization” to practice different potential scenarios in which an enemy could ambush me and how I would survive, what I would do and of course how I would prevent that ambush from happening in the first place.
  3. I practiced and rehearsed a great deal. Practiced everything from shooting, gun handling, magazine exchanges, malfunction clearances, getting into supported positions and transitioning from one weapon system to another under stress, movement exercises and what to do in any number of last resort situations.
  4. We practiced and honed awareness skills on a Jason Bourne like level everyday and night.
  5. We are constantly self-aware of how we walk, move, and go into and out of doorways and vehicles, how we drive and third party awareness, especially in the way of collateral safety or protection.
  6. When your AO is a high threat environment for extended periods of time, all these skills get honed every hour of the day and thus you are always thinking about everything from your own movement and body position to presenting a weapon at any moment for the express purpose of killing and not shooting at a target down range at a shooting facility.
  7. Confidence  built on a platform of repeated exposure and constant training that allows you a mindset to survive in the harshest of environments and conditions.
  8. Experience that has evolved you into a predator that is able to fully function at a high level of intellect and skill and integrate into any environment to complete a mission.
  9. A predatory mindset backed up with real world skills that can be employed against an enemy target in both a psychological and or direct action way.

As you can see there are a number of key skill sets and facets that the operator attains by “living” practice and rehearsal. I realize of course that for the concerned citizen there are limitations that exist in any number of ways, which would encumber the extent to which they could achieve that operational level of readiness.

The fact is while it would be wonderful to have the time and resources to train on that level, it is unrealistic and unnecessary for most. What is realistic though is for you to gain a better comprehension of how and why you can be more effective in your personal defense and security by having a knife as part of your EDC along with your firearm.

And this brings me back to the main focus of the TACOP, which is to drive you to an understanding of why you need to always bring a knife to a gunfight.

In any conflict there are winners and losers. The big difference is winners are always prepared!

Let’s take an example from the operator’s playbook first to illustrate how a knife can be very effective along with your full kit. We just breached a building in which we had Intel that a known high value insurgent member was hiding out. As you move around a right corner, an enemy combatant that was concealed immediately ambushes you. You weapon is at ready and you are not running into rooms or exposing yourself to unchecked angles, but still this guy gets the drop on you and quickly grabs your rifle pinning it to your body.

You are in the struggle of your life. You do not want to divert your teammates to assist you, so it is going to be up to you to rapidly eliminate this threat before another one pops up and eliminates you!

At this moment you cannot transition to your secondary weapon system, which would be your handgun in your thigh rig or at your waist.

You are already engaged for control and cannot risk breaking contact to draw your weapon for concern that the enemy will most likely try to pre-empt you from doing so or go for your gun at some point before you are able to direct the muzzle to them.

So what are your options?

A blade can assist you in this situation. Reaching for your blade you can: A. either cause enough injury to the enemy so you can break contact, create space and bring your secondary weapon system into play to eliminate the threat or B. eliminate the threat quickly by targeting specific anatomical targets so you can continue searching and clearing with your primary weapon system.

I am a concerned private citizen and likely won’t be searching for terror cells anytime soon so why do I need a knife in a gunfight?

Like an operator your main objective is to stop the threat and survive. Imagine if you will a situation in which you are legally carrying a concealed firearm. Your on your way home from work and your spouse calls you and asks you to please stop on the way home and pick up a prescription as one of your kids is sick.

You exit the store and start walking towards your car, suddenly you feel a strong hand grab your shoulder and spin you around. The attacker is strong but you are able to get your hand on your gun and while you clear your holster, the attacker quickly grabs your gun and pins it against your body.

As you struggle for control you are able to reach your support side pocket where you keep a tactical folder.

Quickly, you deploy it and stab or slash the attacker’s abdomen. He immediately ceases the attack and runs away.

A knife can facilitate:
  1. Speed to eliminate a threat in extreme close quarters
  2. The ability to transition more efficiently with reduced risk
  3. The ability to help create space to redirect or deploy your primary weapon.
  4. Efficient target elimination when an enemy preempts your attempt to draw your weapon.
  5. Rapid reactive measures for confined space impairment.
  6. Rapid ambidextrous weapon accessibility.
  7. When there is no time to clear a malfunction because of a very close proximity threat, a knife can help you create that time and space and give you continuity with the tempo of the fight. It can also maximize man-to-man engagements when there is more than one combatant or attacker.
Should I carry more than one knife? And where?

For the concerned citizen, I always recommend having at least two knives with you and on you at any given time. Let’s examine where you will carry that knife.

If for example you are right handed and you carry concealed at your waist on that dominant side, you must consider the fact that if you need to present your gun to a threat and for whatever reason something goes south quickly where you need to draw your knife, carrying it on the same side as your firearm when you are carrying only one blade may not be the best choice.

If your firing hand is gripping your handgun and you are in the scenario we discussed earlier where the attacker grabs your gun and you are struggling for control, you cannot simply let go of your gun with your firing side hand to deploy your blade that you have clipped to your firing side pocket.

However, with one blade on your strong side and one on your weak side, you dramatically increase your chances of deploying that support side blade (with practice of course!) in the event your handgun is in your firing hand and you need rapid assistance to gain control of the situation.

The other choice is to position a blade centerline on your waist that could be drawn either right or left-handed. This works well no matter what side you carry your firearm on, giving you ambidextrous access at a critical time.

There are two challenges associated with carrying in this position; one is weapon retention in any physical confrontation, and the other is a matter of training yourself to draw or reach for that weapon in that position with either hand-this has to be learned by most as it is not a conventional place to carry.

