Self-defense should be taken seriously by more people. In a dangerous situation, a) being prepared and b) knowing how to act can mean the difference between life or death. No one wants to get accosted on the street or be threatened while at an ATM… But if you do, it’s a good idea to be prepared.
This means having the knowledge and tools to defend yourself (and your family). Oftentimes, the cops won’t get there fast enough – especially if the danger occurs when you’re out and about. Maybe you’re camping in the backcountry (here’s a whole list of camping gear if you are) and you’re wary of the dangers of being isolated, or maybe you work late and live in a bad neighborhood. Whatever the case may be, there are people out there who would do you harm, so it’s always a advisable to be alert and aware. of your surroundings.
Whatever the situation, it’s up to you and the skills and tools you have at your disposal to save your own life. Self-defense weapons can help drastically increase your odds of success, and in some cases just the fact of you having a weapon could scare away your would be attacker. This is particularly true for women – on average, men are stronger and bigger than women, and a self defense weapon is a good equalizer. Using these tools and weapons irresponsibly is also dangerous and can land you in hot water with the legal system, so if you do decide to carry around a self defense weapon of some kind, you should know how to use it.
When it comes to self-defense, especially with weapons, it helps to hope for the best but plan for the worst. So, choose the best self-defense weapon based on the situations you might encounter, learn how to use it, and hope you’ll never actually have to pull it out.
A note about firearms – obviously, guns, particularly handguns, are excellent self defense weapons. We have chosen not to include firearms in this particular post because
1. It’s not easy to get a gun everywhere – in most of the rest of the world, guns are hard to come by, and in many places in America, getting a gun legally can be an arduous process. We want this article to cater to our whole audience, so we’re leaving firearms off this list
2. Guns obviously have a decent chance of being lethal weapons, and we’re leaning towards non-lethal weapons in this list.
3. We’re going to be putting up some articles specifically about guns as well, and we don’t want any overlap.
Just wanted to note the above because we know that our readers are generally pro second amendment. If you do own a gun, it’s also important for you to understand the weapon that you have, the risks that come with it, and how it should be used (see our article on the different types of guns and “gun anatomy” here).
Best Non Lethal Self Defense Weapons
When you’re choosing your self-defense weapon, you want something fast, ideally nonlethal, and convenient. In order to fend off an attacker or attackers, there are plenty of options out there. Here’s a quick list of the major groups of self-defense weapons and tools:
- Pepper sprays
- Pepper guns
- Stun devices
- Self-defense batons
- Self-defense knives
- Keychain weapons
The right self-defense tool depends on the situation, circumstances, and your personal preferences. A self-defense weapon is useless unless you’re actually willing to use it. None of these tools will save your life if you leave them in your glove box or bottom drawer. If you’re serious about your personal safety, your self defense weapon should be accessible to you any time you feel like you’re in a place where danger is present. That means that it should be in your pocket, or somewhere else that’s equally easy to access.
Get a self-defense weapon that you’re comfortable carrying on you and using.
The Best Self Defense Weapon Overall: Pepper Spray
Pepper spray has been one of the most popular self-defense weapons since the 1970s. Its active ingredient is oleoresin capsicum, an extract from chili peppers. You sometimes see it sold as OC spray. Have you ever touched your eyes after cutting a chili? Well, pepper spray is like that, but a million times worse.
Pepper spray is actually an oily liquid sprayed between three and ten feet. You can get pepper sprays that project mist or a stream. Mists are more effective at closer, less focused targets, while streams tend to have more distance, but you have to be more accurate.
When buying pepper spray, some brands will list the OC % (generally the highest you’ll find is 15%). Ideally, the pepper spray will also display the MC % (MC stands for Major Capsaicinoids) – which is the true measure of how effective/disabling the spray will be on an assailant. It’s difficult to find accurate information about the MC % though (or Scoville heat units)
With Scoville heat units, basically: the higher, the better. You should get a pepper spray with 2 million Scoville heat units or more, but again this is rarely provided by the companies that make pepper spray. As a benchmark, law enforcement often uses pepper spray that’s rated at about 5.3 million Scoville units.
