Tag Archives: knives

Would an average soldier be able to strike hard enough with a needle point blade (think Fairbairn-Sykes) to break off the tip inside a person?

Depending on the quality of the metallurgy at work, breaking a knife can be an issue. I don’t know if that’s the case with the Fairbairn-Sykes specifically, though.

I was once advised, “if you use you’re knife as a screwdriver, you’re going to break it.” I can’t remember if that was directed at me at the time, but I’m definitely guilty of doing this. Thing is, knives aren’t designed to be torqued or flexed. The blade will stab, slice, and cut, but twisting and bending are things it’s not really designed for.

Now, “twisting the knife” is a real thing, and in soft tissue, it’s nasty. But, if you wedged it in a bone, and twisted, it’s entirely possible you could shear the blade apart. And, having recently dismembered a screw in the wall, my faith in modern metallurgy is a little shaken.

Is your character strong enough to do it? Yeah, they should be. If the blade gets caught on metal, or in a bone, and your character twists it or flexes it, there’s a real risk of breakage. That is a risk, not a certainty. I’ve got a knife around here, somewhere, with a thirty degree twist on the tip, (from using it as a screwdriver) and at least one cooking knife that lost about a millimeter it’s tip in a bone.

Now, the Fairbairn-Sykes was designed to survive the rigors of combat, so I don’t know exactly how abuse resistant that knife was. Or other high quality combat knives, in general.

Also, this probably won’t apply, in the same way, with the polymer and carbon fiber knives that are kicking around these days.

Now, what won’t happen is the tip breaking off in soft tissue. Any decent knife training should have taught your character to avoid burying a knife in a rib. But, if you abuse a knife enough, it will break.

-Starke

If you stab someone in the forearm with a knife could they bleed out?

Yes. There’s an artery in the wrist and when it gets nicked, then the person who was stabbed will bleed out and they will do so fairly quickly. You can do the same with the upper arm as well. It’s also worth noting that when nerves, tendons, and muscles get cut (slashing the hand, slashing the bicep, slashing the triceps), they have more difficulty working and could, potentially, stop working all together.

This is part of the reason why knives are bad news bears and why even if you have a knife, you want to run away from someone else wielding a knife. Knives are precision work, the shortness of the blade means that the fight happens in much tighter quarters, making the strikes difficult to block, and is over much more quickly.

It’s also worth noting that when one does get stabbed or fights with an open wound, they are increasing the likelihood of death. Your heart rate elevates during physical activity, the blood keeps pumping through the body, and spills right out of the hole. The closer you get to an artery, the faster that happens. This is why pulling an object out of your body in the middle of the fight is a bad idea. If someone buries a knife in your back, you want to leave it there until the fight is over. It’s not the best solution and may continue to do more harm, but it will also keep the blood you need to live from spilling out until you can find a better way to contain the wound.

-Michi

Speaking of knives and daggers, what about throwing them? Is there a difference? Can you explain?

rachelhaimowitz:

howtofightwrite:

The best knives for throwing are the ones that have been designed and properly weighted for it, you know, throwing knives. Knives that were created with the intention of being thrown. When throwing with a knife or dagger that is not for throwing, one must work to actively counter the uneven weight distribution to ensure that the pointy end goes into the target. Otherwise, it will harmlessly bounce off their chest. (It’ll hurt some, but hey, it’s their lucky day as you just gave them a knife!)

In the sub-spectrum of knives and daggers, it’s important to remember that there are many different kinds and each weapon has it’s own unique weight even ones that were forged to be identical or created by machines on an assembly line. So, every time a character throws a knife, they’re going to have to adjust to it’s weight and point of balance. If they are practiced at throwing, then they may do this automatically but it’s a good idea to give the nod anyway because it will lend a sense of realism.

