Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Ed Combs that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 11, Issue 8 November/December 2014 under the title, “Choose Wisely: Sporting Goods Need Not Apply.”
Almost everyone reading this column has made the decision to carry a firearm to defend themselves and their families against violent assault. I applaud you for this, but for those who do not employ a firearm to do so I have a very simple question: What’s the plan?
What is your Personal Protection Plan? Do you intend to use pepper spray? Empty-hand techniques? Maybe something a little more exotic? If you have to, put this magazine down and write out, specifically, what you would begin to do while dialing 911 when glass is smashing in the dark.
Now, almost everyone I know says that they’ve thought about what they would do were someone to gain entry into their residence with the implied intent to injure them or their loved ones. The very fact that you’re reading this means you are sufficiently concerned with self-defense to at least pick up a publication called Concealed Carry Magazine while waiting for an oil change. So why am I even bringing this up?
I am bringing this up because I have been in dozens of homes with recklessly irresponsible Personal Protection Plans (when there is even a plan in place at all). Families allegedly protected with weapons that are borderline impossible for their intended users to wield. Weapons that — were their utility in a lethal force encounter to be ranked on a scale from “drinking straw” to “.30-caliber battle rifle” — would land slightly ahead of “stick of deodorant in a knotted sock.”
I’ve noticed there is often a strong correlation between an individual’s understanding of violence being limited to what they’ve seen in movies and irresponsible, unrealistic Personal Protection Plans. But hey, I’m no scientist. Only a scientist would be able to tell you that acquiring actual self-defense training and effective self-defense equipment could save your life or the life of a loved one, so I’ll stick to my job and leave the beakers and lab coats to smarter folks than I.
With this in mind, I present to you the Poor Improvised Self-Defense Weapon Hall of Shame. These are the “weapons” I see the most often in homes of acquaintances who have convinced themselves that as long as they can get to their trusty chain saw, all will be good in the event of a home invasion.
The Baseball Bat
These do a bang-up job as ambush murder weapons, but they are not particularly practical as self-defense weapons. I’ll say that again: as a murder weapon, it’s an old standard. As a self-defense weapon, it leaves a lot to be desired. This is because baseball bats have been refined and perfected over the last 150 years to be really, really good for hitting baseballs, not employing in close quarters as a means of self-defense. (In case you have never used one, a baseball bat is designed to be swung two-handed in a long horizontal arc approximately level with your hips, which is not exactly what you have the time or space to do while defending your life from an attacker.) Even worse, a bat can be readily countered by forcing a forearm into the hands of the wielder, and as the majority of the weight of the bat is out in the barrel, it is very difficult to prevent someone from doing so while you’re occupied with your windup.
If you do find yourself forced to use a bat for self-defense, hold it with two hands equidistant from the ends. Strike your attacker as hard as you can in the face, jaw, or solar plexus, pounding at them like you would with a spear or pugil stick. You can also strike them in the nose or jaw with the middle of the bat, but more energy is transferred into them when you use a smaller surface.
The Golf Club
This one ranks a close second to the bat and for exactly the same reason: not only are irons and woods not designed to be used for self-defense, they are even harder to swing in their intended manner while indoors. If you are forced to use an iron for self-defense, treat it like the bat. Hold it with both hands — one up almost to the head — and feed that hard end to your attacker as many times as necessary to convince them they should seek their evening’s entertainment elsewhere. If it’s a wood you’ll have to go with the butt-end, as the smaller surface area will transfer energy to your target better than the ultra-light carbon fiber driver head. (If you own and use actual wood drivers, I am forced to assume that you also have a firearm in your home and these instructions are not for you.)
We all understand that it is impressive to watch a skilled swordsman demonstrate his prowess with a rapier, sabre, katana, or foil. We get it. Sword people: please stop advocating for the sword as a viable weapon for self-defense inside or outside the home. It’s ridiculous. Now, do I consider a sword a deadly weapon? Absolutely. Would I shoot a man who was brandishing a sword and telling me he intended to use it to end my life? You bet — until he no longer presented a threat to me or anyone else. However, every time someone tells me that their Personal Protection Plan involves a sword, several questions reveal that the plan is basically to hope that their attacker sees a person holding a sword and runs away. Pro Tip: if your plan hinges on a violent criminal running away after you present a threat display, your plan is unsound. (Super-Secret Pro Tip: that is a similarly poor plan when “gun” is substituted for “sword.”)
