By Michael Rayburn
PDF version with photos: Realistic Tactics for Edged Weapons
Edged weapons are personal weapons and as such, the attacker has to get close to do damage. He is most likely not going to come running at you from some great distance. Normally, he’ll wait until one of you closes the gap before making his assault.
Think about the distances at which you work. Do you ask someone for identification from 21 feet away? Are you able to handcuff someone from a distance of 21 feet?
Of course not. It’s the nature of our business to be up close and personal. I wish there was some way to stay out of that 21 foot kill zone, but there isn’t.
We are the ones that most often close the distance. Even when we try to stay out of the 21 foot zone, we’re more than likely thrown into it.
Think about the last call you were on. Were the rooms in the house or apartment 21 feet wide? Most of them are less.
How about that mobile home you were just in? Think about the rooms in your own home. Are any of the rooms 21 feet wide? Is the stairwell or hallway in your home more than 21 feet long?
For the most part, you’re going to be dealing with people at distances of less than 21 feet. Realistically the distance is going to be around 10 to 12 feet, or less, depending on the situation.
Because of this you need to have tactics that work at these diminished distances. If you only train for that nut who comes running at you from across the parking lot, you’re not going to be prepared for the one that attacks you up close and personal.
The first tactic you need to practice when dealing with subjects armed with an edged weapon is hip shooting. You need to be proficient at firing your handgun from your hip. The easiest way to practice hip shooting is to think of this simple phrase, “elbow up-elbow down.”
Your elbow goes up as you draw your handgun from your holster and then your elbow goes down as you lock or index it into your side. As your elbow goes down, you start firing some rounds into your adversary as quickly as you can.
You’ll want to fire multiple rounds into the bad guy. It takes the average person 4.6 seconds to bleed out to the point of unconsciousness from a center mass hit. That’s not death—that’s just to the point of unconsciousness.
The bad guy can cover a lot of ground in 4.6 seconds. The average person can cover 30 feet in less than three seconds. That’s not some track star, that’s the average pizza-eating, beer-swilling guy on the street.
That 4.6 seconds figure is from a center mass hit. With this style of hip shooting, all we’re looking for is hits on a man-sized target.
You are under attack from a knife-wielding adversary at a very close distance. You will not have the time or room to bring your gun up for a center mass shot. This person is on top of you, trying to slice and dice you. At this very close distance the best we can go for are some hits on a man-sized target.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get a center mass hit, because it is possible. All you have to do is raise the barrel of the gun a little higher on the target as you keep your elbow locked into your side.
We can practice this on the range but on the street it may be a little difficult. Chances are you’ll be fighting with your adversary or attempting to block slashes and stabs. It’s not like shooting at a paper target, you’ll both be moving and fighting.
Because of this, we’ll want to put multiple rounds into the bad guy to get him to cease his actions as quickly as possible. Since we more than likely will be unable to get a good center mass hit, it is going to take a little longer for this guy to bleed out to the point of unconsciousness—to that 4.6 second time.
Therefore you’ll want to fire multiple rounds into this guy as quickly as you can to make him stop his attack on you.
Because of this, you may be tempted to try for a center mass hit but some hits to the lower abdominal area are just as good. You have the possibility of hitting his hipbone and breaking it, which could send shards and bone fragments up into his lower intestinal area.
If you break his hipbone you may knock him off balance. You have the possibility of severing his lower spine, which will take his feet out from under him. You also have the possibility of creating some real damage to his lower abdominal area.
What happens when you shoot a plastic jug filled with water? It explodes right? The majority of your bodily fluids are in your lower abdominal area, so to a certain extent you get the same effect.
It’s called hydrostatic action. Although your skin and body tissue are a little more flexible than a plastic jug filled with water, you’re still able to create some damage. You’ll want to move laterally.
If you move backward the bad guy is going to run right over the top of you. It is much easier and faster for him to go forward than it is for you to move backward.
Move laterally and continue to fire from the hip. Try to put some objects in between you and the bad guy, a sofa, a chair, a park bench. Whatever you can get in between you to slow him down and force him to go around or over the top of the object. As you do this, continue to fire as long as he is being aggressive.
If you’re in really close to someone who pulls an edged weapon, consider using the ‘shove and shoot’ drill where you shove the bad guy with your off hand while drawing your handgun and shooting him. You’ll still be shooting from the hip using the elbow up--elbow down method.
Remember to put your off arm up to block any overhand blows once you’ve shoved the bad guy. You want to protect your head and neck area.
Unskilled individuals are responsible for the majority of edged weapon attacks in this country. The attack comes in the form of an overhand attack, just like you see in the horror flicks.
Even when the knife is held in the hand as if you were cutting something on a kitchen counter, it is still used in an overhand slashing method. The most commonly used edged weapon is the kitchen variety steak knife, mainly because of its availability.
Another tactic to use when you are in close to someone who attacks you with an edged weapon is to perform the “fall back and shoot drill.” As the bad guy comes at you with the edged weapon, drop down onto your buttocks and onto your back.
As you do this, kick at your attacker while drawing your gun. From here you can easily fire into your assailant’s center mass area and you could even get a head shot if needed.
This isn’t a tactic you would want to perform when faced with multiple assailants but it is a good tool to have in your tactical toolbox in case you need it. When you’re in close to someone and you have nowhere else to go, going to the ground and putting a round into this guy’s cranial cavity isn’t such a bad idea.
How many of you can draw your handgun from your security holster and place an effective shot into the target in the fraction of a second it’s going to take someone to stab you at close distances?
Remembering the whole action versus reaction thing that’s working against us where we’re playing catch up to the suspect’s action? Falling back and kicking at your adversary is going to buy you some time to draw your firearm and get some rounds into this bad guy.
About the Author
Michael T. Rayburn is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement and is currently an adjunct instructor for the Smith & Wesson Academy. He may be reached at www.pointshooting.org