Secondly and most importantly, despite it’s recent popularity as “the skill” in the YA genre, throwing a knife has very limited practical combat applicability. In the long run, the knife or dagger will be more useful to your character in their hand than it will be in some schmuck half-way across the room. The schmuck may be dead, but now your character has lost their knife. Depending on the setting they exist in, a well-crafted knife could be expensive and hard to come by. Even when using general throwing knives, every knife lost is one that they’ll have to replace and that can get expensive, fast. Most characters aren’t going to have time to go scouting through the bodies of the people they’ve killed looking to get their knives back and will view any knife they throw as an acceptable loss.

Unlike an arrow, which can’t really be used as a weapon (or makes a useful one) when not on a bowstring, a knife can be picked up by the enemy and used by that enemy against the knife’s previous owner. If you’re going to give your character knife throwing as a skill (but it’s weird when it’s knife throwing but not knife fighting), then this is an important concept to keep in mind.

Knife throwing can tell the reader that a character is comfortable with their knives, was possibly in a lot of situations where they were very bored with their knives, or they are living in a time period where they need to be able to conceal a ranged weapon and guns are not available. However, throwing knives is a tertiary skill, not primary one. You can’t really substitute archery for throwing knives and vice versa.

One of the qualities about the first Assassin’s Creed that I really liked was the mechanic of having to find new knives after I used up all the ones I was carrying. The game gave me two options: travel all the way back to the Assassin’s home base or pickpocket the local brigands. It was a nice nod to the fact that weapons do not self-replicate automatically and an important one to keep track of.

-Michi

FWIW, I can knife-throw but not knife-fight. Then again, I learned for fun, which is a luxury someone in a fictional world may well not have. 

One important consideration to add to the great info above. If you are a skilled knife-thrower, you can throw basically anything at all with a point or corner and enough heft not to be buffeted by the wind. Like, I can throw letter openers, nail files, actual nails, railroad spikes, dinner knives, forks, tent spikes, and on and on. They don’t even really need to be sharp, because remember that force = mass x acceleration, and if they’re heavy enough to fly straight when you throw them, then there’s enough mass there to let them sink home even with a dull point. (And for god’s sake, be careful when you’re throwing a knife with a sharpened edge; that’s so not as easy as it looks because the technique of throwing a larger knife involves letting the blade edge glide through your loose fist as you release it.)

It’s also been my experience that most skilled knife throwers learn to throw other-shaped objects as well. Like, I can throw throwing stars, roofing tiles, playing cards, even thin bits of shale or flint. There’s definitely a learning curve from knives to something like playing cards (especially b/c cards in particular are very likely to catch an up or down draft if you don’t throw them exactly right), but it’s a pretty small one.

Another thing to keep in mind is distance. A throwing knife, even a great big heavy one (like, my favorite throwing knives are 13 inches long and weigh about eleven ounces each), doesn’t go very far. Each individual thrower has a rotational range: the distance, specific to the thrower and to the knife they’re throwing, that it takes for a knife to make a single 360-degree rotation. You learn by practice what that distance is, and when you get really good, you can start to manipulate it a little by applying spin (which you never do otherwise; the knife spins on its own based on how it’s weighted). For a bigger throwing knife and someone about my height (I’m 5’6), it takes somewhere around 13 feet of travel distance for the knife to make a full rotation. So if I’m trying to hit something 13 feet away, I’m going to hold the knife by the handle when I throw it so it makes a full rotation and sticks point-first. For something 6 to 7 feet away, I’m going to hold the knife by the blade when I throw it, since it’s only going to rotate halfway around (see above re: care with knives with sharp edges). Most knives, in skilled hands, will not make more than three full rotations pretty much ever. Throwing further than that requires exceptional skill and a very heavy, aerodynamic knife. Which means the practical distance limit for most folks, with larger/heavier knives is about 42 feet.

On a smaller knife, like say a slim little 5” blade you might strap to your wrist, a full rotation might only be about 6 or 7 feet. Which means the furthest you can realistically expect to throw that knife is about 18 to 21 feet.

