Knife or Gun : Which is Better for Self-Defense?

Peter Stec
February 19, 2021

Here’s an age-old question, and it’s one that needs to be addressed.  So, is a gun better for defense or is a knife better?  The answer is, YES!  Okay, that’s a cop-out, so I’ll explain a bit better.  You see, there’s absolutely no question that you can find yourself in a position where a gun would be far better for you to have than a knife, and you can also find the opposite is true in another situation.

Let’s Hope for the Best

I hope that it’s a given for most of you, that it is far better to diffuse a situation (or get outta there) as fast as possible while staying alive and preferably protecting other vulnerable people from a dangerous situation.  I don’t know anyone who actually wants to shoot someone for real.  Unfortunately, there are times (rare as they are) when it does not matter what you want.  You simply find yourself in a situation where you need to protect yourself or become a statistic while enabling a deviant to continue terrorizing others.  What can you do?  Well, hoping for the best won’t help you now!

Two Scenarios, Two Options

Consider this; you’re walking across a parking lot on the shady side of town and no one seems to be around at the moment.  You hear what sounds like a muffled cry or yell so you turn and see a young lady in the presence of 3 young men who don’t look like they’re up to no good.  You then see another young man with face covered quickly and confidently walking towards you about 50 feet away, holding some menacing looking weapon in his hand.  You know nothing here will end well and there’s a 100% chance either you, the young lady or both will be injured or killed if you do nothing.  You could turn and run leaving the young lady to a terrible fate and hope you don’t end up the same way, or you could pull a pistol at the aggressive young man and take the upper hand.

Bad guys come in all flavors, but without a pistol, you’ll likely never have the upper hand from a distance….unless you’re an actual Ninja or Jedi Knight!

I won’t continue the scenario since I think you get the point.  A gun is an excellent defensive tool in such a scenario, assuming you know how to use it and it’s loaded and in working order!

Ah, but now consider this:  You’re a young lady who finds herself in a compromising situation after visiting a friend on the other side of the city.  While walking to the subway, you pass a few gaping and dark alleyways and you start to get nervous.  You slide your hand into your purse and grab onto your karambit.  You sense that you could be in danger, but it’s hard to tell.  Surely no one would have the audacity to attack you in public!  You pass the dark alleys and start to breathe a sigh of relief when you hear the sound of a few small chunks of gravel under a shoe just behind you.  You start to turn just as an arm comes quickly around your neck as another hand grabs at your mouth to stop any screams.  Your purse is being wrenched from your left hand and you realize there are 2 attackers.  You feel one body tightly up against yours but you realize your right hand with the karambit has not been restrained…

In this scenario, it’s clear that a gun in your purse is about as worthless as a wooden frying pan, but your right hand can severely discourage an attacker if he has to tend to his wounds – especially if they’re near his head, neck or privates!

Can I carry something for Self-Defense?

In America, you can have a gun or knife, but the rules vary so much depending on geography.  If it’s legal to carry a weapon where you live, you’ll need to consider other issues like if you get questioned by a police officer.  They don’t like to hear you have a deadly weapon for self-defense.  That just brings up a whole other line of questioning and thinking by the officer.  I would suggest keeping quiet about being armed and dangerous.  The fewer people that know about your arsenal, the better.

Pros of Packing a Knife

We’ve all seen movies of an assailant coming at a beautiful young lady or a police officer nervously holding a gun, only to have the good guy turn at the last minute and shoot the bad guy out of mid-air about half a second before certain death!   In real life, such encounters are rarely as spectacular and dramatic, but they’re often even deadlier and more gruesome.  There are definitely scenarios where you’d be more grateful for a knife than a gun, and we’ll unpack that a bit right now!

The 21-Foot Rule

If you’ve never heard of the 21-foot rule, it’s a basic idea (not actually a rule) that is based on the concept that an attacker on foot can close in on you faster than you can draw a gun if the attacker starts at you within 21 feet.  You can read all about it in this article!

It would be my own view that most attacks can and do happen in close quarters or from someone who you do not suspect to be a danger until they are too close for you to react effectively in a defensive posture.  In those situations, a knife is far better to wield rather than a gun or nothing at all.

You’ll Probably Miss

Statistically speaking, the odds of you missing your target with a gun (especially if it’s moving) is higher than hitting it, so you have less than a 50% chance of success.  Plus, your attacker will probably react with much more aggression (fury?) if they survive your failed gun attack.  Bad news for you!  Realistically speaking, you’ll want to have your attacker standing about 15 feet in front of you and not moving at all while you pull out your gun and take careful aim.  Is that likely?  Well, I won’t bother answering that since the answer is self-evident!

It’s Always Ready

Though a knife can be a lifesaver, you’re doing yourself no favors if you don’t know how to (or are unwilling to) use it!

I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about this, but there are several steps to properly discharging a gun, including finding the gun and pulling it out, loading, removing the safety, cocking, aiming and squeezing the trigger.  A knife has only two steps; grab it and flick it open!  There’s also no chance of accidentally not loading it for use either!


Typically, there is a bit of a learning curve with guns and I agree with that.  However, a knife is a bit more intuitive and requires almost no actual training or education.  So, it’s easier to use for sure!

Instant Death

If you’re defending yourself, there is a chance (depending on specific circumstances) that you could be at fault for actually killing someone with a gun, while their actions toward you did not warrant such a harsh retaliation.  A knife rarely kills an attacker which will be better for you in a court of law should you find yourself there!

