The increasingly popularity of EDC sharing has generated a pocketknife resurgence. Look around, chances are great you’ll see the telltale pocket clip of a folding knife on the outside of some tacti-cool jeans. As a combatives instructor, I have several issues with both this mode of carry and the typical type of knife carried.
First, a pocket clip makes it obvious that you are carrying a folding knife. Second, it is very difficult to draw from the pocket clip carry position. Third, your arm is vulnerable during the draw from the pocket clip carry position. Fourth, you are limited to a strong-side draw only from the pocket clip carry position. Fifth, chances are greater than not, the knife clipped to your pants is a utilitarian knife and does not meet the basic requirements for a folder defensive knife. Sixth, chances are greater than not, that your training does not focus on the draw to ready position. These are just a few of the issues that begin with the determination to carry a defensive folder.
Defensive knife carry can be broken down into three components: function, fit, and training. First, function. A defensive knife is designed for personal defense. Simple, huh? Well, sadly, few people carry a knife designed for personal protection. Generally, knife selection is based on the latest and the greatest or what is aesthetically pleasing. Second, fit. A defensive knife must fit your unique physical profile and environmental needs. Third, training. A defensive knife requires consistent training from carry position to draw and to ready position followed by attack when under duress. Most importantly, a defensive knife must support your style of knife fighting.
For the purpose of this review, we’ll focus on the function and fit requirements for a defensive knife, using the CRKT Crawford Kasper Defensive Knife as the standard. In the process, we’ll cover the six issues previously identified.
“When a man has a weapon which he knows is designed for fighting alone and has been trained in its use, he immediately develops a sense of confidence in it that he will never feel toward the utility knife. His fighting knife takes on a definite personal characteristic. He carries it with him at all times, he sharpens it often, and he will regard it as a very necessary part of his personal equipment.” – Rex Applegate, July 1943
When choosing a knife for the purpose of defense three factors that must be taken into consideration: type, size, and carry. Of course, local laws are a factor.
There are two types of knives: fixed blade and folding blade.
If you live in an area where open carry of a fixed blade knife is legal, this is the type and carry I prefer. Why fixed blade? Physiology. When under duress, as in a threatening situation, fine motor movements, like those involved with the function of the hand and fingers, are immediately compromised. Moreover, just as with any reality-based fighting system, armed or unarmed, all techniques that are not simple, swift, and gross motor skill compliant should be removed.
You must also consider your style of knife fighting. Do you train to stab or slash? A double-edge fixed blade dagger-style knife is, by design, excellent for stabbing, but a poor choice for slashing. Likewise, a karambit is, by design, perfect for slashing, but a poor choice for stabbing.
Legal restrictions must also be taken into account. Washington, DC, where I live is restrictive on what type, size, and carry are legal. Be alert to your local laws and understand the difference between what is legal to own and what is legal to carry, and restrictions on where you can carry, i.e., federal buildings, etc.
The simplest way to determine size is the comfort equation: L + W + M = C
Length + Weight + Mode of Carry = Comfort
Comfort is the most important part of this equation because if the knife is uncomfortable, you’re not going to carry it.
When choosing the length of the blade, the first consideration should be mode of carry, which can be broken down into two categories: concealed and open.
Once you have decided on the blade type (fixed or folder) and length, the next consideration is weight. If you choose to carry a large bowie knife (think Crocodile Dundee), you may be pulling your pants up every five minutes from the weight. When this becomes intolerable, the knife stays at home.
The size of the blade and the weight of a knife are personal choices. The following is the only guideline that I recommend: use the largest knife you can comfortably carry that is designed for the style of knife defense you are trained. Anything smaller than that, and you’re cheating yourself. Anything larger than that, and it’ll be left home.
There are two categories for mode of carry: concealed and open. If you live in an area where carrying fixed blades in the open is legal and accepted, then that is what you should use.
There are many ways a knife can be carried concealed. If you choose a concealed mode of carry, make sure the knife you want to use can be comfortably accommodated.
Mode of Carry
“Once a place has been decided upon, let the knife user carry it there constantly and practice its draw from that location, so that he will be able to use it with the greatest speed and with as much instinctive movement as possible.” – Rex Applegate, July 1943
In-Waistband Carry (IWB)
- It is comfortable.
- It can be worn all year round.
- It is secured to the hips minimizing weapon movement
- It offers the most practical knife access.
“Where you carry your knife is a matter of individual preference… Wear it where you can make the quickest draw with the greatest element of surprise.” – William E. Fairbairn, OSS, 1944
Abdominal Carry [Note: Abdominal Rear Cant (ARC) Carry is ideal, however ARC applies to fixed blade only, as a sheath is required to hold the knife fixed in this position. However, the Abdominal Carry position is applicable to a folding knife. Counter to conventional wisdom, a smaller knife [folder less than 2.5”] is less comfortable in the abdominal carry position. A larger knife [3.5” and larger] easily sits in the crease of the hip, rather than digging into the crease as occurs with a smaller blade.]
