Point versus edge on a fighting knife?

A friend of mine pointed out something the other day. He mentioned how many people seem to prefer thick knives with little point (a Busse Battle Mistress or a CS Trailmaster are good examples).

Now, I assume that most of these knives are for utility or combat chores, rather than as a last-ditch or specialty weapon (I could be wrong here). For example, many of knives used by the OSS and SAS were almost all point with very little edge. Most of the killing moves taught to my father when he was in the Army Rangers were stabbing rather than cutting techniques (many of the same taught to my grandfather in WWII). Yet today, even in the knives-for-fighting-rather-than-utility circles, the emphasis seems to be on the edge rather than the point (most knife reviews recently here haven't even tested points). I think that people on both sides of the "point or edge" fence are on to something.

So, what do you guys think? If you were to design a knife for fighting, would you emphasize the point of the knife or the edge? (There is some debate about the usefulness of fighting knives, I'm aware. But if you had to design such a knife, what would you emphasize?)

"A fear of weaponry is a sure sign of neuroses."
Well, a good fighting knife has to include both a point and edge(alright, duh! I mean, a GOOD one), as a good fighting style utilizes both thrust and slash techniques.

When George S. Patton was a major he designed the Patton saber as first a thrusting weapon. He argued that calvary battles were won with thrust of the blade on the attack and not the slashing blow.

He said: "toujour la pointe." Are folders short calvary sabers?
This seems like it would be better discussed under Tactical and Martial Arts, but...

Speaking form an armchair perspective, I understand thrusting to be a generally more effective way to deliver disabling blows which must be fairly well-targeted to the head or torso. Slashing offers the ability to inflict greater superficial damage and can be less targeted. Yes, there are lethal slashes, and yes, thrusts to the limbs may have their place, but in general I thick of slashes as defensive or preparatory strikes and thrusts as lethal or finishing strikes.

A thought: How much does a knife need to emphasize the point to be effective in thrusting? It must be in-line with the hand, but even a broad, "blunt" point can penetrate soft targets effectively with fairly little force. By contrast, many knife designs are poor slashers because their edges are too thick and their geometry simply doesn't produce a shallow enough wedge. In short, a machete can still thrust but an icepick will never slash. So perhaps the emphasis on slashing performance is not because this technique is more effective but because less design emphasis is needed to make a knife thrust adequately.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
Even as an erstwhile epee fencer I would opt for about anything else. Smith and Wessons are handy. And out here we can even own such things

Desert Rat

Thrusts have greater potential for critical damage. If you want a knife capable of killing, a good point is the way to go.

Any old point won't really do. To be optimized for thrusting the blade not only needs to be in line with the handle, but the point must be centered.

In order to penetrate armor and clothing(that includes balistic armor), it must be a relatively accute point. Obtuse points will need much more force to slide in. Also, a thruster must be thicker than a slasher for strength. The sorts of stresses are different.

While a slashing blade experiences stress from the edge to the spine, a thrusting blade will experience more side to side stress, so it needs to be thicker to offer more resistance to flexing and breaking.

This isn't theory, I have much hands on experience in this area. I've discussed my prefered method of hunting elsewhere.

I agree that a knife should have a servicable point and edge, but being that slashing wounds are typicaly superficial anyway, more emphasis can be placed on the point.

Most combat and fighting knives, even, and in some cases especialy, those sold/marketed by the big names, are realy nothing to right home about. I have seen hundreds of knives costing $500 or more marketed as supreme fighters, who really didn't offer any advantage over a similar factory piece, except perhaps in terms of resale value.

And therein lies the problem. We are taught technique from people who have never used it, and sold defensive knives designed by people who have never used them, all based on impressive credentials that have next to nothing to do with the matter at hand.

What part of swimming, skydiving, or marksmanship makes you an experienced knife fighter, or even gives you any particular proficiency in hand to hand combatives? No, I mean really. Yeah, you're right, none.

Power to the people.

As to guns being better, are they really? Sure, at range they've got it all up on blades. But considering the realities of the situation, if you're attacked it's within armslength and a gun has no advantage.

A thrust to the heart is as sure as a pistol shot. Except in my case, my skills with pistols are quite limited, I am better served by a blade.

add to that the fact that guns have a limited supply of ammunition, that could concievably be used up during a strugle for the weapon.

