Less Lethal Weapons for the Armed Citizen Part II: Options
In the first installment of this article we discussed the details to consider prior to adopting a less lethal weapon into your everyday carry system as an armed citizen. In this installment we will take a look at the alternatives available. This is by no means an exhaustive list of less lethal weapons, but here I attempt to touch on the most common and obtainable options for the armed citizen to adopt for carry.
Perhaps the most commonly carried less lethal option are chemical sprays of some type. The most used, and arguable most effective, is OC spray, which stands for oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray), made from the hot abstract of peppers. As you would imagine, this spray works by causing significant, and often downright sever, pain and inflammation to the recipient if sprayed in the eyes and face, and it often forces the eyes shut. It also can cause uncontrollable hacking and coughing when inhaled, and it inflames mucus membranes. This less lethal option tends to be my top recommendation for most people for a couple of reasons. First, unlike a contact weapon, the spray gives you the ability to avoid making contact with the threat, at least in some circumstances. Second, the spray takes no significant physical strength to use.
There are a number of considerations when choosing spray: First, the size of the canister. As you would guess, the smaller the canister the easier to carry, but generally less spray quantity and less range will be available in the delivery system. Second, there are several different spray patterns. A stream pattern is like a squirt gun and fires a solid stream, and provides the most range. A cone or fog pattern is like a burst from a hair spray can and makes it easier to hit the face more consistently. A cone pattern also makes inhalation more likely and is thus a bit more effective in that regard. The cone, however, is more prone to contaminating you along with the person you shoot with it, and can blow right back at you in wind. All of the available options have their benefits, but some time and effort should be put into choosing the right size and the right spray pattern for your needs.
While OC spray is my top recommendation to others as a less lethal alternative, there are some significant downsides to it. First of all, it can contaminate you along with the aggressor. Even if you don’t experience blow-back, if you spray a person who then closes on you and makes contact, you may end up wearing OC spray. The second limitation is this: it is simply not effective some of the time. Now, that can be the case with any weapon, but in particular OC spray needs to be kept in realistic perspective. Many individuals will cease hostilities after being sprayed but others may shrug it off with little effect at all. This is particularly true if dealing with someone under the influence of certain narcotics or even someone who is intoxicated. There needs to be a plan B if you deploy spray and it does not cease hostilities.
Focused Impact Weapons
The second category of less lethal options that I point people to is focused impact weapons. A tactical pen is a very solidly built pen that can function as a focused impact weapon. A kubaton is simply a small stick, often made of metal or some kind of polymer that accomplishes the same thing. These weapons are not made to puncture or cut like a knife, rather they are designed to focus impact into a small and hard tip, as opposed to your opened hand or fist, which makes the strike much more formidable and also protects your hand. I am personally a big fan of tactical pens as I find them to be substantial weapons if you get proper training in their use. I prefer the pen to the kubaton because it is not identifiable as specifically a weapon, and it is also a pen, which is always useful to have on a daily basis.
Because a blow with such an object can generate significant force you would actually need to strike less dangerous areas of the body with a tactical pen or kubaton for less lethal use as striking certain areas of the head can very quickly constitute lethal force. The downsides are, unlike sprays, you are forced to make contact with an aggressor with these weapons and using them requires physical strength and commitment. Generally, more training is required with focused impact weapons than with sprays and they often work best for individuals with a martial arts background. Collapsible batons can also be placed into this category, but many jurisdictions prohibit carrying these devises. They are also larger and more difficult to carry than tactical pens or kubatons but prove very effective with training.
Conducted Electric Weapons
This class of weapon typically refers to stun guns and Tasers. I have rather mixed feelings about these devices and am not a proponent for civilian use as they are precarious to use and often fail. Stun guns require you to make contact with an aggressor and for the shock to be effective you have to make rather precise contact. Generally these devices prove limited. The Taser type systems are better, and they provide a means of firing electrodes at the opponent so that you don’t have to make contact. The Taser systems are quite effective at what they do, but I think they are realistically limited for civilian deployment. First of all, they are bulky to carry and usually provide only one shot and the electrodes can fail to penetrate and make contact consistently. Also, while considered less lethal, Tasers are quite violent and can cause permanent injury or death easier than the other less lethal options and their overall applicability for the armed citizen is limited. Significant consideration and research is warranted before adopting a conducted electric weapon into your carry.
Overall, I think carrying a less lethal option is a wise decision for most armed citizens and can be valuable for certain situations. You must know the laws pertaining to the use of force. Less lethal weapons live between the much preferred option of de-escalation and avoidance, and the final resort to lethal force. It can become a confusing area. As such, educate yourself and choose your less lethal weapon according to your needs and abilities.