Donald Trump is accusing Ben Carson of lying in his story of attempting to stab a friend as a teenager. “How stupid do people have to be to believe that?” Asks Trump, challenging the assertion that a belt buckle could turn a knife blade. Let’s armchair quarterback this.

Here’s the video clip from last night’s rally, where Trump mimics Carson’s knife-wielding antics:

What is Trump talking about? According to The Daily Beast, Carson has related this story as part of his reformed-violent-youth narrative many times.

The first was in his 1996 book, “Think Big.”

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One afternoon when I was fourteen, I argued with a friend named Bob. Pulling out a camping knife, I lunged at my friend. The steel blade struck his metal belt buckle and snapped.

He goes into more detail in his 1996 autobiography, “Gifted Hands.”

I was in the ninth grade when the unthinkable happened. I lost control and tried to knife a friend. Bob and I were listening to a transistor radio when he flipped the dial to another station.

‘You call that music?’ he demanded.

‘It’s better than what you like!’ I yelled back, grabbing for the dial.

‘Come on, Carson. You always—’

In that instant blind anger—pathological anger—took possession of me. Grabbing the camping knife I carried in my back pocket, I snapped it open and lunged for the boy who had been my friend. With all the power of my young muscles, I thrust the knife toward his belly. The knife hit the big, heavy ROTC buckle with such force that the blade snapped and dropped to the ground. I stared at the broken blade and went weak. I had almost killed him. I had almost killed my friend.

The story is again repeated in his 2000 book, “The Big Picture.”

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I told how I had gotten so angry one day that I lunged at a friend with a knife. I aimed at his stomach, but I hit his belt buckle instead. Rather than slicing open my friend’s abdomen, the blade broke off, and my friend ran away terrified but otherwise unhurt. Afterward, I was almost as frightened as my friend by the realization of what had almost happened. I could have very well ended up in jail instead of Yale. Instead, God used that incident to help turn my life around.

And again in 2007’s smash hit, “Take The Risk.”

One day, as a fourteen-year-old in ninth grade, I was hanging out at the house of my friend Bob, listening to his radio, when he suddenly leaned over and dialed the tuner to another station. I’d been enjoying the song playing on the first station, so I reached over and flipped it back. Bob switched stations again. Then something snapped inside of me. A wave of rage welled up, and almost without thinking, I pulled out the pocketknife I always carried. In what seemed like one continuous, involuntary motion, I flicked open the blade and lunged viciously, right at my friend’s stomach. Incredibly, the point of the knife struck Bob’s large metal belt buckle and the blade snapped off in my hands.

2011’s “America The Beautiful,” has a different retelling:

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One day, as a fourteen-year-old in ninth grade, I was hanging out at the house of my friend Bob, listening to his radio, when he suddenly leaned over and dialed the tuner to another station. I’d been enjoying the song playing on the first station, so I reached over and flipped it back. Bob switched stations again. Then something snapped inside of me. A wave of rage welled up, and almost without thinking, I pulled out the pocketknife I always carried. In what seemed like one continuous, involuntary motion, I flicked open the blade and lunged viciously, right at my friend’s stomach. Incredibly, the point of the knife struck Bob’s large metal belt buckle and the blade snapped off in my hands.

As does last year’s “One Nation.”

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I had been minding my own business when a classmate came along and began to ridicule me. I had a large camping knife in my hand and, without thinking, I lunged at him, plunging the knife into his abdomen. He backed off, certain that he had been mortally wounded before discovering that the knife blade had struck a large metal belt buckle under his clothing and broken. He fled in terror but I was even more terrified when realizing that I had almost killed someone. That incident led me to prayerfully consider my plight and to ask for God’s guidance and help. I came to understand that very day that I was always angry because I was selfish.

I’m relating all these not to poke holes in Carson’s story (who cares about the exact setting?), but to illustrate its importance in the biggest story of all, “The Ben Carson Narrative.” And it’s in that Trump is trying to find fault with his suggestion that breaking a knife on a belt buckle is impossible.

From Carson’s stories, I think we can agree that a) Carson was using a folding “camping” knife and that his friend was equipped with a standard JROTC belt buckle. Both items are largely consistent in all versions of this story’s retelling.

