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Why Are Knives Always Weapons?

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by ArfinGreebly, Jan 6, 2008.

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  1. ArfinGreebly

    ArfinGreebly Moderator Emeritus

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    I was thinking. Always a bad way to start things off.

    Knives.

    Weapons.

    Really?

    I have a lot of knives. No, I'm NOT going to count them. Yes, it's probably more than a hundred. And your point?

    I'm not a knife collector. Yes, I have many. No, I didn't set out to have many. I set out to discover what works well for me. Unfortunately, no one of my acquaintance will offer to LEND you a knife for six or eight months while you try it out. To try, you have to buy. Meh.

    So I have a bunch.

    I had a reasonably specific list of tasks I wanted a knife to perform. I wanted it to cut stuff. I wanted it to be sharp enough for shaving, though I never intended to shave with it, I just wanted to have razor-like capabilities. I wanted it to be durable enough for camp work, like shaving or even chopping kindling, cutting up fruit and veggies, carving meat and -- as needed -- skinning, cutting bread, whittling, cutting cloth without tearing, cutting canvas, cutting heavy cardboard or thin board, cutting rope & wire (or seat belts), digging splinters out of fingers, punching holes in leather/cloth/canvas, drilling holes in wood, hacking off slices of salami, and so on, and so on, up to, and including if needed, amputating my own arm.

    Is that so much to ask?

    However, you may notice, on reviewing that list, that one task is conspicuously absent. Self defense is missing.

    You see, I was researching and shopping for . . . a TOOL, rather than a WEAPON.

    Why does this distinction matter?

    Well, it didn't, at first. In fact, I didn't give it a lot of thought until recently, when I set out to post a description of an exceptional bargain I found on a folding hunter.

    Yes, a "hunting" knife.

    While I was posting that report, I noticed a lot of mention of "tactical" knives and "knives as backup" to a gun, and other WEAPONS applications of knives.

    Which set me to thinking. I may have mentioned that.

    Out of the perhaps hundred knives I have, very few of them would be worth a damn as a weapon. Most of them were crafted to be useful as tools.
    • I have skinning knives. Well, skinning is a JOB, not a battle.
    • I have "hunting" knives. You'd be daft to try hunting anything with them.
    • I have fishing knives that you can't fish with.
    • I have survival knives that look aggressive, but are designed for surviving through use as a TOOL.
    • I have small and large knives. I have some rather odd ones as well.
    • I have a Bowie knife or two. And I have some "combat" knives.

    Now, the Bowies and the combat knives (one's actually called a "fighter") could be reasonably used as weapons, but what makes them effective as weapons makes them next to useless for much other work.

    Could I prepare a meal with my Ka-Bar or my Camillus or my Spec Plus? Sure. But then I've had lots of practice making tools do things beyond their design criteria. I CAN chop veggies with a bowie knife, but frankly I'd rather not. I can cut up fruit with a machete, but it's messy and somewhat risky. I can open boxes with my Spec Plus Fighter, but why would I WANT to?

    I also have some knives that muddy the water somewhat, being right on the edge of usefulness as a weapon, while being almost too big or clumsy to use for normal work.

    As I pondered this, I realized that the vast majority of knives, now and historically, are tools and are made with that in mind. They are unique in the tool kingdom, in that they are more broadly useful than just about any other kind of tool.

    If you stranded me in some forest or jungle, stripped me of my weapons, but left me a knife, within the hour I'd HAVE a weapon, made using my knife as a tool. I would use the knife to make other tools, weapons, shelter, traps & snares, and use it to prepare food and clothing. Would I ever use the knife, itself, as a weapon? Possibly, but it would be at the ragged edge of desperation.

    I considered the constant characterization of knives as "weapons" and found myself laughing aloud. It's ignorant and dishonest and childish. The VAST majority of knives are tools. WAY more than "most" of them were meant -- designed in fact -- for tasks of labor -- jobs -- and for actual work.

    Recent fads have led to making knives more "weapony" and "tactical" and you can find knives with 2½-inch blades that look like they were designed for mayhem.

    Uh, right.

    My conclusion from all this random thinking, is that knives are properly characterized as tools. Sure, there are fighting knives. But that's not MOST knives.

    My favorite characterization is of the hunting knife. Well, obviously, if you're going to HUNT with a knife, that pretty much defines it as a weapon, right? Seriously. Go hunting. Take the meanest hunting knife you have or can get. When you bag your deer or your coyote or your rabbit, let me know how you deployed the knife to make that kill. (Inevitably, someone will raise the business of hunting wild boar with dogs and knives, and I know that there are people who never use a knife for anything else but that, so you always see them with a ten-inch blade at their side, but I daresay that particular application is way down in single digits.)

