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Edged Weapons 101: The Armed Offender

Edged Weapons 101: The Armed Offender

Flikr | photo by member kravmagasf

Edged weapons defense often takes a back seat in our use of force training. After all, just three law enforcement officers, all working in correctional facilities, have been killed by edged weapons attacks in the past five years. However, countless cops are injured every year by knife-wielding subjects, and we can’t allow the low number of officer deaths to make us complacent. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran, a detective or a trooper, a trainer or a chief, here’s a few things to review at this week’s roll call about edged weapons offenders.

It’s not just about knives.

An “edged weapon” can be anything from a hatchet to a razor blade to a nail gun. Someone who wants to hurt you, or stop you from searching their vehicle, handcuffing them, or entering their house will grab whatever they can to keep you from doing your job. Not every attack is pre-planned; I’ve interviewed plenty of cops who have been attacked with screwdrivers, pocket knives, sharpened gardening tools, even their own handcuffs when a domestic dispute or a traffic stop suddenly escalated into a fight.

Other offenders regularly carry and conceal some sort of cutting instrument with the sole intention of using it to hurt someone…and that someone may be you! The first line of defense against an edged weapons attack is the realization and acceptance that one can occur at any time.

“Watch the Hands!” Really!

While there are exceptions to every rule, generally speaking, people use their hands to attack you with an edged weapon. Be extremely wary of hidden hands, objects that are “palmed,” hands that are moving toward “danger areas” such as pockets, the waist, under clothing, or into a purse or backpack. Make sure that you also watch for pre-attack body positioning, resistance to your verbal commands, or increased tension during your pat down.

We often get so focused on looking for a firearm or contraband that we ignore the non-verbal indicators that that may be telling us “this guy’s got a knife.” J.D. ‘Buck” Savage is right, be alert and watch those hands!

Mindset, Visualization and Training; Be Prepared!

When it comes to an edged weapons attack, size really doesn’t matter, but your reaction certainly does. The first thing you need to do is engage your “I Will Win!” mindset. Most police officers attacked with an edged weapon live to tell about it. Visualize various scenarios in your mind and then see yourself successfully winning the confrontation, whether you use deadly force or another method of stopping the offender, even if you get injured.

Train to defend against an attack on the mats and in the classroom as well. Companies such as “No Lie Blades” offer an inexpensive training knife along with various course options to get you truly ready to react, fight and win!

Response, Distance, Barrier, Escape Route.

So what do you do when you find yourself on the wrong end of an edged weapon?

First of all, realize that this is a potentially life-threatening situation. Police officers (and police administrators) sometimes get too caught up in where edged weapons are located on the “force continuum” and they fail to recognize that an edged weapons assault is a deadly force situation. Neuromuscular incapacitation devices, such as TASER, are life-savers for both cops and criminals when it comes to edged weapons defense, but we must always be ready (and willing) to deliver deadly force.

“Never bring a TASER to a gun fight” is one of our mottos in the Street Survival seminar, and it’s really good advice to follow. However, can you automatically shoot anyone who presents an edged weapon? Most force experts will argue both ways, but if you’re alert to an imminent attack, you may be able to react successfully in other ways.

Try to create distance between you and the offender; they can’t stab you if they can’t get to you. Train to move laterally (no one runs very quickly backwards) and then try to get a barrier between you and the attacker. Your squad car, a piece of furniture, use anything you can to delay the attack so that you can select the proper force option and save yourself or others from getting cut.

Combat Care and Survivability

What if you do get cut or stabbed? We’re hearing more and more about “tactical medicine” and “combat care” when it comes to injured officers. Learning and practicing self-aid may be a life saver in an edged weapons attack. Read the Force Science Institute’s studies on preventable police deaths and immediate aid. Purchase and carry a tac med kit and take advantage of the many new self-aid courses available to line level cops. Read Ben Sherwood’s book “The Survivor’s Club” and learn the three levels of survivability (edged weapons injures are statistically the easiest for ER docs to treat).

If you spend twenty or thirty years in law enforcement, chances are you’re going to get attacked and maybe even hurt. But if you learn to anticipate, train for the proper response, and remember to “Keep Fighting No Matter What,” chances are your career won’t be sidelined by an edged weapons attack.

This is the first in a two part series on edged weapons. Part two will discuss the importance of carrying, using and controlling your own edged weapon while on duty.

  • Dove7_max50


    over 4 years ago


    If the person you confront has had proper knife training he can Kill you faster that you think!

  • Wings_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Bump Scurge...straw-flavored food sucks...