The Almighty Karambit

Of course, if you start flinging a knife around in a panic, you could cause some serious damage, but for maximum damage, might I suggest a karambit?  It really has no other purpose than to tear and rip into stuff and it does that very well.  The point is extremely dangerous and will cause damage even with only slight contact.  In any situation where a knife would be helpful in self-defense, the karambit maximizes or leverages your advantage.

Pros of Packing a Gun

Is your attacker at a distance (20 or more feet)?  Are you a smaller, less physically adept person?  Are you a senior citizen?  You may prefer a firearm given the obvious and inherent disadvantage you’ll have if you rely on a knife.  Knives are notorious for being taken from the original owner and used by an assailant against the owner or “good guy”.  Guns are obviously more effective from a distance if your attacker is physically adept and sees you holding a gun, while a gun can be effective from any distance if used in stealth.

As a bad guy, if you meet someone with gun and they know how to use it, you can’t help but think twice about whether or not you want to take the risk attacking!


If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a situation where you need to draw a gun, you may not have to use it at all.  It has much more of a discouraging effect on a would-be assailant than does a knife.  The situation could be diffused much more quickly and effectively with a gun than with a knife.


Even a small revolver is instantly recognized by most Westerners and the mere sight of one can (and has many times) stop an assailant before things get worse.

So, What’s the Answer?

Okay, so which is better, the gun or knife?  Well, I hope by now you see the answer is in your situation.  A knife may be better as a last option once an assailant has engaged you in a close-up match where you cannot free a hand to reach for a gun and then ready it for use.  A gun is the better choice if the danger is at a bit of a distance (like 20 or more feet away) and a gun has the added ability to deter an attacker before he engages with you.

Are There Other Good Options Besides a Gun or Knife?

Well, I’m so glad you asked this because I happen to have some good answers for you.   I happen to prefer a couple of options that will get you in a lot less hot water legally, and might be more effective than either a gun or knife!  What?!  Yes, it’s true!



A taser or stun gun is a cost-effective, easy to handle and carry tool that delivers non-lethal but effective force to allow for your escape from a compromised situation.  There are lots of options online but we like inexpensive and effective!  That’s what you’ll get with this gun!

Upgraded Taser Gun 

Upgraded Taser Gun

If you have a bit more of a budget to spend on personal safety, I’d suggest taking it up a notch to Taser Pulse +.  This is a tool that rings in over $400 but it offers a lot for that price.  For example, it looks like a gun, and while it may not look like a traditional revolver in the eyes of an attacker, it does tell the bad guys that you are VERY serious about defending yourself (or another vulnerable, endangered victim).  In addition to benefits like having a range of 15 feet (the ideal target range), the company will replace the gun if you deploy it.  AND, here’s the best part of all; once you shoot the gun, police are dispatched to your position immediately!  How cool is that?

 Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray

If you have a bit more of a budget to spend on personal safety, I’d suggest taking it up a notch to Taser Pulse +.  This is a tool that rings in over $400 but it offers a lot for that price.  For example, it looks like a gun, and while it may not look like a traditional revolver in the eyes of an attacker, it does tell the bad guys that you are VERY serious about defending yourself (or another vulnerable, endangered victim).  In addition to benefits like having a range of 15 feet (the ideal target range), the company will replace the gun if you deploy it.  AND, here’s the best part of all; once you shoot the gun, police are dispatched to your position immediately!  How cool is that?

This is my personal favorite!  Also a non-lethal alternative to stuff that can really get you in trouble like guns and knives.  I for one have had personal experience with pepper spray and it’s not fun!  It’ll turn a bear around if it’s attacking you, so it’s pretty good on mere humans!  It can be used in both tight quarters and at a bit of a distance.  You can cruise Amazon for options that might better suit your needs (like longer distance spray, etc.) but we like the Fox Spray since it comes from a trusted brand with an iconic name in security whistles.

Shockwave Torch

Here at, we’ve been featuring this flashlight for well over a year and we think it’s just getting started in popularity, because of its features and effectiveness.  It’s a flashlight with a 2 amp, 4.5 million volt stun gun!  Yes, you read that correctly.  I won’t bore you with the details here, so if you’re even just a tiny bit curious, check out more details HERE!

And Finally…

I’m happy to tell you that most people do not ever need to use any lethal or non-lethal force to restrain an attacker (I’m sure you figured that out already).  I’m confident that if you ever find yourself in such a position, you’ll do your best to diffuse it or get away as quickly as you can.  If all else fails, I encourage you to become familiar with whatever choice of defense you end up opting for.  Remember that guns and knives cast you in a certain light that begs confrontation with the law, while a less-lethal alternative like a stun gun or pepper spray may be just as effective but with less legal and social stigma.

With any luck and a good measure of prayer, I’m trusting you’ll be spared the experience of deadly confrontation in your life.

About The Author
Hey Knife Up gang! I'm Pete, and I'm just another man like you in a small rural town who loves the outdoors as much as the other million internet users that cruise sites like every day. The difference is that I like to share what I know and research what I don't totally know so that YOU can have all the info you need to feel confident and prepared for all things outdoors-related! And, for those who care, I have 42 years of wilderness canoeing and bushcraft experience in Northern Ontario and spend most of my Summers covered in mosquitos and fish slime, but hey, it's a lifestyle choice, eh?

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