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September 24, 2004


I was out for my evening walk a few days ago. It was about 01:00 hours, the night was clear and peaceful, and I was looking forward to getting home and hitting the sack.

Then three teenage kids started to follow me. They were maybe 16 or 17 years old, taller and leaner and more fit than I was. When the breeze shifted I could smell that someone had been selling them beer, and that they'd been taking advantage of that fact.

Nothing was done that was overtly threatening. They just dogged my footsteps, hanging back 40 or 50 feet, whispering to one another while staring intently at me. It seemed pretty obvious to me that they were trying to work up enough courage to walk on over and mug this old man. After all, there was still another hour to go before the bars closed and they couldn't get any more beer. If they had any money left they would be out spending it instead of following me around those dark and sleeping streets.

Okay, now what? What were my options?

Sure, Ohio had recently passed a CCW law and I was legally carrying a gun. I could just see myself trying to explain to the judge why I had shot three unarmed juveniles. But, considering the fact that I was seriously outnumbered and there was just no way I could outrun them, what else could I have done if they managed to find the guts to act?

Lucky for everyone concerned that I've given this sort of thing a great deal of thought. I was fully prepared, ready to go, and confident that I would be the one left standing. Read on if you want to know the details.

The most basic defensive tool in your arsenal should be some sort of liquid spray. There are three active ingredients in these sprays. They are CS, CN and pepper spray. I don't care what kind you choose, or the brand or the way that it's packaged. But there's one thing that is absolutely essential!

Never, ever rely on pepper spray alone!

The active ingredient in pepper spray is OC, Oleoresin Capsicum, and it's derived from hot peppers. It could very well be that there's an effective pepper spray out there that will incapacitate someone as well as the other choices, but I have yet to come across it. Please note that the US military doesn't rely on OC spray, instead trusting one of the other two.

The other choices are CS and CN. Between the two, CS is more effective on a pound-for-pound basis. The manufacturers of defensive sprays usually take this into consideration and have a slightly greater concentration of CN in their products. Choose any one of the myriad sprays offered that contain either CS or CN and you'll be covered.

Most of the companies out there realize that OC is more popular than the other more effective alternatives, but they also know that having a spray fail to be effective would be damaging to their reputation. So there's plenty of sprays that advertise as PEPPER SPRAY on the package with tear gas in small print. Like I said, it doesn't matter if they include some OC or not as long as it's got the good stuff in there.

Keep in mind that spritzing this stuff in an innocent person's face is an assault, but there's also a reason why it's called Non-Lethal. Sprays can be countered if someone knows that you have some, and they have a very limited effective range. (15 feet or so.) If you truly think that you're about to be attacked then spritz away without hesitating or trying to use the threat of the spray to keep them away.

One last point. If you have to use the spray then get away as quickly as possible and contact the police. Just because you managed to avoid injury because you thought things through beforehand doesn't mean that the next potential victim will be as prepared. You don't want your attacker to find someone else, so get help ASAP and let the police handle it from there.

Let's face it, Hollywood lies to us. Watch a movie where defensive spray is used and everyone hit with it will just stop what they're doing and fall down on the ground like an invisible safe was dropped on their head. This is the ideal result, just don't count on it happening.

If you can use your defensive spray and get away then that's great. If you're boxed in with your avenues of retreat blocked then you're in trouble. There's always the chance that it will come down to some hand-to-hand.

Do you spend 3 hours a day at the gym? Been studying the open hand martial arts since you were 6 years old? You're confident that you could go toe-to-toe with Batman himself and beat him like a dirty rug? Then skip this part.

The rest of us need an edge. Something that will increase our ability to fend off the bad guys and make our blows more effective. This is vitally important when faced with multiple attackers since you won't have time to dance around and take your time. One blow, one incapacitated bad guy. The best weapon for this is some sort of club.


I like the metal expanding batons myself. They fold up to a handy carrying size and they're heavy enough to sting if you have to use them.

The best of the bunch are made by Monadnock and ASP, but they can be expensive. Cheaper Than Dirt offers a line of batons that are much less pricey and just as effective. (At least for one fight.) These cheaper batons might have to be replaced after you go up against a few attackers while the better quality ones will take a lickin' and keep on....uh, folding up. But if they're all you can afford you will be well served by them at least once.

Be very careful where you strike the aggressor with any solid object. You should avoid any blow to the head unless it's do-or-die time and you have no choice. Concentrate on the thick, fleshy parts of the anatomy like a beer gut. Strike arms or hands that are grabbing at you and try to get away if you can.

But remember this above all. If you have to fight then fight! Hit them as hard as you can and get away as fast as possible. Half measures won't keep you alive, and if the bad guys manage to overpower you then the only thing you'll be able to do is beg for your life. Never let them have that kind of advantage over you.

Just like with the chemical spray, get away and contact the police just as soon as you're safe.

If you're physically fit and you know a little bit about an open-hand martial art, then you might consider carrying a high intensity flashlight along. They can be used to temporarily blind people, and they'll give you a decided edge if the balloon goes up.

Some really bright flashlights come very small. The best are made by SureFire, and I carry their G2 model along with me wherever I go.


This one is plastic, so it's not as sturdy as the metal versions. But considering that it's about 1/3 the cost I'm willing to take the chance.

These bad boys use Lithium batteries, which can be expensive. They also only last for about 50 minutes of burn time, after which they'll fade and go out in about 60 seconds. But during that time they put out a great deal of light.

Another point to consider. You should always have a flashlight with you if you carry concealed at night. After all, if you have to use your gun then you should always make sure of your target before firing.

If the Lithium powered lights aren't to your liking, then you should at least have one of those Mini-Maglights. Even if you never need to draw your gun to save yourself it'll come in handy when you're trying to fit your key in the lock when you go home.

Want the short version? Don't bother.

For the long version I have to invoke the spectre of Hollywood again. Watch the movies and you'll see people drop unconscious as soon as they get a taste of the stun gun. It's like they're dropping that invisible safe on people again.

If you want to see an actual stun gun in action then dig up a copy of the Rodney King tape online. The LA cops on the scene were equipped with a TASER, a stun gun that has two shots. The device shoots a dart into the skin of the attacker, and a wire that leads back to the unit supplies a way for the juice to be applied.

You'll see that the officers use the stunner on Mr. King, and he drops with his muscles all knotted up. Then they let off the power and he's up and at 'em in an instant. So they hit him with the second dart and the same thing happens. He drops, the power is is turned off, and he's on his feet and madder than ever. Except this time the cops were out of darts.

Another thing to consider is that these things use batteries. There's an old saying about how batteries always fail you when you need them the most. Like, say, when you're trying to keep alive during an attack.

Get some defensive spray, and make sure that it has either CS or CN. Never rely on OC (pepper spray) alone. If you feel threatened then use the spray quickly and without warning. Get away as fast as you can and call the police!

A baton isn't a bad idea. Never hit the attacker in the head unless you have no choice. Just like the spray, if you're threatened then use the baton immediately without warning and strike as hard as possible at the fleshy portions of the body. Get away and call the cops!

Flashlights are a good idea, and they have a thousand other uses.

Don't bother with those electric stun guns.

(If you're interested in more information, or if you want to commenst on this post, then please Email me at

Posted by James Rummel