Dealing with Mass Knife Attacks: A CCW Perspective

Dealing with Mass Knife Attacks: A CCW Perspective

Dealing with Mass Knife Attacks: A CCW Perspective

Whether fueled by mental illness or terrorism, mass knife attacks are becoming more common these days—and with the increased media coverage, I suspect additional copycats are inbound. We’ve talked about how to handle a mass shooter or a terrorist attack, but looking at the many tragic examples of mass knife attacks from the last few years, it becomes apparent to me that mass knife attacks present some unique challenges that we ought to examine in greater detail.

First off: mass knifings seem to be most common in places where people don’t suspect violence—schools are unfortunately popular—or places that are crowded with tourists and visitors. Needless to say, we should all be extra cautious in those environments for the time being. This isn’t to say that I want us to live in fear, but we need to understand what the threat environment is.

Next, let’s look at how knife attacks unfold. Guns are loud, and in most mass shootings the folks at the scene hear the incident before they actually see the attacker. By contrast, knives make less noise and a great many witnesses to most mass knife attacks say that they first realized the attack was unfolding when they saw the attacker stabbing at people. So, in short: knife attacks will give less warning and likely put you closer to the attacker when you realize the incident is unfolding.

So how do you respond? Well, knives have limited range, so if you have the opportunity I suggest following the example set by a student at UT Austin during the recent atrocity there: I just started running as fast as I could.” Wise words, if the situation allows.

If the situation does not allow—eg you can’t escape, someone you love is in danger, or you’re the only armed person at the scene—your response is going to be dictated by range. We’ve discussed the tricky nature of deploying a handgun against a knife, so your draw and weapons retention skills had better be up to par. Likewise, if the attacker targets you and is within range, you may have to fall back on improvised weapons or hand to hand combat skills. Fighting in close quarters against a knife is tricky and dangerous—you’ll need real training in order to pull it off, and I strongly suggest getting some.

And of course: in the crowded wake of a mass attack, your first aid skills and trauma kit are just as important as your CCW is. It may be that the best way for you to be a hero is to do what you can to save lives until the first responders arrive.

The final note I’ll make is philosophical. We live in the proverbial interesting times, and the threat matrix we face is evolving rapidly. Our mindset, training, and EDC must all evolve with it. Staying abreast of the news and learning/training as much as you can is a vital part of a self defense mindset in this 21st century.

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Michael Jenkins is a writer and editor based in Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a lifelong reader, gardener, shooter, and musician. You can reach him at
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Jim Lagnese

Threat matrix.


Another reason it it pays to wear long sleeve shirts and layers, even in warmer weather. No, not to conceal your weapon, to slow the penetration or if need be, used as a tourniquet to suppress bleeding. It also keeps your skin from burning from the sun, even on cloudy days.


Good article, Michael.

Best advice I can offer is keep your wits, and if the attacker is too close you might be better off going for close combat than trying to draw your gun. First rule, if he is too close to you to escape, then accept that you are going to get cut. Research has shown that knives have a much greater psychological intimidation factor than guns. One mistake people make when confronted with a knife is to get so caught up in not being stabbed that they give the initiative to the attacker. Take the attacker’s thrust on your forearm where there aren’t any organs or major blood vessels, and use your other hand to attack the eyes or throat. Practice stiff finger thrusts and if it comes to that do not hold back.

Improvised weapons and shields are good too. Books, backpacks, even rolled up newspapers can be used to defend yourself from a knife thrust and as weapons to strike back. The biggest factor is not to hold back in any way. The attacker is already committed to kill you, so you have to be just as committed to stop them from doing that by any means possible.