Hacken Slash


January 23, 2013, 11:08 AM
About 1984 or so Soldier of Fortune had an Knife Egg-Spurt that insisted that edje attacks with a knife were pointless and ineffective.

Because I was evn more arguementative then than now and happened to think the magazine writer was not entirely correct I trotted out into the back yard with a beef roast wrapped in two plastic grocery bags, dropped into a tied off GI fatigue trouser leg and suspended it from a rope to allow it to swing freely.

I then hack/Slashed at it (it being suspended to a height betwee my elbow and shoulder) with a Gerber fighting knife (Mark whatever full sized with the M3 style blade and scollops on the false edge) and a USGI M-5A1 bayonet for the M-1 Garand. I am right handed and swong frm the viewers right and after cutting down the beef placed the blades in the cuts to their deepest gash for this picture.

Does this look like attacking with the edge with a "combat knife" is ineffective to anyone?


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January 23, 2013, 11:17 AM
In my personal experience with a variety of knives, and with a good deal of historical research to back me up, I believe the quickest stops with a blade can typically be delivered with a large blade that can chop deeply enough to stop an assailant with one blow.

Interestingly enough, I think these same characteristics make good "camp" knives...so the design philosophy behind the style that many in the US call a "fighter" is pretty far off base.


January 23, 2013, 12:03 PM
I think big blade : little blade :: rifle : handgun.

The physics differences and differences in practicality mean that the likely uses, and intended tactics are different. Just like I probably wouldn't be likely to need to, or necessarily be able to, hit someone at 100-200yds+ with a Glock 19, I doubt I'll be in a situation to, or be able to effectively, slash for the fences (bastardized metaphor) with a sub-3.5" knife.

January 23, 2013, 12:26 PM
Trees and undergrowth have been losing agains machetes for centuries.

I still would fix my blade to a stick, if nothing else was available.

Spears are mighty.
Especially with some Kung Fu training :-)

January 23, 2013, 12:31 PM
Does this look like attacking with the edge with a "combat knife" is ineffective to anyone?

It depends on the desired effect. You cut into meat a few inches. That's not typically going to be a fatal blow and may not be a stopping blow either depending on your opponent. There's no question that a stabbing blow with a long blade or spear is going to be more effective most of the time at producing deadly wounds than a slash. The long blade reaches into the internal organs where a scratch is a life-or-death matter. Surface wounds, even deep ones, can be stitched up. Muscle and skin will heal so long as their connective tissues and blood supply are intact. But it isn't always easy to deliver in the right place and a sufficiently long blade is not easy to tote around in your pocket.

This has also been a problem of evolution. In the arms race, mammal bodies have evolved to be much more tolerant of slashes than deep piercing blows. There are only a very few land animals that have been able to incorporate deep stabs into their armory. Sabre cats for one. Trouble is, the longer the tooth the more likely it is to shatter and that's the end of the cat. So it proved to be an evolutionary dead end until we invented spears and turned the tables. The slashing blade is akin the handgun, the long piercing blade akin to the rifle. Choose the long blade whenever you have the option.

January 23, 2013, 01:47 PM
Again, in terms of items we have any reasonable chance of carrying around with us, a long chopping blade seems a better choice than a long piercing one.

Yes, I love spears. I think a spear is the most effective close-range manual weapon...but it's not practical to carry around in almost any environment. A Camp Defender, or even a machete, on the other hand, can be carried in some environments (camping, outdoor work), and fit in perfectly.

January 23, 2013, 04:09 PM
In forensic pathology (courtesy of a textbook from my physician brother), wounds come in three flavors: stab, incised (aka slash), and chop. All are perfectly capable of lethality or severe injury, but it's the location of the wound that dictates this. It is also worth noting that a wound can be fatal or disabling in a highly delayed capacity. The BG dying 48 hours later in a hospital bed does little to stop him from murdering you in the moment.

Incised wounds (the ones we seem to be addressing) kill by severing of major arteries, causing sudden drop in blood pressure and death by bleed-out (exsanguination). But, if the wound is not inflicted over in an area with major blood vessels, it will have little effect. The same goes for stab wounds, which either sever the artery or puncture a vital organ, though which organ affects what will happen and how fast. Chop wounds are similar to first two depending on weapon shape, but add Blunt Force Trauma to the mix.

I'll give some real-world examples.

In Thornton v State 2003 the victim (unarmed but aggressive) sustained three wounds. Two only cut skin and soft tissue and had no effect on the vics behavior, but the third severed the left external iliac. He collapsed to the ground within seconds, and died 21 hours later at the hospital.

Another, In re Julianna B. 2007, the victim sustained 6 wounds in total. 3 incised wounds to the abdomen, 2 more on the arms, and a straight-on stab to the heart. Again the first 5 had no affect on the aggressive victim, who had initiated the combat but the perp was a willing participant, thus labeling them "defensive wounds" by the ME. The final stab went 3.5 inches in, puncturing the left ventricle. She died in a matter of seconds.

