The Gambler’s Dagger

During the time of the “California Gold Rush,” knifemakers made concealable boot knives which were used by gamblers and thieves.  Whether you are a cowboy/cowgirl, tactical oriented person, or civilian, the boot knife is a great option for you to carry. Boot knives derive their nomenclature from their storage on, or within boots. They can be large or small, fixed or flip, and single or double edged. Nowadays, they can be carried in holsters on the hip or in a pocket. This blade is ready to perform slashing and stabbing techniques. Double edged knives, fixed blade knives, and knives of a certain length are illegal in some regions. Boot knives are great because they are very concealable under most circumstances. It’s important to properly handle and train with your boot dagger and EDC knife. Jake Mace demonstrates how to correctly handle knives and daggers on his YouTube channel video “Real Combat Knife Fighting for the Street.”

Many military and law enforcement officers have a backup boot knife. The sheath typically connects to the shoe strings of the boot or is built into the boot for safe and easy deployment of the knife. This backup blade may be the last line of defense in some situations. Boot knives are notorious for being good self defense knives as they are sharp and can be wielded in normal or reverse grip very comfortably. Check out my previous blog post “Don’t Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight,” for some more content on self-defense with a knives in close quarters. The article serves to give you a new perspective on knives as a superior self-defense tool in short distances.

Hunters and fishermen have used boot knives for basic utility in the woods. Boot knives may have a concave spoon drilled out on one side called a “blood groove,” which helps with stabbing. This feature ensures the easy exit of the dagger following punctures. Having the blood groove present thwarts the vacuum created by the stab. Another unique characteristic of boot knives is that they can be used to pry open oyster shells. Next time you’re in need of an oyster shucker, be sure to grab your handy boot knife. There’s also a variation of the boot knife called the “push dagger,” which was mainly used by riverboat gamblers in the old Southwest. This type of blade type is grasped in between the forefinger and middle finger. It’s interesting to see how cultures have conceptualized and forged different variations of blades. Thank you for reading and please subscribe and share if you enjoy knives and martial arts as much as I do!

Traditional boot knife. Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

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Kammi Dingman

In addition to pursuing my cellular and molecular biology research and medical professional careers, I am a knife artistry dealer. My husband and I started Big John Blades in 2018 with a mission in mind: Everyone needs a sophisticated cutting edge. I think that everyone deserves the best quality knives; I’m here to deliver the education and product. I’m a believer that quality and price are highly correlated. As a custom knife collector with a scientific mind, I continually research the market and invest in high quality knife-making materials. I'm here to listen to the customers expectations and help them create their custom knife. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, survivalist, hunter, adventurer, camper, hiker, or connoisseur, an exceptional knife is an asset to any collection. Retail stores can't offer the unique artistry and quality a custom blade will. Custom knives hold their value and in certain instances, increase in value over the years. They are distinguished pieces of art passed down through the generations.

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