bad people scurr me
July 6, 2006 1:12 PM   Subscribe

At the end of the month, I'll be heading to a certain country with, uh, a high level of military activity/insurgent activity to do humanitarian aid. I'm looking for protection.

Though I've lived and worked there in the past for different lengths of time, the current situation is making me a bit concerned about my safety and that of my team. I'd been considering buying a bootknife to augment my trusty Swiss Army knife, but I have no clue where I can see a side-by-side selection of these things online. I've looked at various military surplus sites and most of them are no-name knives, have terrible holsters, or any other number of things.

I'm looking to spend about $60 and figure a 4" blade should be more than enough. I think I'd prefer a fixed-blade, but I'd be willing to consider a locking blade.

Does anyone have any suggestions?
posted by quadrinary to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Uhh, don't bring a knife to a gunfight...?

Otherwise, ain't nothing wrong with Gerber blades.
posted by frogan at 1:16 PM on July 6, 2006

First, the best protection is not going to be a knife. By the time you get a bootknife out and brandish it, you'll have been shot or stabbed. People who are desperate enough to attack humanitarian teams in that kind of area really don't fuck around, and you shouldn't either.

You're looking more for a stab-proof/bulletproof vest if you want 'protection'. Or, if you really want protection, hire bodyguards for your team.
posted by SpecialK at 1:22 PM on July 6, 2006

I second body armor.

Only take a fighting knife if you know how to use it. A month isn't enough time to learn how to use it.

If you can acquire a firearm once you are there, be sure you have spent a large part of your remaining month learning how to use the same exact model and possibly taking training in tactical use of firearms and personal defense. Again, a month is a bit short.

Otherwise, go with the body armor, hire local bodguards and do your best not to get noticed by the badies.
posted by Seamus at 1:41 PM on July 6, 2006

I'll third the body armor and the skipping of the knife.

You may also want to invest in the local fashion industry once you get there to draw a bit less attention to yourself.

Or you could go the opposite way and make DAMN sure that everyone (local and national media, civilians, soldiers) who ever sees you guys knows that you are humanitarians. Have it on your shirts, cars, hats, helmets, whatever. And make sure the people I mentioned before know where you are and what you are doing there at all times. Issue press releases and literally wear your humanitarian intentions on your sleeve at all times.

I would also recommend the fire-arm thing, but a month is a pretty short amount of time to get really well acquainted with any sort of fire-arm.
posted by wmeredith at 1:51 PM on July 6, 2006

Frankly, you have to make the decision between situations. Which is it? A place where a 4 inch blade will scare off the bad guys, or a place where there are bad guys to scare off.

Seeing as I can't think of a place, short of opening an envelope, where 4 inches is liable to do anything but elicit a giggle, you're stuck with either getting proper security - guards, fixers, contacts with local big men - or not going at all. At the very least, have everyone do a Hostile Environments course.

If it's a province where humanitarian aid workers feel the need to wear body armour, DO NOT GO. Helmand, say, illicits the "hell no" response in me, unless I've got Men With Guns riding shotgun. Other than that, for everyone's sake, ignore anyone who says carry a gun: the quickest, easiest way to get shot in such places is to be an aid worker with a gun. That's not an aid worker - that's a spy. If you need to, employ guards with guns. But under no circumstances whatsoever carry a gun yourself.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 2:10 PM on July 6, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers folks.

I suppose I should have clarified that the knife would also be facing utility use while on the job, etc. It would just be nice to have somthing with a little extra "heft" in order to potentially deter said bad dudes.

Anyway, I appreciate the input - and yes, a few of us have talked body armour - and i'll be thinking more about this as the departure date arrives.

posted by quadrinary at 2:25 PM on July 6, 2006

Body armor, but i do recommend at least two knives, one on you, and one in your bed/under matress/in your pack. You are basically safer with the knife than without, though i echo those "dont bring a knife to a gunfight" comments. The best way to survive is to run away.

A pistol is a good idea i suppose, but thinking of the kidnappings, it is going to be useless against four guys with AK's. Of course, so will a knife, but a knife might be useful in situations where someone tries to mug you on the street where a pistol might be overkill (and attract attention).

Also, do you know where you're staying? Figure on at least three ways out of your building. Only routinely use two of them and keep the last one for emergencies (so they won't know to block it). If you stay in a room, figure out how you could barricade it as quickly as possible. What furniture is mobile, what's bolted down, etc. What's heavy/light.

