Emily Stone’s Weaponry: Knife or Gun?

writing fiction weapons guns knives tips guide

Gun or knife? One is not necessarily better or worse than the other. (Shutterstock photo)

I love asking Benjamin Sobieck questions about weapons–he is an incredible resource for weapons as well as a great writer. As I begin outlining the next two Emily Stone Thrillers, I have some decisions to make as far as her “what if” scenarios. The above photo reminds me of what is inside Emily Stone’s goodie bag. Check out this awesome guest post from Sobieck and see what he has to say.


Emily Stone’s Weaponry: Knife or Gun?

Guest Post by Benjamin Sobieck

Jennifer Chase’s Emily Stone character often finds herself in tight spots while putting the hurt on the bad guys. Chase recently asked me to provide insight on one such scenario, and as always I was happy to oblige the request as I have before. I hope readers enjoy these “what if” scenarios as much as I do.

Here’s the setup, per Chase:

Stone is alone and cornered at a remote location (as usual), and she’s lost contact with her partner. Stone always has at least one gun and a knife as she tracks down the trail of a killer. She is also trained in defensive as well as offensive moves. The killer has a victim with him, but is also alone. Stone is low on ammo but not hurt. However, the killer is an ex-Marine. Can she save the victim and get out alive using the right weapons?

Knife or Gun: Which is Better in Close Quarters?

This is a hypothetical scenario (although it may wind up in a future Stone installment, wink wink) so I’ll make my own assumptions about what’s happening here.

  • Stone is using some sort of semi-auto pistol and already has it drawn.
  • Stone will come across the bad guy by surprise. She’ll turn a corner and find him.
  • The bad guy will not leave the victim, suggesting to me the bad guy is also using a handgun of some sort.
  • The distances between them are relatively short. I’m thinking 20 feet or so.

Given those factors, would Stone’s gun or knife be the better option?

Use the Gun

Stone should use the gun. Even at close distances, and despite the 21-foot rule about handguns’ effectiveness at that range during surprise attacks, Stone’s skill set should allow her to pop the bad guy between the eyes and/or dodge anything that comes her way. She’ll have to act rather than react, but that’s where the fun part of high stakes fiction comes into play.

It could be different, though, and that brings to mind a topic worth considering.

The Myth of the Hierarchy of Weapons

myth of hierarchy of weapons

(Shutterstock image)

There’s an idea out there in fiction, as well as the real world, that weapons exist within a hierarchy. I’ll call this the Myth of the Hierarchy of Weapons. The “not so deadly” weapons are over here, the “mostly deadly” fall into this box and the “definitely deadly” sit at the top of both.

I imagine it looks something like this, arranged from most to least dangerous:

  1. Explosives
  2. Machine/submachine guns
  3. Rifles
  4. Shotguns
  5. Handguns
  6. Knives and other edged instruments
  7. Melee weapons
  8. Household/mundane items
  9. Rocks
  10. Sticks

This kind of thinking supposes the world is like a role playing game, where certain weapons are assigned hit points and scored against the resistance of their targets.

But the real world isn’t a game. The hierarchy looks more like this:

  1. Explosives, machine/submachine guns, rifles, shotguns, handguns, knives and other edged instruments, melee weapons, household/mundane items, rocks, sticks

The hierarchy doesn’t exist. It’s a myth.

Weapons are at their root tools. Knives split one thing into two things. Firearms direct projectiles from point A to point B. Explosives rapidly deconstruct other objects. Like any other tool, weapons are designed to suit a particular purpose.

In the same way Confucius (supposedly) suggested using something other than a hatchet to remove a fly from your forehead, a handgun shouldn’t be graded on its ability to cut. The right tool for the job is better than any other tool. That doesn’t mean it’s also better than all tools for all jobs.

Here’s an example of what I mean from Massad Ayoob, who wrote about this concept for Gun Digest, where I work:

A knife never jams. A knife never runs out of ammunition; you rarely see a gunshot murder victim who has been shot more than a few times, but any homicide investigator can tell you how common it is for the victim of a knife murder to bear twenty, thirty, or more stab and/or slash wounds. A knife comes with a built-in silencer. Knives are cheap, and can be bought anywhere; there used to be a cutlery store at LaGuardia Airport, not far outside the security gates. There is no prohibition against a knife being sold to a convicted felon. Knives can be small and flat and amazingly easy to conceal.

