A lot of the self-defense classes I teach are certainly based on the things we know that we’re going to have with us at the time of a bad situation… our hands. I do get a bunch of questions, though, about things people can carry with them to help them be a little more prepared. I’m not here to tell you what you should get; what I want to do is just briefly touch on a few of the tools that can easily be used to increase your chance of survival. I want to reiterate that I’m not saying “this” is better than “that”, or buy “this” thing; the most important aspect to remember is that the very best defense is keeping your head, having the will to do whatever is needed (most of the time this means to just give the guy your wallet and let him leave), and train, train some more, and then continue to train.
Mace or Pepper Spray- Most of the time you’re going to find Pepper Spray; don’t confuse this with actual mace. Mace is usually reserved for Law Enforcement and is a compound that is similar to CS Gas (the type used in tear gas grenades). Either way, though, both of these can be very effective. Most of them will come with a few safety devices that can be difficult for someone who’s never used them before to figure out in a rush if you waited to be mugged before you decided to practice with it. Also, keep in mind that sprays do not always work on everyone; some people are more susceptible to their effects than others. This is a very cost effective way to carry something that will normally work though, and I certainly won’t say that sprays haven’t earned a place as a useful tool for self-defense. Be certain that you have a thorough understanding of the way the dispenser works and exactly how the spray will come out of the canister before you use it. I usually suggest that you replace your canister each year, and that means you can use the old one for a quick practice run on something safe and not living to ensure you’re truly familiar with the way it will spray. Read the warnings before you do this and abide by them fully to help avoid any unwanted side effects.
Flashlight- Many people overlook how effective a flashlight can be. For one thing it’s a great tool if you get stuck in the back of Home Depot and the power goes out; but a lot of the more tactical flashlights can be quite useful in a self-defense situation. We all hate when the cop that pulled us over at night floods our vehicle with his search light, and then beams his huge Maglite in our face when he gets to the window. But, from his perspective, it is a very safe thing to do. He’s blinding a good portion of our vision and completely increasing his own at the same time. Shedding light on, and drawing direct attention to, a possible attacker can be an effective deterrent on its own, particularly when the light is directed into the assailant’s eyes.
There are a few flashlights out there that could very easily be used as a baton or defensive stick, but for practical purposes these types of flashlights are large, heavy, and cumbersome, so they don’t really make a good choice for something to carry around with you all the time. If you’re going to consider this tool as an option, I advise you to look into some of the more “tactical” styles of lights. Many of these will come with multiple settings designed to either give enough light to see what’s going on, or you can “pump up the volume,” so to say, and flood an area with a large amount of blinding light. A few even have options like strobe settings that help to disorient someone. Do a little research in this area, and again, train. Most tactical manufacturers have some branch of their business devoted to training and research. A good example would be the training SureFire offers or a similar course. Most of the better training agencies include low light and flashlight training in their courses.
Keys, pens, other everyday items- People don’t understand that almost any item can truly be used if the situation calls for it. Here’s an example: take your keys out of your pocket, and holding them in your palm, make a fist around them. Make sure that there’s a key or two sticking out through your fingers. This makes a really nasty set of knuckles that inflict a great deal of pain on impact and just the sight has the potential to intimidate most assailants. A pen can be used as a puncture device if needed. A cell phone can be thrown right into somebody’s face. Creative use of everyday items in self-defense is nearly limitless. If it comes time for someone to act to save themselves from harm, the last thing they need at that moment is to be worried about something’s intended purpose. Successful self-defense will come instead from thinking of how an item can be used at that moment to help in escape. I’ve almost never seen a good self-defense instructor overlook this aspect in their classes, and I highly encourage you, again, to seek out the training that can help ensure your safety.
First Aid Kit- A lot of people don’t really think of this, but it’s not a bad idea to have some sort of kit with you that can help you cover a wound or plug a hole 7.62×39 surplus ammo. I really need to stress again that you take some training with this item though. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can actually do more harm than good in some cases. You really don’t need anything fancy here. There are a few good options if you look around that will very easily fit into your back pocket or a purse. I highly encourage some medical rated gloves with this kit. This way, if it’s someone else that’s injured, you can keep yourself safe while you help an injured person.
The Red Cross is easily the most recognized authority in this field and a basic first aid and/or C.P.R. course will go a long way to help you feel more confident in emergency situations. If things get out of hand when it comes to administering first aid without having proper training, you risk possible legal repercussions. You can find agencies near you that offer these classes at their homepage which is well put together and easy to navigate.
Firearm- I’m a proud member of the NRA and have a lot of experience with firearms, so I will certainly never tell you firearms are a bad option provided you are safe and proficient with a firearm. A gun can level a playing field instantly, but I have seen that it can also cause a little bit of overconfidence. That overconfidence can lead to a false sense of security that allows a person to lower their guard, making them unaware of a dangerous situation until it is possibly too late to act. On the other side, I’ve also noticed a great many people who are responsible carriers spend their entire day fully aware of themselves and their surroundings, recognizing that because they have a firearm on their person, they must take extra caution to ensure that it is used correctly. If not, they could face serious consequences as far as the law is concerned. It is very important that you strive to be like the latter to help ensure your well-being, not just through a dangerous situation, but the aftermath as well.
There are novels that can be written on what gun, what caliber, what ammo, what holster to carry- the options are endless. The absolute best advice I can give anyone here is take some time to pick the right options for you. After you have chosen a firearm, train, train, train.
I want to point out that I’m not saying practice; I’m saying train. Take the time to attend an accredited course taught by someone who can really show you the intricacies of a firearm. There are a large number of training facilities all around the country. Do a little research to find who’s in your area, and don’t think it has to be one of the bigger academies that train SWAT and Special Forces or others whose job it is to defend themselves and others on a daily basis. There are a lot of instructors around the country who are very knowledgeable and can certainly offer you some great advice. I will say this however; make sure they’re certified through somebody acceptable. The NRA and Sig Sauer Academy are two really good agencies that will certify instructors of a high caliber. There are more out there; those are just two that I’m personally familiar with. The NRA provides a good site to help locate local training that is conducted by instructors who have passed their certifications. I have listed the site at the bottom of this article.
Knife- Of course these are awesome tools that increase your survivability. Tried, tested, and true – there is no limit to the available knives that someone can carry. The warning I’ll give people here is to make sure you know what your local laws are for carrying a knife. Not all states, counties, or cities have a very strict set of laws regarding knives in the United States, but there are some that will limit the length or type of the blade you may carry. Also, just as with guns, there are certain buildings and places you’re not allowed to bring these items. Just do a little research and see if there are any limitations of which you need to be aware. Remember, even if you’re just visiting a place, you have to abide by the local laws where you ARE, not the laws in the place from which you came. I have listed a good wikipedia page at the bottom of this article for you to start researching local laws. You will still need to look up your individual state and county to ensure you know any limitations, but once you have, you’ll know what type of things to look for, and you can begin to make your selection.