The truth is, most pepper sprays promoted as self defense options are going to be strong enough to stop a criminal in his or her tracks.
Another factor to take into account when choosing a pepper spray is how long the firing range is. It’s not just about how well it can disable your attacker – it’s also about how much space you can maintain between the two of you. Longer ranges are obviously preferable.
Contact with and inhalation of pepper spray causes coughing, choking, and nausea, as well as temporary blindness, breathing difficulties, and a burning sensation on the skin. Some pepper spray products also contain UV dye, which leaves a long-lasting residue to help a criminal investigation and identification of the assailant.
A one-second burst of pepper spray can incapacitate an aggressor for 45 minutes. Plus there’s no permanent damage in most cases. Pepper spray is one of the most popular self-defense weapons and you can get a whole range of products from huge anti-bear canisters to wear-on-your-belt to small single-use canisters to hide in a handbag or purse.
We favor pepper spray as a self defense weapon because it is pretty widely available, has high stopping power, can be used at range, is non lethal, can be portable, and is inexpensive. That’s why we think pepper spray is a good candidate for the best self defense weapon (outside of firearms).
A more recent development, the pepper gun is designed to deliver the extended range of something like a handgun without the lethal consequences. It succeeds at this by combining the reach of a gun with the nonlethal consequences of pepper spray. The highest end pepper guns will also cause pain on impact due to the force of the projectile, but these are rare (and rather expensive).
Most pepper guns use CO2 to project nonlethal rounds, often called salt rounds. These are like paintballs, that break on contact, delivering powdered pepper spray and tear gas.
The great thing about pepper guns is you get the benefits of pepper spray and a real firearm, at least with higher end models. Salt rounds can travel up to 320 feet per second and are effective and accurate at 150 feet. Upon contact, a 5-foot toxic cloud causes temporary blindness and breathing difficulties, and the impact of the bullet can also hurt and cause distress.
Another good thing is that pepper guns have excellent stopping power, but are very unlikely to be lethal. That’s beneficial from both a legal and ethical perspective (we’d all prefer not to be involved in any situation where another person dies).
In truth most pepper guns you’ll see aren’t as hard-hitting as described above. Most pepper guns give you better range than traditional pepper spray, and the benefit of being able to point and shoot in the way you would a firearm.
Some pepper guns are single-shot, delivering a canister of pepper spray and tear gas, while others take clips with multiple rounds of paintball-style salt rounds. Getting hold of pepper guns is more difficult than many other self-defense weapons as many places treat them like regular guns when it comes to regulation. Their effectiveness is leading to a surge in popularity and more pepper guns are hitting the market every day.
Stun Guns and Other Stun Devices
Tasers and stun guns are by far some of the most popular self-defense devices on the market. Their popularity comes from a combination of user-friendly operation, small size, and effective stopping power.
The aim of stun devices is to temporarily stop an assailant without killing them. The electric shock, delivered normally from a rechargeable battery, can disrupt muscle function as well as inflicting pain without usually causing significant injury.
Stun guns, or direct contact weapons, work mainly though affecting the sensory nervous system. Stun guns come in all shapes and sizes, from keychain and flashlight stun guns to tasers and stun batons. Their power outputs range between around twelve million volts all the way up to 20 or 30 million volts.
You can get direct contact stun weapons disguised as flashlights, keychains, walking sticks, and clubs. Many have LED flashlight functions to help you see where you’re going, detect threats, and blind aggressors. Some stun devices come with disable pin-wrist strap features, designed to stop the stun gun being used against you. If the wrist strap connection breaks, the device becomes inoperable.
Tasers are a little different to stun guns. Instead of shocking the assailant through direct contact, tasers are long-range devices that fire projectiles and administer the shock through thin flexible wires. Tasers work by disrupting voluntary muscle control through the motor nervous system.
Depending on where you live, there may be restrictive laws on stun devices, especially tasers, which are pretty heavily regulated and are mostly used by law enforcement.
Always check the legality of self-defense weapons in your area as the laws vary pretty widely.
