Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Knife and Gun

My captain used to say, "For most people, carrying a gun is like a fifteen year old with a condom in his pocket.  He's not going to get a chance to use it and if he did he wouldn't know what to do, but it's cool to show his friends."
In a similar way, a person with a knife out scares me more than a person with a gun out.  Some of that is personal- in most of my knife experience, the threat was trying to kill.  In the very small number of gun encounters, I got the impression that the threat was sort of hiding behind the gun.
This goes to a lot of shooting.  I know a handful of very serious gun guys  (who consider me a knife guy) and a smaller number of very serious knife guys (who tend to consider me a gun guy).  In my estimation, the knife guys are more serious than the gun guys.
This, of course, falls to my definition of serious.
The serious gun guys I know practice with a cold, surgical precision.  "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."  Dry fire every day.  Four count draw.  Weapons transition, long gun or SMG to sidearm.  Immediate action.  They practice turning corners at retention in the house.  Walking with a rocking motion of their feet.  The best (and civilians rarely have an opportunity for this) practice with ConSims in uncontrolled environment with all of Force policy and statute in effect, working their judgment in tandem with their skills.
The serious knife guys are a different level.  Stay close, here, because my definition of serious knife guy may not match anyone else's.  Knife is not a precision skill, not at the serious level.  It is a matter of intent and will.  Knives are close range and messy and the serious knife guys I know focus less on motion than on the context.  They prepare themselves for the smells; the transition when things go from technical to slippery; the feeling of parting tissues transmitted up the blade.  The screaming and struggling.  It's easy to play with a knife or a gun or any toy... but actually using a knife hits almost every social button, every uggh and disgust and "Oh, Hell No!" a human being has.  Just for the record, slaughtering and butchering animals is valuable (struggled with that word- it's not important in all ways, not critical- you won't learn a lot about knife work; and cutting through a skinned animal with a good set of boning and butcher knives isn't the same; gutting a bled-out deer is very different from the warm, slippery gush of a live disembowelment.  What you do learn is about yourself and a tiny, itty bit of how much a death can affect you.  You also learn how some things die very hard.)
Much of the difference is in the mechanism.  A gun is a joy of engineering.  It is a nifty machine that throws a rock in a straight line.  It is classically civilized.
A knife is anything portable and sufficiently thin to cut.  I've found eyeglass earpieces that were sharpened to scalpels (more for torture than assassination or combat) and plastic toothbrushes sharpened to puncture.  A knife is primitive- no matter the skill and technology that went into it, the knife is an exemplar of more primitive, less civilized times.
Part of the difference is in use.  In combat neither a knife nor a gun is used for winning fights.  Get over that. They are used for killing people.  That is a profound difference.  A handgun (as opposed to a rifle) is used defensively.  As one of the rookies put it, "My glock is just to buy time to get the shotgun."  Simplistic, but the sentiment is there.  A handgun is a compromise- portability and concealability for a profound drop in accuracy and power.  The handgun is something you pull when bad shit happens to you or you expect it to..
The knife (dueling systems aside) is used offensively, usually in a close-range ambush.  The threat appears to be walking past his target and suddenly grips the shoulder or arm with his off hand and pop-pop-pop-pop hammers staccato thrusts into the kidney or liver.
Neither of these examples are universal- handguns can be used offensively, but no professional does as a first choice.  If you are going on the offense, you get a rifle, AR, SMG or shotgun.  Knives can be used defensively, but usually increasing range is a better choice than working in the knife's required range- and when bad things happen in knife range, you can take a lot of damage while making the draw...

Today we had to demonstrate our weapons for a group of people who are frankly scared of us.  I was given a stupid but funny ninja t-shirt.  Said goodbye to an old team mate.  Watched as each of the rookies tried to impress me in their own ways, and thus showed where their insecurities were.  Let flashbangs go off at my feet in a vain attempt to convince decision makers that they were good tools, not scary bad things.  Taught a new generation the culture and ethos of the team.  Appreciated good friends (thanks Dre, Derrick, Mike, Jon).


Anonymous said...

Some of us gunners use pistols as our mainstay out of necessity rather than preference. But I can only say when I use my pistol in a work context it is offensive in the extreme.

But I do understand your point in general, and agree with it as such.

"Serious" is a definition that is debatable here. I'm not sure "intense" equates with serious. For instance, stabbing someone to death is easier than shooting them which is easier than launching a mortar which is easier than dropping a bomb. But I'd say the seriousness of intent in each case and the practice thereof is fairly consistent.

A sniper has to be very serious in his practice. A incredibly small jerk of the trigger can make one miss the target by a mile at distance, whereas up close you can make many mistakes and still hit the target. Precision is not necessary up close in nearly the same degree at distance.

And that precision requires serious practice.

When we practice with Simms we try and make the environment as chaotic as possible, with blaring music and screams and the like. I consider it serious as can be. Is it more or less serious than the knife guys? I don't think so. Is it less intense training than slaughtering a hog with a knife. I'd say it was.

Just my BS opinion. YMMV.

Anonymous said...

Why "walking with a rocking motion of their feet"? I do this out of some half-formed idea that it helps my balance ... why do shooters do it?

Rory said...

Anonymous- Balance isn't affected much by how your feet move, more by their spacing. Actually shooting while moving is really challenging. Rolling your feet helps keep the platform stable as you move without the jarring bumps of regular walking.