American push daggers, late 19thc
I recently obtained a 'push dagger' and have been thinking about what we know of this kind of knife.
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Most sources associate them with gamblers of the later American West (late 19thc); Capwell's (2009) description is typical:
"Daggers such as this are usually associated with dishonest gamblers of the American West. It was easily concealed and could be produced surreptitiously. The handle was held in the fist, and the blade between the fingers, allowing a fatal punch to be delivered."

It occurs to me that these associations between gamblers and push daggers are always unsourced. My questions, then, are:

1. Are there any primary sources directly connecting 19thc gamblers in the American West with these weapons, including accounts of them actually used to kill someone?

2. Assuming the association is accurate, where would these daggers be "easily concealed," such that they could "be produced surreptitiously" if needed?

I remember reading somewhere that they were a popular back-up weapon during the American Civil War, you may find more info pursuing the 'combat' use of such weapons rather than a civilian context - they were certainly revived for the First World War (Robbins of Dudley made a version for use in the trenches).

Toby Capwell (in his book on Knives, Daggers etc.) mentions that some originals can be found with a suspension ring on the chape of the sheath and a spring retainer so they can be suspended upside down under a jacket (presumably from one's suspenders/braces).

Unfortunately, these are illegal to own in the UK otherwise I would happily have a few or these brutally effective things in my collection.....

Thanks Julian. That's probably the same Capwell book as mine; I must've missed that commentary and will look it up again. I still wonder how a push dagger kept under clothing could be quickly accessed in the event of sudden violence, as the gambler would have to reach under/into his tucked and buttoned shirt and fumble around for it, giving his enemy plenty of time to see and react. Maybe it was more effectively used in ambushing someone outside the saloon -- concealing it in one's palm (ie. already drawn) and then punching an unwary opponent at close range.

I can certainly see how larger push/punch daggers would be of good use if worn openly (easier of access), and at least one other culture -- India from ca. 16-19thc. -- used a large punch dagger as one of its main forms of sidearm (the katar).

Here in Texas at least, I believe these daggers aren't illegal to own (I hope not, now that I have one!), but are illegal to carry.

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