Less Lethal Options for Self-Defense

You don’t own a gun and you don’t want to. You are concerned about your safety however, and want to pursue other, less-lethal options to defend yourself. What to do? What to do?

If you happen to own a dog that can protect you outside the house, you are ahead of the game, however, if said dog is not available at times you are outside running errands, read on.

There are a lot of products classified as less-lethal weapons, available on the market. These offer another tool in the self-defense toolbox. What are less-lethal weapons you ask? Well, all will be revealed in this post as I explain what they are, what they do, what they don’t do, how to use them and how to carry them. But first a little history.

Less-lethal weapons are designed to deter attackers, or induce compliance when used by law enforcement, when the use of deadly force is not authorized or legal. They have been in use in one form or another since about the 1800’s. Starting with a constables truncheon (wooden billy club), British policemen came up with the idea of using blunt force ammunition starting with modified broom handles (ouch) and then progressing to bullets made out of teak (double ouch). Due to concerns about splintering, they made the change to rubber bullets*. As technology progressed, tear gas, bean bag rounds(small pouches filled with birdshot and fired from a shotgun), tasers and other devices came into use. Although these devices are considered non-lethal or less-lethal (yes, there is a difference), their use is not without risk.

So, what choices do you, the average citizens trying to improve their personal security by carrying one of the devices sold in the civilian marketplace have? Well, it turns out you have a lot of options. Before I discuss some of these, there are a few things you need to consider: have you had any formal self-defense training? Do you live or work in a high-risk area or environment? If threatened would you be prepared to use one of these devices? Are you willing to get professional self-defense training (suggested strongly but not required)? The first and perhaps most important lesson I teach all of our self-defense or firearms students is this: the best option in a potentially dangerous situation is to not be there in the first place and that mostly depends on your situational awareness. Every time? No. Some situations just happen before you can observe or react to them. That’s life. However, you can greatly mitigate those circumstances by being aware of your surroundings and the people inhabiting them. And by training. Learning some basic self – defense skills can give a person the opportunity of being a harder target and a better than average chance of escaping or surviving a threatening encounter. Remember this: the use of these devices is to offer you an opportunity to escape an attacker, so as the saying goes “feet don’t fail me now!” In other words…RUN!!

Now to the devices themselves.

The National Institute of Justice identifies seven types of less lethal device technology. Of the seven we only really need to concern ourselves with four of them:

Conducted Energy Devices – Tasers, stun guns.

Chemicals – pepper spray, tear gas.

Distraction – flashlights with or without strobe (strobe preferred), bright lights, noise (whistles,pocket air horn, screaming).

Blunt Force – impact weapons such as: extendable batons, tactical pens, flashlights (steel body) preferred or kubotans .

In some situations there may also be what we call “weapons of opportunity” such as rocks, sticks,rolled up newspaper, dishes,cups, or other objects you can grab.

So, which of these choices are the best for you?

Stun Guns and Tasers

Stun guns, which aren’t guns at all, are handheld (pocket sized to walking stick types) contact devices . What this means is that an attacker needs to be in touching range. Now, of course this is not the most desirable position to be in, especially when your hands are full and the device is in your purse or a pocket. The other thing about them is that you usually need to have contact, best placed on exposed areas you would strike: neck, arms, face, hands or inner thighs if able. Then, and in my opinion, this one reason I don’t particularly endorse them, is that to be effective you need to maintain contact for several seconds. That seemingly small time frame can be enough for a determined attacker to strike back which, in turn, could cause you to lose control of the device. Several seconds. In technical terms that is called a “bad thing”. Now all that being said, it does not necessarily rule out purchasing one as a last ditch back up, or because your wardrobe choice for the day may only allow you to carry that device. I always work on the philosophy that something is better than nothing at all. If you were to buy one, it should be capable of putting out at least 300,000 volts to be effective. Ouch!

Now, Tasers are a different story. These devices work by shooting long insulated wires that have electrode barbs attached at the ends, at approximately 180 feet per second, from a handheld carbon dioxide activated launcher, up to 15 or 20 feet. With the trigger activated it sends a pulse of approximately 50,000 volts and a few milliamps for about five seconds (longer if the trigger is held). What this does is cause a complete disruption in the central nervous system and direct contraction of all the muscles, physically debilitating the attacker and putting them on the ground. The barbs are 3/8 of an inch and  don’t necessarily have to touch skin to be effective as the current can jump up to two inches as long as both barbs are attached to the clothing or skin. The optimal range to use it is three to five feet away. This allows the barbs to have the optimal spread of about six inches apart. Once hit, the attacker can be stunned or even rendered temporarily unconscious. If the probes happen to miss the device can be used in a touch/stun mode if the attacker gets close to you before you can get away. The operational words are “get away!”

Pepper Spray and Tear Gas

Pepper spray is, as the name implies, made from peppers. The active ingredient is Oleoresin Capsicum (kind of a mouthful), more commonly known as OC, and is an inflammatory agent affecting the eyes and respiratory system. This not only causes the attacker to shut their eyes, possibly cause temporary blindness and difficulty breathing. These effects are temporary usually lasting in the neighborhood of 15 to 30 minutes. It is also non-toxic. It comes in the form of spray or gel and some are actually mixed with dye. Kind of hard for an attacker to hide THAT!

