My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big Knives Stop Bullets

One of the side benefits to carrying a heavy steel knife two inches wide and a foot long is that it may occasionally stop a bullet.
   
--At the Siege of Bexar in December 1835, a picket named Pen Jarvis was struck by a Mexican musket ball. He cried out and fell to the ground and his comrades initially thought he must have been killed or severely wounded. However, it turned out the ball had struck his bowie knife, inflicting painful cuts and a large bruise on his leg but nothing more serious. After this, he was dubbed "Bowie Knife Jarvis."
   
--On August 1, 1843, when the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay was shot by Sam Brown, he too was saved by his bowie knife, or rather, its scabbard. The bullet was stopped by the scabbard's silver tip, leaving a red spot just over his heart.
   
--In gold rush days, a man named Carder, the editor of the Columbia (California) Gazette, was saved by a bowie knife he carried. As the newspaper article reports, "John Cardinell, alias Long John, and [first name omitted] Shaw, were standing in Pete Ferguson's door, in Columbia, on last Tuesday about noon, and Mr. Carder, of the Gazette, was passing by. Cardinell stepped behind some boxes, took deliberate aim at Carder with a derringer, and fired, the ball striking the blade of a small bowie knife, which Carder hid in his bosom immediately over the heart. The ball flattened to about the size of a quarter dollar, and glanced downward, inflicting a flesh wound about five inches in length. Carder drew and fired once at Cardinell, missing him. Shaw then drew his revolver and commenced firing at Carder. Seven or eight shots were fired, none of which did any damage except the one fired by Cardinell. Cause: 'an old grudge.'"
   
--Sergeant William F. Potts, who was wounded in the foot on September 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam, describes how a bowie knife saved a comrade, William T. "Bill" Daller: "The company was lying down, and two of us started out in front to find out where the balls were coming from: we found that some bushes along a ridge of rocks were full of Rebels, and they hit us both. I think it was 'Bill' Dollar [sic] that was with me, and they hit him on a heavy bowie knife that I had given him to carry for me -- it was bent nearly double, and, no doubt, saved his life."
   
--In a firefight on February 5, 1970, in A Shau Valley, Lance Corporal Tommy Sexton, USMC, was the only member of his four-man recon team to emerge unscathed, thanks to his KA-BAR knife. Sexton recalls: "When they opened up on the team, I was in a kneeling position and immediately began firing back. Suddenly I felt a round strike me in the chest. It sent me twisting to my left, and as I turned back into my original position, I reached over to grab my knife out of its scabbard, only to discover that I now had half a knife. The bullet that hit me had gone through the day-night flare that was taped to the sheath of the K-Bar, which was positioned upside down on my shoulder harness for a quick release. The bullet had broken the steel blade of my knife in two."
   
--A similar incident occurred during the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3-4, 1993, when a Randall bowie knife worn by Navy SEAL John Gay on his right hip stopped an AK-47 round. The blade was shattered, and fragments of it broke the skin on his right hip, but Gay was able to return to the fight. For his actions that day he was awarded a Bronze Star with V (Valor) device.

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