Self Defense Batons
Essentially, a self-defense baton is a stick or club. You can find self-defense batons made from a range of materials, including metal, wood, plastic, or rubber. It’s common to see batons used by police and self-defense batons are not very common in the general population, though their popularity is increasing.
Self-defense batons are good for self-defense and emergency situations. You can use a baton to hit, or threaten to hit somebody or use it to hit something – break a window, smash through a door, etc. On the other hand, batons can be relatively difficult to conceal, so they’re better as self-defense weapons that you keep at home or in your car.
There are lots of different shapes, sizes and materials when it comes to self-defense batons. Most of the options come down to personal use and preference. The first thing you want to decide, though, is the basic design. There are two main designs for self-defense batons: fixed-length and expandable.
A fixed-length self-defense baton is similar to a mini baseball bat or club. The baton doesn’t retract, meaning the grip and bat are normally made from the same piece. The fixed-length design, while strong and durable, is the larger and heavier of the two.
The other design of self-defense batons is the expandable or collapsible design. These smaller, lighter batons retract into the handle. While these batons are generally lighter, smaller, and easier to conceal, they’re not as strong as their moving parts are weak points.
Batons are some of the simplest self-defense weapons to use. They don’t require extra ammo or batteries. However, you don’t often see someone carrying a bat around with them, and if you did, someone might call the cops. If you’re going to get a self-defense baton, plan ahead on where you’ll keep it.
The other obvious drawback of using a baton for self defense is that it is not a disabling tool – it gives you an edge, but it won’t necessarily disable your attacker in one strike. Using a baton for self defense means that you will be engaging your assailant in close quarters combat – something that might not be a good idea if you’re significantly smaller, or if you’re a female and at a significant strength disadvantage.
Self Defense Knives
Knives are some of the most popular self-defense weapons on the planet for a whole bunch of reasons. Knives are super-useful tools that are easy to get hold of, easy to conceal, and can be carried most places.
Using a knife for self-defense also means fighting at close quarters and potentially inflicting lethal damage. If you want to use a knife for self-defense, you should learn how to use one properly. There are plenty of knife-based self-defense courses out there.
When buying a knife for self-defense, there are a few key points to think about. First, the size. If you get a large machete-style knife with a 12” blade, it will have a certain intimidation factor to it, but it will also be hard to conceal and harder to use. You’re not chopping down zombies here, so a survival machete isn’t the right way to go.
Self-defense knives with smaller blades are easier to use and tend to be less lethal, giving protection without as much risk of killing someone.
You also want to consider knife deployment. How fast can you get your knife out? Do you want a fixed-blade knife, i.e., you don’t have to open the knife to get at the blade? Or, do you want a folding knife? You can get manual, assisted-opening, and automatic folding knives.
Folding knives are great for stashing in your pocket due to their small size. Knives in scabbards or sheaths on your belt or leg are easier to access, but it’s easier for people to know you have a knife. Some knives you can even wear around your neck, allowing for extremely quick access while remaining hidden.
Our friends over at American Gunner have actually agreed to offer their USMC Neck Knives for free product testing to our readers. These neck knives are only available for a limited time, click the image below to claim yours.
Legality around knives is pretty varied depending on where you live, so always check this before you buy one. In places where certain kinds of knives are illegal, the cut off point is often based on length, so make sure you know the local laws.
A Kubotan is a self-defense weapon developed by Soke Takayuki Kubota in the 1960s. Essentially, a Kubotan is a rod the size and shape of a marker pen made out of hard high-impact plastic. The body of a Kubotan is lined with round grooves for added grip. Many kubotans also have keychains attached to help them look more innocuous while providing relatively easy access.
A Kubotan can be used in self-defense for fist loading or hardening the fist for punching and striking vulnerable parts of an attacker’s body like their knuckles, the bridge of the nose, temple, eyes, etc., as well as for gaining leverage on an attacker’s fingers, wrists, or other joints.
You can use a Kubotan by holding it in an icepick grip for hammerfist strikes or in a forward grip for stabbing, pressure point attacks, and seizing. Some Kubotans have tapered ends for extra stabbing damage.