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Ben Carson would have been 14 years old in 1965. And at that time, a standard folding camping knife of the kind generally given to children looked like this:

But there’s also a chance he had a common-for-the-time Barlow knife like this one:

When I was in JROTC, I was issued a belt buckle like this one:

And that is likely similar to the one Carson’s friend was wearing, even back in the ‘60s. The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps isn’t known for its rapid gear updates.

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Both knives in question are folding knives of limited quality. The first is a friction folder, in which the blade is only held open by the friction between its blade and frame. The second is a slip joint, in which a back spring provides a little more tension to the opened blade. Both will fold back if any pressure beyond about 1lbs is applied to the tip.

Studies have shown that a professional boxer can use a hand to strike with over 1,000lbs of force. A 14-year old Carson would have been capable of generating something far lower, but still well above the minuscule amount required to close a non-locking knife blade.

Additionally, blades in both designs are mounted on a metal pin only a few millimeters in thickness that’s pegged into the knife’s handle. While quality modern knives use steel scales and slabs of titanium for frames, older folding knives like these often relied on imitation antler made from plastic. So, their blades would, at best, have been pegged into very thin metal, but maybe just plastic handles with a metal pin only a few millimeters in diameter. They were not strong.

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In order for one person to “stab” another as low on the body as a belt buckle — assuming both are standing — they would need to use an underhand grip, where the knife’s edge is facing downwards and the tip is protruding forwards out of their closed fist, between their thumb and forefinger. The natural swing of your arm would carry the knife up and towards your rival’s body.

Unfortunately, such a swing exposes the most significant weakness in the design of either knife Carson was likely using. As the knife impacted his friend’s body, force would have been applied on the blade in a direction moving towards the handle, and downwards. Anything but an absolutely perfect hit, with the direction of force traveling exactly parallel to the knife blade, would absolutely have forced the knife closed.

This is one major reason why, in Boy Scouts, we train new knife users to never “stab” with a knife (which someone may do to attempt to open a can or to stick the knife in a log). Doing so causes the blade to fold onto the user’s hand, causing injury proportionate to the amount of force the user is applying.

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Had the knife met any resistance — belt webbing, thick denim, even a relatively flimsy belt buckle — the force applied to it would have been increased, raising chances of an accidental closure. That’s the problem with knives like these, the more pressure you apply to them, the more likely they are to close on you.

No versions of Carson’s story involve injury to his hands though. And having a folding knife close on your fingers with significant pressure is definitely the kind of thing you’ll remember. Instead, he asserts that the blade either “snapped” or the knife, “broke in two.”

The knife diagramed here is of higher quality than was common for widely available knives of the mid-1960s. It features metal frame liners to increase strength, a feature the knife a teenage boy would have carried would have been unlikely to have. Still, you get a good idea of how these knives were put together. The main takeaway here is that the blade is attached using a single pin, poking through the handle material for retention. Strong, these designs were not.

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As we established above, the two knife designs Carson could potentially have been armed with are both exceptionally weak and failure prone. Problems that grow worse with age, as torsion to the pin wears down the holes through which it mounts in the handles and already suboptimal materials oxidize, fatigue and are worn away. The wear to these holes by the pin creates “play,” a degree of movement which then allows the blade room to wiggle back and forth. And that play subsequently allows the blade to apply more and more torsion to the pin and holes, compounding wear and leading to significant potential for breakage.

Had Carson’s knife encountered resistance during his swing, whether that be simply from thick clothing or even a belt buckle, it could have caused a knife of this design — even a new one in good condition — to break. Had his knife, which he says he’d carried for some time, been worn, that potential would have been greatly increased.

It didn’t have to be the belt buckle that turned the blade, but even the relatively thin metal of the kind used by the JROTC would have been enough. No, the slick metal of this type of buckle wouldn’t “catch” a blade, instead allowing it to slide off, but we must assume that Carson’s friend was additionally wearing clothing, which could have been capable of halting or slowing the blade’s travel off the buckle in any direction.

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If we accept that Carson did attempt to stab his friend with a knife like the two kinds listed above or anything similar, and we accept that he neither injured himself nor his friend in the process, then we also have to accept that the knife did likely break. And that a metal belt buckle could have done the breaking.

Victory: Ben Carson.

Donald Trump, if you’re reading this, then I’d like to take you up on your offer of a live demonstration. I’ll bring the knife if you bring the belt buckle. Time and location of your choosing.

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