Does that mean knives are more deadly than guns? It depends on the situation. I don’t spread jam on my toast with an ax, but I don’t slaughter zombies with a butter knife, either.

What this means for scenarios like Stone’s is that it isn’t a question of which weapon is better or more deadly. It’s a question of which one is better suited for the scenario.

For writers, that means thinking in reverse when assigning weapons to characters. Figure everything else out first, from the traits of the characters to the weather to geography, and then make the call on the weapon(s) involved should the choice be available to the story in the first place.

The Verdict

I think Stone’s pistol is the best bet, but that could change. A knife certainly has its advantages. A remote, secluded area could include other useful items, such as rocks or broken glass.

As a matter of fact, I deployed the ol’ speeding-rock-to-the-face trick in Chase Baker & the Vikings’ Secret when the titular character lost access to his .45. It doesn’t mean rocks are better than .45 caliber handguns, or vice versa, but it did get the job done.

And that, no matter the scenario, is what counts.

sobieck small mugBenjamin Sobieck is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books). He also blogs about weapons in fiction at CrimeFictionBook.com. His fictional work includes Chase Baker & the Humanzees from Hell, Chase Baker & the Vikings’ Secret, Chase Baker & the Apocalypse Bomb, Glass Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective, 8 Funny Detective Stories with Maynard Soloman, The Invisible Hand and many others. His website is CrimeFictionBook.com.

Sobieck will be presenting about weapons in fiction at the 2016 Writer’s Digest Conference this August in New York City. See details about the conference here.

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INTUITION: An Underused Weapon to Fight Crime


We all have had those moments in our lives where it seemed like a little inner voice told us to avoid a situation, change our decision, or take a completely different direction. That voice goes by many names (hunch, sixth sense, gut feeling, instinct, insight, sensitivity, etc.) and most of us have had a one-on-one with it at some point in life, but let us just call it what it is—intuition. It comes from the Latin word “intuir,” which means knowledge from within.

Intuition is defined as the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning—it is not a magical or paranormal existence. Although not all scientists can completely agree on the exact definition; however, they do agree on where the source of intuition originates.

The term “gut feeling” actually does come from the stomach area. How? It is the result of the activities within the different regions of the brain. criminal profiling2These specific types of reasoning skills are generated from the right hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere not only governs creative thought, art, music, senses and emotion, it is also the area where intuitive thoughts are created.

Most psychologists view intuition as a condensed reasoning or swift cognition—a person’s ability to exploit the brain’s shortcuts. However, some psychologists, on the other hand, deem gut feelings as an associative process that taps into the unconscious.

How can we use intuition to fight crime?

Criminologists explain that a crime is the desire, target, and opportunity of the criminal. All three of these components must take place to make up the crime.


Criminals have a desire to commit a specific crime, such as robbery, assault, rape, etc. This desire to commit the crime is something that we don’t have any control over.


Generally, the criminal will not attempt to commit a specific crime if the target (home, car, person, etc.) is secure. burglar-imgWe do have control over this area. It has been referred to as target hardening and simply means that we have taken steps to make it secure.


The above two components must take place first before the opportunity can take place. However, if any of these components of the crime don’t fall into place, the crime will not be committed. We have control over the opportunity aspect. Be aware, don’t put yourself into situations that could be dangerous, and pay attention to your intuition.


I know that I’m oversimplifying the crime aspect, but I wanted to make a point about intuition and using it fight crime.

Intuition can be a powerful tool in our cognitive arsenal—it is fast, powerful, and mainly used under stressful situations. Just like anything, it needs recognition. Remember, intuition can easily be overridden by our rational thoughts.

Intuition typically is more successful under chaotic and uncertain conditions, and rational thoughts are generally more successful with analysis and data.


  • Do everything that you can to secure yourself and your property. Take extra measures if necessary—be proactive. Take the target out of the crime equation.
  • Be alert and take notice of your surroundings. Be sure to report anything suspicious to the local authorities. Take the opportunity out of the crime equation.
  • Don’t get distracted by simple things such as your cell phone, text messages, etc. when leaving a location (home or business) and walking to your car. Take both the target and opportunity out of the crime equation.
  • If at all possible, don’t put yourself in high-risk situations. If you absolutely have to, then make some kind of arrangement to ensure more safety.
  • Above all, listen your little inner voice, gut feelings, or hunch. Find your intuition and use it.


