Self defense technology has advanced faster than ever before, with personal protection the greatest beneficiary. However, this makes deciding on the best approach for each person more difficult. There are so many types of products, ranging in price from three dollars to thousands of dollars; it is helpful to have a basic primer to start any search.
This article will exclude the extremes, both the cheap pepper sprays and the multi-thousand dollar surveillance systems, and will focus on affordable products for the average person or semi-professional. Guns are excluded.
Pepper Spray is also known as pepper foam, pepper gel, pepper fogger, OC spray (from Oleoresin Capsicum), OC gas, OC tear gas, capsicum spray, and oleoresin capsicum. Pepper spray is a lachrymatory agent, a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain, and even temporary blindness. It is used in riot control, crowd control and personal self defense, including defense against dogs and bears.
When selecting a pepper spray, price should not be the deciding factor. There are many pepper sprays that are so weak they could be more dangerous than helpful. Imagine pulling out a can of pepper spray and spraying your attacker, and it doesn’t incapacitate him. He’d only become angrier and more dangerous. Instead, focus on S.H.U. (Scoville Heat Unit), which basically means “how hot it feels.” The maximum allowed is 2 million SHU. At that level, a one-second burst to the face will cause temporary blindness, choking, coughing, and nausea, bringing an attacker to his or her knees.
Pepper spray products come in many convenient forms, such as key chains, cans with holsters, auto visor clips, hidden in a fake pager, hidden in a ring, hidden in a fake pen, and in larger sizes limited to law enforcement and military. Choose the model that best fits your lifestyle, keeping in mind that you want a product you will keep with you. A can of pepper spray in your glove box or at home on your kitchen counter does no good outside your car in your driveway when an attacker threatens you. Most people purchase multiple products to keep in different places: purse, pocket, in the car (in case of carjacking), right inside the front door (in case someone follows you inside your house) and near the bed. If you bike or hike often, you might get some pepper spray specifically for dogs or bears to have at the ready.
Stun Guns and Tasers
The next level of personal defense is the stun gun. A stun gun is not really a gun, per se, although a taser looks like a gun. Instead, a stun gun is a device that has two electrical prongs that, when active, have a static charge of between 9 and 24 electrical watts at 50,000+ volts between them. Stun guns can leave an attacker immobilized for several minutes simply by pressing the prongs against the attacker for a couple of seconds. Stun guns can operate with one or two 9 volt batteries, making them very convenient. They are an excellent alternative to a handgun as they are non-lethal and generally safe. Stun guns don’t “shock” the assailant, but instead, the high voltage applied to the muscles makes them twitch rapidly, like doing a massive workout, which depletes the attacker’s energy and causes their muscles to be unresponsive. In other words, it affects the nervous system but does not electrify the attacker.
Like pepper spray, stun guns come in many convenient forms. Stun batons allow you to defend yourself from a safer distance by extending at the push of a button to a couple of feet long. They are intimidating and can be used as a weapon separately from the stun feature. Other stun guns come as hand-held units with holsters, hidden in a fake cell phone, hidden in a real flashlight, and can be as small as a D battery.
A taser is very similar to a stun gun, but the attacker is immobilized by two metal probes (darts) connected by metal wires shot out of the Taser like a gun to penetrate the skin and muscle. The recipient feels great pain and can be momentarily paralyzed while there is an electrical current being applied because his muscles are receiving an electrical “shock.” The muscles twitch uncontrollably, appearing as muscle spasms. However, because the amount of current is relatively low, there is considered to be a “margin of safety” by a number of medical experts. Experts generally agree that this margin is highly dependent on the overall health of the person subjected to the shock. Tasers are considered more dangerous than stun guns.
When choosing between a stun gun and a Taser, consider the scenarios. A stun gun is an up-close weapon and can be used multiple times. A Taser is for a target further away, to be shot at, and only has one shot. Miss the target, and the Taser is useless. So, if you are considering a Taser, be sure to practice with it to be sure you can operate it properly under stress.
Metal or steel batons generally are less than a foot long but flip out with the flick of the wrist to become as long as a couple of feet, becoming a physical weapon. Batons are used most often by law enforcement and those trained in weapons self defense. If you do not know how to use one effectively, a baton could be useless. You may also consider a Stun Baton, which is a combination of a metal baton and a stun gun. For intimidation and flexibility, this may be your best option, but it is the least convenient, as they are quite large even when compressed.
When considering your personal protection, light is very important. Attacks occur mostly in dark areas. Using a flashlight or other safety light could deter an attacker, especially if the flashlight looks like it could be used as a weapon.
Always have some form of lighting available in your car in case it breaks down in a dark area. Safety lights that flash to help traffic avoid your car, as well as light enough to make any potential attacker more visible, are essential. Of course, this is something you want to have in advance. When you need it, you won’t be near a store.
Nothing is more important for personal defense than being aware of your surroundings and being prepared. Your self defense weapon of choice combined with awareness of people, dark areas and hiding places decreases your likelihood of attack and increases your chances of survival if you are attacked. If you wish to take your self defense to new levels, look around for local classes in self defense and martial arts.