53

When I watch pros play, I see them constantly switching from main weapon to knife in almost every situation (i.e running, walking, entry, etc.).

In match-making, ESEA, etc. players will also do this. I have seen people die because they were in the middle of the 'switching' animation and thus unable to shoot. Had they not switched to their knife and back, they would most-likely have lived.

What sort of advantages do switching so frequently have?

I guess my thought process is:

  • While running: If one were to switch from their knife->gun->knife, and (even for a brief period), it slows their speed - ultimately getting them slower to their destination. Sure, maybe a really small difference but there are many scenarios where every tick/frame counts.
  • During gun-fights: Switching to from gun->knife->gun in the middle of fire-fights is really dangerous and players are defenseless for a short period of time, switching should generally be avoided as much as possible in these scenarios as well.

Some scenarios that I understand are when players have their gun out to be cautious but switch to their knife to gain speed for a short distance, then switching back - but it's a bit confusing as to why players of all skill-levels will constantly switch their weapons in almost every scenario.

  • Comments were deleted. If you would like to post an answer, please post it as such, but make sure the information you'd like to add hasn't already been covered. – Wrigglenite Feb 4 at 12:33
  • The question and the top voted answer have conflicting information, does switching speed you up or slow you down? – GreySage Feb 5 at 16:07
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    @GreySage I don't see any conflict, just different perspectives. If you hold a gun normally and you keep swapping you may move faster, however if you normally hold the knife then it may slow you down. – user136727 Feb 5 at 19:43
39

As an avid CS:GO player I can attest that besides gaining movement speed, there are very few situations when player benefits from random switching to knife/nade/pistol. Most importantly, you limit your reaction time in a game where fractions of second determine the winner.

To understand the human nature of this behavior consider a typical round in CS:GO match:

  1. Freezetime. Players spend 10-15 seconds during freezetime, of which they typically spend 2-4 seconds buying weapons. The rest of the freezetime players have almost nothing to do, they cannot run/walk and only allowed movements are jump/duck throwing weapons and... switching weapons.
  2. Getting in position. Prior to any action, players have to reach their positions. This process requires pressing "w" anywhere between 5s (dust2) and 30s (nuke). Running the same route each round is not the most enjoyable part of the round, so switching weapons is an easy way to add some action without slowing down the pace, as ducking or unsuccessful jumping would do. To be fair, switching between knife and primary weapon gives you a certain speed gain compared to running with primary weapon, but why simply not run with a knife instead?
  3. Holding an angle. Whether you are a CT awaiting "Rush B" or a T who just planted a bomb you will have to wait before any action takes place. This process requires holding an angle patiently and focused without much movement freedom. Switching weapons may be attractive option of self-entertainment during these tense moments.

    In most cases, you can attribute such behavior to either boredom or emotional stress. Pressing buttons may help mentally during tight situations, like a fidget cube. The process can also be visually pleasing, especially if player owns skins he/she likes.

You can see many streamers and professional players who do that, especially younger ones. You rarely see this behavior from seasoned players in top orgs (compare 2015 s1mple in Filpsid3 with 2018 s1mple in Na'Vi).

  • 3
    This process requires holding an angle patiently and focused without much movement freedom - usually, the more action happens, the faster are the reaction times when something actually needs your attention – XtremeBaumer Feb 4 at 10:54
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    It's like jigging your virtual leg. – Smock Feb 4 at 11:00
38

The only advantage of having a knife out is the movement speed. The knife and the bomb have the highest speed values (250 units per second), so you run faster with one of these in your hands. Compared to an AWP (200 u/s) running around while holding the knife is 25% faster. Constantly switching weapons bears no real advantage. Most people probably do it for no real reason (or they're bored).

Why some players do that in every single situation is subject to speculation, because as you already figured out it is very risky to bring a knife to a gun fight. It's more effective to run with a pistol (most have a speed value of 240) when you're not absolutely sure there's nobody lurking in front of you and you need to hurry up. This way you can at least shoot back before switching to a rifle.

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    Wow, it's kinda surprising that the AWP is only that much slower. It feels so much slower than 80% speed, for some reason. – Riker Feb 4 at 2:56
16

This answer is only based on my finds on google. I have never played the game. Any info can be long outdated without my knowledge.

