Gun vs. Knife – Two Professionals Break it Down

I am very much a fan of Instructor Zero (of Funker Tactical Fame) and Doug Marcaida (also of Funker Tactical Fame). In their first meeting, Doug puts the “21-foot rule” to shame, taking the best of Zero (especially considering drawing from concealment.)

Then, something interesting happens, Zero starts exploring non-traditional methods that include falling down (which is not typically something an instructor will tell you to do in most situations.) As the series evolves, it certainly broke my conventional thinking.

Episode two is below, but you can catch the whole series Funker Tactical’s YouTube channel. 

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • david

    Watched the top vid. Looks well practiced techniques that will only work on the range when you know what is going to happen, when and where. Didn’t waste my time looking at the other

    • Yallan

      And you have to be really stupid to pull out a knife outside grappling distance. They should deal with knife vs pistol at grappling distance, anything else is unrealistic.

      • Ceapea

        Who ever said criminals are anything but stupid?

    • Maurizio Fulignati

      Agree 100% !

  • 3331

    Can we see “Mr. Zero” in an high level IPSC or USPSA match? I would really love to see the shooting skills of Youtube’s most tactical heroes in a more objective context.

    • anon

      to be fair ipsc/uspsa are a bit different than tactical shooting. IDPA would be a closer metric.

      • 3331

        I know combat and competition are completely different things. However I firmly believe that anyone who is able to shoot well in a tactical scenario will also be able to shoot well in competition. I.e.: If you can deal with the sound of incoming rounds, the beep of the timer will not throw you off.

        • Bill

          Actually, a much better metric would be to see him in a force-on-force confrontation with the average cop, the average competition shooter, and the average Miami-Dade, LAPD SWAT or SIS unit member. Being able to shoot is one thing, being able to string it all together while avoiding being shot is another.

          The question isn’t whether the sound of a timer will throw someone off, it’s whether those incoming rounds will.

    • Nicks87

      Lol I love these comments. Im not defending the youtube tacti-tools but what you are saying is totally irrelevant. Everyone responds to certain situations differently. The best competition shooters might totally shut down in a life or death defensive situation. The stress of competition is nothing
      compared to the stress of a life or death combat situation.

  • darthcoder

    That doesn’t look like 21 feet. But point taken.

    • obersaber

      As a retired fencing coach with 40 years experience,
      the only way to give yourself more time to react to an attack
      is to retreat as fast as the attacker advances.

  • anon

    im loving the tacticool skinny jeans

  • Hokum

    It’s always good to think outside the box. But it’s kinda pointless just to train the exact moves, because there wouldn’t be two identical situations. So it’s more important to react faster and know how to improvise in certain situation (like a basic preparation for different scenarios and knowing how to manipulate them).
    Otherwise you risk to get in the situation like the guy, who trained to disarm the attacker and when this really happen he successfully took robber’s pistol and reflexively returned it back to him, like he was training with his wife or smth (I’m not sure this story is true, but I heard of it few times).

    • ghost

      I trained for 10 years, a novice really. Do not get me wrong, training is always good. It’s the mind set that gets you killed. If you think you are invincible, your chances of losing are much greater. The fancy stuff is for training/flexibility/exercise. I would like to think when faced with a firearm up close I would move inside, let the gunman concentrate on his firearm while I ejected the mag or stopped the rotation of the cylinder. Primary, control his/her firearm. A knife? Well, most likely you are going to get cut. Outcome? Dicey at best. Stand still and you will surely die.

      • Hokum

        I’m not against training. My point was to not get completely programmed and automatic after it and to left some room for diversity.

  • ghost

    I would be so dead.

  • CommonSense23

    One of the major problems with the 21ft rule is it came about when holsters were not that fast, shooting techniques were extremely primitive, and the shooter never tried to move closer or laterally while striking. Then to top it off, one of the most prominent videos showing the danger of a knife wielding subject was made with a world expert knife fighter against cops that had almost no CQD training. It’s extremely outdated to think that a knife has a advantage except at the most extreme close range these days.

    • Bal256

      IIRC the 21 foot rule was demonstrated by mythbusters with a gun in a leather holster, chamber empty, and on safe. The gunman, being a mythbuster member, didn’t strike me as an experienced shooter, and the “gun” used in the test was an airsoft desert eagle, I think. Long story short, it was pretty ridiculous.

  • Uniform223

    I don’t want to sound like a chairborne general here or what ever might be flung my way but these ( which I saw before here at funker tactical ) videos did not impress. My honest opinion is that these videos are skewed and are not true to to REAL scenarios.
    1. Actual knife attacks/encounters happen at much much closer distances, I am talking arms length and worse case, shorter.
    2. A wide open training area is ideal, a crowded market or public space is different…
    3. 21ft rule still applies, though someone on here mentioned how modern holsters have vastly improved over the years. This is true, but it is still better ( for law enforcement, military, and civilian ) to deal with the threat in more conventional means i.e, defensive martial arts.
    4. Both men are considered experts at what they do. Let two “average” civis, LE personnel, or military do this and it would be the absolute opposite of what ( no disrespect ) tacti-cool Instructor Zero showed.


