Concealed Carry Answers: What Is Dual Force?

Concealed Carry Answers: What Is Dual Force?

Dual force options for concealed carry.

Reader CAB123 asks: “My CCW instructor used the term ‘dual force' but did not explain it. What does it mean?”

What is “dual force?”

In law enforcement, “dual force” generally refers to an officer or deputy presenting two levels of force (lethal and non-lethal) simultaneously… and it has a civilian application in dealing with real world tactical situations.

Most states allow a gun to be displayed when you can clearly articulate you were confronted with the threat of lethal force or grievous bodily injury.

The problem comes if you are confronted with a threat that might go bad but you can’t morally or legally justify lethal force. A gun in your hand that you won’t (or can’t) shoot is worse than no gun at all because of the take-away [gun grab – Editor] risk… but that’s fodder for another posting.


Pepper spray and concealed carry.An example of dual force would be having a gun at the low ready position in the strong side hand and a can of OC spray extended toward the threat in the other hand. This tactic might be employed if something went bump in the night but you could not establish whether it presented a lethal threat.

The pepper spray could provide a defensive option if confronting a less than lethal threat, but could be dropped instantly if you had to go to gun. (Even better… toss the can of spray at the eyes of the armed assailant as a distraction and engage with the gun.)

To defend yourself against a fist fight risk, a blast of pepper spray to the face (causing the assailant to experience what cops refer to as “snot city”) followed by a snap- kick to the knee (or other vulnerable area!) should provide you with an ample opportunity to retreat to safety.

Another example of dual force might be if you are out and about with your carry gun and also pack a small impact weapon.

On plain clothes details I had an expandable baton in a carrier just behind my holster and snapping it to full length had a therapeutic effect on a number of occasions. A Mini Maglite® can be a very effective defensive tool with a little bit of training, in addition to its obvious illumination capability.

Tactical Considerations

A couple of points to remember; (1) Always train with your trigger finger indexed along the frame of your handgun until you are ready to shoot. This avoids jerking the trigger in “sympathetic muscle response” when you pull the trigger on the OC can.

(2) Get trained in the use of OC spray. You need to understand its risks and rewards.

And (3) know your local laws about impact and chemical weapons. (You could have a valid carry permit and still get busted for having the wrong kind of secondary weapon. Nuts but true.)

I like dual force because it gives you more tactical options. Think about it in your defensive scheme.
But remember…this is not legal advice (you are expected to know your laws) everybody has different needs and capacities and every armed encounter is different. When developing your tactics always get a second opinion.


Arm Yourself with Knowledge

Retired law enforcement officer Joseph Terry takes you through the basics of going armed in the ABC’s of Concealed Carry. This authoritative guide gives you the tools you need to choose the right firearm, navigate the laws and create the proper mindset to carry concealed. Learn More Now


  1. OK. Good advice. But I still don’t really understand when I should have the gun in my hand and when it should be my can of pepper spray.

    • Thanks for your question. Generally speaking, you can pull your gun when you are confronted by a specific lethal threat or threat of grievous bodily injury from a person who has the capacity and apparent intent to harm you. Generally speaking you can have the can of pepper spray in your hand when you are in an area or circumstance that feels risky to you but you have no specific threat to deal with. Double check your laws!

      • Thanks for responding to my question. I’m a petite female “Jake” is my beloved dog. I feel a little awkward walking around with a can of OC spray in my hand. Can you suggest another tool I can used for self defense that is easier to remember and less aggressive in appearance. Thanks

        • Yep. Try a “flail”. (1) At the hardware store get someone to cut you a 6 in. piece of 1/2 in. plastic PVC pipe. (2) Take it to a locksmith and ask them to drill a hole in one end for a large key ring. (3) put a set of your car and house keys and ten other keys (working or not) on the ring. This creates a mass of sharp keys on the end of a stick. Walking to and from your car, carry the stick in your hand with the keys dangling. Use it as a weapon by swinging the stick at the face of the attacker and whacking him with the bunch of keys. It should be legal (check your laws) store easily and hard to forget.

  2. I imagine most CCW holders develop strategies for quick access to their gun either through holsters or a set up in clothing. If OC spray is first line of defense, special attention should be paid toward access. If its settled under keys in a pocket or buried in a lady’s purse it may not be of much use. What’s the best rig for OC spray carry?

    • Thanks for your comment and excellent question. Most of the little “purse size” pepper spray containers are difficult to manipulate under pressure. Especially problematic if it is not obvious by feel which direction the spray will go when you press the button. (Not good tactics to zap yourself!) I recommend larger OC containers for purse carry for women and in a belt holder for men. They tend to have a more obvious safety cover and direction of spray and offer a more credible visual deterrent. Opinions vary. Other comments are always welcome.

  3. HI Joe,
    Nice article. I was wondering if there are restrictions on carrying an expandable baton. I have seen them deployed by officers and the sound that is made when snapped open certainly gets attention. My concern is if there is a legal problem with civilians having them. Not sure why there would be, but thought I would ask so I will not get in hot water with the local constabulary.

    I do like the OC spray as a dual force option. It is a more of a stand off defense that a lot of people would feel more comfortable with than something like the baton.

    I have your book Gunfighting in Teams and found the information very useful. I look forward to your next book. Do you have a date for publication?


    • Thanks for your comment and review of the book. Glad you found it useful. Expandable batons are generally classed along with “saps” (lead-filled leather pouches) clubs, and other weapons wielded by hand that are specifically prohibited by law. Go on line to your state department of justice to see if they are allowed. If they are verboten check out the new mini-flashlights with teeth or fins around the bulb that clip in the off-side front pocket. This gives you illumination and an effective tactical tool. The new book should be released late this year.


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