I don't have any examples of chop wounds from cases, though logically the additional of blunt force does seem to enhance the "stopping" ability. Blunt force tends to be more painful and can break bones or concuss the brain, both of which can be disabling almost immediately. And there seem to be much larger targets to aim at.

That isn't to say non-fatal incised wounds are worthless, though they are more psychological. In a previous thread I posted about OSS tactics where a small concealed blade was used to wound an adversary in a blitz-moment, inflicting pain and fear at the sight of their own blood, making them panic into withdrawing long enough to escape. But this has limitations if the attacker is already in full attack mode (as in the above examples), in which case they might not even notice.

January 23, 2013, 04:15 PM
To use a cliche: it is the mechanic (operator) not the tool. A properly trained knife fighter can disable or kill an attacker with a 3" blade. Cumulative cuts on the limbs and head area can end a fight quickly. By "cumulative" I mean rapid cuts countering strikes or blows. My scenario is assuming an untrained thug against a trained knife fighter.


January 23, 2013, 04:52 PM
If you chopped hard anywhere across a forearm with a camp knife, I wouldn't be at all surprised at a broken radius or ulna, or enough cut tendons/muscles/nerves to more or less disable the utility of that hand.

January 23, 2013, 05:38 PM
Not all knife attacks are intended to kill, but to incapacitate so the attacker doesn't have the mechanical ability to continue the attack. That's the thrust (pun intended) of a lot of FMA and S.Asian knife/short sword attacks. It does take skill and training, though.

So we have some details that add to the mix.

January 23, 2013, 05:41 PM
Exactly. It doesn't really matter to us as defenders if our attacker is dead, just that they can no longer hold the weapon they were threatening us with. I've done lots of chopping with kukuris and a good bit with the Camp Defenders, as well as other large blades. If you chop deeply into the bone, the fight may not be instantly over, but that limb is no longer a threat.

Again, I know other ways to use sharps, but based on (1)personal experience, (2) history, and (3- neglected to mention this earlier) hearing the types of wounds that were life-threatening but not incapacitating, I have formed my personal theories of defense with blades.

January 23, 2013, 10:00 PM
Having read the responses so far I should clarify a bit.

I fully understand the value of a thrust, so much so that when I patrolled outside Pershing Missle bases in Europe in the 1970's that I obtained and carried a FS knife, recognizing the need for penitrting deep just to get through winter clothing part of the year. I also considered this knife to be mainly useful in initiating an attack from surprise rather than any sort of face to face stand up confrontation. The FS has little forward weight and so is not a good hacker, though it was easy to sharpen way to much for use as a camp knife or tool and so could for a few slaches cut up a good bit of stuff with shallow "incisions"

On more than one occassion a sharpened e-tool was carried and there is not much one can do thrusting with those so it could be one extreme to the other.

There were long night time discussions on blades as weapons use and a deep stab was considered most desirable to deliver, but once an oponent was aware of an attack the hardest to deliver. There was a constant arguement as to whether multiple stabs were better than a single stab with grappling and so slashing the blade around inside the stab wound.

The sort of combined hack and slash I have tried to demonstrate was considered a good thing as it might be more dificult for an opponent not highly trained to deflect as apposed to a stab which is after all pretty much a punch such as folks often have experience deflecting from even childhood fights. No doubt that a single wound like the ones on that piece of beef are not likely fatal. On the other hand if you had say the Gerber wound only three inches deep across your arm six inches or above your elbow do you really think that arm is going to be very usable?. If that four and a half inch deep equally as wide cut from the M-5A1 was six inches or less above your knee do you really think you could stand on that leg?

It might make it a lot more easy for me to go for the thrust to the throat or thrust to the upper chest shown in the combatives manual if my opponent has loss the use of one or more limbs.

I was just trying to make it clear that a hack with a slashing follow through with a "battle knife" does have uses and can be effective in eventually stopping an attacker, not deny the desirability of a deep stab into major vessels or nerve trunks.


January 24, 2013, 08:59 AM
The thing about a knife intended for chopping/draw strokes is that you have to have room to swing. If you're already grappling then that goes by the boards, and you can end up in that horrible situation from Saving Private Ryan:


And I'll point out that it was in the close-quarters combat of WWI trench warfare that weapons intended for stabbing came into their own.

Historically, too, the efficient, business-like Roman legions utilized short, straight swords intended for stabbing; a quick thrust and the enemy was felled, on to the next.

January 24, 2013, 10:20 AM

Take a look at the knives in my test in the original post. A gerber with a 7 inch long very pointed blade and a GI M-5a1 bayonet with is very pointed and about the same length.

Either would be excellent for a stabbing attack and whe used from surprise would definatly have been used for such an attack.