Have you ever listened to your instinct and it paid off? I would love to hear from you, please feel free to leave a comment.


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Books: Compulsion  Dead Game  Dark Mind Dead Burn Dark Pursuit Silent Partner  Screenwriting


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No Bones about Writing Bad Guys

Author Jennifer Chase

When I outline bad guys for my novels, it often reads like a police rap sheet and a psychological profile.  I can’t overstate the effectiveness for research and outlining in fiction writing.  There’s always those little pieces of nuggets that you can weave into the story that gives it the added realism and authenticity.  These nuggets are like pieces of gold for me and I love hunting for them.

Research into creating new characters works well for me because I love learning new things that I didn’t know yesterday, but it can be a daunting task if you don’t enjoy the process.  I’ve managed to streamline my process a bit so that I don’t get overwhelmed with too much information and avoid a major time void sucking the life out of me.

I remember when I first began writing screenplays, it was quoted many times in books and from successful…

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The Bystander Effect and What it Represents in Society Today

Author Jennifer Chase

BarfightIn my Emily Stone Series, my protagonist is a woman who has made the decision to get involved when she knows a crime is being committed. Emily Stone uses her intelligence, her intuition, and a few helpful pieces of technology to track the most dangerous predators in our society. She does all of this work anonymously, and forwards the evidence and entire investigation for the local police department before moving onto her next case. Well, it doesn’t always go the way as planned.

What about people who make the decision NOT to get involved? We have all read or heard about instances in which horrifying crimes were taking place and bystanders did nothing to stop the violence.

There was an incident in which a teenage girl was gang raped for more than two hours outside of her high school homecoming dance in Richmond, California. More than two dozen people…

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Examining the Digits: Uncovering Tough Clues in Crime Investigations

Author Jennifer Chase

fingerprints_colorThere are forensic scientists discovering and applying new scientific techniques to help solve cases and uncovering clues in cold cases.  Since fingerprints are the most fragile pieces of evidence in a criminal investigation and are the most important to identify the perpetrator, they are the first to be located, documented, retrieved, and examined.

Some of the most common ways to retrieve a fingerprint at a crime scene is by dusting techniques, cyanoacrylate fuming (Super glue), and using various/alternate light sources.  Other applications used are the Magana brush, nindydrin, silver nitrate, and amino black.

During my internship at a police forensic lab in the fingerprint section, I used the ninhydrin method (reacts with the amino acids in fingerprints) and sprayed a letter document in question to develop a print.  I felt a little bit like Sherlock Holmes waiting for the print to appear.  The readable print turned purple/pink in color.  Then…

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I’ve Stared Into the Heart of a Psychopath

Author Jennifer Chase

CoverImage_SmashwordsAs with my fictional heroine Emily Stone, I have stared into the heart of psychopath.  The first book in the award-winning Emily Stone Series is loosely based on some of my experiences with a violent sociopath that lived next door.  It was not only an interesting, eye-opening experience, but a frightening one as well.  It drove me to study and eventually earn my master’s degree in Criminology.  I lived my life for more than two years with the threat that I would be murdered, ambushed, and brutally attacked by this person.  I always believed that good things come out of bad experiences.  My series was one of them.  I want to thank everyone who has supported me and the series.




When Serial Killers Terrorize a California Beach Community, One Woman Stands in Their Way

Emily Stone doesn’t have a badge. But that hasn’t stopped her from tracking…

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Psychological Triggers and Obsessions of the Serial Killer Mind

Author Jennifer Chase

“We’ve all got the power in our hands to kill, but most people are afraid to use it. The ones who aren’t afraid control life itself.”  –Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker, Los Angeles, CA)

We hear about serial killers crossing that dangerous psychological line into the act of murder.  There is a big leap from the fantasy phase to the actual criminal act.  It’s the impulse control mechanism that is instilled in human beings.  Basically, we know it’s wrong to kill another human for personal reasons or motivations.  When you combine the traits of psychopaths with the lack of impulse control, it can be the formula for disaster.

What triggers these individuals to kill?  According to Joel Norris author of Serial Killers, he outlined seven stages (phases) of the serial killer: aura, trolling, wooing, capture, murder, totem, and depression.  This is an interesting theory and definitely has merit…

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