America is the land of the gun. Our heroes, from the iconic cowboy, to the Prohibition-era G-man, to the modern-day action hero are defined by their guns. However, while the gun is certainly a loud and boastful tool, it lacks the utility of the knife. While it’s great to have both when you’re in a survival situation, if you had to pick one over the other, you’d be a lot better off with a knife on your hip.

Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight

Most people would rather have a gun than a knife if they were stuck in a dangerous situation. After all, if a bear ran out of the woods, or a small gang of zombies stumbled out of a half-flooded back alley, you’d want a gun to deal with the problem. But aside from hunting, or making sure a pack of rabid mutants can’t eat you, there aren’t too many useful jobs a gun can do when you’re in a survival situation. Worse, guns without bullets are just dead weight you wind-up carrying around.

A knife, on the other hand, is always going to be useful whenever you may need it.

While it’s true that it’s harder to hunt with a knife than it is with a gun, there are all sorts of situations where you’d much rather have a blade to hand. For example, say you were in a car wreck, and the engine’s on fire. You need to get out, but the accident jammed your seat belt mechanism. Firing a gun at it won’t do you any real good, and will probably make things worse instead of better. A knife, however, will let you cut your way out so you can escape from the burning wreck.

Life is full of little emergencies where a knife can make a real difference. You injured your hand in a plane crash, and you can’t open up the food in your survival pack? Use your knife to cut it open. Injured your leg, and it’s swelling up, but your pants are constricting the wound? Cut the pants open so you can get at the affected area. You can even use your knife to help strip saplings to build a shelter, if you’re really in the middle of nowhere and you need to get out of the elements.

Knives and Knife Accessories

A knife, by itself, is a useful thing to have. However, knives often come with accessories that make them even more valuable, for those who find themselves in an unforeseen emergency. For example, take the humble window breaker. This narrow point found on the butt of a knife is used for breaking out windows in the event of an emergency. Because car windows, and even home windows, are a lot tougher than we think, and a few seconds saved can be the difference between getting out safely or not.

There are all sorts of little additions that come with knives these days. Some knives have spring-assist, so you can easily flick them open with one hand. Other knives have a seat belt cutter, which makes fast work of restraints. Many survival knives have compasses in them, which are useful for not getting turned around when everything looks the same. Some knives will come with storage in the handle, which is ideal for matches, fishing line, or even a needle and thread.

A survival kit should have as many tools in it as possible. If you have time to prepare, it’s never a bad idea to add a firearm to your bag. However, a knife is something you can carry every day, which you might actually use every day.