Guns aren't magic. They're only dangerous in one direction. And though the bullet is supersonic(or can be), the weapon is only as fast as it's user.

On top of that, your attacker will likely have had a gun pulled on him before and will no how to handle the situation. That assumes you are attacked on the street by a mugger or plain ol' thug of some sort.

In practical terms, guns don't really offer that much of an advantage, if you know how to use a knife.

Oh yeah, and let's ditch the worshipping of idols too. I mean, you'd think the tactical/martial arts scene was a Spice Girls concert or something.
I certainly agree with many points made above. As far as any situation outside of point-blank range, I certainly prefer my custom colts (Alan Tillman, our local gunsmith, is a genius). I appreciate snick's points about the usefulness of a knife as a weapon in certain circumstances (and I whole-heartedly agree).

So, the question becomes, since the general consensus is that both the proper edge and point are important, are there any knife designs out there that embody a good fighting knife? (As opposed to a good combat-chore knife?)

One of my favorites is a knife made of steel thin enough to be fast, but thick enough to be tough (excellently treated, of course). The blade takes a good edge for slashing, but has a long, tough point for thrusting. Something like an elongated tanto point, but precisely aligned (see www.hossom.com and the Millenium Fighter).

Any particular models y'all have designed or handled which seem to fit your "ideal fighting knife" description?


"A fear of weaponry is a sure sign of neuroses."
That would be one honk'n thick knife to be heavy enough to have a noticabe effect on speed...

That Millenium is realy a drop or clip point, it's hard to tell because they gave it all hard angles for cosmetic reasons.

As far as that goes there's a heaping lot of hoopla surrounding tanto points. One of the biggest myths is that they can do anything better than any other point, well, they sell better.

Beyond that, while there are some knives suitably designed for use as a weapon, like a Reeve Project 1 or Boker Applegate/Fairbairn dagger, there isn't anything I'd call ideal.

A lot of gimmick knives, make-do knives, and so on, but not really anything that is particularly notable beyond being a bit more servicable than the rest for the purpose.

I guess anything you can put an edge on or stick somebody with is dangerous, but I honestly can't think of a single piece that shines above all others.
My experience is purely speculative in nature, but if we look to historical figures who can demonstrate a true Knowledge of the craft, Who comes to mind? Col. Fairbairn, Royal Shanghai Police. Jim Bowie, Col Applegate.

Fairbairn seems to have favored the point to the extent that there is little else left. Bowie it would appear was fond of the edge, and Applegate tried to split the difference, perhaps with the preference going perhaps to the point.

Is this a difference is style? or an evolutionary process?
Hey Snick!

I can't find a referent for, nor develop an understanding of "worshipping of idols."

Help me out please.

Desert Rat

Zog, you weren't specific as to what type of fighting knife. In a fixed-blade, one can make a very strong argument for the Bowie style, as best epitomized by the Bill Bagwell Hell's Belles. These have a long main cutting edge with blenty of belly, a needle sharp point, and a long, sharp false edge. In this regard, you can check out James Keating's article in the Guns & Ammo Combat Knives special and also check out his tapes on the Bowie fighting style at www.combattech.com for furhter details.

As to the Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger, it was never intended as a knife fighting weapon, but as a system for silent sentry removal. Go find a copy of Major Fairbairn's book, "Get Tough", for more details. His choice as a fighting knife was the Smatchet,essentially a modified bolo knife.

Walk in the Light,

Rat, I'm not saying you are worshipping idols, all I was suggesting to you is that knives are practical within their context.

The "worshipping idols" comment was directed towards people who put unreasonable faith in people who don't really have much experience in the area in question, based soley on some cool military/police background.

Because those are combative occupations, people figure those guys must know all about combatives. In reality, cops mostly arrest people, and soldiers mostly fight with tanks,planes, and guns. Artillery too.

Some of them are proficient at swimming or skydiving.

None of which means they are inherrently skilled at unarmed combat, or even know anything about knives. a fact that is all too often ignored.