And lemme also add that throwing knives with any degree of accuracy is actually stupidly hard. It’s not even so much the aiming that’s problematic, it’s the spinning; it’s learning to throw exactly the same way every single time, putting absolutely zero spin on the knife as you release it, and releasing it at the exact precise moment to prevent you from driving it into the ground or over- or under-rotating it. A so-so knife thrower isn’t likely to run into too much trouble veering too far left or too far right; they’re going to veer too high or too low, and even more than that, they’re going to over-rotate and end up smacking their target with the wrong part of the knife. When I started throwing, I was already highly skilled and coordinated with my hands—I’d been juggling for ten years and was good enough to perform—and I still practiced ten to fifteen hours a week for probably close to a year before I could reliably even get the knife to stick. It took another year for me to be good enough at it to reliably hit a 2-inch-square target at up to 1.5 rotations. I could reliably hit center mass on a human torso at 2 rotations. At 2.5 rotations I might just miss you altogether. I never managed to land reliable sticks at 3 rotations even after throwing for years. So, not a casual skill.

Speaking of knives and daggers, what about throwing them? Is there a difference? Can you explain?

The best knives for throwing are the ones that have been designed and properly weighted for it, you know, throwing knives. Knives that were created with the intention of being thrown. When throwing with a knife or dagger that is not for throwing, one must work to actively counter the uneven weight distribution to ensure that the pointy end goes into the target. Otherwise, it will harmlessly bounce off their chest. (It’ll hurt some, but hey, it’s their lucky day as you just gave them a knife!)

In the sub-spectrum of knives and daggers, it’s important to remember that there are many different kinds and each weapon has it’s own unique weight even ones that were forged to be identical or created by machines on an assembly line. So, every time a character throws a knife, they’re going to have to adjust to it’s weight and point of balance. If they are practiced at throwing, then they may do this automatically but it’s a good idea to give the nod anyway because it will lend a sense of realism.

Secondly and most importantly, despite it’s recent popularity as “the skill” in the YA genre, throwing a knife has very limited practical combat applicability. In the long run, the knife or dagger will be more useful to your character in their hand than it will be in some schmuck half-way across the room. The schmuck may be dead, but now your character has lost their knife. Depending on the setting they exist in, a well-crafted knife could be expensive and hard to come by. Even when using general throwing knives, every knife lost is one that they’ll have to replace and that can get expensive, fast. Most characters aren’t going to have time to go scouting through the bodies of the people they’ve killed looking to get their knives back and will view any knife they throw as an acceptable loss.

Unlike an arrow, which can’t really be used as a weapon (or makes a useful one) when not on a bowstring, a knife can be picked up by the enemy and used by that enemy against the knife’s previous owner. If you’re going to give your character knife throwing as a skill (but it’s weird when it’s knife throwing but not knife fighting), then this is an important concept to keep in mind.

Knife throwing can tell the reader that a character is comfortable with their knives, was possibly in a lot of situations where they were very bored with their knives, or they are living in a time period where they need to be able to conceal a ranged weapon and guns are not available. However, throwing knives is a tertiary skill, not primary one. You can’t really substitute archery for throwing knives and vice versa.

One of the qualities about the first Assassin’s Creed that I really liked was the mechanic of having to find new knives after I used up all the ones I was carrying. The game gave me two options: travel all the way back to the Assassin’s home base or pickpocket the local brigands. It was a nice nod to the fact that weapons do not self-replicate automatically and an important one to keep track of.

-Michi

Aside from Lord of the Rings what movies/books have good depictions of sword or knife fights?

Anything involving Bob Anderson as the swordmaster or fight coordinator. That includes all three Lord of the Rings films, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, the Antonio Banderas Zorro films, the Highlander TV series, and a lot of Errol Flynn films.

Also you should check out the ARMA instructional videos. They’re useful for providing a functional understanding of sword fights you’ll need to write them.

For using swords, my first thought is actually Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books. The fight scenes themselves aren’t that useful, but there’s some solid information scattered through the books.

