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Carrying A Knife: Considerations and Protocols

Given the current climate, preparedness and being ready for imminent civil unrest is on everyone’s mind. However, if you are reading this, it is a good presumption that you’ve been prepared for some time. You likely carry a firearm (or 3) and have taken some training classes. Hopefully, you’ve taken some TCCC courses as well.

But you may not carry a knife (Or maybe you do). This article focuses on what makes a good carry knife by identifying the differentiation between an offensive/defensive tool and the folder you use to cut open Amazon packages.

First and foremost, if you’re going to carry any weapon, please make certain you are aware of the local laws pertaining to where you live, and stay current, especially if you travel frequently. Let’s get that out of the way first.

Hard Ready HR1 Knife and Trainer

One of the main things you need to be aware of when carrying a knife is its purpose. As a general rule of thumb, most subject matter experts in self-defense will agree that a folder is not a viable offensive/defensive weapon for a variety of reasons such as like the inability to open it under stress, a high probability of dropping it in a scuffle, and fine motor skills going bye-bye when the adrenaline hits. However, that’s not so say you shouldn’t have a folder to use for day-to-day things; as this is being written, there is a SOG SEAL XR in my pocket that is used to go samurai on packages and cordage as needed.


However, the rituals we go through often ring in our heads with the jingle of wallet, phone, keys, pistol and knife: even if not necessarily in that order. If that knife is part if the defensive EDC routine, it should be a fixed blade, period.

There are ample offerings on the market that can serve this role, and in no order, knives like the Skallywag dagger, Shivworks Clinch Pick or Push Dagger, Bastinelli Picolomako, or Hard Ready HR1 all fit the bill. Many of these have “trainer” options, which is essentially the same exact knife in every way, just with a blunted, inert edge. This is a critical distinction. You practice dry fire with a pistol, why not practice safe “dry-fire” with a blade you carry every day.


Fixed Blade

Self defense and subject matter experts typically agrees that a folder is basically a knife broken in half. Also, aside from Emerson Knives, folders rarely come in trainer versions, which is an issue when putting in the reps deploying and using the weapon to wire it in as practiced skill. Odds are, if you’re pulling your knife, things are already going bad and quick. As referenced, if you're reading this, you probably carry a firearm, and a knife serves as a backup or as a step in an escalation of force continuum. Moreover, many folders on the market do not have trainer versions available, you're forced to train with a live blade at all times.


Make sure the knife is comfortable for you, the sheath fits well, and most importantly, you can access it quickly and without much effort. You should consider how it fits in your hand, of course, but also how it feels against your body in the position you'll be wearing it in. When looking at how it fits in your hand, consider texturing, the size of the grip, the balance or “feel of it” and  blade length. You likely don't need anything with more than a 3-4 inch blade for a EDC defensive application. Blade length concerns are double important considering the legally permitted length in your state and city.


Clinch Pick and Trainer

Whatever you choose, the knife should have some type of active or passive retention to stop it from falling out. The belt clip (or however it is secured) should also be able to stand up to a violent draw stroke. The knife should barely move when it's in both the sheath and clipped to your belt/boot/daily kit.


Like a firearm, you don’t want everybody in Target knowing you have a weapon on you; Surprise is half the battle. Akin to the grip frame on a pistol, you'll want to skirt the line between comfortable enough to use in your hand, and small enough not to print excessively. As Doug Marcaida, knife expert, hauntingly puts it “Knives are meant to be felt, not seen.” It should be hidden until it isn't.

Carry Position

Assuming you have a blade that is comfortable to use, concealable, and has strong retention, you need to have a place to carry it that you can access quickly and that doesn’t get in the way too much. Most experts and trainers suggest it should be close to the centerline (think appendix carry), but wherever you carry, it should be second nature when you need to draw it. Also, another reason to have a trainer is some people practice drawing their knife with their left hand if they're right handed, in the event your dominant hand was tied up with combatives, holding an assailant, or firing a weapon. This is another reason a trainer version is critical; doing anything with your off hand is incredibly awkward and takes getting used to.

Shivworks Push Dagger and Trainer

Fighting Style

This point is critical. If you are a boxer or striker, perhaps you should go with a push dagger, or a knife that allows you to strike and still retain the weapon, like something with a retention ring. As an aside, some experts are split on the use of knives with a retention ring. If you’re a grappler or Jiu Jitsu practitioner, probably something like the Clinch Pick from Shivworks that lends itself to inside fighting would complement your style better.

