Lethal Force vs Stopping Power
Posted on: March 22, 2018

A knife is a commonly carried self-defense weapon. That might not be the knife’s primary purpose but I’d guess that most folks who carry one would rank self-defense among the top three reasons why they have it. Yet, relatively few of those who pack a blade truly understand how to use it against another human being. A large part of it is proper training, of course, but some of it is just a general lack of knowledge.

I agree 100% that a firearm is often the preferred weapon for self-defense. However, there are many times when a blade will do the job quicker. Not to mention situations where carrying a firearm just isn’t feasible or practical.

Lethal force and stopping power are not one and the same. The presence of one does not guarantee the other. Nailing someone’s foot to the floor has great stopping power but isn’t necessarily lethal. Injecting someone with a high dose of cyanide is lethal but isn’t necessarily going to stop them in their tracks.

If you are in an violent encounter, you need your adversary to stop. That may or may not mean putting them down permanently. All too often, people confuse the two and believe lethal force is the only acceptable response to a threat. While it might be justified, it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily win the altercation unscathed. I look at it like this — if I can get the attack to stop, I can decide from that point how I want to proceed. Like it or not, there are also legal issues to consider. More than one person has prevailed against their attacker, only to end up in court facing criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit. I’m not saying it is right. I’m not saying it is fair. But, know this — a jury can sympathize with you all they want but they can’t create new laws nor change existing laws, they can only interpret the laws and apply them to your case. Same goes for the judge.

(And please, save the “dead men tell no tales” crap for the tavern or locker room. In this day and age, it would be rare to have something go down and have it not end up on someone’s YouTube feed.)

The thing is, many of the commonly thought of tactics with a knife actually don’t have much in the way of immediate stopping power.

Let’s say something happens and you end up using your knife against someone in self-defense. Even if you manage to score a “hit” on a major blood vessel like the carotid artery, this isn’t going to automatically cause your attacker to fall to their knees and give up. It can take a full minute, possibly longer, for them to lose enough blood to seriously impact their ability to function. The whole time they are bleeding, they can continue attacking you. This is especially true if they are under the influence of one or another substance that deadens pain.

Rather than hope they bleed out quickly or try for some sort of instant kill move, stop the attack by taking away their ability to move. Target the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that are the structures that provide mobility. For example, if you slash a deep cut across their biceps, the attacker will find it difficult to use that arm against you. The biceps is essential in lifting the forearm. The pectoral muscle also is important for arm movement. Cut it deeply and take that arm out of the equation, so to speak.

It doesn’t matter what drugs they may have consumed prior to meeting up with you. If you sever the tendons in their forearm, they lose their ability to grip an object with that hand. Slice through the hamstrings on the back of the thigh and they’ll not be able to walk.

Stopping the attack gives you the time you need to either escape, the preferred option in most cases, or take the attacker down permanently. Cutting them randomly and having them fall to the ground like a vampire that’s been staked in a horror movie just isn’t going to happen. Seek out training if at all possible. Have a plan and know at a molecular level what you’re capable of doing to protect yourself and your loved ones.

6 thoughts on “Lethal Force vs Stopping Power

  1. Knife fights are the stuff to avoid. Most people fear a knife fight over a gun. Getting sliced up and cut is a terrible way to go.

    My recommendation would be focus training on what the army calls combatives. Hand to hand combat and learning how to deal with an attacker who is going to take you to the ground. Army focus is to create distance and use a primary weapon.

    Appreciate the blog post but seriously don’t see the point in shifting training to use knives over anything else.

  2. I understand what you’re saying, Joshua, and I’m not arguing against it. What I am saying is that the focus of this article has little to do with how to properly carry a knife. As I’m sure you’d agree, there is far too much information on that to ever be properly communicated in a single blog post. This is merely one slice, pun intended, of information about the effectiveness of certain techniques to stop the attack versus the Hollywood fiction version of a knife’s lethal capabilities.

  3. Of course someone is better. The practical use of getting to a knife deep in a pocket is going to be lost. Fine motor skills are shot during a combat experience.

    Maybe if you walk around with a fixed blade and have open carried I could see it working.

  4. The discussion here is on stopping power vs lethal force and how the two are often confused. It isn’t talking about an unarmed attacker vs a citizen who only has a knife. It is about if you end up relying upon your knife, here’s what you should know about how to stop the fight quickly. A knife, in most cases, is your secondary method of defense. It makes little sense to carry a weapon and not know how to use it.

    Furthermore, I don’t care how good you are, somebody somewhere is better. If you think it would be patently impossible for an attacker to get the drop on you, I fear you are sadly mistaken. We are all human and we all make mistakes.

  5. If your in knife range attack your already have sucked at paying attention to your surroundings. This wonderful event is talking about a unarmed attacker vs a citizen who’s only thought is to carry a knife. Now the citizen must deploy it and use it in less 1.5 seconds right. Because that’s the standard for drawing from a holster.

    It’s a nice dream but rolling around while your trying to not get your face smashed in fumbling for a knife seems unlikely.

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