We’ve got a couple questions pending about knife fights, but the short version is: they don’t happen. At least not the way they’re presented on film or in books. Knife fights are about shanking someone and wandering off, to the point that the hidden blade kills in the original Assassin’s Creed are about the extent of “realistic” knife fighting.

The best source on knives is probably from Michael Janich. He’s developed quite a bit on the subject. It’s not going to historically appropriate, but for using knives in a modern context, it should be helpful.

-Starke

hi, in the moment i’m writing about my character taking lessons in how to fight with knives and daggers, she is completely new to it and hasnt tried it before. could you give some tips?

Knife combat is lethal. Almost anywhere a knife strikes the body, the blow can kill. Knives are debilitating, the first cut is used to distract (with pain) cut tendons, muscles, or ligaments to stall and create openings for more deadly blows.

Knife combat is fast. Because of the highly lethal nature of the knife or dagger, fights are over in a few blows. Often, they are over in one or two and the first one to land the blow wins. The second (non-weaponized) hand is used for blocking and controlling the opponent to create openings for the knife strikes.

Knife fighting happens in extremely close quarters. Unlike swords where there’s some distance, knife combat happens in the fist/grappling range around the body. It starts close and it ends closer. A character who learns knife fighting won’t be ashamed of getting up close and personal with someone else, even if their intention is not killing.

It’s very difficult not to kill someone with knife fighting and even characters who don’t know what they’re doing with knives will have their killing power greatly enhanced by them.

When she’s being trained, however, she won’t be using the real thing. She’ll be using what’s called a “trainer” which is a blunted or dull knife that allows the student to practice their techniques without risk of injury to themselves, their fellow students, or their instructors. Her training will be carefully supervised by her instructors and she will be trained to have a very strong respect for her weapon(s) as well as the damage they can cause.

While she may be trained to dual wield, it’s more likely she’ll begin by learning to use just one. Though two knives double up on force, they lose the ability to block and disarm as easily as an open hand.

Develop a comprehensive understanding of anatomy. She will be trained to strike towards specific places on the body, so it’s important to know where the arteries are, what the muscles do, where the nerves are located, etc. Knife fighting focuses on causing as much damage as possible via pinpoint strikes. They can slash, strike, cut, etc.

Learn or develop the laws underlying the culture she lives in. Knowledge of violence and fighting comes with a high premium, so know what she’s risking by learning to fight. Remember, knife fighting or even just self-defense with a knife will upgrade your status under the law in a way that hand to hand combat doesn’t. Aggravated Assault, Assault With A Deadly, and Manslaughter could all be possible charges she could face for her actions. So, understand the society’s rules and incorporate them into your story.

Remember, she knows how to use the knife, she brought the knife with her. Local officials will know she was looking to kill someone when she gets caught. So, beware.

Michael Janich, Stay Safe Media I recommend going through his Martial Blade Concepts videos as a primer for self-defense knife tactics, all the videos have a longer instructional DVD that can be purchased from the website if you feel you need more instruction or ideas. He’s a good instructor and knowledgeable about his subject. His instruction is always focused on using the weapon in a real world environment and that’s what will make the lessons invaluable for you. So, check him out.

-Michi

I think the knives anon was trying to ask if a soldier who was not worried about being laden down would benefit from carrying multiple knives specialised for use in different grip positions.

Yeah, you might be right about that, the whole “icepick grip” thing threw me off.

If they’re asking about a curved grip and a straight one, then it’s possible a soldier would carry both, but not especially likely. The curved grip is a specialized design, though off hand I can’t remember what it’s used for.

Also, Argetnyx is right about trench warfare. That’s one of those times where anything at hand can be turned into a weapon. There’s a couple reasons for that; but most of it comes back to the whole “not enough time to switch to your weapon” area.

Not sure about the sawback bayonet, but I know the entrenching tool was considered a weapon for a few decades.

-Starke