Ways to Carry a Defensive Knife

November 14, 2019 in Knifemakers Notebook

There are a multitude of different ways to carry a defensive knife, and plenty of strong opinions to support them. There are however some serious considerations, and while no single method of carrying your knife is king, there are some fundamental flaws with carrying a defensive knife in certain popular ways. 

There are basically three main considerations when it comes to carrying a fixed blade defensive knife, namely: 

  • It needs to offer secure, positive retention so that the knife does not come loose or fall out while you are running, fighting, or wrestling on the ground. 
  • It needs to be comfortable to wear all day and not interfere with or hinder your movement.
  • Perhaps most importantly, it needs to be consistent in its accessibility. 

When we are considering fixed blades, pretty much all of these points come down to the quality of the sheath. A good sheath shouldn’t limit you in any way. While the size and shape of the knife itself can also have a big impact on whether or not it’s comfortable to carry, a poorly made sheath can worsen the problem, or take a comfortable to carry knife and make it uncomfortable. 

When it comes to ways to carry a defensive knife on your body, there are a few sound options for the actual positioning. In my opinion there really are only two main ways to carry a defensive knife primarily, with one other option as a secondary, which I’ll explain later. 

The two best ways are Inside the Waist Band (IWB), vertically so the handle sticks up above your waistband, or Outside the Waist Band (OWB), usually mounted horizontally on the belt. Both of these options put the knife on the your waist line. This is a very natural position for accessing tools. Specifically where on your waistline is dependant largely on your own personal preferences, your body type, the way you dress, etc. will all impact where it works for you. The one area I would strongly advise against is putting the knife in the small of your back.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Getting to it is a bigger and more unnatural movement, and much more difficult to access if you are wearing heavy clothing like a jacket
  • It’s likely to be seen by someone approaching you from behind if it isn’t covered by heavy clothing
  • You can only get to it with one hand, and not at all if you’re on your back. 

I’ll also take a moment here to mention Neck Carry (knives worn on a cord around your neck). This is a bad idea for a defensive knife. Simply getting to it is a big problem as its underneath garments. Even if you can get to it, it will be moving around a lot, and if you happen to be on the ground it could even slip around behind you. In general they are a terrible idea, and even worse if its a knife you are relying on for defensive purposes.

The front of your waist line offers much more beneficial placement. Regardless of whether its on your hip or in appendix carry, IWB or OWB, its a much better option. Largely because:

  • This area is accessible with both hands.
  • If someone tries to go for your knife you can control them and retain your weapon.
  • Quite often you can pre-load your accessing of the weapon by moving your hands over it in a very natural, unassuming way (this does take training and practice). 
  • If you end up on the ground the weapon is still accessible. 

This is really the reason I advocate this position. If you also carry a firearm, you can switch the position of you defensive knife to your supporting hand, but still keep it on the waistline. 

Most men don’t have any real struggles with carrying in this position, however when it comes to women it can be an issue. This is largely due to how they dress, especially in work environments there is an expectation for women to dress a certain way which isn’t always conducive to carrying defensive tools. 

The ideal solution is to alter the way you dress, and to dress around the tool. I know a few women who do it successfully without becoming too masculine in their dress. 

There are times however where its just not feasible to wear belts and lots of equipment. Running and jogging, or at gym, spending a day at the beach, etc. are all times in our lives where we don’t necessarily want to be all tooled up. These times should be the exception in your life, but they still happen regularly enough that it warrants a solution. 

For these times where a belt is not feasible, using a Static-Line or Pocket Hook system is an option. If I had to choose one over the other I would go for the Static-Line. 

Amendment: I totally forgot to mention “Cloth Grabber” style mounting clips. Companies like Discreet Carry Concepts make excellent sheath clips which can be worn with or without a belt. So you can still carry your Knife IWB when its time to hit the beach. 

A static-line sheath is for all intents and purposes a regular Kydex sheath with the exception that it does not mount on a belt or any other sturdy point directly. Instead the sheath is tied to a strong cord (micro cord is ideal) which is then anchored to some part of your clothing. Maybe tied through a belt loop, tied around a draw-cord, or even pinned into the waistline or pocket of your pants/shorts. Once it is anchored the knife itself can be stored either tucked into your waistline or even in a pocket. 

When accessing the knife, it will come out with the sheath still attached until the anchoring cord yanks the sheath off. The sheath will stay attached to you so it won’t be lost and your defensive blade is ready to work. 

A pocket hook sheath works in a similar way. A special hooked sheath is needed so that when the knife is pulled out of the pocket, the sheath hooks in and stays behind. 

The only problem I have with pocket carry is that it isn’t the most ideal position wise, getting to it in a committed assault may not be that feasible. It does depend a lot on the pocket itself as well, so you may find it works better with some of your garments than others. So, there is a bit of inconsistency inherent in it. 

The static-line offers more versatility as it allows you to mount the knife almost anywhere, but more importantly it can still be used in the position you are used to and comfortable with. 

In conclusion, there are a few ways to carry a defensive knife, but the one you choose needs to be through out. It should also be tested in training, and once you find the spot that works best for you then stick with it and ingrain it in your training. This is not something that should be rotated or changed with the season. You should only ever change your carry position out of necessity and for temporary reasons, like a change of attire. 

Just remember that nothing is fool proof or guaranteed, it will still take training and practice. 

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