With Abdominal Carry, the knife is clipped on the strong or knife-hand side, lying flat against the lower abdomen. The handle of the knife is canted to the rear so the sheath edge is lying in the crease of the body where the upper leg meets the torso.
Why AC/ARC carry:
- This concealed method of carry is extremely comfortable. You can accommodate up to a 4” folder OR 7-inch fixed blade fighter depending on torso length. Because of the rear cant, the knife is alignment with the joint-crease of the upper thigh. This allows for total movement of the upper leg for sitting, squatting, and kicking when necessary.
- The knife can be easily concealed and remain accessible with a simple cover such as a t-shirt in the summer or short jacket in the winter.
- A person will instinctively bring his hands forward toward the threat. The front carry keeps your hands up front where the action is.
- The knife is in a fixed position and is extremely accessible to both hands. With minimal practice the weak-hand draws are just as fast and sure as strong-hand draws.
- The knife can be easily drawn with either hand while standing at a urinal, sitting in a car, sitting on a toilet, or anywhere else that may seem like a difficult position. The front carry allows just a single direct movement of the knife hand/arm to bring the knife from waistband to retention.
Knife Selection Considerations
Selecting a knife for personal protection is not an easy thing to do. There are many factors to consider:
- Blade length, type, thickness, and material
- Tang design
- Handle design, material, and length
- Knife weight and balance
- Sheath design and material
The best knife to carry for personal protection is one that has been designed for the exact type of technique and carry that you are going to employ. There are additional considerations specific to knife design that we will cover in a review of the Columbia River Knife & Tool 6773Z Crawford Kasper. The CRKT Crawford Kasper was designed for Bob Kasper’s KNI-COM (Knife Combatives) curriculum, which emphasizes thrusting and hacking and the folder is designed for this knife fighting style.
Defensive Knife Review: Columbia River Knife & Tool 6773Z Crawford Kasper
My daily carry is the CRKT Crawford Kasper. As a combatives instructor, I hold Bob Kasper in high-regard. Given I use some of his KNI-COM curriculum in my own school, it should come as no surprise that I also carry a Kasper designed knife, which Kasper designed to support his KNI-COM curriculum.
CRKT Crawford Kasper Overview:
- Overall Length: 9.25”
- Blade Length: 3.75”
- Blade Type: Modified Drop Point
- Blade Material: 8CR14MoV
- Weight: 7.2 oz.
- Liner Material: Stainless Steel
- Opener: Thumb Stud
- Handle: Black Zytel w/lanyard hole
- Clip: Stainless Steel Pocket Clip
Auto LAWKS safety system. This system converts folders into virtual fixed blades when the blade is opened and locked with the LAWKS lever slid forward.
Modified Drop Point
- Slight belly and for thrust oriented knife fighting
- Recurve for hacking, rather than slashing or slicing, which grips flesh on slashes and cutouts
- Provides dagger capabilities
- Progressively increases the size of the wound channel from tip to hilt
Deep Finger Groove
- An index point for gripping the handle.
- A guard to keep the hand from sliding forward onto the blade.
- A pushing point for both the index and middle fingers during thrusting techniques.
- A pulling point for the index finger during extractions.
- It helps lock the blade into the hand.
- It puts the index finger directly behind the blade instead of under it, which directs more power to the grip.
- It corrects a poor initial grip by guiding the handle into the hand as the index finger tightens the grasp.
The pinkie hook has several purposes:
- An index point for drawing the knife
- A pulling point for the pinkie during draws and extractions.
- It helps lock the blade into the hand.
The pommel flare allows the palm heel and ring and pinkie fingers to lock in at the rear of the handle. This provides a secure grip and an index point for both pushing and pulling.
The thin, flat handle configuration has two main purposes: control and concealment. A round handle knife will move in the hand when attempting twisting and levering types of movement. A flat-handled knife will increase your leveraging capabilities. A thin, flat-handled knife will conceal better under clothing than a round bulky handle.
Raised serrated thumb ramp to help stabilize the knife, creates a push point for the thumb during thrusting techniques, and creates a pulling point for the thumb during extractions.
The design was to have a knife that would index and lock perfectly in the hand with every draw and support the techniques of the system. Bob designed the Kasper folder to “perform under the rigors of extreme, sudden violence.” He described it is as “a Kasper Companion [fixed blade defensive knife] that folds in half—a knife designed to do what its cousin can do with a little more flexibility.”
What truly separates the Kasper Folder from all other defensive knives is the cost. At under $20 new, you will be hard pressed to find a better defensive knife [assuming your knife fighting style is built upon thrusting and hacking.]
What knife do you carry? What led to your selection?
Author – Benjamin Drader is Founder and Chief Instructor at District Combatives in Washington, DC. He served 8 years in the U.S. Army and has worked directly for two National Security Advisors, a Director of CIA, a Secretary of State, and a Prince. He enjoys ultra-marathons, off-road triathlons, and spending time outdoors with his German Shorthaired Pointer, Derby.