Because of the innocuous design, Kubotans are perfect as “hidden-in-plain-sight” self-defense weapons. Most people won’t even recognize a Kubotan for what it is. In some countries like the United Kingdom, Kubotans are classed as offensive weapons, though homemade Kubotan-style weapons are harder to regulate.
The obvious drawback of the Kubotan is that it lacks the potential stopping power of a knife, and also forces you to engage your attacker at close range. Getting up close with your attacker is not the ideal self defense outcome – so a kubotan only really makes sense if you’re highly confident in your ability to defend yourself, or you specifically need of a self defense weapon that will go unnoticed or hidden.
You can easily make a Kubotan-style weapon out of hairbrushes, pens, markers, flashlights, small wooden dowels, and even e-cigarettes. There are also specific tactical pens that can substitute as a Kubotan-style weapon.
Self Defense Flashlights
Also called tactical flashlights, self-defense flashlights are designed to be used to repel an attacker or aggressor. You might be wondering how a flashlight could stop an attack. Trust me, you don’t have to throw it at anyone.
Self-defense flashlights emit such a powerful light that an aggressor is temporarily blinded and disoriented. The effects are even more pronounced if you use the self-defense flashlight at night. Plus, they illuminate the path and get you where you want to go. Self defense flashlights often also double as batons – many of them have a serious heft to them, so if the blinding light isn’t effective, you can use it as a striking weapon.
One of the biggest advantages of the flashlight as a self-defense weapon is how you can take them pretty much anywhere. Unlike stun guns, pepper spray, and knives, there are pretty much no restrictions on flashlights and you can carry them into malls, movie theaters, and onto airplanes.
For a self-defense flashlight to work, you’re going to need to get one with an output of over 120 lumens. Some models pack a 1,000-lumen output, so there’s almost no limit to brightness, but generally speaking the brighter your flashlight, the more blinding it will be to your attacker.
Self-defense flashlights often come with a serrated or toothed bezel at one end. These can be used to break glass and car windows in an emergency situation. Again, if worst comes to worst, you can always use your tactical flashlight as a striking weapon and hit your aggressor with it.
There are plenty of keychain weapons out there for self-defense. These are small weapons, including mini versions of many of the weapons listed above, sold specifically to keep on your keys, and that are small enough to keep in your pocket or purse.
As we’ve seen, you can get keychain Kubotans to help reinforce your striking and punching force. Similarly, you can get keychain knuckle dusters. These are often made from hard plastic and are designed to reinforce your punch. Some knuckle duster designs have protruding ear spokes that stick out through your fingers for extra jabbing, stabbing, and gouging.
Another popular keychain self-defense weapon is a monkeyfist. Often, monkeyfists are made from paracord with a steel ball in one end, and they’re used to strike aggressors. Monkeyfists are small and convenient, though require a lot of strength and free arm movement to be at all effective.
You can also get knives small enough to attach to a keychain. Often, they’ll be small, single-bladed folding knives. Keychain knives are super convenient. However, they won’t do much to fend off a severe attack. At a certain point, a knife that’s too small loses most of it’s potential stopping power.
The Best Self Defense Weapon: Preparation and Awareness
Self-defense is a topic you don’t want to think about when it’s too late. It’s one of those things in life where a little bit of planning can go a long way. By learning techniques, becoming aware, and arming yourself with the right tools, you’re giving yourself a huge advantage in an extreme situation.
The two things that are most likely to save your life if you encounter a dangerous situation where self defense is required are 1. prior preparation and 2. a high level of awareness of your surroundings.
The best way to use most self-defense weapons is by not actually having to use them.We highly encourage you to try to improve your situational awareness in order to avoid potentially dangerous situations. You can also improve your ability to diffuse situations and deescalate danger.
You can do this by training in self-defense techniques and martial arts, as well as getting a better understanding of what your body can and can’t do. You should see adding a weapon to your self-defense arsenal as improving upon your foundations, not making up for your physical inability to defend yourself.
The self-defense weapons on this list are serious weapons. If you find yourself in trouble, which is a real possibility in the world you want to give yourself the best fighting chance. Getting the right self-defense tool or weapon could mean life or death.
Stay safe out there, folks.