The 7 Best Improvised Self Defense Weapons You Can Take Anywhere


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Last Updated: June 21, 2022

I’m a big supporter of everyone’s right to defend themselves with weapons. But it isn’t always legal or practical to carry a gun, knife, or other obvious weapons with you.

That doesn’t mean you are defenseless in the event of an attack. You likely are already carrying a lot of discreet weapons on you.

If you are willing to improvise, these 7 items make great weapons you can take with you anywhere.

Umbrella

This is by far the best improvised self-defense weapon because it allows you to defend yourself from a distance.

Umbrellas also have pointed ends, which means they can be used as non-lethal swords. You can also use an umbrella as a club to hit an attacker. It isn’t quite heavy enough to knock anyone out but should buy you some time or scare away your attacker.

Typical umbrellas are cheaply made and won’t do you too much good in a life-or-death situation.

You might want to consider getting an unbreakable self-defense umbrella made just for this purpose. It will still keep you dry from the rain.

Keys

Keys make for a tremendous improvised self defense weapon – but not how most people think to use them.

Most people think they should hold their keys in their fist with the keys jutting out. Yes, this does look menacing, and the sight of you ready to hit with those jabby keys might be enough to scare away an attacker.

Yet, that position is very unstable.

Go ahead and try it.

Put your keys in your hand and try to (gently) punch something hard.

The keys will probably spread apart and dig into your palm.

Instead, he gives other positions which work much better when using keys for self defense.   One is when you keep the keys deeper into your fist, so just a bit of them is sticking out. They will be more stable, and you could easily gauge an attacker’s eyes out with them.

Another position is to hold the keys enclosed in your first, with just one key sticking out. You hold the key between your closed pointer finger and thumb, which keeps it stable. You won’t have blade-like points coming out of your fist, but you will have incredible slashing ability.

Note. You can also buy key chains specially designed to be used as an emergency weapon. More about the best self defense keychains.

Pens

This is not a weapon I’d like to use because it means I’d have to get close to the attacker.

But, when used correctly, a pen (or pencil or other sharp pointy items) could save your life.

To make a pen an effective self-defense weapon, you’ve got to aim it at the right places. These are:

  • Eyes
  • Throat
  • Armpits
  • Base of neck
  • Groin

There are specialty “tactical pens” available. While some of these are cool, like this Atomic Bear “glass breaker pen” (Amazon Link), I personally wouldn’t spend my money on these.

The reason? It isn’t that they aren’t effective. It is just that if I had to kill someone with one of these pens, I could find myself facing a lawsuit because it was done with a tactical pen and not a regular pen.

Yes, this is something we need to worry about.

Flashlight

I keep a BIG and HEAVY flashlight in my car emergency kit and in my wife’s car too. Not only would the flashlight provide a lot of light in situations like changing a tire, but it would easily knock an attacker out. You can also shine the flashlight into an attacker’s face to disorient him.

When choosing a flashlight for self defense, look for these features:

  • Long handle
  • Made from a heavy-duty material like aluminum (not plastic!)
  • At least 120 lumens
  • Waterproof
  • Heavy weight (those D battery flashlights are great!)

Handful of Change

A handful of change might not seem like a good self-defense weapon, but it could give you precious moments needed to save your life.

If an attacker is coming toward you, take the loose change from your pockets and fling it at the attacker. Even though this won’t injure the attacker, it will cause a flinch response. You will distract the attacker for just a moment. You can use that moment to flee or to draw another weapon.

You could also use anything else to fling at the attacker. A cup of hot coffee would be good, as would be some gravel from around you.

Purse

You know those funny scenes in movies where the little old lady attacks a mugger with her purse? Well, they got it (almost) right. A purse would make a good self-defense weapon when used correctly.

No, you don’t want to beat an attacker with your purse. Instead, take your purse and raise it to shoulder level. Holding onto the strap, start swinging the purse around you. It might not be able to injure the attacker significantly, but it can distract the attacker and keep him at a distance from you.