The only thing I was trying to show was that the hacking slashing attack CAN be effective when it can be delivered.

I was never atempting to show that a hack was the preferred attack merely that it can be effective at reducing an enemy's ability to attack you or defend himself.

Consider when the discussions were taking place with my Army buddies for a moment. What was "threat" body armor like?

It was smallish plates in pockets over a thin "soft" jacket like our Korean war era vest and had greater coverage than the M1950 I wore often or the M1967 most of our guys wore.

Have you ever stabbed a "frag vest" or "flak jacket" or such with a knife? Even assuming I get by the enemy's attempt to block a stab to the chest area body armor of miltary style may well stop blunt or deflect the attack. My best immediat follow up might be the hack at the very arms and hands that came up to deflect the initial thrust.

In the past when bayonet fighting was more like a formal martial art and taught as a series of what looked a lot like formal katas the bayonet was used a lot more than it is now. Certainly the preferred attack was the thrust to the upper chest or neck region. We taught however both dragging type slashes and hacks of a sort generally as follow ups to failed thrust or for second strikes as we were taught to deliver at least two killing blows before leaving an enemy if at all possible. We also trained to use bludgeoning attacks such as vertical and horizontal butt strokes, especially as follow throughs to our own defenwsive actions sucha as exicuting parry right or left and following through with a blow with the buttstock. When possible that blow was followed through with a slash or hack and when possible that was followed by a thrust.

The old combatives manual also had some instruction of dragging slashes and hacks as again not the perferred attack but USEFULL in setting an enemy up for a thrust.

My early instructors were not martial artists. They were decorated combat vets of WWII and Korea some of whose citations actually meantioned the use of the bayonet or knife in dispatching enemy. They most certainly taught that the thrust was preferred, but the most important thing was to press th attack and use whatever could be used. Both used the bayonet on a rifle on more than one occassion and one used it as a fighting knife. Both taught that knowing how to slash and hack was important as you could not always thrust. One dispatched seven humans in a mater of seconds, four with close range rifle fire two with the rifle and bayonet and when the second bayonet kill momentarily held the rifle with the blade completely through his chest, he beat to death with a Mark II handgrenade the last enemy in the position.

In the first bayonet atack the enemy infact attempted to bayonet him and he parried, slashed and then thrust then attacked the next man who was fumbling with his own weapon allowing my instructor to go directly for a thrust which resulted in his lossing the use of his rifle and bayonet for a critical few seconds so he went to a less favorable attack than shooting or stabbing, but one that worked. Waiting even the two or three seconds for that perfect thrust to fully take effect in the hope of being able to launch another perfect thrust to the remaining enemy would have ended his life right there and then rather than 40 years later in bed at home with his wife in his sleep.

Go full bore and do not become fixated on "best" Best is the enemy of good enough in such situations.


January 24, 2013, 09:24 PM
Mindset and the willingness to cut or stab someone and do so until the threat is ended. Is what is needed regardless of the blade length.

January 25, 2013, 01:36 AM
Historically, too, the efficient, business-like Roman legions utilized short, straight swords intended for stabbing

This is because of the locked shield tactics of a Roman unit that required a short thrusting sword to thrust past the shield to stab the enemy. In other open formations the Romans also used a falcata, a recurved chopping sword.

January 25, 2013, 01:57 AM
About 1984 or so Soldier of Fortune had an Knife Egg-Spurt that insisted that edje attacks with a knife were pointless and ineffective.

If the phrase used was "pointless and ineffective", then this is wrong.

Like many other aspects of combat, with or without weapons, this is highly subjective.

If the knife you are using has a keen edge, but doesn't have a point that can be effectively utilized for stabbing, then obviously this statement is untrue.

If the knife you have is long enough, then hacking and slashing can cause considerable damage.

If your opponent is heavily clothed, then hacking and slashing might not be very effective.

If you can't get within range to effectively use your knife because your opponent has a weapon which prevents this (club, sword, gun, etc), then it doesn't matter anyway.

And let's not forget the training and experience of both the attacker and defender.

For any given type of attack with a weapon, such as stabbing, there are only a limited number of moves which can be made. Increasing the type of attack you can make also increases the numbers of moves which you can make as well. This makes it more difficult to defend against.

Limiting one's options limits one's effectiveness in defense.

"Pointless and ineffective"? Hardly.

January 25, 2013, 04:23 AM
They figured this one out many years ago in the militaries of Europe. Slashing simply doesn't penetrate enough. As Napoleon's cavalry troops rode into the battle of Waterloo, he called out to them "The point! The point!" trying to get them to remember to stab, not slash the enemy.

January 25, 2013, 08:23 AM
The short summary is that a blade that allows both provides the best set of options as a defensive tool.

BTW, there are slashing/cutting techniques in FMA to address the nose to nose distances as well as the arms length and further.

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