"...guns for show, knives for a pro."

The phrase could simply be dismissed as a throwaway one-liner from a movie, but it does contain a useful concept which I thought was worthy of expanding on.

Guns can be drawn and used as threats, moved in such a way to indicate motion or a desired action on the part of the person that the gun is pointed at. One might well say the same applies to a knife, but this isn't strictly true...

The main reason for saying this is that guns are ranged weapons, which means a person can't simply run away to safety.

Knives only have as much range as the wielder's own reach, unless they intend to throw it, which is an ill-considered action as most knives are not intended for throwing purposes. It also shows a lack of judgement in giving up what might be your only weapon.

Additionally, the distance gained by using a ranged weapon like a gun also implies a certain amount of mental distancing between the action of say, pulling the trigger, and the consequences of the target then being hit by a speeding bullet.

Anyone using a knife had better be prepared to potentially have copious amounts of blood pouring out all over the place, feel the clutching fingers of their victim as they sink to the floor and gaze into dying eyes which painfully and slowly glaze over. Nothing like the Hollywood scenario of Bruce Willis mowing down terrorists with a machine gun, lighting a cigarette and making a few witty quips. Anyone else doing that would be counted as a sociopath.

In short, the knife is an intensely personal weapon and means of dispatch. It is not to be treated lightly.

Knives also have many advantages - they are silent, they don't jam or run out of ammunition, they require little maintenance and can be obtained anywhere. Even in prison, where weapons tend to be discouraged, they are a common form of ridding oneself of an enemy or rival. Even if a knife's edge becomes blunt, the point can still pierce the soft clay of a person's flesh.

A blade no longer than the thickness of your hand is capable of reaching a major artery, or other vital blood-carrying vessel, and this is all that a skilled wielder truly asks of it.

The line in question appears in the excellent British film "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998).

If you're interested, the full quote goes as follows -

"Also, I think knives are a good idea. Big, fuck-off shiny ones. Ones that look like they could skin a crocodile. Knives are good, because they don't make any noise, and the less noise they make, the more likely we are to use them. Shit 'em right up. Makes it look like we're serious. Guns for show, knives for a pro." - Soap

Last updated : 12th October, 2003

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