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Going Armed: Understanding Utility and Hoplophobia

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As posted at 'The Martialist':

Going Armed: Understanding Utility and Hoplophobia

By Phil Elmore

I've read some truly stupid things about the martial arts on the Internet. One of these is the opinion, particularly prevalent among foreigners who do not share America's heritage of gun ownership, that self-defense is acceptable – but that armed self-defense is some sort of psychotic obsession practiced and prepared for by slavering, slack-jawed yokels who kick puppies and burn crosses when they're not beating their wives. It would seem that to some, actually preparing for self-defense is a sin akin to premeditated murder. This is a conceptual blind spot in the minds of a significant percentage of martial artists, who are engaging in three mistakes of emotion and reason. These are ignorance, arrogance, and projection.

Weapons are force multipliers. They are tools that, much like levers, allow a single human being to multiply the power of her effort. A woman with a black belt may or may not be able to stop a physically larger and emotionally determined would-be rapist. A woman with a black belt and a revolver has a much better chance of preventing the assault – and a very good chance of doing so with no harm to herself or the attacker. (Many armed self-defense scenarios end with the display of a weapon and the retreat of the attacker, with no shots fired.)

A man who knows how to throw an effective chin-jab has a pretty good chance against one would-be mugger. The same man's chances diminish greatly when he is confronted by multiple attackers – only to rise dramatically again when our combatives exponent also carries a .45 automatic.

Both individuals, when armed with knives, expanding batons, or even pepper spray, face better odds of success than they do without these weapons (though the gap in utility is great as you move farther away from "lethal" weapons; a knife is a good second choice, but not as beneficial as a firearm, while pepper spray has fairly dismal effectiveness compared to either). Those increased odds are due to the presence of the force multiplier that is the weapon carried.

How does a force multiplier work? It may seem obvious, but a bullet, a blade, and a club all have one thing in common: they are capable of inflicting on the human body more damage with less effort than any part of the human body by itself, all other factors equal. As a result, an armed human is capable of employing more force in his defense than is an unarmed human. When outnumbered, when facing a larger and stronger (or more skilled) opponent, and when threatened with grave bodily harm or death, the armed citizen is well served by the ability to deliver maximum force.

Given this, which any reasonable person can recognize as a desirable goal, why do so many people in the martial arts and even the reality based self defense (RBSD) communities hold such fear and loathing for weapons? This brings us back to the three errors of emotion and reason I mentioned earlier. We'll examine them one at a time.


The ignorance displayed by hoplophobes – those who possess an irrational fear of weapons – may center around a lack of knowledge or the acceptance of misinformation. Some hoplophobes believe the common myths about weapons (especially firearms) that I discussed in Guns, "Gun Control," and "Martial" Artists. Very commonly, however, their ignorance centers on a single issue: believing their fellow citizens' freedom of action to be a threat rather than a benefit to society. They fear "any idiot with a gun" going berserk and harming others. They believe the average citizen cannot be trusted with such power. In countries with strict gun control, knives and other weapons are considered the tools of "soccer hooligans" and other miscreants.

In reality, owners of legally obtained weapons (particularly firearms) commit crimes at a much lower rate than does the average citizen.. While shootings are always very high-profile in our media, the number of deaths caused by "idiots with guns" is miniscule compared to the people killed every year by idiots with cars – specifically, drunk drivers. Even among accidental deaths, inadvertent shootings (which always make the news) rank far below everything from medical malpractice to sports injuries in terms of the deaths they cause.

What about knives? Those who frequent cutlery discussion fora are among the most legally obsessed you will ever encounter, as most knife aficionados are completely terrified of being arrested or of having their valuable collections confiscated. As a result, they spend a great deal of time trying to learn the laws and comply with them. The overwhelming majority of criminal knifings occur not with "tactical folders" or military blades, but with simple kitchen knives. This is only logical given that every home has knives in its kitchen, which seem to be the first thing for which angry residents reach during violent domestic disputes.