Purses, backpacks, and briefcases can also effectively block knife attacks. It will take some practice and ultra-fast reflexes to be able to do this, so go ahead and sign up for that self-defense class now!

In the meantime, this free book describes how to use a purse as a shield against a knife.

While we are at it, here are some items that ladies often have in their purses which can make great improvised self-defense weapons.

  • Hairspray or spray deodorant
  • Nail file (the pointy metal kind!)
  • Manicure scissors

Got a lighter and a bottle of hair spray? You can take a cue from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (from the 1980s movie, not the TV series) and use this trick: Light the lighter, then spray the hairspray in front of it. You will create a ball of fire that will keep attackers at bay!

hairspray lighter self defense

Anything Around You

A big part of survivalism is situational awareness.

This goes beyond knowing where your nearest exits are and whether sketchy characters are getting too close.

Situational awareness means knowing what is around you and where it is. If you know that there is a loose pipe, a big rock, or a sharp-edged wall close by during an attack, you can use these in your defense.

Be aware and be prepared!

What weapons do you carry with you? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.

Leave a comment

  1. Technically a screwdriver is a more reliable emergency-stiletto than a nail file. Problem is most citizens are unaccustomed to the need of instant-deciding, how much losses which decision inflicts. Unhappy police, a zero-romance-date at a court of law, and prison seem very bad (and compared to a luxury apartment they sure are), but compared to being crippled or killed due violent crimes they … Could be the lesser evil some would choose.

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  2. I carry rocks and elastic bands, the kind that honor vets and wwjd things. They work as slingshots and you can always just throw the rocks.

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    • I carry a handle to the window cleaner for my front windshield.
      You can either drill out the handle and fill with lead shot and the refill with the drilled out plastic or it is fine just as is.

      It works like a police night stick and it will hurt.
      To make it fun put the handle back on the foam top and it looks like a normal squeegee for the windows.
      Surprize Surprize Surprize

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  3. A 38 , knives, pepper spray, tasers, personal alarms, flash lights, lasers, hair spray and lighters, nail files, scissors, keys, tire billy, and my purse. I distribute these items in all vehicles and purses that I use or carry.

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    • Rolling armory and I would rather have and not need than need and not have but it does seem like the possibility Is there to be potentially arming and unarmed attacker rather than using all of the above or being able to secure it in the event of a car burglary or jacking or other attack. You know what’s best for you but I have always been a fan of the Bruce Lee quote about not fearing the man who knows 10,000 kicks that he has practiced once but the man who practices one kick 10,000×. Basically proficiency with the 38 and a safe way to carry it or transport it and use it when the time comes and maybe another weapon that you could truly master and use against anybody might be better for some than having many different weapons of varying degrees of effectiveness and degrees of difficulty and danger in actually using them. Many people having too many options leads them to freeze or hesitate when a decisive attack with any of them would be better than trying to decide in the heat of the moment. A knife in the right hands is probably the deadliest close quarters weapon that can be used faster where a gun must be pulled then cocked or remove safety and chamber a round where the knife might have already cut the guy twice in that span.

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    • That’s awesome , sounds like me except the purse .,38 ( can’t where I am) 800O lumen flashlight, retractable baton, improvised caltrops , smoke grenades (, when driving ), and small night vision scope. But no purse.. but love your defense arsenal

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  4. Have you put solar spotlights in at your house? I’m talking about the type that you push the 4″-5″ stake into the ground and the spotlight and solar panel are on top. While trimming my grass i broke a light. I threw the light away and pulled out the stake. ONE sharp tough weapon!

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  5. My car/apt keys are totally unsuited to close combat. I carry a “green” Robertson stubby screwdriver with the shaft protruding between my index & middle finger, with the pear-shaped handle grasped in my palm. It’s very stable, & since I’m a handy person with college wallpaper in “electrical” it’s a normal carry-everywhere for me. No one can say I brought it looking for trouble. As a screwdriver it fits most consumer-accessible electrical connections. True, yellow is sharper, but far less common. Red & black are more blunt & less of a weapon. Slot or Philips are more difficult to explain away.

