You got out of work much later than you’d planned and it’s already dark. As your footsteps echo through the mostly empty parking structure, you see three figures in the dark ahead of you. This could be perfectly fine, or this could turn out to be a very dangerous situation.

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. In the vast majority of self-defense incidents, having a firearm immediately available to you is likely the best option, all other things being equal. However, that isn’t always feasible, or even practical in some cases. It could be you work in a prohibitive workplace. Perhaps a youthful indiscretion or two has resulted in your not being able to legally own or carry a gun.

There are myriad reasons why you might be forced to go without a handgun or other firearm. But that doesn’t mean you need to be entirely unarmed. Fortunately, there are several options available to you.


Impact weapons come in a range of sizes and styles. Saps and blackjacks have been around in various forms for a couple hundred years or so. While some people use the terms interchangeably, each term refers to two distinctly different weapons. A sap is usually leather and flattish, often looking something like a beaver’s tail in shape, with the handle narrower than the striking end. A blackjack, on the other hand, is cylindrical, typically made of braided leather. Both weapons have weighted working ends, with lead being a common material. There is a range of variations on the theme, too, from palm saps to weighted ballcaps.

This sap was made by one of the true legends in the industry, Micky Yurco.

One more weapon that falls into this category is the slungshot. No, that’s not a typo. The slungshot is far different from the slingshot. It’s also sometimes called a monkey fist. Whereas the slingshot utilizes elastic bands to launch a projectile, the slungshot is simply a weight of some sort that’s held at the end of a cord. The slungshot is easy to use: just swing the weighted end at your attacker.

These are all easy to carry concealed and can be brought into action very quickly. They are also quite effective and can put an attacker on their knees with a good shot. However, they aren’t necessarily a great option for those who lack arm strength.


Many makers out there have been offering spikes in different shapes and sizes for quite some time. These aren’t icepicks, though they bear a bit of resemblance to them. Often made from steel, though there are non-metallic options out there, these spikes are usually one-piece, with the handle tapering down to a needle-point.

Spikes by Mike makes tremendous defense tools, like this handsome and very well-built spike.

These can work very well as what we might call a “get off of me” tool. However, they do require some degree of dexterity and strength to be effective. While adrenaline is a wonderful thing for giving you some added oomph, it has a tendency to degrade your fine motor skills. Grabbing what amounts to a thin rod and deploying it might be problematic if you’ve not practiced with it extensively and under stress. However, it is worth noting that getting poked with a sharp spike may well just change someone’s mind about furthering an altercation with you.

“While adrenaline is a wonderful thing for giving you some added oomph, it has a tendency to degrade your fine motor skills.”

There are a number of makers out there who are producing spikes hidden inside pens and markers.


A step up from a spike is a full-fledged knife. Let’s face it, most of us carry knives just as a matter of course anyway, so it isn’t that big of a leap to think of them as both tools and weapons. That said, it takes a certain mindset to use a knife against another person, even when you believe you’re in mortal danger.

If part of your defense plan involves using a knife against an attacker, it should be something that you can put into action quickly, with no fumbling. It should be kept as sharp as possible and the handle should be designed to allow you a positive grip in any conditions, including if your hand is wet.

One option to consider is the push knife. It can be held very secure in the fist and is used to sort of punch the person with the blade.

An excellent bladed defense weapon is the HAVOC from Flagrant Beard. It is overbuilt, yet very comfortable to hold.

Something else to bear in mind is that cutting someone with a blade, or poking them with a spike for that matter, rarely results in an immediate cessation of attack, where they fall down into a heap like they do in video games or movies. Even if you manage a fatal wound, such as severing an artery, it can take time for the attacker to bleed out. Depending on their mental state or whether they’re under the influence of some sort of drug, they could continue to come at you for a while until they become truly impaired by their injuries.

If you truly want to pursue some degree of skill with using a knife as a weapon, I’d highly encourage you to explore one or both of these schools:

This push dagger made by Craig Schneider is solid in the hand and razor sharp.

Tiga Tactics

Martial Blade Concepts


A whole lot of people really enjoy spicy food. Even more people don’t like having capsaicin sprayed into their face. That’s the active ingredient in pepper spray and it is what gives chilies and other peppers their bite. When used in pepper spray, it inflames mucous membranes, such as the nasal passages, eyes, and throat.

