Tuesday, June 12, 2012


So there's this TV show, Mythbusters. For those of you who don't know it, two mechanically-minded fellows, Jamie and Adam, design experiments to prove or disprove some commonly-accepted beliefs. 

Some of these are outright hilarious, such as trying to see whether soda or steak produce more intestinal gas. Or what happens if a bird hits an airplane's windshield in flight. Does a duck's call echo differently than other sounds?

Last night, they went after the "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight." saw.

There were three scenarios. First, the knife versus gun face-off, ala The Magnificent Seven. James Colburn, the knife guy, gets challenged by a gun guy who thinks he's faster. Colburn has a switchblade, they do a high noon, and Colburn wins.

Jamie had a water balloon that approximated the weight of a knife, Adam a paintball gun. A starter pistol was used, allowing both men to move. 

In the first run, both scored hits ai uchi. But subsequently, Adam proved you can dodge a knife after shooting, but that you can't dodge the bullet (demonstrated on an earlier episode), and he won every round. Shoot, then dodge, the gun wins. (I confess I don't believe you can throw a water balloon as fast as you can a knife–liquid in a sack has a different kind of elastic inertia than a solid steel bar, but the main point is probably still valid; you can dodge something thrown by hand if you are far enough away and see it coming.)

The second scenario was regarding two swords, and the contention that the guy who swung first would lose to the guy who was ready and waiting. That reaction would be faster than initiation of action.

I had never heard this one, nor did it make any sense to me. No way.

Using kendo gear rigged like fencers' to show a light when a touch was made, and a random who-goes-first light, this one went as I expected. Yes, if one of them took a full cut to attack, i.e. the classic head-splitter, the other could short-circuit it by a partial strike. But if both used full swings, the attacker won every time. No surprise, the reaction is always going to be a beat behind with this set-up.

The third scenario, also rigged with electronics, was the Tueller Drill, that is, a drawn knife against a holstered gun. The knifer charges, and the gunner goes for his piece. In this one, the knife-wins range they came up with was eighteen feet. Outside that, the shooter got a round off before the knifer stabbed him. Inside that, he did not. Jaime used the knife, Adam the gun.

The classic Tueller Drill says twenty feet, but that's with a duty rig or concealed, and in this case, Adam had a low-slung fast-draw rig and a lightweight pistol. A real fast-draw expert would be able to get a shot off closer, and there are some fast enough to nail the knifer at six feet.

So two of the three myths were busted, and the third validated.


The Daring Novelist said...

It seems to me that the Magnificent Seven fight was a holstered gun against an already drawn knife. Is that how they tested it?

Steve Perry said...


Ed said...

If I remember right - Adam was having to rack a load in first after drawing, if he had a round in the chamber or a revolver I think he would have nailed him a little faster.

Steve Perry said...

I think he was already chambered, Ed.

Anonymous said...

Nope, he was racking the slide. The only thing I can think of is that he was approximating California's old open carry law where you are not allowed to carry with one in the chamber.


Steve Perry said...

Two different duels -- in the Magnificent Seven scenario, Adam drew and fired, but in the second, he did draw and then chamber before shooting.

My fault, I should have separated the two; I was referring to the first test.