      You’ve pretty much hammered the nail through the board.
      Real live situations are chaotic and desperate (both the past the dictionary definitions you can find). There are maybe some things you can take from these vids, but the variations of real-world possibilities are just endless.

      Training. Training. And some more Training.

    • raz-0

      I reserve judgment overall. I haven’t watched the whole thing, and so far I would say it’s experimenting with the 21 foot rule. Myself I interpret the 21 foot rule as the distance at which a broad sampling of people armed with a knife are a significant threat to life and limb for someone trying to manage the situation who is armed with a firearm.

      Even with what is shown, you don’t die instantly, the guy with the knife is still wickedly dangerous. I’ve seen tons of examples of skilled parties on both sides, and once medical reality is introduced, they wind up with basically the same thing here which is that someone with even a modicum of skill with a knife and much more importantly, the will to use it on you at all costs, is very, very dangerous within 30 feet or so.

      Ok, I take it back. video # 3 showed up where instructor zero comes up with the cunning plan to use his femoral artery as a shield.

  • Robert

    Rather convenient that when Zero falls down or goes to the side, Mr. Knife never re-adjusts to follow him. He’s not trying to faux stab / slice him, just demonstrate robotic motion in a single predetermined and unchanging vector.

    • CommonSense23

      Do you really believe the average guy with a knife has a advantage of the average guy with a gun in anything other than the extreme close range

      • Yallan

        Knife stab wounds are more deadly than pistol wounds. If a knife touches you unless your running away, your almost certainly going to get stabbed to death. Even if you eventually do takeout the attacker, without immediate ambulance attention your dead. Remember in prison they have shivs, so they stab you like 3 times in one second, only multiplied with a larger knife in the civilian world.

        I’d really like to see if there’s any defense that exists, but it seems the gun culture is too defensive about getting their ass kicked by knife wielders.

        • CommonSense23

          I have more experience with this than most. Done a lot of training in CQD on a high level. At one point one of the group of instructors I learned from hired two Phillipinos to teach knife fighting and defense. These guys were masters at what they did. Both covered in lots of slash scars and some stabbing scars. These were guys who had a lot of real world experience using bladed weapons, it was why they were hired, and even they advocated using a gun over a knife at grappling distances.

          • Uniform223

            Filipinos… 😀

          • CommonSense23

            And I know better on that one.

          • Giolli Joker

            If you have to defend yourself, a gun is much better, that’s sure… it’s being attacked that sucks no matter what you use to defend yourself… and a gun might not be enough, even if you’re able to deploy it on time you might end up with deadly cuts/stab wounds.

          • Miles

            The Nisei Judo/Kendo/Iaido instructor at a local university once told me his favorite move was “.45”.

      • claymore

        Yes and it has been proven over and over

        • CommonSense23

          Let’s see the links of knife wielding guy takes guy with guy.

  • Bill

    There is no 21 foot rule: it’s a misinterpretation of an experiment that demonstrated how action beats reaction, unless the reactor has situational awareness, contingency plans, and the ability to pick and execute the appropriate countermeasures, while under attack.

    And today’s duty holsters blow, when it comes to accessing the weapon quickly and efficiently. They are designed to enhance weapon retention, not speed and efficiency of draw, in large part because teaching weapons retention at a high level often leads to broken fingers, hand, arms, shoulder and other injuries, and worker’s comp claims and possible disability.

  • MrSatyre

    I’m not sure what Zero is trying to prove with these. Yes, they’re unrehearsed. Yes, they just met. But Zero knows what is about to happen because this is not a situation on the street, these are prearranged encounters, even if he doesn’t know what form they’re going to take. He is cognizant of the fact that he is about to be attacked by someone with a knife. These are not scenarios where he is not expecting an attack with a knife. It’s simply not surprising that K beats gun under some conditions, or that G beats K in others.

    You’re walking along, trying to maintain situational awareness, when a jogger suddenly pops out from the spot you’re NOT looking towards, and runs up behind you. Are you really going to go for your gun as Zero did without knowing (which he DID know) what was really happening first? Instead of breaking into a run and moving aside as I know most of us here would at a sudden and unknown sound and movement behind us? Or would you just go for your gun and try to immediately shoot whoever is behind you as he did?

  • noguncontrol

    first of all, most stabbing victims never see the knife, they all think they were just punched until they see the blood. you cannot wait until you see the knife before you decide to draw your gun, and these videos prove it. instructor zero did not wait to see the knife before drawing his gun and shooting, and this is something we all should learn from, if you are under attack, draw your gun, even if you don’t see a weapon, because at close range, you will not have the time to determine if your attacker is armed or not. when attacked, immediately draw your gun and shoot your attacker. this is especially true in low light conditions.

