Whether you’re attacked by a mugger walking down the street, suddenly caught in a horde of “mostly peaceful” Antifa thugs, or trying to to make your way home through streets filled with desperate people after a massive grid-down event, there are always going to be potential scenarios where you have to fight to protect yourself and your loved ones. Unfortunately, the world is becoming increasingly less permissive regarding the use or possession of any kind of weapons for self-defense, with liberal government officials seeming to care more about the rights of the criminals than the victims. It’s gotten so bad that in some locales you stand a chance of being arrested for even using harsh language against someone that’s threatening or attacking you. The goal of this article is to discuss some possible self-defense weapons options for scenarios where you’re at risk but you can’t carry or don’t have access to any kind of firearm, knife, club, etc. that you could use to protect yourself.

Note that I’m not referring to ‘hidden’ weapons like belt buckle knives, guns that look like a cell phone, or any other method of hiding something you’re not legally allowed to possess in the first place. Those types of devices most likely get you in more trouble than carrying a regular weapon, since they show your intent to violate the law. I’ll be focusing on items and devices that are generally legal to possess and carry on a day-to-day basis, many of which you can even carry on airplanes, but can be re-purposed for self-defense weapons, as well as weapons you can improvise in an emergency.

It’s probably pretty obvious, but most alternative or improvised weapons won’t do you much good if your attacker has a firearm pointed at you; in that case your best bet is to comply with their demands and hope they don’t shoot you. There are a few scenarios where you might be able to overcome a gun-toting attacker, but the risk is high and you generally will need to act quickly. Say for example some street thug walks up to you and lifts up his shirt to show you he has a gun in his waistband – you may have several seconds where you can step towards him and deploy some kind of weapon to disrupt or injure him before he can draw his gun. This obviously only works if you’re prepared to employ your weapon(s) instantly – any delay caused by you having to reach for a weapon may give him enough time to draw his gun and shoot you.

Some of the weapons I’ll be discussing may also help you against a small number of multiple attackers, but generally only if they’re standing close together. For example, if two attackers are standing near each other and you can deploy pepper spray you may be able to hit both of them in their faces before they can react. Every time you encounter a dangerous scenario you should quickly ascertain possible defense options in your head so you’re prepared. To paraphrase James Mattis, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to defend yourself against everybody you meet”.

For this article, I refer to anything you’re carrying explicitly for the purpose of using for self-defense as an ‘alternative’ weapon, and weapons that you create using available resources as ‘improvised’ weapons. Note that in many locales any object you use during the commission what the local D.A. considers a ‘crime’ (like defending yourself) can and most likely will be considered a weapon, which can significantly increase the potential penalties in you’re arrested. For example, if you successfully use your bare hands to fight off a poor underprivileged gang member who’s attacking you you may only be charged with assault, but if you pick up a brick and bonk them over the head the charges might be upgraded to assault with a deadly weapon. Know and understand the local laws and legal climate of any place you go, and think about the legal ramifications of anything you plan on carrying or improvising. I’m of the opinion that I’d rather be alive to fight any charges than to become another crime statistic.

The other key legal consideration is that you must have a valid reason for anything you intend to carry with you, and be able to clearly articulate that reason to any law enforcement or security personnel who question you. For example, I have a friend who likes to carry a baseball bat in his backpack, but he also carries a glove and ball. He knows where all of the local parks and baseball fields are located, and if he’s stopped by the police (which seems to happen several times a year) he tells them he’s on his way to the closest park to hit a few balls with some friends. Most of the time they just send him on his way, but he’s also been told that he should use a bag that hides the bat, since it makes some people nervous. Of course, this won’t work if it’s the middle of winter, you’re trying to board an airplane, or enter a secure building, so you always have to consider the context for anything you carry.

You should also be aware of other common items that you might think would be good alternative weapons, but which will usually get you in trouble with security/law enforcement unless you have a really good reason for carrying them. For example, a lot of advice from online forums say that wasp spray is a good alternative if you can’t carry pepper spray, but most law enforcement would probably suspect why you’re carrying it and, at a minimum, confiscate it unless you’re carrying it in a shopping bag with a receipt showing that you just bought it. Kitchen knives are another commonly recommended item, but unless you can prove you’re on your way to a cooking class you may be arrested for carrying a concealed knife.

