We tend to devote a lot of time to discussing firearms, in large part because we love them, but also because they’re an essential tool for the warfighter – and in some cases – for the defense of ourselves and others in a domestic setting.  I carry a full frame 1911 every day, not because I don’t like the Glock, but because something about how my brain is wired to my hands just makes me a bit more accurate and a bit quicker with the 1911, and like the debate between the iPhone and Android, I prefer what I’m most comfortable with.

So when I visited a friend who lives in a more urban setting recently and we got into a discussion about self-defense, he wasn’t surprised to learn that I was carrying, but lamented about his cultural environment and how it wouldn’t be socially acceptable for him to carry on a daily basis.  He punctuated his complaint with, “It seems stupid to worry about my friends’ feelings when someone could sneak up on me in the subway, I know, but I’ve got to work with these people.”

That’s when I produced my other every-day-carry, my trusty pocket knife.

We tend to think of pocket knives as a utilitarian necessity in the military, and most of us that lead lives outside the hustle and bustle of the city often find ourselves using them a few times a day for a variety of things – none of which are self-defense, so people from all walks of life might be surprised to know that in many dangerous situations, I might reach for my knife before choosing to draw my pistol.

I’ve got a decent selection of knives, from cheap pocket knives I picked up at Walmart, to expensive fixed blades I use when camping, and I tend to be picky about what knife I use for different things.  Some are small and light so I can clip them onto my sweat pants when I go for a jog, others are big and intimidating – and great for chopping wood in a pinch.  If you’re interested in some help in choosing your own every-day-carry knife, check out some of these great articles on SOFREP intended to help with just that.

Many of you already agree with my assessment that knives are often a better choice than your trusty 9mm or .45 when things get violent, but just in case you’re not on board, here are three things I try to take into account whenever I consider pulling any weapon from its spot on my hip.

My intentions are different with a firearm. I don’t live in Mosul or Aleppo – I live in a sleepy Georgia town that still hasn’t gotten cable internet (that’s right folks, I write to you every day via a phoneline). Chances are good that if I draw my pistol, it’s intended to de-escalate a situation.  That may seem like a contradiction of philosophies, but I genuinely mean it: if I point my firearm at you, my hope is that this situation will end without me having to pull the trigger.  I’m using the threat of force to command your obedience.  My best result involves you putting down your weapon, stopping whatever you were doing that forced me to draw, and waiting for law enforcement to arrive.

Those of us who train in martial arts place a different psychological weight on knives than we do firearms.  Whereas I may draw my pistol to ensure you see it and comply, if I draw my knife in a violent setting, it is with the intent to hurt you as much as I possibly can, to include killing you.  Often, I will intentionally conceal the knife with my arm to prevent an opponent from seeing it and adjusting their tactics to defend against the blade.  I don’t want to de-escalate a situation with my blade, I want to sever the ligaments in your arm that allow you to hold a weapon.