Now, before every Knife Guy From High School starts sending me letters filled with strange powder, note I said sword, not knife. If you have to defend yourself with a blade, make it an actual fighting knife. Knives are faster and easier to deploy, knives are easier to keep at the ready, and a knife can actually be carried concealed.
The Martial Arts Weapon
Bo staves, nunchaku, and other martial arts weapons common in competition often find their ways into police reports generated from home invasions. Were I forced to select a weapon from a martial arts catalog, I would choose a single escrima stick. A short stick beats a long one in a hallway, and no one is scoring you for form while actually engaging an attacker in the dark. Additionally, law enforcement officers employ short sticks they call “batons” and a myriad of training materials are available.
Moreover, please save your assertions that such weapons are the great-grandfathers of modern self-defense weaponry (you’re correct) and remain viable primary options for responsibly armed Americans (you’re incorrect). Saying you are worried about safety and will therefore employ a medieval halberd as part of your Personal Protection Plan would be like me saying I’m worried about over-penetration and will therefore defend myself with fireworks. Grow up, buy a gun, and train in order to be of unquestionable help to yourself and your loved ones when violence comes to call.
Enough of the negatives — here are a few pointers for those who choose to defend themselves with something other than a firearm.
Danger Hates Illumination
What is commonly called a “Tactical Flashlight” is the single most important piece of self-defense equipment that literally anyone can just walk into a store and buy. It throws piercing, blinding light that disorients attackers who prefer to operate in the dark, it lets them know that they no longer have the element of surprise, and it advises them that they are currently in your sights. A good 90-lumen light is about the base level for self-defense utility, and anything above that is all the better.
Have A Weapon And Train In Its Use
Rule Number One of gunfighting is Have A Gun, and the same goes for non-firearm self-defense. I have often signed off in this column by saying, “Stay safe, and if you do ever have to fight, cheat your tail off.” I stand by this sentiment and demand that anyone I instruct live by it. This isn’t a match or a bout; this is a fight and you need to avail yourself of every possible advantage you can take, the most basic of which are to arm yourself and train.
No Weapons By The Door
Have it on you or have it in a readily accessible place, but just leaving it by the door will bring you problems. Not only will it become difficult to access if you are involved in a struggle by the entryway, it also basically dishes up your defensive weapon to an intruder if you are not standing right at the door when they arrive. Writer and irresponsibly armed American Hunter S. Thompson once stated that he was proud to have “a shotgun hanging over every window for easy access” at his Woody Creek home, but anyone with even a tepid imagination can understand why such an arrangement would be unwise. Keep your self-defense weapons accounted for, within your reach, and absolutely not in a location that could compromise your safety.
The Meek Never Come Out Of Nowhere To Save The Day
I don’t say this to mean that people never unexpectedly arrive to render aid. I’m saying this to remind everyone of an adage old enough that I’m not certain it can be attributed to one single person: you don’t rise to the occasion, you default to your level of training. Do not make the mistake of believing that your intense wanting to be able to defend yourself and your loved ones will make that want a reality. A want without a plan is a wish.
I know we beat this one into the ground, but you need to train as much as you can. You need to practice your draws and dry fire drills, but you also need to practice retrieving your firearm from where it will be stored when it is not on your person. (You also need to practice doing so without any light.) Practice moving through your residence with your unloaded firearm, and if you do not have a dedicated weapon light, practice this movement in the dark with a flashlight.
Slice the pie throughout your residence. This means to slowly approach each corner and take note of when what becomes visible. If you have a training partner, have them stand in an entryway or at the bottom of a flight of stairs and slice the pie toward each other, notifying your partner when they come into view. All of these exercises better prepare you for the unfortunate event of someone thinking they’ll find a victim in your house.
None of us like to think about having to shoot a human being and none of us ever wants to have to. This aside, we as responsibly armed Americans have no choice but to train like our lives depend on it, because they do.
Discover how you can join nearly 300,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.