The effects are involuntary and occur no matter what the person might have ingested prior. Their eyes will slam shut and begin to water excessively. They’ll have trouble breathing and their nose will run like a faucet. All of this means they can’t see and they’ll have trouble breathing, giving you an opportunity to either beat feet or take some other action against them.

Pepper spray products come in a range of sizes and styles, including small enough to fit onto a key chain.
Pixabay photo
This is a PepperBall launcher. This model is small enough to carry in a jacket pocket.
Pepperballs are loaded with powder laced with pepper spray. Upon impact, they burst and surround the attacker in a cloud that causes the person’s eyes to slam shut and their throats to close up.

One advantage pepper spray has over many of the other options we’ve discussed is range. Depending on the product, you can expect to reliably shoot distances of 10 feet or more, keeping you out of arm’s reach. However, the downside is that a strong wind might blow some of the spray back toward you. Always opt for a streaming delivery, not a fog. Some products add a dye to the mix, making it easier to identify your assailant later.


Electroshock weapons have been in common use for a few decades now. Stun guns operate on the same principle as a cattle prod, albeit in a smaller package. When activated, they deliver a low-current, high-voltage shock to the person, causing pain and spasms. This tends to get their mind off of you and focused on whatever part of the body suddenly feels like it is on fire.

“This tends to get their mind off of you and focused on whatever part of the body suddenly feels like it is on fire.”

Stun guns can put an attacker on their back quickly, giving you the opportunity to flee the area. 
Vipertek photo

The problem with stun guns and similar weapons is that if your attacker is wearing thick clothing, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to get to bare skin, which is required for the voltage to be effective. However, getting them in the neck or wrist is always an option.

There are many stun guns sold today that are disguised as other objects, such as cell phones, lipstick tubes, or even small pens.


Just as you would with a firearm, you cannot expect to be proficient with your defense weapon if you never practice with it. You need to develop the muscle memory for deploying it from wherever you’re carrying it, such as a belt pouch or a pocket. It needs to be second nature, as if it is a true self-defense situation; your movements have to be fast and without hesitation. That sort of reflexive reaction only comes from repeated practice.

Don’t overlook the benefits of working with a qualified trainer, either. They will not only be able to share with you the best ways to use your defensive options, but they can also work with you to avoid developing bad habits for carrying or deploying the weapon.

A slungshot, also called a monkey fist, can be a formidable weapon that’s also easily hidden in a pocket until needed.

Be sure to check the legality of any weapon you’re considering carrying. The last thing you want is to end up in hot water for simply defending yourself or a loved one. While yes, it would be worth whatever punishment is meted out, if there’s a way to handle the situation without exposing you to undue legal scrutiny, all the better.

At the end of the day, your defense is your responsibility. Just because you’re not allowed to carry a firearm does not mean you should just throw your hands in the air and rely on luck. Put the odds in your favor by exploring the weapons available to you.


I’ve lost count of the number of posts I’ve seen on social media suggesting wasp spray as a viable defensive option. An argument can be made that any substance, when sprayed into the eyes, will be at least a momentary distraction. But, the myth goes that wasp spray is a nerve agent that will put an attacker on the ground in an instant.

It doesn’t. It just plain doesn’t work that way in the least. Staging cans of wasp spray throughout the home to be used as ersatz pepper spray is just asking for trouble on several levels. Stick with purpose-made products that are designed to be used on people, not bugs.

Despite what you may have read online, wasp spray is absolutely not a good substitute for pepper spray or other purpose-made weapons. 
Spectracide photo


In recent years, an alternative to traditional pepper spray has hit the market, called PepperBall. Rather than by aerosol, the capsaicin is delivered by means of small plastic spheres that are fired at the attacker. Upon impact, they break apart and scatter dust in a cloud around the person.

Having tested these myself, I can say that the chemical part of the equation works very well, causing stinging and burning eyes, as well as difficulty breathing. Furthermore, the pepperball hits with a lot of force, and would definitely get someone’s attention.

Learn more by visiting www.PepperBall.com.


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