  • Evil_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Screw officer survival! I'm going to win. I can survive in a wheel chair eating my dinner thru a straw and thats not winning.

    I recently went to a defensive knife instructor course. It was very informative. Learned a little knife defensive and in a moment of desperation, a tool of aggression.

  • Godofwar2_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Edged weapons are readily deployable and can penetrate standard issue armor. Ever hear of Tueller-Mozambique? If not, message me. Awareness & empty-hand skills enhance survivability.

  • Images_max160_sq90_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Bump Top_cat. Thank you for the info. You're absolutely right. Arteries being slashed can and will be fatal. Our bodies are Walking Total Shutdowns.

    I have to meet you, Top_Cat some day. I've read many of your posts in the past and I can tell that you are incredibly wise.

  • Bbq_veh_ops_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Good article, great advise for law enforcement

  • Image1a_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article . . . and box cutters have become very popular here, coming across too many for my liking.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    We train to stop the threat, if there is a chance that I can create distance and use my taser I will, if there is no chance of that then as the old adage goes you don't bring a knife to a gun fight. The most important thing to remember is the MIND SET, if you do not have to proper mind set you will not survive. And if you do not survive then you are in a world of shit.

  • Policememorial---a_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article Betsy, thanks for sharing.

    No disrespect to you Robo but I have to disagree with you on your comment. I too have had the benefit of being taught knife fighting and defense in my younger years and I have kept up with my practice as time allows. I have every intention of shooting anyone who is armed with a knife and who gives me cause to do so and the first time my past martial arts/knife fighting training ever comes up in court I am going to politely inform that courtroom that BECAUSE of my past training and experience I know first hand just how deadly someone with a knife can be and how quickly someone can inflict a lethal wound with a knife and THAT is the reason I shot them dead on the spot. Caliber Press has a slew of use of force experts and resources available to LEOs facing trial for use of force and I plan to make good use of them if that situation ever comes to pass.

  • Weinblattmsnbc_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Betsy is right on (as usual)! And Dave's comments about the elderly woman with a knife in Whitehall, Ohio, is on point too. Here are two videos on that incident: and

  • 1979_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Training is great in hand to hand combat and learning how to disarm someone with a knife....if you are a CO who is normally unarmed. For an armed LEO, not so much. If you ever have to shoot someone armed with a knife and you have had the 'training' to disarm a knife welding suspect then the first thing that will come up at your trial for murder is that you have 'training' and could have possibly disarmed this person. Because of this 'training' you will be tried and it may not be good. I use the ' with the training because that training just helps when it is the last option. When I was young I was trained and very good at knife fighting and defense from knives. Still, even though at the time I was pretty good at it, My FIRST line of defense was ALWAYS the firearm.

  • Img_1086_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I had a use of force report very recently, where a woman ran out of her house and toward me with a 12 inch kitchen knife, and a 3 inch stake knife. She brought her knives to a gun fight! I practice drawing my weapon on a regular basis. I took her about 10 seconds to register my commands to drop the knives, but when she realized waht was trained to her center mass, she dropped both knives.....................No one was hurt..........In my mind, that's a good day.
    Train to quick draw. A person with an edged weapon can close 21 feet in less that 2 seconds! They only have to penetrate 3 inches to cause death, and less than that to cause great bodily harm.

  • Badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Edged weapon threats are common everywhere. Do you work in a population of people who hunt? Fish? Hike? Those persons commonly carry knives or other multi-tool devices. Think of a domestic disturbance and walking through a house, in the kitchen, bathrooms, garages. You dont have to have a paranoia of being attacked by an edged weapon, just be aware that edged weapons are real threats and are just as handy for someone to have as it is handy to have a firearm or other deadly instrument.

    If your department offers training in edged weapon attacks and defense, take it. If you can find it feasible to do the training in your own time on your own dime, do it, then write it off on your taxes as a work related expense where possible.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    I encourage many LE officers to also find a school of Krav Maga near them and take it. It has helped me out considerably with street scenario attacks.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    In Louisiana, we loosely use the 21-step rule. But the bottom line is, even if you're an expert martial artist, you can get cut in a vital place and bleed out, thereby doing the BIGGEST no-no (other than not coming home that night) in protective services: giving access of your firearm to a bad-guy, who can use it to kill innocent people.
    At my age (52), that's my mind's set and analogical panoply. If in doubt, shoot!. If you're feeling aw-shucks touchy-feely humanitarian, try to incapacitate them by hitting them a few times in the hip (if you can, One-Shot Erskine).

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