Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
If you can’t or don’t want to carry a handgun, consider these other defensive tools. We call them “less-lethal” because their use is meant more for escape or deterrence and usually don’t prove fatal to an attacker. Moreover, depending on a variety of circumstances — including your skill in using them — each tool’s effectiveness can vary widely. And each has pros and cons.
1. Tactical Light
It should be fairly obvious how useful a regular flashlight would be just in normal, everyday life. Tactical flashlights, even more so. While the term “tactical” gets thrown around a lot and sometimes loses its meaning, I simply mean a flashlight combining the following elements: robust construction (preferably aircraft-grade aluminum), small in size and light in weight, bright light output, and the ability to survive the elements or a fall.
The robust construction gives it its strength as a handheld defensive tool. The small size and light weight make it easily portable so you’ll always have it with you. The bright light is not only to see or to signal someone but also to shine in an attacker’s eyes. And the ability to stand up to hard use or survive a fall means it’s durable and tough — able to be used as an impact weapon if need be. Adding a crenulated bezel helps but isn’t as important as the other features. And it can be any color, not just black.
Pro: A blinding light can keep an attacker far enough away from you to facilitate escape.
Con: To use the flashlight as an impact weapon means your attacker has gotten too close.
2. Electroshock Devoices
“Stun gun” is a popular name for an electroshock self-defense weapon that discharges electricity with the pull of a trigger or push of a button. Hitting an attacker with a jolt from a device like this will cause him to lose muscle control, likely ceasing his attack on you.
Some stun guns create an arc of electricity between two electrodes; these require you to touch an attacker in order to administer the shock. Other “stun guns” fire barbed projectiles attached to wires. These projectiles hit an attacker and physically imbed in the attacker’s skin, usually at a short distance, and the electric shock is delivered through the wires. States have varying laws on the use of electroshock weapons so be sure you research before you buy.
Pro: Properly used, a stun gun is very effective at stopping an attack.
Con: Carrying a stun gun is similar to carrying a regular handgun in that improper use can be very dangerous.
3. Telescoping Baton
Carried by many law enforcement officers, the telescoping baton is a simple strike weapon. Available in lengths from 16 inches to 26 inches (extended or deployed), the telescoping baton can be reduced in length to just several inches and is, therefore, easy to carry.
To deploy it to ward off a threat, you swing the baton in an arc, the force of the swing causing it to expand to its full length. Because these batons are often made of high-strength steel (or, in some cases, lighter aluminum), they are very strong and durable. While some regard their deployment to be a deterrent in an of itself, proper use of a baton requires training.
Pro: Safe and small when carried. Easy deployment.
Con: To employ a baton means your attacker has gotten too close.
4. Pepper Spray
“Pepper spray” comes in many forms — pellets, sprays, foams, etc. — and might be referred to as “mace” or other names. Generally, we’re referring to an aerosol spray containing chemicals that could temporarily blind an attacker if sprayed in his or her face. Pepper spray might also irritate skin, affect breathing and more.
Pepper spray containers run the gamut of sizes, from finger-sized, single-use devices carried on a keychain to devices that look like and fire similar to a small handgun. Depending on a variety of circumstances, someone who is hit in the face with a blast of pepper spray will find it very difficult to see, breathe and function normally, potentially facilitating your escape. But the deterring effects can take a few seconds to actually work and they’ll only be effective for so long.
Pro: Very small and easy to carry. Allows deployment before an attacker gets too close.
Con: Slow to deploy. Very susceptible to environmental conditions. Some attackers might not be affected by pepper spray as much as others, and some may not seem to be affected by it at all.
5. Tactical Pen
Perhaps the most innocuous of all the less-lethal tools mentioned here, a tactical pen can be a tool designed as such or it might be just a regular pen you use to thwart an attack (as long as it is strong enough). Most tactical pens are black, made from aircraft-grade aluminum and feature a sharp or blunt strike tip. Other than that, they’re just pens. Keep it in your shirt pocket or pants pocket — no one will notice. Carry it in your hand, ready to use; it’s just a pen. With some training, you can use a tactical pen as a kuboton, though the best use of a tactical pen is jotting down incident notes to aid law enforcement.
Pro: A tactical pen hides in plain sight and can go virtually anywhere. (That said, always check with the TSA before attempting to bring any defensive device onto an airplane.)
Con: It’s a small, simple impact weapon with limited use. If you’re using a tactical pen to defend yourself, your attacker has gotten too close.
As with any defensive mindset or tactic, never shirk your situational awareness responsibilities and do everything you can to avoid trouble in the first place. It won’t always be possible, but many times an attacker gets too close because the victim wasn’t paying attention to their surroundings.
Do what you need to do to be prepared and bear in mind that most of these tools’ use is limited to when an attacker is very close to you — usually within arm’s reach. As such, their use comes with a warning: Any tool you use to defend yourself could potentially be used against you. So, if you choose to use any of these tools, get the appropriate training to go with each one.
What are your thoughts on less-lethal defensive tools? Which of these do you carry?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.