For the record, I enjoy Sean Connery movies just as much as the next guy. I also laughed out loud the first time I heard his now-famous line in The Untouchables. However, when it comes to actual training, I think the phrase “bringing a knife to a gunfight” has done more to promote complacency and a false sense of security among shooters than any other movie line in recent history.

Similarly, many shooters have spent countless hours recreating and re-validating the Tueller Drill and the so-called “21-foot rule” without ever grasping the real lesson of either: Against an attacker armed with a knife, drawing and shooting isn’t good enough. You need movement (if possible) and sound empty-hand skills to survive. In many cases, you’ll need to use unarmed tactics to stay alive long enough to even hope to bring your gun into play.

If you were going to attack someone with a knife, you would not stand 21-plus feet away and announce your intent before rushing toward your victim. You’re smarter than that. You would keep your knife hidden, use guile to get close to your target and launch your attack from close range. You would probably also choose a location for the attack that limited your victim’s movement options so he’s “penned in.”

Unfortunately, you’re not the only one who’s smart. The bad guys have also figured this out and will do everything they can to stack the odds in their favor during a knife attack. Obviously, if you maintain a high level of awareness, are prepared to recognize potential threats and pre-incident indicators, and have the skill to avoid a situation before it happens, you can avoid falling into the knifer’s trap. However, if you don’t, you’ve brought a gun to a stabbing. To use it effectively, you must mitigate the threat and survive long enough to bring it into play. And even if you get your gun into the fight, the uncertainty of handgun stopping power means that you must continue to protect yourself against the knife as you get shots on target.

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