Tactical readiness for the operator must include the cognitive and physical weapon skills and abilities to efficiently move through a CQC environment employing any level of force necessary to neutralize threats

For an operator with full kit, there are a number of options when it comes to carrying a knife. In this circumstance I always recommend carrying a minimum of three blades. Even for the high-speed low drag operator, having multiple blades across their body and gear is an absolute tactical advantage.

There are so many blade options these days that offer lighter weight materials and composites that it is a tactical faux pas to carry only a single blade.

It is certainly feasible to have a blade mounted on the right or left anterior chest of your load-bearing vest depending on if you are right or left hand dominant.

Additionally, you can consider mounting or positioning a blade tip down on your support side front for quick accessibility in reverse grip. This can be accomplished by employing one of the rifle magazine holders on the vest as a basis to affix or anchor the tool inside or out.

Another possibility is a thigh rig on your support side or support side waist carry. And then depending upon your gear, you could have a right and left lateral draw with tips facing the midline and each other so that you draw from reverse grip.

Of course this is all in addition to a dominant side blade, which can also come in handy as a general tool or when a situation goes south very quickly in extreme close quarters where you are in a confined space and its more efficient to draw your knife to eliminate a threat and then transition back to either your SBR or secondary system.

It could be your taking a right corner as a right-handed shooter and you move the handgun to your support hand and draw your blade with your firing side. Or it could just as easily be a situation in which you have your firearm in your strong hand and you have a blade in your support or reactive hand to assist you as you move through a target rich environment.

What if you run out of ammunition?

Sounds crazy I know, but it can happen to the private citizen or even an operator. Let me tell you about a training experience I had that clearly illustrates my point.

I was working with a S.W.A.T. Team and a group of soldiers that had just come back from multiple tours in the sandbox. Of course both sides were eager to prove who was better on the battlefield, but the objective of the program was simply for everyone to improve on their weapon transitions and skills under stress.

The next exercise was a live fire drill where each man had to move from their primary weapon system to their secondary while moving around cover and engaging multiple targets. I figured it was a good time for me to insert myself into the training- a kind of lead by example lesson.

In any case, just prior to the exercise there was a lull in which everyone was reloading there magazines and I had purposely asked a couple of the guys to load me up.

We moved in 2 man cells and I engaged the first target with two rounds from my rifle. As I continued moving onto the next target, I realized very quickly that my “full” magazine ran dry after those two rounds. Without hesitation I went to index a fresh magazine and found it was also “dry.” I then rapidly transitioned to my handgun and engaged the next target with two rounds.

As I continued to engage the following target I again was out of ammo. I then indexed what I anticipated was going to be a very limited capacity or dry magazine, dropped out the spent one and inserted the “new” one and shot one round into the target before my slide locked back.

Here I was now without ammo and I was already coming up on my last two targets and what did I do?

What I spent my whole life doing, I very quickly transitioned to the blade on my anterior chest wall and took out the two targets. At that point, some of the men were looking at me like I was insane as I crouched down to lower my center of gravity and literally thrust thru both targets.

Obviously the men were testing me to see if I practice what I preach. I knew I passed muster with everyone by the looks on their faces during the debrief.

One thing I will say here is that if you ever plan to use a handgun and a knife offensively and simultaneously (meaning both drawn at the same time with the intent of firing and slashing and stabbing) in a military application, you must always be cognizant of the muzzle of that gun as well as the cutting edge and tip of your blade as you press and cut or stab!

To that extent the tactics, techniques and procedures to move seamlessly from one weapon system to another and to be able to employ more than one weapon simultaneously, requires constant practice!

From teaching these very tactics and techniques and from experience, I can tell you that it is very easy for either of these weapons to cross paths with your body parts while engaging multiple threats, and if they do, it could take you out of the fight and make you vulnerable to the enemy.

This is of course a very different situation altogether from having your handgun in your hand defensively with an attacker grabbing that firearm while you get out your blade to change his or her level of commitment.


What if you end up on the ground?

Lastly, there may be times in which the concerned citizen or operator finds himself or herself on the ground fighting for positive control of an attacker or an enemy combatant.

Whether you have your weapon out or are attempting to deploy that gun to stop the threat, a blade is an excellent way to deter, stop or control that threat quickly and decisively when necessary.

It has been my experience that in extreme close quarter combat, an enemy is far more likely to grab someone’s firearm in an attempt to gain control or stop that person from shooting them than they would grab someone’s blade on the cutting edge.

The takeaway here for you is the same as it was for those men during our training exercise… always bring a knife to a gunfight! …Better yet bring several!

Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!


Dr. Jeff Cantor – Kidnap & ransom response specialist, global security expert and high-risk environment tactical and security instructor, professional educator, corporate trainer, published author and noted speaker, Cantor has spent his life in the service of saving lives and protecting people, governments, corporations and organizations from dangerous situations and high-risk threats. With over three decades of real world operational experience in hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, high risk protection and setting up safe houses for asset transport and relocation, he is a subject matter expert (SME) advisor that has trained S.W.A.T. teams, elite members of the military, undercover operatives from federal agencies, foreign presidential protection detail personnel, contractors, law enforcement instructors, NRA instructors, state troopers, prison CERT teams and self-defense instructors. He is the author of more than two dozen books, manuals, apps and papers in the field of kidnap & ransom, covert surveillance, covert reconnaissance, black ops escape & evasion, edged weapons, active shooter defense, travel security, 360-degree situational awareness, tactical pen defense and more.

Copyright 2017 Dr. Jeff Cantor. All Rights Reserved www.cantortactical.com | www.trsig.com

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