My sources:

Explanation:

It seems that having the knife out you have a higher running speed than with pistol or gun. But you also want to be quick with shooting once you see an enemy, that is one reason for "quick-switching". The second reason seems to be to cancel animations. The reload animation as well as the zoom animation can be cancelled by this.

Being able to throw nades and shoot your pistol while the reload is finishing is enough gain IMO. Aside from that it's useful to unscope since the cs scoping mechanic is utterly outdated (can't even unscope without scoping in twice or taking your rifle out again...)

and

You cannot reduce reload time with any weapon in the game by quick switching, for every weapon except the awp and scout you gain no other advantage either. The only way it is useful is if when using the awp or scout, you do not want to re-scope after cycling the bolt.

and

"you gain no other advantage either" - wrong, you reset recoil, which is useful for guns with long decay like deagle (especially after a jump)

Something I think that should also not be forgotten, is the following:

It actually has some non-imagined reason. You know that you might need to move in the foreseeable future and by already moving, you are faster to react when you actually have to move. It keeps your fingers/brain active in an otherwise dull situation.

This actually refers to other games, but I am sure that weapon switching has a similar effect. You might not want to move in CS:GO while still keeping your fingers/brain active

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    Quick switching is not any faster in CSGO than waiting for the reload to finish. I believe it was in CS:S, but it's not anymore. I'd guess it's mostly muscle memory from AWPs (and scouts too I guess). – Riker Feb 4 at 3:04
  • @Riker that seems to be covered by the first and second excerpt I included – XtremeBaumer Feb 4 at 8:41
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    @Riker you may need to wait the same amount for the reload but you at least don't see the animation, which can take up some screen space. So, there is a practical benefit that gives some advantage, even if it that benefit is not a mechanical one. – VLAZ Feb 4 at 8:46
  • Also "Being able to throw nades and shoot your pistol while the reload is finishing is enough gain IMO" – XtremeBaumer Feb 4 at 8:47
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    Reload cancelling is the "valid" reason why this is done, although boredom or just "looking cool" are probably more common. Reload cancelling is not speciifc to CS:GO; I remember doing it in my COD: MW2 days, particularly on the Bushmaster ACR. In CS, the AWP is one of the weapons that benefit the most from this - as I understand, a substantial part of the per-shot reload time (bolt action animation) can be shaved off by quickly switching to the knife and back to the AWP. Note that reload cancelling, done correctly, doesn't cancel the reload, it shortens the animation. – Bjonnfesk Feb 4 at 11:36
8

As you have noted, there is the advantage of the knife for speed in non-fight situations. Other than that, I believe there are two major reasons:

  • Historical

    Most CS:GO players were CS:1.6 or CS:S players, and in those games, there were indeed significant advantages in multiple situations, and old habits die hard:

    In CS:1.6 some weapon pairs would quick-switch without any animation (such as m4a1 - usp combo). In both games, switching weapons would reset recoil in weapons, making it useful for Deagle and scoped weapons for example, particularly after jumping. You could also skip the second scope zoom by switching out.

  • Stress/Reaction

    Stress will induce players to perform repetitive motions (the same way people tend to jitter their legs). This might also be related to the fact that reaction times improve if you are already performing some action: for the human body, going from inactivity to reaction is slower than being in movement and adjusting for an event.

All in all, there seems to be (other than purely biological motives), very few real advantages to do it in the current CS:GO game.

4

There could be multiple reasons:

Just because: When waiting or running there is not much you are doing with your hands, at most just holding W, so often people will switch weapons just to move their fingers. Personally, I feel that it also helps keep the fingers agile so they don't press on the wrong keys when it's important.

Walking/Running speed: While holding different weapons you will move at different speeds. Holding a knife gives the fastest movement speed so unless you expect to spot an enemy you are probably holding a knife when running.

Quiet unscope: Scoped weapons can be zoomed in by right-clicking (by default). This makes noise that other players can hear. However, if you are scoped in and you switch to another weapon (weapon switching makes no noise) and back, you will be unscoped and no one will hear it. Due to this, for many players unscoping by switching weapons is in their muscle memory, so they will do that even if noise makes no difference.

