Combat Daggers serve a practical and efficient self-defense/combat tool or collectible. With a long history in various militaries daggers (usually doubled-edged straight knives) still have their place. Ultimately a defensive knife needs to fulfil a few basic needs: lethality, legality and function. Here we’ll talk a little about the when, why and how to keep and use one.
Throughout history different bladed weapons were employed by people in different roles. In the Middle Ages daggers were used as backup weapons for archers and pike men. Very early on daggers were typically much longer as a sort of double-edged short sword, but as fighting styles changed, they were made smaller and easier to hide. Having a small, deadly knife that could be concealed and carried lightly was helpful in a lot of situations, be they battles or smaller fights. Perhaps the most widely used sort of combat dagger was the trench knife (often fitted with a knuckle duster handle) that saw continued use in the 19th and early 20th century. These were largely done away with in favor of more utilitarian designs for use in modern militaries and commercial self-defense weapons.
Uses and Design
Before considering how you’ll use a defensive knife, let’s think and when or why you’d use one:
- Someone approaching you with a weapon or using sheer physical force against you
When there’s a person approaching with their own weapon in a robbery scenario or outright violent attack, you want something you can draw as quickly or quicker than what your opponent has on hand, ergo an edged combat weapon that you’ve ideally had some practice with (you can never have too much practice when preparing for the possibility of an attack).
- When out hunting
A short blade can prove useful in assisting with your hunt or performing the killing blow to game like deer and pigs.
By design combat daggers are a knife best used in a stabbing rather than slashing motion. Other knives might be suitable in other circumstances where slashing might work but a single stab wound from a dagger will prove devastating. Being able to quickly stab at or into a person or animal will serve both to cause massive wounds and a threatening tool (so that hopefully you won’t actually have to use it in a defensive situation), particularly if the person you are up against knows about the danger posed facing down someone with a dagger!
The ease with which daggers allow you to thrust and then immediately retract from danger definitely sets them apart from larger bladed weapons like machetes or axes. When using edged weapons for hunting the best dagger maneuvers involve aiming for the neck and down through the neck into the upper chest. Again, using a thrusting weapon such as a dagger forces the user to stab rather than slash, but this is absolutely the best way to attack dangerous game such as boar which have a tough layer of fat across the back which helps to protect their vital internal organs. Two edges slide in much easier than a traditional single-edged larger blade like a bowie knife.
As modern daggers are typically a small to intermediate sized knife you can purchase them with a fixed blade or moving blade, whether it be folding or switchblade (carefully consider some of the laws I mentioned below).
Carrying and Storage
As a short handled and bladed weapon a dagger can be easily concealed from potential threats until you’re ready to draw. Being light-weight they are easy to carry under a jacket or on your ankle under long pants.
Laws for the purchase, sale and carrying of knives vary a lot by state so you should always keep up to date with this if you’re considering carrying a weapon such as a dagger.
With this, let’s consider Federal US Laws first. The carrying of knives in places such as schools, courts, federal buildings, and planes is nearly always prohibited, as is carrying one into a military installation unless you’re a member of the armed forces.
Being able to conceal your weapon is important so you might be thinking about something super compact like a switchblade, but the 1958 Switchblade Act prohibits the sale of these interstate, so consider where you’re seeking them out before you commit to one! Folding blades are allowed in many states, but again the laws change according to state.
Terms you need to consider are Carry Laws and Ownership Laws, as you might be able to Own and Carry automatic knives in Texas, but you can only Own, not Carry some knives in California. Always consider carry and concealment laws in your state as being found with a concealed weapon such as a dagger can net you a hefty fine or even prison time depending on where you are.
As well as ownership and carrying of knives, Intent will often play a part in the laws of your state. In Arkansas you can own and carry a myriad of knives but if you’re stopped by law enforcement your intent may be scrutinized. For hunting and self defense you will usually be fine.
As a general rule, if you’re carrying something your neighbors might consider “scary looking”, check out your state’s specific knife laws before carrying down the street-hidden or concealed.
Push Knives or Push Daggers are small, concealable triangular knives that can be held between the fingers and pushed in should use them on someone.
Belt Buckle Knives or Daggers are typically push-style knives that you can hide completely within your belt buckle.
Bowie Knives a large fixed-blade weapon with a single edge.
Switchblades automatically unsheathe from inside the handle by pressing a button or squeezing a latch. The blade me may fold out or be shoot out from the handle.
Folding Knives fold the blade into the handle manually rather than automatically-they usually operate by releasing a tab or latch. It’s worthwhile learning to be able to open and close yours with one hand.
Gravity Knives can have any sort of blade but fall out of the handle from sheer gravity.
Ballistic Knives are like Switchblades in that a button or latch will eject them, but they’re fully detachable and can be launched several yards.
A Stiletto is a knife or dagger with a long, slender blade that tapers to an almost needle-like point.
Butterfly Knives are essentially all for show and can have a one or two edged blade and fold out much like a Folding Knife, but fold out to the left and right like wings.
Things To Consider
Most importantly is the length: as those in the past found, a longer knife blade meant you were less able to conceal your dagger until you wanted to use it. Trying to find a balance between fighting potential and tactical concealment is definitely something you want to consider, with intermediate to small combat knives perhaps working best. Having two edges they have some serious stopping power but the possibility of getting your dagger stuck in places on the body like ribcage and upper leg is there, so even just a small amount of training and knowledge of fighting with knives is worthwhile here. The implications of weapons such as daggers being available to you also mean your enemies may also be carrying them, and this could change knife your thought process on knife fighting on the whole-knowing how to evade or avoid physical conflict unless absolutely necessary will hopefully keep you out of harm’s way.
As concealing our weapon is usually a primary concern and function of self defense, concealment laws can often be at odds with our desire to keep ourselves, our families and our property safe. As I spoke about earlier, automatic knives are most often the hiccup here, so how do we get around this? Get around it by concealing standard fixed blades instead. As mentioned it’s important to weigh up your concerns around being able to conceal your knife and knowing it will do the job efficiently when you go to use it-fixed combat knives offer a great balance of portability, concealment and usually sit on a level when it comes to the law.
What Sets A Combat Dagger Apart?Considering what I’ve spoken about above, things such as the function and ease of use for defense and lethality, ability to conceal and carry and legal ownership, daggers are a pretty excellent first choice for best defensive knife.