    I'm nearly sixty. I've never once in my entire life killed any form of animal life with a knife. An axe, yes, but not a knife. I've cleaned fish with a knife, trimmed, cut, and boned meat with a knife, and put some cool holes in myself with knives, but never killed anything with one. Never tried. Never needed to: I always had a better tool for that.

    So, for those of you who care, may I recommend that you promote the proper characterization of knives.

    Sure, some are made to be weapons. If all of yours are made for that purpose, then good on yer. Most of you, I suspect, are like me, in that the only thing ever slain by your knife is a lump of cheese.

    I'm done thinking for now.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2008
  2. RLsnow

    RLsnow Member

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    true :) if i were to try and say stab something with any of my (only two) knifes i might find myself short of a few fingers.

    though i wont deny that i like the idea of a fighting knife ;) but a number of things would have to happen before i pick up a knife to fight with.
     
  3. Stainz

    Stainz Member

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    I, too, will hit sixty this year - mid summer. I have cleaned fish with a knife - that's about the worst thing I have done with a knife to something else living. When I fished, I cut up an odd snake and eel or two, as well. I do have a couple of new KaBars - they were 'on sale' - and an example of a custom knife maker's 'fixed blade fighters' - again, that 'on sale' deal... I'm a sucker for such.

    I will admit to having a myriad of hunting type knives, too - and even some great 'survivalist' examples. I hate serrated knives - figuring that if I wrecked my Jeep to the point I couldn't extricate myself from my seatbelt normally, I was going to need a rescuer for my injuries anyway - and just hope he has one!

    I do carry decent folders - sometimes a small fixed blade - never know when that next knife will arrive and you have to open it - or those Christmas bills, or take a tag off new britches. The comfort of having my brand new Buck #419 folding Kalinga Pro in my pocket came to fruition this Christmas at a party the evening it arrived. The sliced baked ham was surrounded with fat - barf! I threw out my paper plate with the trimmed fat on it - yea K-P - while everyone else tossed the ham - or ate the fat. Of course, the remarks were predictable - but I love ham, hate fat. My knives are tools.

    I carry protection most of the time... in the form of either an Airweight S&W .38 or .44 Special. You bet they have been comforting to carry at times. Neither is much of a legal tool... and were they all I had in my pocket at that party, I'd of had to eat that fat! YMMV.

    Stainz
     
  4. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    On this issue I'd side with you 100% of the way, and while we're on the subject I'll take a swipe at school Zero Tolerance polcies that fail to recognize that pocket knives are indeed tools, and useful ones.

    What makes a knife, or firearm, or a lot of other things a weapon is the user's intent, not what the object is. Those that carry or otherwise use knives as tools far and away outnumber those that have them for weapons, and they ever further outnumber those who carry them with illegal intentions. It would be nice to see some balance here.
     
  5. sniper5

    sniper5 Member

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    100% with you. A knife is a tool that can be used as a weapon. As can a screwdriver, hammer, shovel, breaker bar, etc.

    If I recall, things like locking blades were originally safety features to prevent the knife folding up on your fingers. And many knives are intentionally designed to make poor weapons to prevent injury to the user (my diving knife and kayak PFD knife with the stab resistant points to prevent injury when I'm upside down in a washing machine trying to cut line comes to mind).
     
  6. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Member

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    I generally agree with what you've said here. On a related note, I'll add that the vast majority of my guns are not weapons either - most are never carried for defensive purposes, or even kept ready for quick use. They are either toys, or historical curiosities, or tools for the hobby of target shooting.
     
  7. hopkin

    hopkin Member

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    I thought weapons were the forum topic? I've read quite a few threads where people start talking about other uses and eventually someone suggests going to a more general knife forum, usually knifeforums or britishblades.
     
  8. CrawdaddyJim

    CrawdaddyJim Member

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    I think the definition of Weapon is anything that is used to attack or defend oneself.

    A knife is a form of tool and just like all tools can be used as a weapon.
     
