Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Bringing a knife to a gunfight in old-time Phoenix


As long as I remember, one of those ridiculous things I'd always heard was to bring a knife to a gunfight. And at first glance it does sound like it wouldn't be a smart thing to do, but when you think about it, it depends on the man.

Phoenix was never a wide-open town with a lot of gunplay. If you want to read about that, Google Tombstone, Arizona. It was. Phoenix was mostly law-abiding, and had some serious lawmen, like Henry Garfias. You can Google him if you want to, he was good with a gun!

And while most men could handle guns in old-time Phoenix, then as now, guns cost money. And bullets cost money. And speaking for myself, I'd had been reluctant to spend that much money if I had a knife. And knives were very common in old-time Phoenix. No self-respecting man would be without one. You never knew when a knife would come in handy in the ordinary course of the day. And I'm just talking about cutting stuff, not about violence. My older brother taught me safe gun and knife handling, and I can remember seeing him plunging his knife in the ground to keep it razor sharp.

And, contrary to popular belief, handguns were never equalizers. And I'm not talking about someone with poor aim, or shaky hands. I'm talking about a man's willingness to use it without hesitation. Whether you call it courage or cruelty, those men are rare. And if you hesitate while pointing a gun, a man with a sharp knife can end the fight very quickly.

It's probably because gun smoke is more interesting in movies and TV than knives that we have forgotten how deadly knives can be, and how often they were used. And a very popular knife would have been a Bowie knife. Strapped to a boot, it could be brandished quickly, and was a very deadly weapon. I sure wouldn't want one pointed at me!

So, let's not fight. There's Melczer's there right next to the gun store, let's buy some whiskey and sit by the canal, and be friends. You know, bury the hatchet!



Image at the top of this post: Looking north on Center Street (Central) towards Adams in 1909, Phoenix, Arizona.

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