Your circumstances are a significant factor that should be considered when evaluating alternative and improvised weapons. If you’re boarding a plane you’re going to get in trouble for carrying anything that even remotely resembles a weapon, but the threat of being attacked is fairly low. In the other extreme, if you’re trying to walk home through an urban area after a major national grid-down event the possibility of being attacked goes up considerably and law enforcement will most likely be focusing on bigger problems than why you’re carrying a heavy walking stick. During ‘normal’ times you should focus on carrying items that are completely innocuous but can be quickly deployed for self-defense, as opposed to assuming you can improvise something from readily available materials. In a post-SHTF scenario you should consider taking the time to improvise some more effective (and probably more obvious) longer-lasting weapons and carry them for quick deployment.

Note that my focus is on weapons that you can use for self-defense. The goal is to help you survive an attack, not to help you mix it up with some locals after you’ve had a few beers. Your goal should be to disable any attackers so they’re no longer a threat to you or yours, then exit the area as quickly as possible. If you’re attacked during ‘normal’ times and there are witnesses or you may still be at risk, you should quickly move to an area of safety and contact law enforcement. If the rule of law has broken down you should just get clear as quickly as you can safely do so.

There’s also the issue of morality – some of the weapons and actions I’ll be discussing may be considered morally ambiguous or even repugnant by some people, but everyone has to decide for themselves how far they’re willing to go to protect themselves and their loved ones. My opinion is that I’ll try to cause the minimum amount of damage necessary to stop the threat and protect myself and my loved ones, but I also realize that in many scenarios I may not have the time or alternatives to avoid seriously injuring an attacker. I’d rather be alive after an attack to ponder the morality of my actions than to have ‘He was moral to the end’ inscribed on my tombstone.


As you’ve probably heard dozens of times, information is one of the best weapons you can have, since it can help you avoid attacks and the need to defend yourself in the first place. This article isn’t about gathering intelligence, but it’s worth mentioning some simple things you can do even during normal times to minimize the risk of having to defend yourself. One approach is to know the area you’re operating in – what the bad neighborhoods are, where the most criminal activity occurs, etc. Websites like SpotCrime and the Community Crime Map can help you identify areas to avoid. A handheld radio scanner that gives you access to all the local public safety radio traffic during an ongoing emergency can help you avoid developing trouble areas during emergencies, and maps of the local area can help you re-plan your route to avoid trouble.

Situational awareness is another form of information gathering – you’re maintaining a constantly updated picture of your immediate environment so you can observe, orient, decide, and act to avoid problems and protect yourself. (I can just hear the groans about referencing OODA, but I feel it works here 8-)). Keeping your head on a swivel, using long-range optics to check out the route ahead, attaching a bicycle mirror to your baseball cap or glasses so you can see behind you, using night vision devices when traveling in low-light situations and wearing hearing amplifiers to detect sounds around you are all ways you can maintain and enhance your awareness of your immediate surroundings so you can quickly identify and be prepared for potential threats.

Unarmed Self Defense

The one weapon you always have with you is your body, and it can be used very effectively in a number of ways to defend yourself. This article isn’t about learning Karate or some other martial art, although being proficient in unarmed self-defense will go a long way in increasing the odds of surviving an attack, and can also significantly enhance your ability to defend yourself with alternative or improvised weapons. While I have the utmost respect for folks who invest years in becoming proficient in traditional martial arts, the reality is that most people don’t have the time or inclination to continuously train for years to attain the ability to defend themselves. My recommendation is to find some local training that focuses primarily on self-defense, such as police or YMCA self-defense classes, Basic Krav Maga, Keysi Fighting Method, or something similar, and avoid any training that emphasizes rating belts or competitions. I also recommend training that allows you to practice while wearing your normal street clothes, since you most likely won’t have time to change into your Karate gi or sweatsuit when you’re attacked. One approach that some friends and I have used was to find a local vet skilled in unarmed combat (a former Army Ranger in our case) and hire him to provide some personal training classes at our local gun club. You should also plan on practicing at home on a regular basis, both unarmed and with any alternative or improvised weapons you plan on using. I bought a heavy hanging punching bag for $20 at a local yard sale that I hung in my garage and use regularly to practice my techniques, both unarmed and armed with a variety of blunt alternative/improvised weapons.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)