  9. JohnMcD348

    JohnMcD348 Member

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    Unfortunately, the general mindset of the general public is that ANY knife is a weapon. I always carry a folder in my pocket and/or my Swiss Champ on my belt. I don't know how many times I get a look of horror on the faces of people in public when I take my SAK out of it's holder to use the scissors on it to cut my sons straw down in a resturaunt. It used to annoy me, now, it just makes me sad. I actually heard a woman say out loud once at a McDonalds(He's got a Knife!!!!). I looked over at her puzzled and annoyed and simply said, Yes, it is. And, proceeded to cut the straw for my 3 year olds drink so he could use it more functionally.
    I learned at an early age that a knife was a tool, not a weapon. I grew up around old men who set out in the front yard daily and whittled wood blocks into fine pieces of art. I got my first knife(an Uncle Henry 3blade folder) for my 7th birthday and have carried it or the Old Timer equivalent every day since except for rare occasion. I've peeled many an orange(I live in Central Florida), grapefruit, and skinned many a fish on the bank with those knives and when my son is a little bit older, he'll learn the same as I did. Society be darned..
     
  10. ArfinGreebly

    ArfinGreebly Moderator Emeritus

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    "ANY knife is a weapon"

    Yeah.

    Hence the title of the thread.

    Yup.

    And knives certainly CAN be weapons. There have been millions of them made with that in mind.

    On the other hand, many millions more have been made expressly to be used in a "tool" capacity.

    I was just struck by the cultural "oh, look, a weapon!" mentality when confronted with something so clearly meant to be a common tool.

    And we need to address this. I really don't want to wind up with the kind of mandates and prohibitions they now have in the UK.

    Now that I think of it, isn't there an organization for knives that's kind of an analog to the NRA?

    I'll bet hso knows who I mean.
     
  11. markk

    markk Member

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  12. hopkin

    hopkin Member

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    Forgive me if I'm being slow on the uptake here...

    Is the problem this forum or the wider world? I don't see a problem with this specific forum being limited, especially as the regulars seem to constantly challenge people who have foolish opinions about knives. People are going to ask about knives as weaponry and it's better they get good information here than rely on the paramilitary fanboys. Perhaps another forum for edged tools would be useful, though?

    If it's the wider world that's an issue, I agree. A lot of people assume knives must be used as weapons in the same ways they assume guns whisper into the owners ear to go on a rampage. I get very frustrated with manufacturers that turn every knife into a tacticool assault knife to sell it. Even worse are the people who won't buy a knife unless it's guaranteed to kill bears, perhaps invading communist bears.
     
  13. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    hopkin,

    It sort of depends where you are or where the folks carrying on the discussion are.

    Around here, eastern Tennessee, you see pocket knives all the time. Any walk though a mall or at a performance and you'll see pocket clips all around. People in this area don't generally view knives as weapons, but go to another state or listen to the national news and the attitudes change to "weapon" instead of "tool".

    As to referring others to dedicated knife forums, we recognize that better information may be available from other sites focused on the question.
     
  14. Limeyfellow

    Limeyfellow Member

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    The Victorian Age really screwed us up like that, with the popular use of flatware with rounded, blunt knives. This took the knife out of common circulation where most people would carry one and things have gone down hill eversince as knives fell into a weapons category, when they are one of the most useful tools invented.
     
  15. DWARREN123

    DWARREN123 Member

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    I have one weapon, it's between my ears and back of my eyes, everything else is a tool.
     
  16. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    I believe the problem is that we let "tactical" guys set the tone.

    The most probable time you will next see a knife fight is during a retrospective production of "The Westside Story."

    And contrary to all of the ballyhoo tied to edged implements, the most useful chore for any and all knives is in food production.

    The next time a chairborne ranger shows you a blackened 10 dollar knife, show him a picture of a 33-layer gyuto worth several of his month's wages down at the carwash.

    The steel of the samurai is with us yet today--in the hands of professional chefs.
     
  17. Boats

    Boats member

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    Most of my knives are tools, but a few are pure bred weaponry.

    I have a reproduction Case V-42 stiletto that looks like this pic below:

    [​IMG]

    Any way you look at it, that knife is a weapon. Double edged, penetrator point, striking pommel, a double guard, and an indexing spot on the ricasso to remind the wielder to turn the blade flat for insertion into the body lest a vertically oriented blade get hung up in the rib cage.

    I also have one of these sticking out from beneath my mattress, a Ka Bar 1271:

    [​IMG]

    I know Ka Bars are called Fighting/Utility knives, but this one is more fighter than utility. A non-slip grip, a double guard, an indexing notch on the spine, a reinforced point, and a sharpenable swedge, tip this one away from the utility side of the equation.