More fundamentally, hoplophobes fear weapons because they know nothing about them. To the average citizen or deluded "martial" artist who scoffs at the idea of going armed, a knife or a gun is a mysterious, contemptible object possessing volition and intent of its own, capable of inducing in its owners the desire to murder their neighbors. The average hoplophobe knows nothing about guns or blades, their realistic limitations, or their applications. He or she has no frame of reference for the realistic power of such weapons.

Hoplophobes believe mythology they see on television, in which bullets have enough power to hurl people through the air and fictional "cop killer bullets" can penetrate the shovel of a bulldozer. They think only Norman Bates and Hannibal Lechter would carry knives on a regular basis, even as they struggle desperately to open a plastic package of snack food with their teeth or their car keys. They have no concept of the discipline or the methodology behind earnest weapons training, instead dismissing what they do not understand as "useless" or (paradoxically) too dangerous for mere mortals.

Knowledge mitigates fear, for with understanding comes realism. Those who take the time to educate themselves on weapons rarely retain their irrational hatred of them. Sadly, facts will never interfere with the opinions of most hoplophobes. For such people, education is more terrifying than a naked blade or a smoking pistol.


I've written other editorials on the arrogance of hoplophobes. To such people, any man or woman who goes armed is expressing a "lack of confidence" in his or her fighting skills (or, more abstractly, a paranoia about life in general and the danger daily living represents). Only an arrogant fool would believe any amount of fighting skill is a substitute for being properly armed. One cannot with certainty predict the conditions one will face. All self-defense involves risk. The realistic citizen stacks the odds in his or her favor by being as prepared as possible. If this means the gun, the knife, the kubotan, and the pepper spray the average martialist carries is more than enough when coupled with his fighting skills, great! It is far better to be over-prepared than to be presumptuous.

Ignorance of the reality of weapons, then, leads hoplophobes to believe – in their arrogance – that they have no need of weapons (and that those who do are weak, unskilled, or mentally unsound). The naïveté of such people is matched only by their haughty dismissals of reality. They do not wish to believe that weapons are the choice of the prudent, reasonable citizen, for to do so is an insult to their pride and their martial fantasies.

Of course, there is no greater expression of arrogance than to presume to dictate to others under what circumstances those others may or may not preserve their families, their lives, and their property. How arrogant must you be to presume to tell another sovereign adult how much value you place on her life?


Arguably the worst and most aggravating mistake made by hoplophobes is that of projection. Ignorant, arrogant weapons prohibitionists are, by their very natures, fundamentally insecure and frightened people. They are often oblivious to the fear that lives in their hearts and they often live in worlds of fantasy that insulate them from that fear. They are, nonetheless, profoundly afraid. Hoplophobic "martial" artists in particular cannot face the reality of weapons even as they pretend to participate in a field whose foremost field of development is the use of weapons. The martial arts are systems for applying force to solve conflicts. The ultimate expression of these arts involves weaponry.

Hoplophobes, then, project their fear on the objects of it. As Jeff Cooper said,

In my opinion, neither money nor greed (cupiditas) is the root of all evil. The root of all evil is envy. The non-coper hates the coper, and thus the non-shooter hates the shooter. I see no other explanation for the pointless and irrational activism of the gun grabbers on the political scene. They know that their machinations can have no effect upon crime. Guns have no effect upon crime, but they do make all men equal, as the saying goes. This puts the coper on top, and infuriates the non-coper.

Afraid of those who possess weapons and afraid to acknowledge the utility of the tools they so despise, hoplophobes instead see their own weaknesses mirrored in those who've accepted the truth. This projection is a defense mechanism, for no one wants to think of themselves as afraid or incapable. Only one side is right, however – and reality bears out the fact that weapons in the hands of a free people make those people safer than does disarming the law-abiding...

The full article can be found at;

- Janq
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I'm glad you're here so I can learn everything I didn't know I needed to know. heh
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