  • noguncontrol

    nice vid, but policework is a different animal from self defense.

    • Nicks87

      What does that mean? I’ve used plenty of self defense skills while on duty. We just call it defensive tactics but it’s the same thing.

      • Miles

        Pictures and video of actual real street defensive use or I’m calling BS.
        See how that works?

        • Nicks87

          Lol, I would love to but I cant post that kind of stuff on the internet. Any videos that we have of us doing training or real world incidents could be used as evidence in court so its against dept policy. If I could I would be glad to put it on youtube.

          • Miles

            Personal officer camera video was aired and loaded on youtoob, with department approval, of a fatal street (literal) shooting less then 3 days after it happened.

            Search for the recent incident in Muskogie OK.

            If what you said about ‘department policy’ is accurate, yours is still back in the dark ages. Personally, I’d work on getting that institutional mindset moved into the 21st century.

          • Nicks87

            Why release anything if we don’t have to? So the media, criminals and armchair commandos can pick us apart and learn our tactics, and tell us we are doing it wrong/second guess us? No, police prefer having the upper hand over Joe Public. The only thing from the dark ages is the mindset that the police and the average civilian should be on a level playing field. The way use of force policies are written is to give us the upper hand. “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”

      • noguncontrol

        policework gives you certain advantages, but also some disadvantages over a civilian, police can open carry, police can point a gun at someone without shooting, on the other hand, police have to arrest people, or question people, civilians can avoid both those dangerous situations, for a civilian, it is best to avoid going near strangers. a leo will find it harder to avoid doing that. if you are a civilian, you will carry concealed, that has advantages over open carry, the downside is your draw will be slower, unless it is pocket carry.

        take that video where the leo approached Dan Inosanto and questioned him, asked for his papers, would you as a civilian do that? well, maybe if you were a security guard, but if not, if in your home, you saw this guy, would you approach? allowing him to surprise you with a knife attack? no! you would draw your gun and shoot, knife or no knife.

  • Giolli Joker

    Curious… first thought I had when I saw the “21ft videos” was that falling back could be the only way to get time to respond, maybe as a consequence of years training in Judo where a controlled fall on the back is part of the basics.
    The rolling on the floor seems more likely to me to end with the gun wielding guy shooting himself in the belly…
    However, it’s clear that these, as ALWAYS when it comes to personal defense, are just training games in a controlled environment… very rarely the attack is that much predictable.
    Seen under the proper light, they are interesting videos.
    As pointed out by others, BTW, shooting your assailant doesn’t stop the fight… there are documented cases of knife attacks where the perpetrator was still attacking, and killing, after having taken several bullets.

  • Tassiebush

    I think folks are missing the point judging from their criticisms. It’s an exploration of both weapons interacting. They’re trying stuff out. Not drawing final conclusions or telling people how to do it. It’s clearly a work in progress, not a polished final product.
    The only safe conclusion is that either or both could die in such an encounter.

  • t_reese

    2 words cover this article in the real world…Horse Hockey!

  • I agree with moving the distance back farther than the 21 feet which has been standard for years. 28 feet would be more realistic.

    • CommonSense23

      What do you gain from a extra 7ft?

      • Harold

        Exactly. Get Off The X.

  • Capt. Obvious

    Never bring a gun to a knife fight.

  • CommonSense23

    They don’t take account any movement by the officer. It literally is how fast can a officer draw, and how fast someone can cover a straight line. It doesn’t cover modern CQD techniques which greatly negate the knife wielders ability. I have seen this when we allowed our local police and swat teams to come crosstrain with us. They don’t leave the box and immediately go for gun, which is where the whole 21ft rule came from.

    • claymore

      On the street is another matter. One has to be SURE of the situation before drawing and firing not a set up situation in a gym.

      • CommonSense23

        That’s exactly the point I am trying to make. The problem with the 21ft rule is it has set a mentality of knife wielder means you shoot. Not a assessment of what the best course of action is.

  • Sn SM

    “…a modicum of skill with a knife and much more importantly, the will to use it on you at all costs,…” Another comment here has pointed up the critical ingredient here when using any
    bladed weapon. If someone is willing to cut you badly enough then fancy technique may

    not be needed.

  • Zebra Dun

    Shooter rolls back and down feet up, knife man grabs ankles and twists shooter on to his face stabs him in the back.

  • uisconfruzed

    Great vids, I appreciate the exercise in options.
    Did they HAVE to waste the first 30% of the vids?

  • DL

    Vigilance and distance. Native Americans, Moros, Chinese, all presented this concern. One on one your spray and baton. Arm gaunlets, gloves, groin, and collar protection. The armpit. If you survive the grapple consider your shealth knife/automatic. Almost impossible defense against an experienced assassin. These situations gave us the 1911/.45ACP, 1907 Riot Gun, and 1906 “Thirty Cal”. Excellent books on the subject.