The legendary adventurer breaks down blade skills
By: Wes Siler
Jan 5, 2017
What’s the point of carrying a knife? It’s a question so simple that most of us knife guys actually struggle to answer it. Why should you put one in your pocket? Why should pocket knives be legal? What makes them so essential? I asked the surliest Canadian I know—former lumberjack, current war reporter, and knife designer Robert Young Pelton—for answers.
“What if there is a car accident and I have to break open a window?” he responded. “What if I have to lever something open? What if I have to do an emergency tracheotomy? Having a knife opens an entire universe of things you can do that you can’t do without a knife.”
Pelton is not a normal person. (Don’t believe me? Listen to his episode of the Outside Interview podcast.) He talks about third-world kidnappings like you and I reminisce about rainy days at the beach. He has cute nicknames (Heavy D) for some of the world’s most notorious warlords. He literally wrote the book on visiting the world’s most dangerous places and having fun while doing it. He just spent Christmas in Afghanistan because he found a last-minute deal on a flight and thought it’d be nice to visit old friends.
In 2010 he decided that most knives were being designed poorly and that he could do it better. So he launched his own knife company, DPx Gear, whose knives are some of the toughest ever made. I figure he’s used a knife a few times, and is qualified to speak to their abilities. Here are all the things he’s learned while relying on them in the field.
A Knife Blade Makes a Terrible Weapon
“If you get into a knife fight, you are an idiot,” Pelton begins. “Everybody practices how to disarm somebody with a knife. It’s actually very easy to do. If you pull out your knife in a bar fight and try to stab someone, all you’re doing is handing the guy about to beat you up a free knife.”
But a pocket knife can be a valuable self defense tool—if you leave the blade closed.
“A knife is a lethal object, but it doesn’t have to be used as one,” he says. “Non-lethality is important, because you don’t want to go to jail for the rest of your life in a foreign country, or even this one, for doing something with a blade. A knife handle should inherently be an ergonomic tool that you can hammer things with. You can use it to pummel the shit out of people.”
A while ago, Pelton related a story to me about a customer of his who was thrown into the back of a car in Afghanistan by two large men. He was able to pull out his knife, wail on his assailants with its handle, and they were subdued enough that the guy got the door open, and hurled himself out it. He was banged up from tumbling down a highway, sure, but at least he wasn’t beheaded on video tape.