What makes a "fighting knife"?

Jan 6, 2000

What is it about a particular knife design, folder or fixed blade, that makes it a "fighting" or "combat" knife? Obviously any knife can be used for fighting but some are really promoted only for this purpose. Conversely, some "fighting knives" like the USMC Ka-Bar make great general purpose camp knives.

This is fairly important becasue here in NY any "fighting knife" - a knife whose only purpose is to fight with - is illegal.




Nevermind the dog...beware of owner!
What makes a fighting knife? In reality, it takes a guy gullible enough to believe what he reads in knife magazines (or views in action movies), a disposable income, and one too many beers. Knives are pretty lame for doing 'street damage,' a pool cue is very good. Pragmatically, a fighting knife is anything a cop says it is to move an uncooperative citizen into a nice cozy cell.--OKG
Well, OKG has a good point.

But, knives called 'fighters' are usually fixed blades in the 7 to 10 inch blade range, with a distal taper for lightness and speed, a very sharp point, a balance point about neutral (just behind the guard), or slightly forward, and an ergonomically designed handle accomodating several different grip positions. The Bowie knife is probably the best example of an American 'fighting' knife. The Bowie is a wonderful utility tool, and a devastating weapon. It is the user, however, that makes it into a 'fighting' knife. The knife itself is just a tool.

Of course, Any edged tool is named by what you do with it

...which leads to all of these 'drive-by stabbings' we've heard so much about. Seriously, I think the original poster was looking for a loop-hole regarding NY law. That is, if a traditional 'coffin handled' Bowie is a fighting knife, then replacing the grip with a kraton handle make it kosher. I stand by my original comment on the arresting officer.--OKG
I don't recall the words "fighting knife" in the NYC statute. I am getting older, and may have forgotten, or was it state law?
Boriqua (I hope I spelled that right, he's a good guy) has the NY statutes on his site...dig a little.
I think the reality of it all is...what you are doing with said knife, when you meet Mr. LEO...
A fighting knife is designed for the sole purpose of practical combat versus various culinary dishes and cardboard boxes. It can be of varying degrees of versatility...sometimes handling great tasks like cutting banana slices for Wheaties or opening envelopes.

They typically have at least one sharpened edge, and one handle. The popular opinion that the blade profile of a fighter resembles a moose (at least in my opinion) is inaccurate.

Hope I've been of help.

Well let me see if I can put together all the information I have gleaned from the forums and give an answer. A fighting knife is one designed solely as a tool for Fighting. Usually knife on knife or some similarly lengthed weapon. But what that means is that it doesnt have to make compromises in any other direction. 7- 10 inches is about right for reach. It should be light and if not actually light its balance should enable you to move it about very quickly. It should have a good penetrating point and should probably be a little lower on the hardness scale so if the knife is used to deflect another knife it wont break. The handle though being ergonomic should lean toward improveing handleing.

The difference is supremely evident when comparing my Beknives Fighting Bowie to my busse. The kabars and busses are really survival type knives. The Beknives bowie has a ten inch blade and is lightning fast in the hand. The balance is right at the guard and the blade at its widest point is 1.25 inches from spine to edge. Just waving it about and it has an obvious springy alive quality. Your hand move about on the grip with ease to change direction. Buttt.... It is a fighter. The balance point and wieght would make it a Lousy chopper. I couldnt imagine using this knife to set up a camp, or build shelter or the many other tasks that a heavier balance forward knife would do.

In contrast my Busse is HEAVY. The grip is designed to be held one way and one way only. It can me held in a modified Saber but it really feels at home in a full on hammer grip. Fast it is not. It really feels as if its first mission in life is to chop stuff. Point penetration is awful because of its thick stocka dn point. It can cut as well but you really need the choil cut out for any control. Better do a bunch of wrist curls and where a brace if you are going to attempt a snap cut with it. Buuttt ... once again I dont consider this a fighter. If NYC blew up tommorow and I could only take one knife it would be the busse because it can do alot of things ok. Where the fighter only has one purpose in being.

After having said all that I must add a few disclaimers and qualifications. Different cultures have different ideas on "Fighting Knives" Some cultures and martial systems favor slashing and there edged weapons design reflect this. No one can argue that a Kukri is not a formidable weapon but I dont know that it falls under Fighting Knife.

New York laws as far as I can read do not have a distinction called Fighter. They do however have laws regarding dirks, daggers and blade length. Double edge is Bad as they consider this type of knife to be designed only for doing damage. Read up on it and make your own decision. I am by no means an expert so read up and form your own opinion on what you want to carry.

This way to my Knife page

<A HREF="http://home.att.net/~a.boriqua" TARGET=_blank>

[This message has been edited by Boriqua (edited 12-07-2000).]