Examine the goolge earth map of your location. Look for places to hide, alleys to avoid, alternate routes to and from certain places, etc. Map them out, bring the maps with you, and check their accuracy when you get there. Figure out how to get from point A to point B on foot while avoiding main streets in the event of a riot, fire or gunfight.

Ditch your clothes and go shopping the first day. Beard beats clean shaven. If you have black facial hair, grow a mustache but not a beard. Pay attention to local folks walking around. What aren't they doing that jumps out at you? That's how people will identify you. Do they carry bags? Hands in pockets or clasped in front or behind? Keep cigarettes on you at all times.

If you study the area enough you'll know enough ways of getting around that you won't fall into a predictable routine. Keep changing your habits. Leave at different times every morning, don't eat at the same places every night or weekend. Be wary of people who are too hospitable. Make yourself into a lousy, unpredicable target.

I'm sure you know all this having been there a few times, but the best way to be safe is to know your environment and how to use it to your advantage.

Be safe. Good luck.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:29 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you are going where I think you are going, advertizing that you are a humanitarian is basically a way of saying "I am or may be a Westerner." And if you are going where I think you are going, those bad guys have killed humanitarian workers before just for being Westerners.

And a knife is a waste of time against these guys, unless they need help opening an envelope or peeling carrots.

I second Pastabagel's advice about trying to blend in.

Good luck and God bless.
posted by 4ster at 3:04 PM on July 6, 2006

Guess I pretty much agree with all the previous posters.

I'd emphasize a couple of things: don't, at all costs, end up looking like a combatant. I have reservations about body armor simply because you'll stand out as the immediate first target. (Kill the guy who has a little more gear.)

If you're looking for a knife that might, conceivably, save your life, I think your price-point may be optimistic. With that said, check out the offerings from Swamp Rat, particluarly the "Howling Rat." You might also consider the Buck-Strider collaborative Solution. A traditional Ka-Bar would also be a good option.

Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:11 PM on July 6, 2006

Buy the knife recommended on the hostile environments training course that your mom will no doubt pay for once she knows they exist.
posted by Idcoytco at 5:19 PM on July 6, 2006

A decent pistol in good shape runs about $200 in Iraq these days. It will not be difficult to find someone at your destination, wherever it is, that can help you with this.
posted by Brian James at 7:32 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

quad best of luck but central to the argument is something I haven't seen raised yet "Are you a fighter?"

'Cause if you aint' then even carrying a nuclear warhead isn't going to help you. And if you are then it doesn't matter what the other guy has and you don't (or vice / versa); if the situations right you will prevail.

In any case, blending in and not drawing attention to yourself is the best advise regardless of what weapons you do / don't carry. And done properly, you won't need any weapons.
posted by Mutant at 11:04 PM on July 6, 2006

Oh get real. I'm totally with mutant.

If you draw your knife, hold it wimpishly with knees knocking and stab your opponent somewhere fleshy but not immediately fatal (i.e. most of the human body), you're dead. You will provoke him into annihilating your pathetic humanitarian ass. If you draw your gun and you're shaking like a leaf, all of your shots will miss and his first shot will hit you square between the eyes.

Unless you are a trained in mortal combat (we're not talking the video game), you should harness your humanitarian people skills to defuse any threatening situation you encounter. Be kind and friendly to the average peasant even if he's holding an AK-47. Every other peasant out there has one, not because he's a terrorist but because it's just part of the culture. Give them your wallet if you're being mugged. Do whatever they tell you and wait to be rescued if you are kidnapped.
posted by randomstriker at 2:06 AM on July 7, 2006

Purely from a utility angle as this is where my interest lies, take a look at Swamp Rat and Ranger for fixed blades. If they are too much look at Kabar and maybe Becker.

For folders, I'd recommend a Spyderco any day (look at the 'Salt' series-completely rust-proof could be useful in a sweaty environment), or maybe a Benchmade.

I assume you want to keep it sharp, so consider a Sharpmaker.

If you are trying not to be a target, then a sturdy folder may look less 'military' than something resembling a machete.

If you would like about a million more replies, bladeforums is a great place to get more info than you ever wanted! I'm very willing to offer more opinion here if you'd like though.
posted by 999 at 4:28 PM on July 9, 2006

Forgot to say, if there's a knife that you particularly like the look of, but don't like the sheath, it's relatively easy to get high-quality aftermarket sheaths made. River City Sheaths are highly thought of, I have no personal experience with them however.
posted by 999 at 4:32 PM on July 9, 2006

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