There’s a good chance that if you carry a pistol on a regular basis, you probably already carry a knife. If you don’t, then you really ought to start thinking about doing so. While a knife is certainly useful for a myriad of daily tasks it’s also an important part of your defensive tool kit. Your self-defense gun is only good as long as you maintain control over it, and a properly utilized blade can be an important weapon-retention device.

Weapon retention is a very real thing. As a police officer, I’m very cognizant of my weapon when I’m in public. I typically work in plainclothes, so I’m basically in the same boat as the average armed civilian. I carry my pistol on my strong side in a Level 2 retention holster, with a jacket covering it in most cases. Of course, the first step to retaining your weapon is not letting folks know you have a gun in the first place. That’s one reason I’m personally not a fan of open carry. Why let folks know you have a weapon and give them a chance of taking it?

But even if you’re careful, people can figure it out. Your weapon might print through your clothes, your clothes can ride up or someone may get a glimpse of it as you go into your pockets, grab your cell phone, reach for that item on the top shelf at the grocery store, etc. In my case, once folks figure out I’m a cop, they know I have a gun whether they’ve see it yet or not. So, it pays to plan for the eventuality that someone is going to realize you have a gun no matter how discreetly you carry it, and that someone may decide they don’t want you to have it any longer.

The best thing you can do is find a class or trainer to help you practice weapon-retention techniques. Practice empty-handed techniques for hanging onto your weapon, keeping it in its holster, and breaking free of the bad guy so you can get some distance and take control of the gun yourself. The other thing you can do is stack the deck in your favor and carry some tools that will help even the odds when you’re taken by surprise and/or dealing with an adversary who’s bigger or stronger than you. In this situation, a blade is one of your best bets.

Knives are easy to carry, easy to deploy one-handed if you make the right selection, and effective at inflicting pain and deterring the person trying to take your weapon. Keep in mind that if a person is going after your weapon, you’re in a life-or-death struggle. The person you’re dealing with may not be armed, but the minute they try to take your weapon, they are a lethal threat. You have the responsibility—to yourself and those around you—to hang onto that weapon. The other thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t a knife fight, and it certainly isn’t a fair fight. Your objective is to get that person off of you by whatever means necessary.

With that in mind, I carry my knife where I can access it readily with my off hand. I carry my firearm on my strong side, so my primary hand is going to be occupied with controlling my weapon or keeping it in its holster; I need to be able to access my knife with my other hand. So, find a spot on your body where you can clip a blade and access it with one hand, or better yet, with both hands just in case.

Once you access your blade, the key point is pain compliance. Again, weapon-retention training is truly invaluable here. But, whether you’re highly trained or a novice, if calamity strikes, start cutting. A buddy who has spent a lot of years studying martial arts of the Philippines once told me that if you get into a fight with a knife, “Cut what you can.” While an advanced knife fighter is going to have techniques and preferred cuts, when you’re in a down-and-dirty fight with a guy right on top of you, I tend to go with the “cut what you can” theory. A knife jammed into his thigh or side and twisted is going to be pretty distracting. If you can rake the blade across your assailant’s hands or wrist and dislodge him from your gun, that works, too, but the main thing is to keep cutting until he’s off of you. That isn’t pretty or sophisticated, but it works. I know of two incidents personally where that’s exactly what happened, and both law enforcement officers are still here to talk about them. Both had basic police weapon-retention training, but neither had any special knife training.

Folding Knives

While a very good argument can be made for carrying a fixed-blade knife, something like the KA-BAR TDI knife for instance, I think most of us end up carrying folding knives of one type or another. They’re convenient, they’re discreet, and there is a huge variety to choose from these days. We really do live in the golden age of cutlery in that there are a great many quality companies out there making a wide variety of blades with different locking and operating systems and carry variations. It’s not hard to find a good knife these days, no matter what your budget is, but it is sometimes hard to figure out what you need because there are so many options available. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the newer folding knives available from a number of top manufacturers to give you some ideas.

For more information on the folding knives featured in the gallery above, please visit the following sites.

Benchmade Crooked River

Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara 2 Ti

CRKT Ruger 2-Stage

KA-BAR Jarosz Folder

Kershaw Launch 5

OKC Dozier Arrow SP

SOG Zoom S30V

Spyderco Positron Carbon Fiber

This article was originally published in ‘Pocket Pistols’ Spring 2017. To subscribe, visit

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