Your comment about "hands on experience" is intriquing. Care to share your resume? I don't mean this in a perjorative, disrespectful way. I am genuinely curious. If you don't care to that is, of course, ok

To make it short and sweet, I am from the "wrong side of the tracks" and am a former streetfighter(in the real sense, not the Hollywood or gang sense), I have had knives used against me and have used them against others(note: other streetfighters or attackers. I have never been a thug, not my style), and do a lot of primitive hunting for big nasty animals that I subdue in various ways and dispatch with a knife. My prefered prey are aligator, shark, and boar, being that I live in Florida.

Boar hunts come closest to a *real* fight. Since I've posted this a lot in reference to different things, I'm sure most people are getting sick of hearing about it. See my last post in the "Skinning a Gator" thread, this forum for an overview.

Just remember, talk is cheap, especialy on the internet. So see what I'm saying for what it really is, some words from a stranger you have never seen before in your entire life and have no reason to trust.

Check out what I say with practical experiment and reference it against your own experience. Do that with everything you hear from anyone 'cause there are a lot of liars and wannabe's out there, and for all you know, I, or anyone, could be one of them.

So proceed with due caution, but I wouldn't tell you wrong.


You're right, I didn't specify the type of knife I had in mind. I was hoping that if I didn't, I'd get a variety of responses as to which knives folks prefer.

I quite like long bowies myself. I have a matched pair of millenium bowies with 11" blades, an Al Mar with a 12" blade, and an old BlackJack Anaconda II with a 10" blade. Of all of my long knives, they're my favorites. I had considered getting a Helle's Belle, but my training didn't include how to use the notch, gaurd, etc, so I'd feel like a poser if I got one.

You're also right about Fairbairn's knife. It worked great as a sentry removal tool.

Any other favorites out there?


"A fear of weaponry is a sure sign of neuroses."
I just want to second FullerH's distinction between "fighting knives" and what I term "killing knives" for lack of a prettier name.

Fighting knives are for fighting with an awares, similarly-armed opponent. I call that duelling, and that's what duelling Bowies are for. They have big blades for maximum reach and guards that, unlike those on all other classes of knives, protect the user from other blades, not just their own.

Killing knives are for efficiently dispatching a (hopefully) unawares opponent who is likely not similarly armed. They have blades just big enough for this job (frequently double-edged and fairly fragile, emphasizing the thrust) and guards that are the minimum required to keep the hand off of the edge. The Fairbairn-Sykes, Applegate-Fairbairn, and Gerber MkII come to mind.

I think this bears out a "thrusts for finishing, slashes for distracting/disabling" idea.

I am going to sit back, relax, and enjoy this; but, I should warn you that this issue first kicked up dust about 3 hours after man sharpened his first rock. The debate over point/thrust vrs. cut/slash is near endless.

Most knives today offer a compomise between thrusting and cutting ability. The thrust is generally considered the more lethal of the two because the damage is done deep within the body. The cut though is easier to apply, and can develop enormous force.

Which is Best...whatever works for you; but, most people go with a good bowie-like compromise pattern.
I remember reading something written by a SEAL or Ranger in one of the knife magazines. It went something like, "If you have to fight with a knife, somebody really screwed up." I can only agree with that even though I make fighting knives and have my own opinions of what purposes they serve and when. From reading this thread, it would seem that most feel a good point first with a serviceable cutting edge second is about right. I agree with that also, but I'd like to remind folks that everyone has their own style and preferences. It doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks, what's right is what the person intending to use the knife wants in his or her hand. Period, end of story.

Thankfully that's so because that's what keeps me in business, and while most of my sales are of hunting and field knives, I make a tactical knife that flexes with the preferences of the buyer. I sometimes get perplexed by the whole discussion of "what is best". Knives are about like automobiles but even more so. There will always be Fords and Chevy's, etc, etc. In the knife world it's different names and but same number of firm opinions on what's best. What the world of knives has, however, that Detroit will never equal, is a whole bunch of guys who will make you a Mustang Minivan with a Corvette engine, Hearst shifter, 4-wheel drive, and knobby tires if that's what you want. That's why people make custom knives. That's why a lot of people buy them, and that's why there will always be Fords, Chevys, Spyderco's and Busse's, etc. and etc. PLUS anything else you can ever dream up.

What knife is best? The one I'm holding in my hand that makes ME feel most confident in myself and its capacities.