In summation, there is no “perfect all-around EDC” knife. You need to think about the above considerations when making your selection, and think critically about the uses, your body type, climate (as in temperature & humidity) and local laws. In fact, you may end up with a couple knives to serve different roles, much like having a Glock 43 for the summer and deep concealment whereas in the colder months you carry a full size Glock or steel-framed pistol. A Clinch Pick can keep your 43 company while a larger blade rides along with your full size.

For the next installment, we'll check in with Clint Emerson, former DEVGRU SEAL Team 6 Operator and CIA contractor, owner of Escape the Wolf, author of the 100 Deadly Skills series; along with self-defense expert and Fit To Fight co-founder, Ryan Hoover to get some expert input on carrying a knife and some key considerations for them in part two of this series.

Stay safe out there.

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9 responses to “Carrying A Knife: Considerations and Protocols”

  1. John Simutis says:

    California, where CCW is often difficult to get, ALSO has a prohibition on concealed fixed-blades (PC 21310, and nothing to do with length or double-edge).

    So, while you are probably correct that a fixed-blade knife is preferable, it would be helpful to include folders in the article.

    • John Simutis says:

      ‘use of folders in a non-permissive environment’, selection, carry, practice is what I meant to write.

  2. Chuck says:

    Cal. P.C. 21301 refers specifically to dirks and daggers. It does not address the question of concealed fixed blade knives.

    Making a cursory search I couldn’t find the section relating to concealed knives. It is my understanding although I am no lawyer, that one may carry a concealed knife with a blade up to 4 inches.

    A knife is not concealed if it is contained in a visible sheath. We have a “homeless” man who wanders around down with at least a 10″ bowie strapped to his ankle. As he wears shorts winter and summer, it is not concealed. I am sure he has had frequent, prolonged discussions with various law enforcement officials but what he is carrying is not in violation of any California Penal Code section — yet.

    • The Demon Slick says:

      If you’re fat like me give it up with the necklace sheath. You’re not fooling anyone. And keeping a good work knife is a good idea. I carry a Kershaw chive. You don’t want people to freak out about it every time you get a tough chip bag to open. And where I live, they would.

  3. John Simutis says:

    Sadly, your understanding is incorrect. Helps to read the insanity the Legislature has put in the definitions.


    Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who carries concealed upon the person any dirk or dagger is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”


    As used in this part, “dirk” or “dagger” means a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death.

    A nonlocking folding knife, a folding knife that is not prohibited by Section 21510, or a pocketknife is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death only if the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.”

    (Folded) folders are explicitly excepted from dirk/dagger; fixed-blades are not excepted.

    You’re correct that a sheath does not make a knife concealed (nor does a normal holster conceal a gun).

    But the author says “Self defense and subject matter experts typically agrees that a folder is basically a knife broken in half.” and “It should be hidden until it isn’t.”

    In CA, a hidden fixed-blade is likely to be charged as a felony (subdivision (h) of Section 1170).

  4. Charles Walker says:

    Hey Gents,
    For clarification on California’s laws regarding concealed knives, please see below:

    “ §20200. A knife carried in a sheath that is worn openly suspended from the waist of the wearer is not concealed within the meaning of Section 16140, 16340, 17350, or 21310.”

    “§21310. Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who carries concealed upon the person any dirk or dagger is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”

    Hope that helps a little.

  5. Graham Winstanley says:

    Why do you feature Craig’s knives but not is training? It will give you all the context behind them.

  6. billo says:

    The argument in favor of fixed blades is that it takes time and effort to fumble a folding knife open. It should be pointed out that some States (such as Tennessee) have no restrictions on automatic knives. I carry an automatic knife, and find it very convenient for day to day stuff — trivial one-handed opening is wonderful. I have never used a knife in self-defense, so I can’t speak to that, but my intuition is that an automatic knife would be as good as a fixed blade.

  7. James says:

    Hello from Yank in Ukraine. From travel worldwide, and association with police and security personnel in many countries, discovery of a hidden knife makes a person suspect as a probable “punk”, petty lawbreaker, Walter Mitty-type looking for “danger” or standard, lowlife criminal. You may be in for rough treatment. Be wise when carrying a knife.

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