Book Excerpt: Use of Non Lethal Weapons for Self Defense


A few weeks ago, we took a look at Gila Hayes’ book, Personal Defense for Women, where she gives practical advice on everything from avoiding conflict all the way to responsible use of firearms and concealed carry – and everything in between. A reader requested a closer look at Chapter 11, which covers the use of non lethal weapons in personal protection, including tasers and pepper spray. It also exposes several lies and dangerous scams surrounding stun guns and other devices. Here are a few excerpts selected from that chapter:

The Monadnock mini-baton serves as a handy key ring, as well as a very serviceable intermediate defensive tool that can be carried openly without attracting attention.

An intermediate (non-lethal) weapon is meant to deflect an assault before it turns lethal, or to gain time and distance to draw and use a gun. The greatest value of non-lethal weaponry may be the legality of open carry. Devices like the Kubotan, mid-sized pepper spray canisters and other tools are legal to carry openly in the hand in many places. Thus their immediate availability is a strong argument for intermediate defensive tools, even if you legally carry a handgun as well.

An intermediate defensive tool is not an appropriate response to a lethal force attack! On the other hand, using a gun or other deadly force is justified only when murder or crippling injury is imminent. Must I wait until I know I’m going to be killed to use some degree of force to stop someone who is hassling me? No! I need to react quickly to employ non-lethal or intermediate force to deflect or escape before the situation becomes deadly.

Finally, in a gun-phobic society, we are finding more and more places where the law prohibits firearms possession. Setting aside the issue of constitutionality, we’ll discuss non-lethal weapons to carry from your car into the courtroom, from the parking lot into the post office, through other restricted areas, and in your place of employment.

Following an introductory discussion of pepper spray (oleoresin capsicum, or “OC”), Hayes challenges the idea of relying on the spray for personal protection:

Pepper spray sounds like a good solution to many self-defense problems. However, it is like any other defensive method: it can fail, especially if the user is untrained or unfamiliar with the delivery system.

When and why do aerosol defenses fail? The answers are many and should be thoroughly covered in a user’s course taught by a manufacturer-certified or law enforcement-certified trainer. In the private sector, success of an aerosol defense requires that the substance sufficiently distract or hinder an assailant so the intended prey can escape or begin a more forceful defense.

In selecting an OC spray for intermediate defense, the delivery system is more important than the concentration. Defense spray manufacturers market several delivery systems: an aerosol fog that comes out of the container in a cone-shaped cloud, cans that deliver a thin, solid stream, and foam containing OC.

For civilian self defense, I firmly recommend the cone-shaped aerosol cloud. Your goal is to escape by temporarily distracting the assailant. The stream delivery system affects only the area it contacts, and is harder to deliver to the eyes, nose or mouth, since it is only a thin stream. The foam carrier may linger on skin, but it has limited effect on respiration and can be blocked from eye contact. The cone-shaped cloud, however, billows out from the container and is difficult to keep out of the nose and lungs and settles on the skin to cause irritation, as well.

Get common-sense, practical advice on avoiding conflict; personal defense techniques; and safe, responsible use of pepper sprays, Tasers, handguns, revolvers and shotguns.

Against experienced subjects holding their breath or shielding their eyes, lay down a fog of OC through which they must come to reach you, then move away laterally when they enter the OC. After breathing or contacting the mist, the assailant may crouch defensively and bring his hands to his face and double over protectively. These results are not guaranteed, however. Some people are quite unaffected by pepper spray. Other offenders have experienced it before, so they know they can achieve their goal despite the discomfort. If it does distract the assailant, choose the nearest escape: return to the store or get into your car. Call 911 immediately to report the attempted assault and your use of the chemical defense.

If you discharge OC to fend off an assault, you need to move swiftly on an angled path away from the attacker. Always disengage and run for safety. Don’t mistakenly believe that OC is the magic formula that will take an assailant to his knees.

We possess and learn to use aerosol restraint sprays, empty-hand techniques, and other intermediate weapons to buy the time needed to escape or reach a gun. A spray will not perform well in high wind or at great distances. It takes longer to affect a person wearing a baseball cap and wraparound sunglasses, if it is effective at all. Don’t rely entirely on the spray!

Then, there are the legal aspects to consider:

Despite the common defense tool that it has become, some states restrict purchase, carry and use of OC sprays. Many incorrectly classify the aerosol agent as a “tear gas,” which technically is a lachrymator (tear-inducing) agent, while OC is an irritant agent. Restrictions range from age limits for purchase to a licensing requirement. A few states strictly prohibit possessing OC. Violations can result in charges ranging from misdemeanors to felony charges.

Moving on to other intermediate weapons, Hayes discusses mini-batons:

The great value of any intermediate weapon is the ability to carry it openly and ready for use, in your hand. . . . . . The most natural intermediate weapon to carry continuously is the mini-baton. It attaches to key rings, and at 5-1/2″ long by 5/8″ diameter, fits naturally into the hand. Takayuki Kubota developed the first mini-baton, which we know today as the Kubotan. Nowadays a variety of manufacturers make and sell mini-batons, and these are sold through numerous martial arts suppliers.

Hayes goes on to describe the techniques that can be applied using the baton, including more destructive techniques to use when initial tactics don’t work:

Breaking free of a grab may entail breaking the assailant’s fingers by levering them up with the baton. Key flays and destructive techniques are capable of causing great physical injury or even as deadly force, and this type of strike may cost the assailant his vision or result in broken bones or permanent disability. In a fight for your life, however, you are justified in inflicting this kind of harm if no other reasonable alternative exists.

And, as with pepper spray, she reveals the shortcomings of the tool and legal aspects related to its use.

One of the author’s favorite demonstrations in women’s self-defense classes is holding a stun gun to her leg and pressing the switch. Students are astonished by its ineffectiveness. The stun gun works only if both terminals are held against the attacker for seven to 10 seconds, until the muscles go into spasm. No one will compliantly stand still while you press the stun gun’s electrified prongs against them.

The non lethal weapons chapter also provides insights on:

  • the use of flashlights and batons as impact weapons,
  • defense against a knife-wielding assailant, and
  • lies and dangerous scams surrounding stun guns, personal alarms and high-decibel noisemakers.

In summary, Hayes emphasizes the fact that these tools are only as effective as the training you receive and, further, that intermediate force is not sufficient against a deadly force attack. Her final advice:

Use intermediate defenses to stop harassment before a lethal assault begins, yet always be prepared to answer lethal force with a firearm if that is the kind of attack you face.

Keep an eye on the Inside Gun Digest Books blog this week. We'll post one more excerpt from Personal Defense for Women, from the Chapter 20, where the author begins by pointing out that “the ‘art' of concealed carry is more complex than stuffing a revolver in your handbag.”

Click here to purchase a copy of Personal Defense for Women from the Gun Digest Store. While you're there, you might also be interested in the selection of knives and concealed carry accessories available in the store. Get free standard U.S. shipping on your order by using promo code INSIDEGDB. Promo code fine print: This offer is valid with the purchase of Personal Defense for Women. Items which ship directly from the manufacturer, indicated by a little red truck symbol on the GD store website, do not qualify for free shipping.

Gila Hayes is operations manager for two businesses, the Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc. and the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc., the latter of which is a membership organization started in Jan. 2008. It has grown from zero to over 5,000 members, and keeping it going takes up most of her time these days. Gila edits and does most of the writing for a monthly journal for Network members. Check it out at


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