If you carry a firearm for personal defense, you may feel as though that will cover any situation you encounter. However, your firearms should be the tool you use when you have no other options; a last choice. So what might some of your other options be if the situation does not warrant deadly force? There are several less than lethal options available for personal defense.
Many may scoff at the idea of using a personal alarm. It really is not a tool for self-defense, but there may be situations where a loud alarm might be useful to create a distraction or to attract attention to your situation. It should be noted that this is a defensive tool against an attacker and it's possible your attacker may not be deterred by a personal alarm. But in terms of the most non-lethal tool, personal alarms are easy to carry, simple to use, and can be a good first line of defense.
There are multiple tools on the market that can be used in self-defense situations such as the keychains that look like a cat or a pit bull. For these specifically, your fingers go through the device, you make a fist and the “ears” are sharp, enhancing your strike should you have to use physical force to free yourself. There are also brass knuckles and other tools of this nature. Just remember, if you are choosing to carry something like this, it is only useful if the fight is on in close quarters. It will do nothing to keep your attacker at a distance. It's also important to check your local laws before buying any type of self-defense keychain tool, as they are illegal in some states.
Pepper spray is a widely used less than lethal option for self-defense. While there have been a few instances where people have died from the effects of pepper spray, it is very rare. The biggest benefit of pepper spray is that it allows you to potentially keep your attacker out of arms reach and disable him temporarily so you can get away without causing them to die.
There are two important things to consider when you decide to make pepper spray a less than lethal choice for your self-defense arsenal. First, do your research so you understand the chemical makeup of quality pepper spray. There are many choices out there that really are not the best to use, with some actually made to use on animals rather than humans. The active ingredient in pepper spray is pepper or capsicum, which is then developed into an oil, oleoresin capsicum or OC. Pepper Spray is rated in Scoville Heat Units or SHU so be sure to look for that when purchasing. There are other considerations about which pepper spray you should purchase such as the distance the canister will effectively cover and whether the spray is a gel, foam, or liquid (we recommend liquid over the other formulations).
The second important consideration when deciding to use pepper spray is training. Just as you would not begin to carry a firearm without knowing how to use it, it is worth to take a basic training course in pepper spray. Many companies who sell pepper spray also carry inert trainers loaded with water, so you can understand how to deploy it. In a basic pepper spray class, you will likely get the opportunity to use the trainers and actually participate in a mock scenario where you can get a feel for it. You’ll need to understand distance and wind direction. If you try to use it beyond its distance capabilities, it will not work for you. If you spray too close or into the wind and it blows back in your face, you could end up more disabled than your attacker.
This is not necessarily a non-lethal choice, as a knife can be deadly. Because a knife is useful for actions not related to defense, it is a useful tool to add to your daily carry equipment. Just as with pepper spray, if you decide to add a knife you should get appropriate training. Unless you know what you’re doing and a little bit about close-quarters defense, deploying a knife is not like what you’ve seen in movies. Rather than trying to stab your opponent in a poking motion, a better attack plan could be to use the knife in a slicing motion where it is easier to inflict damage that may cause your attacker to reconsider and flee. Deciding on where and how to carry an edged weapon is just as important. If you have it packed away in a pocket or in your purse, it may be difficult to get to once you realize you need to have it.
Before utilizing any type less than lethal defense choices (even the most basic items), please check the laws that apply in your area. For example, prior to this year, it was illegal to have the seemingly innocent looking Pitbull keychains in Texas, but the law was recently changed. Different states, even different cities can have inconsistent laws regarding knives. Know the law in your area as well as the law where you are traveling to make sure your self-defense plan won’t get you in legal trouble.
Do your research on the products to make sure you’re getting the best one for your needs. Don’t purchase self-defense items based on gimmicks. Get the real deal because your life may depend on it.
And finally, whatever method you choose, make sure to get some training on how to effectively use it. Having to deploy a less than lethal option during a potentially lethal attack is not the time to learn you have no idea how to use it.