A fighting knife, of course, could be any knife you can reach during a fight. But if we theorize on the ' fighting knife, we would have something like this: thick blade up to 6 - 7" with a thick edge and sturdy point, strictly made to cause the maximum damage possible on a relativelly soft target like the human body; its balance point should be around the guard; handle should be very safe to hold but not with knuckles or other crumbling things like that; the guard should be on the lower side only, as the risk of blade-to blade shock is very small and its single purpose is to protect the hand from slipping over the edge - unless the blade is fully double edged of course. If we are talking of a knife made stricktly to fight with, anything else is superfluous.
There is, of course, the carry systems, but lets leave them for another thread.
This is the concept I use to make my knives: single-purposed pieces made to perform like little swords.

Ivan Campos
Full-time knifemaker...finally!

A fighting knife is any knife that has been used in a fight.

"Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.
----Abraham Lincoln
You know it's a fighting knife if it's covered in blood and it wasn't an accident.

IIRC, NY law allows manual folders & fixed blades so long as they are under 4" and concealed (yes, they must be carried concealed)

Jason aka medusaoblongata
"I have often laughed at the weaklings who call themselves kind because they have no claws"

- Zarathustra

Thanks to those who have posted the few useful replies to the initial topic.

OKG - I'm not looking for any "loopholes". To not know the law is ignorance; to know the law and do otherwise is stupid. I do not want to be stupid.

NY Penal ccode, Article 265, Section 265.15.04: "The possesion by any person of any dagger, dirk, stiletto, dangerous knife, or any other weapon instrument, appliance, or substance designed, made or adapted FOR USE PRIMARILY AS A WEAPON, is presumptive evidence of intent to use the same unlawfully against another."

In short, the way I see it, mere possesion of any knife designed as a "combat" or "fighting knife" has intent associated with it, opening up the full range of penal code infractions. Yes the "dangerous knife" phrase is vague but it is precisely that vagueness that makes it argueable. There is no arguement to be made if the knife is a fighting/combat knife.

medusaoblongata - I have been through most of the NY penal code and have seen nothing about blade length or concealment mentioned. Is there another section I should be looking in? I have heard many folks talk about legal blade lengths and concealment before so this appears to be a widely held belief.

NY penal code can be reviewed at:





Nevermind the dog...beware of owner!
In general you will have a harder time claiming a knife is not intended for fighting if it has features intended to enhance stabbing performance. The obvious example is a double-edge point area. So daggers and combat knives with a sharp false edge (like the kabar) are virtually certain to be called fighting knives by prosecutors. Bayonets, Bowie knives, and knives with similar unsharpened false edges (like the Mk 3 combat knife) are also likely to be designated as weapons by design.

Your most legally defensible knife would be one that it designed specifically for some legal purpose. A 4" bladed clip point hunting knife can be claimed to be just a hunting knife (if you're hunting or camping). A filleting knife is for fish (if you're fishing). A wood carving knife is for wood (particularly if you have a piece of wood on you).

Thanks for the info. Makes me real happy that I'm upstate.




Nevermind the dog...beware of owner!
I to am from NY, state, and as I see it, above and beyond the laws, the officer has the final judgment, as to the use of the blade in question, and that is the determining factor whether it is a dangerous weapon,(fighting or combat), that you would be charged with or not. So, if you use any size blade or type, with intent to harm, and the officer desides to write it down, Your Sunk!! Ironhorse
Knives are designed for utility. They can be pressed as deperate tools for self defense with some limited success; but, there are better tools out there for that purpose.

A purely fighting knife would be thin and flexable (for peneration), light (for speed), and soft (for resisting stress). It would probably look something like the common dime store steak knife. The qualities that make a good fighter would otherwise produce relatively poor utility knife.

[This message has been edited by not2sharp (edited 12-07-2000).]
The last sentence in OKG's post is pretty close. That is the reason for creating such vague and unconstitutional laws in the first place, so that law enforcement can arrest you before you have done anything, on the presumption (I can't believe they actually use the word!) that you might do something illegal!

Compounding the problem for a tool carrying hominid is the fact that most of the features that make a knife a good versatile utility knife also make it a good self-defense knife, a sturdy blade and tip, a secure grip with an effective guard. A tip in line with the median line of the handle can be a good fighting feature, but so can a forward rake. It is impossible to legally define a "fighting" knife that wouldn't include a whole slew of great utility knives.

Fully double edged knives are somewhat limited in the utility department, but a sharpened false edge can be a good feature on a hunting knife. It allows you to use the stronger false edge for harder jobs like splitting bones and popping joints.

There are purpose built fighting knives though. Take the Ontario Hell's Belle for example. Too long to make a good utility knife, too light and pointy to make a good camp knife. It is pretty much a fighter only. The differences can be pretty subtle though.

[This message has been edited by Steve Harvey (edited 12-07-2000).]
like that easy questions!

In Germany we say in football, what is a " Abseits : wenn der Schiedsrichter pfeift!"
sorry cannot translate, but try to explain:
In Tennis, when is the ball out? : when the official says so !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*Da Gschwinda is da Gsünda*