Tear gas or Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile (even more of a mouthful) or CS for short is man-made and is also an irritant. It is overall considered to be less effective than pepper spray, as the effects, which are similar to OC, do not  last as long and are diminished in fresh air. Having had the pleasure of experiencing the effects of both of these agents while on SWAT, I would take CS over OC any day. Pepper spray just sticks with you and keeps on giving. It also works fast. The average time is approximately one second or less as opposed to tear gas which can take up to 30 seconds.I would opt for the one second solution anytime. Some of the sprays available have a mixture of both. Some companies also make bear spray. Just saying.

The delivery systems vary from small canisters through progressively larger sizes up to 12 ounce or more cans, but one of the systems I like best is the JPX, which looks like a space gun and comes in a two or four barreled model. The JPX is promoted as the most functional and powerful hand-held OC delivery system available today. The JPX launches high grade OC solution at 405 mph. Effective range is up to 23 feet. Each two-shot cartridge contains two charges, and quickly snaps on the receiver. Since it looks like a small gun, it can certainly give a potential attacker pause, especially the black models. I watched a demonstration of this system and it completely incapacitated the test subject, dyed his face, and took a loooong time to be neutralized with water. Plenty of time to get away!

Distraction Devices and Techniques

These devices are designed to distract or even cause temporary disorientation.  Having a flashlight as an everyday carry item gives you the ability to identify a threat and also, by shining it in an attackers face, cause momentary disorientation. Most tactical flashlights are made of anodized aluminum and have a nasty looking bezel that can be used as a very effective weapon to strike the eyes , ears or throat of an attacker. They are also more powerful than regular flashlights. A good tactical flashlight should be able to fit in your palm, be rugged, easy to grip, have an endcap on/off switch (activated with your thumb), be waterproof and put out at least 120 lumens of light. It should also use LED bulbs. Some have a strobe function that is activated by pushing the on/off switch a couple of times . This is very distracting to a threat but requires you to push the button more than once. Simple is probably the best way to go. As with any new device, you would need to practice a bit to get used the grip techniques (overhand or underhand ), striking techniques and most importantly, the on/ off switch if it has more than those two modes.The idea is to shine the light directly into the threats face, temporarily blinding him  for maybe three or four seconds allowing you to either draw a weapon, if necessary and legal, or a less lethal device, if appropriate. It can also illuminate your weapon sights if needed. Oh yes, on top of all that, it can help you find your keys at night. Bonus!

Noise makers such as the little air horns you can find at various novelty shops, personal alarms, and whistles can certainly attract attention. Screaming as loud as you can is often suggested but should be a verbalization not a horror movie fright scream. Yelling things like: “get away from me!” “stop following me!” “he’s hurting my child!” “call 911!” and, of course the old standby, “help!” can certainly draw unwanted attention to the threat and a combination of these can’t hurt. Foolproof? No, but it can certainly help to put the odds of escaping more in your favor and additionally, can help surge your adrenaline. On a side note about yelling, using the word “fire!”  may actually cause potential victims to run away rather than toward you. Many people that I have trained often have a reluctance to scream or yell when we are going through scenarios. It’s almost as if they are afraid their voices aren’t “good enough” or they sound lame. Here’s the deal, it isn’t opera or America’s Got Talent folks! The only judge will be the attacker. If they flee the scene, you win! That is what we call success. So, make noise and don’t stop until the threat is gone!!!(203)

Blunt Force

This is pretty much the last option you want to employ as it means that the attacker is within contact range or has actually gotten his or her hands on you. This is also where having taken a self-defense class can make a big difference. This category includes:  tactical pens,tactical flashlights, kubotans, expandable batons (both shown at right), rocks, pipes, wood or anything else you can grab to strike with. I also include keys for their eye raking, face tearing properties and if necessary your hands which I will discuss next.

Weapons of Opportunity

Weapons of opportunity include anything that you are wearing, can grab or pick up, or have lying around that can be employed as an ad-hoc weapon. These include: belts to use for striking or choking, high heels, rolled up newspaper (yes, it hurts like hell when you put force into the strike), fire extinguishers, rocks or pieces of wood, metal objects or anything else you can imagine striking with. This also includes your personal weapons such as: your feet, hands, elbows,fingers, teeth, forehead and shins. This can also include edged implements like knives, shovels , or saw blades. Who knows where you will be if an attack happens, so it is a wise thing to look around whatever environment you are in and assess items you could use to defend yourself if the need arose.

So there you have it. A variety of options for for those that don’t want to carry a gun or for the situations where you either can not access a gun you have or lethal force is not legally justifed.

The Bottom line

Owning and / or carrying a firearm is a serious responsibility. Just because you have one doesn’t mean that every potentially threatening situation is legal grounds to use it. That said, defending yourself or your family is an inherent right, contrary to what many bleeding heart liberals would have you believe. You have the right to not be molested, attacked, raped or murdered. By anybody. I strongly suggest that if you are able, to take a self-defense class, learn how to defend yourself, and as Krav Maga founder, Imi Lichtenfeld, said: “walk in peace”.

Stay Safe!


(*TIME, Riot Control By Nate Jones Friday, Aug. 06, 2010 online source)


web analytics