Information changes: It could be that probability of enemy appearing changes really fast. For example:
- Hunting the last player: Running with a gun
- Teammate spots the last player far from you: Pull out knife to get to there faster
- Teammate reports last player went your way: Pull out gun
We cannot usually know this for sure because we usually don't hear team communication, but personally I have experienced this.

As to canceling reload animation, this did work in previous Counter-Strike games, but in Global Offensive there is no time saved if switching.

2

You correctly identified that switching to the knife is done for speed. But why do they switch so often? There is a reason for frequent switches in case of highly skilled players.

Note: I didn't play much Counter Strike, but I played a similar (Wild West-themed) game on a relatively high level.

You correctly stated the question: why switch so often?

The answer is, for professional or highly skilled players playing against similarly strong opponents, that there are many situations where you couldn't do anything even if you had a gun, so in all those cases better have a knife because you move faster.

Why?

Because the following is a very suboptimal way of traversing the map:

CS screenshot

If you run around the map like this, and your opponents are really good, you have zero chance of surviving. Zero.

At first it would seem logical. Enemies could pop up from either A or B, so you keep the crosshair between the two, as you have the shortest distance to rotate to either side. But then an enemy pops out, and before you can move the crosshair even a little, you are dead.

The correct way of running around the map is to pick either A or B, and run so that your crosshair is exactly on the spot where you could shoot without moving your aim even a pixel, if someone happened to come from that direction. How to choose? If you know the map well, know the shortest distances from any point to any other point, keep track of where your enemies were sighted last, where you have heard gunshots from the last time, you form a mental map of the likeliest locations the enemies might be at or might move towards. Especially in the early game, if you know the map well, you know at how many seconds after the start which positions could have already been reached by your enemies and which couldn't have.

If you picked wrong, and an enemy pops out from the other direction, you have to either duck back to cover, run to the next cover if available, or start evading. Because if you try to turn and shoot, and your opponent is really good, you have no chances: he had you in his crosshair sooner (actually, he had you in his crosshair even before you became visible), so you die.

You know you are good, when novice players start accusing you of using wallhacks, because you keep shooting them instantly as they appear, before they could react, as you run around while aiming your gun exactly to the most likely location someone could pop out from.

Yeah, but what does this all have to do with the knife?

The main thing is, against professional players, if your gun isn't already pointing to the exact corner your enemy is coming from, most of the time there is no point in trying to correct your aim and shoot, as your opponent will shoot you first. So in any case where you move from one place to the next, run from one cover to the next, or basically any occasion you aren't aiming at the exact corner where you could kill your opponent if he just happened to come from there, your gun is useless. During this time, if you have a knife equipped, you move faster. When playing among professionals, reaching a location fractions of a second sooner might be the deciding factor between victory and defeat.

Other causes Some less skilled players have seen what better players do, and emulate it without understanding why, without applying these tactics correctly. Or they are bored and do it for fun.

CS might have some exploits of interrupting some animations, that might be another cause, but I don't know CS geed enough to know. The above explanation can be valid for several games, where running with a knife (or fists, or whatever melee weapon) is faster than running with a gun.

  • I'm gonna say that the position your screenshot is showing is not a great example, because this is a very close location to the Terrorist spawn, and if you're just starting the round, the chance of CTs being at the circle A is practically zero. At the start of the round where you can predict where the enemies can possibly appear from due to map traversal speed limitation, you can safely switch weapons all you want. Being at a potential disadvantage is only a thing when enough time has passed that the enemies have had a chance to be at the spot A. – user1306322 Feb 5 at 11:22
  • @user1306322 : indeed it's not a great example (maybe that's why the downvotes came?), but I searched a lot for a screenshot (don't have it installer on my current computer) and this was the only one I could find for an illustration. Maybe I'll change it to a hand-drawn top-down view, not from a real map but for a hypothetical situation. Take the current illustration as something to show the general concept, not as a recommendation for that exact spot on that exact map. – vsz Feb 5 at 11:44
  • I remember a regular game where I ran into a teammate camping...except he wasn't so much camping as standing out in the open in a conspicuous spot staring at an entry point. I told him to watch out there are guys coming from that way and he should camp in a better spot (there was a dark corner he could have just backed into and became much less visible). He responded, "Doesn't matter. I can shoot them faster that they can shoot me." – DKNguyen Feb 6 at 5:58

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