For years, law enforcement has strived to make training as realistic as possible. The use of paintball and the development of Simunition® conversions and airsoft pellet guns have brought firearms training to a more realistic level. Some companies have begun to focus that same thought process on other areas of important law enforcement training.
Without question, knives should be as feared and respected as firearms in our day-to-day dealings with the public. Every house in America has a big knife in the kitchen. Kids may not know where the guns or ammo are kept, but they know where the kitchen is, and consequently where the knives are. Almost every young male has a pocketknife or hunting knife. Situations such as these provide for potentially deadly encounters.
A knife is easily available, accessible and concealable. It does not require a trained professional to be deadly. Your ballistic vest will probably stop a cutting slice from a knife but will probably not stop a knife thrust or a spike thrust. Patrol officers see knives all the time. Every corrections or book-in officer knows he will be faced with a bladed or pointed weapon at some time in his career. This is why realistic knife training is a must.
Knife training has long been an area in need of such advancements. The use of rubber or dulled knives gives us the right props for the job, but not the same feel. A slight improvement over these training aids is the marker knives that leave a grease mark on clothing to designate a successful attack. The arguments during training, whether spoken or unspoken, still exist. Did the knife really get me? Was it enough to really matter? Would I have still survived?
What is lacking from all these training props and styles of training? Fear, stress and respect for the weapon you are facing. Imagine taking the pain from being hit by paintball or airsoft pellets into your knife training. We cannot start using actual exposed blade weapons in our training, much like we cannot start shooting each other with real bullets. But we can do the next best thing.
. The company’s goal is to give law enforcement, military and corrections departments around the world a drastic improvement to their edged weapon defense training. Winnipeg, Manitoba Police Officer Jeff Quail invented the Shocknife out of a desire to give edged weapon training that feel of realism.
We have all seen the half-hearted efforts of police trainees when they are less than motivated and focused. The Shocknife delivers the realism that will motivate those trainees. At first glance, the Shocknife is just another combat-style, fixed blade, plastic knife—nothing more than a prop. Until you notice under closer examination that what would be the bladed edge of the knife has two metal conductors running the length of the blade and spaced about 1/8 inch apart. On the under side of the handle is a simple push button activator.
The Shocknife comes in two models—the new SK-2 and the original StressBlade. The StressBlade is an entry-level device with a constant power output. The SK-2 has an adjustable power level with a range of low, medium, high and extreme. On the “low” setting, the device delivers a very minor discomfort, similar to a paper cut. This can be tolerated over prolonged exposure. At this setting, the twin conductor blades sound off with only the occasional snap.
At the other end of the spectrum, the “extreme” setting has an output about 1/4 that of a TASER®. Contact from this setting is very uncomfortable. At 7,500 volts (but only 0.00075 amps), the dual blade conductors light up and sound like a bug zapper on steroids. This constant visual and audible warning of what to expect if you come in contact with the blade creates the real and acute stress (fear) that instructors are looking for. Trainees experience a lingering pain much like a knife cut with immediate biofeedback from the Shocknife.
Even as the attacker, you find yourself respecting the blade as if it were real. This realism is invaluable. It helps trainees develop that need for distance. They rediscover the fear necessary to enforce the 21-foot rule for any edged weapon encounter. No more martial arts, macho, “I will just take it away from them” attitude here.
The fact that the SK-2 can be turned down to lower settings is definitely useful for defensive tactics training. There are obviously advantages to being able to control the fear level of the trainees so that their learning curve can be improved.
We tested the SK-2. At a total length of 11 inches and a blade width of 1.5 inches, it is very similar to any generic hunting knife. The handle is 4.5 inches long with a 3-inch hilt to help protect the wielder from the blade. The knife is made of a very strong polycarbonate and is very durable. The adjustment for the power output on the back of the handle requires a standard screwdriver, which is provided.
The adjustment is flush with the handle and does not change while manipulating the SK-2 during training exercises. The Shocknife runs off a standard 9 volt battery. The SK-2 came in a foam-filled hard case with latches which included two 9 volt batteries, adjustment screw driver, sheath and instruction manual. We used the SK-2 extensively during two months. During this time, it was powered by the original first battery without any signs of weakening. It held up well under multiple drills without any signs of undue wear.
The SK-2 was able to go through light clothing such as blue jeans without a problem. Much to its credit, a glancing blow may not contact with a trainee but a deliberate, good contact strike would. It was instant, and there was no need to argue if you were “cut” or not because you knew it.
The general impression from everyone even briefly exposed to the SK-2 was noticeable respect and fear. Even the macho officers who wanted to try it out on themselves were obviously gun shy and could not hide their pain reaction with a positive contact.
It was obvious that the trainees’ focus was on creating distance and getting away (fear) rather than on trying to disarm and attempt to gain control of the knife (fight).
In training scenarios with distance, officers began to focus more on trying to keep that 21-foot safety distance and were better prepared to draw their weapon in those situations after it was demonstrated to them how fast an aggressive attacker could close the gap. Complacent attitudes were replaced with respect and caution.
The SK-2 delivers realism to knife training, is an excellent training tool and is an invaluable addition to any training program. The suggested MSRP for the SK-2 is $499, while the MSRP on the StressBlade is $269. At these prices, any department, large or small, could afford this addition to its training equipment. Don Munson is a deputy with the Benton County, IN Sheriff’s Department, and he is point man with his multi-agency response team. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org