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Thousand Oaks

Protect and Defend: Tasers and Pepper Spray: Alternatives to the Gun

I’ve written in previous articles about the self-defense continuum and the foundational rules of self-defense, which include situational awareness and how we project our presence. I’ve also discussed on podcasts that a gun may be at the top of the self-defense food chain, but it is just like owning a massive, strong-willed police dog. It comes with practical and moral responsibilities that may make it wrong for many people.

So if you aren’t committed to training seriously and responsibly to use a firearm, what can you carry — and what should you carry?

Common options pop to mind, and some people think, How about a knife? How about a bedside baseball bat? Or a crossbow? Or my personal daydream favorite — a spear? Some of these are more comic relief than serious suggestion, but any number of people keep a baseball bat under the bed, and a knife is certainly a useful everyday carry tool (I never leave home without mine). Both of these, however, require a near-martial arts level of proficiency as self-defense tools. A knife can easily become dangerous to an inexperienced user and requires an up-close-and-personal scenario. It also poses a deadly threat to an opponent. A baseball bat is a bludgeoning tool and requires a fair amount of strength to wield. It can be fairly easy to defeat in tight spaces when you wind up, swing and miss.

What are effective self-defense options to level the playing field for women, the elderly or those who don’t want the commitment of a firearm? Let me suggest two good ones.

Pepper spray delivers a concentrated burst of natural capsaicin derived from peppers. It is available as both a spray and a gel. I recommend the gel, which works better in downwind conditions. The last thing you want is that spray blowing back at you in the moment of encounter. The effects of pepper spray are miserable yet temporary. It can be effective on aggressive creatures of the animal and human kind. A threat can be temporarily incapacitated for a few minutes or an hour based on your accuracy and the tolerance of your target.

As part of our tactical training college, we spray all of our students. Fun anecdote: I came up with my own highly scientific research method, which consists of the question, “Do you like spicy food?” I’ve found that students who find a jalapeño cripplingly hot don’t do well getting sprayed with pepper spray. Those who enjoy eating ghost peppers and spicy food get over it a little quicker and cry a lot less. But believe me, they still don’t enjoy the experience.

Pepper spray can take a minute or two to set in, and a determined attacker can still fight and batter a victim in the meantime. It provides a deterrent but isn’t an instant solution, so beware.

I personally recommend Sabre pepper spray products. They’re an excellent company and offer the most consistent product for professional and civilian applications. You can buy the product in compact versions that are easily carried in a pocket, a purse or attached to a backpack. Visit www.Sabrered.com if you’re interested.

This brings us to the Taser, which is legal in 49 states (what’s wrong with you, Rhode Island?), and which I think everyone should consider carrying. For men and women, it offers an effective “less lethal” option to a gun and is not considered a firearm. To clear up a common misconception, let’s be clear: a Taser is not a “stun gun.” A stun gun requires close interaction and can be easily defeated by a bad guy. In my experience, stun guns mostly serve to irritate.

A Taser, however, uses neuromuscular interruption and can incapacitate your attacker for up to 30 very miserable seconds. It is designed to be fired within an ideal range of 7 to 10 feet and converts your attacker’s body into one giant muscle spasm. The Taser fires two darts using compressed nitrogen. These stay attached to the device by conductive filaments that deliver an electrical charge. The darts are propelled with enough force to penetrate most clothing and can penetrate into plywood. They are barbed, so they do not easily come out of your intended target.

Most attackers immediately pancake to the ground screaming when the darts make solid contact. It is not a fun experience. The more powerfully built and muscular the recipient, the more intense are his or her muscle contractions. After you fire the cartridge, the Taser can still be used as a “stun gun,” so if you miss, you are still in the fight. With one good connection, you can still complete the circuit.

Tasers require no special licensing or training, but I highly recommend you take a course and get familiar with one before you’re in a situation that requires you to fire it in self-defense.

I recommend the Taser Bolt 2, which looks more like a Star Trek phaser than a gun. It can be shoved into a pocket or purse and is easily concealable and ready to deploy quickly. The connected Axon Protect app can alert emergency services if you fire the device. Additionally, Taser replaces its product if you fire it in self-defense, so you can feel free to drop it and make your escape.

In a weird way, a hardened criminal can be more afraid of a civilian wielding a taser than a gun simply because a gun demands a massive level of commitment to pull the trigger. A bad guy knows that a soccer mom is more likely to tase him than shoot him — and if he’s been tased before, he’s not wanting to repeat that experience.

Safety Considerations

A taser is considered “less-lethal” rather than “non-lethal.” In more than 99 percent of all cases, the tased subject experiences no injury or only minor cuts or scrapes from his meeting with the ground. However, there is a risk for those with major underlying conditions, and a taser can affect someone’s cardiac system. I would argue that if someone decides to attack or threaten someone else, he is taking that risk on himself.

Because of patents that produce a lock on the market, there is only Taser, and the products can be purchased from their site directly or from the C6 Gear Shop at www.c6 gear.com.

Americans have been blessed to live for so long without an expectation of danger, but times are changing. Make sure to walk through these days with situational awareness and the appropriate tools to defend yourself.


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