    I agree in the main, most knives are tools first and improvised weapons as a last resort, but just like some horses and dogs, a certain subset were bred for combat and any other use was a secondary concern.

    Whether a knife is a weapon is about the user's intent mostly. However, some knives scream out their intent through inherent features of their design.

    And actually it was in Renaissance Era France where rounded off street (eateries and inns) and table (nobility dining) knives were decreed throughout the realm by Louis XIV in 1669. He had them all ground to be rounded off. It was among the many bad and despotically inspired ideas that France has exported over the centuries.
     
  18. TimboKhan

    TimboKhan Moderator

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    I guess it boils down to perceptions more than anything. The average Case knife is pretty obviously a tool, but to a school principal, they are a weapon. The average Fairbairn dagger is pretty obviously a weapon, but to a soldier, they are just another tool.

    Of course, in either case, they can be whatever. A sharp Case knife will stab (or slice a throat) just as well as a Kabar, and a Fairbairn will open an MRE package just as well as a Case.

    Semantically, I view all knives as tools, because essentially thats really all they are. Even "dedicated" combat knives can be used to cut meat, open boxes, play mumbelty peg (although I don't advise it), skin a deer, whittle or any other of a thousand uses. Perhaps other designs will do so more efficiently or more comfortably, but thats not really the point. The design may dictate a particular use, but the basic concept of a sharp edge is too brilliant to be confined to a single purpose.
     
  19. AStone

    AStone Member

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    <subscribed>

    [​IMG]
     
  20. AStone

    AStone Member

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    Arf,

    We know that's
    the way humans
    start things.

    Such as it is.

    I've only had time to scan this thread so far.
    (Work is keeping me on the edge.)

    But I've scanned enough by now to hypothesize that
    this thread is probably going to skirt the edges,
    reside on a cutting-edge,
    cut cheese, salami,
    brush, wood, fruit
    and veges...

    ... while
    staying
    sharp ...
     
  21. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

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    I have several knives that are large enough that I am confident I can repel or kill anything in the lower 48- except grizzly, moose, or elk- with them.

    Since I have knocked a good size deer off its feet with the butt of a weapon when I was younger and much weaker, I am entirely certain that 20 lbs of muscle and many years of experience later, I can use any of several kukuris I own to stop anything I am likely to encounter in Georgia or most of the rest of the U.S.

    The problems are portability, legality, and perception. Unless I've been out cutting down brush or chopping wood for fires, I am probably not going to be carrying a blade with 18" OAL or one of my small axes. Even if GA law allowed me to carry a "knife designed for the purpose of offense and defense", carrying a huge honkin' knife is just not as easy as carrying a moderately sized revolver or automatic. Should I use a knife to protect myself, especially one of my huge camping knives, the law officers I encounter will probably have some prejudice against me that would not be present had I used a firearm.

    I have used a knife to finish a downed deer (again, many years ago), and I can say death was instantaneous. I now know just where to shoot for an instant kill. ;)

    Anyway, anything can be used defensively. Knives small enough to be readily carried on our persons do not have the length to make them optimal for defense, with the possible exception of an unexpected grabbing/choking attack. It's sad that society tends to view knives as weapons, but that's the reality: learn how to effectively use expedient weapons, such as rolled-up newspapers and small flashlights. And carry a firearm, where legal.

    John
     
  22. Don Gwinn

    Don Gwinn Moderator Emeritus

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    Some of my knives aren't weapons.

    Some of them are, because it's against the law for me to carry the sort of weapon you (Arfin) probably carry every day. That's just the way the breaks went.
    (Yes, I know, I should move. I'll let you all know when it happens. Don't wait up.)
     
  23. ArfinGreebly

    ArfinGreebly Moderator Emeritus

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    How 'Bout That

    So, there I wuz, readin' some of the stuff on Ragnar's Forge, and I stumbled across this little remark, in the section labeled Daggers:
    Which, I think, is pretty succinct.

    If I'd read that before my original post, I probably would simply have linked to it.
     
  24. AStone

    AStone Member

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    Agreed.

    Yet, I keep thinking, back up weapon ...

    Hypothesis: dagger is to revolver what sword is to carbine.
     
  25. sammoh

    sammoh Member

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    If you need a weapon, you should get a gun... unless you live in one of the few states of the union that doesn't allow CC firearms. Then you carry a knife. Luckily, in WI, its not illegal to carry a knife so long as its not completely concealed. No length or size limit, just that it has to be plainly visible in some form or another.

    Sam
     
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