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  6. Everyone thinks that if you actually use a weapon designed as a weapon you open yourself up to charges..

    Then in the next paragraph they mention special flashlights..

    There is no difference between a sword , tactical pen, pencil, brick, gun, club, 1987 Buick and a pocket knife..

    If the defense is valid the weapon is valid…

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    • You may be right, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to take legal advice from an unknown source. Always check with a qualified lawyer if in doubt.

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    • Lol. Not in Oregon! The only law we have for self-defense is if you feel like your life is in jeopardy and they still put you in jail! I still carry a sring-assist knife on my key ring on my person as well as several tools, including a mag-lite in my truck and kukri, bowie, etc at home with my bow. I also have emergency blankets, flares, triangles, sleeping bags, tents, food, camp stove, etc. in my truck, cause you never know.

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      • Better judged by 12 than carried by 6. Most legit uses of a weapon in a true innocent victim attack will probably not wind up with the victim being prosecuted because they managed to avoid becoming a forever silent victim. I’ve never heard of it but I have heard of many people who seemed to be where people drink and do drugs and many go carrying “just for defense” in places defense is almost a guarantee rather than a possibilty. Some people just cant see that were they not spending too much time around the wrong crowds then they wouldnt have spent the time to choose a weapon they can use on somebody that will appear like a weapon of opportunity instead of the weapon they carefully chose while running all the possible/hopeful situations they might have to/get to actually use it because someone pushed them at a bar or a drunk took a swing on them and got five class rings in the face from the guy who totally didnt have all those because he knew how devastating it would be to the idiot who unwisely chooses to mess with the guy in the trenchcoat and sunglasses holding a cup of hot coffee at the ready and pen behind the ear and flashlight on his hip while standing in the corner alone at a dance club.

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  7. A corkscrew ((along w/ a bottle opener so I look like a drinker, when truly I’m a teetotaler)). Also, a full metal rat-tail comb, like the kind used by a beautician & barber to go w/ my hidden shaft hairbrush.

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  8. That’s a crock, swing a purse so the attacker can die with laughter! Look if you are worried about the location and getting attack few things before you start swinging your purse or throwing your change at someone 1) change location if possible if not 2) use the buddy system a single attacker unlikely mess with 2 people 3) join a self defense class preferably one that doesn’t tell you to swing your purse!

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    • I beg to differ. My EDC purse weighs in at over 4 pounds. On it’s long strap, a head shot would surprise any attacking male who is dismissive of a woman’s ability to defend. Surprise = as slight delay. I’ll take it and run..

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  9. I carry a Wilson Combat EDC X9 pistol…..with 15 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. I have a spare magazine in my pocket. 31 rounds of 9mm hollow points total. Plus a knife….and of course my License to Carry in my wallet.
    I’m retired, but I’m now a CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) instructor in California. You need to be prepared, but even more important is to be AWARE!
    Know what’s going on around you. Avoid confrontation. Be Alert. Remember: the 3 A’s …..Aware, Avoid, Alert. Know the law in your state regarding use of deadly force!!!

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    • Hey Dave – can’t argue with anything you say there. Some vital points you raise especially about avoiding confrontation if at all possible.

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    • You are fortunate to live in one of the “permission” positive counties in California. Most people think of California as a huge block of anti gun sentiment but are unaware that on a square miles instead of population basis that most of the state is relatively firearms friendly. My latest non-firearm self defense tool is a home-made selfie stick. Took an aluminum ASP baton and drilled the end and fitted the phone holder end of a cheep selfie stick to it. It looks innocent, even works well as a photography tool but retains the full baton function. I hope to do nothing but take pictures with it….

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  10. 3 foot broom handle in car. That’s to save them from my sidearm if at all possible.
    Knife.
    As a distraction, a heavy set of keys on a long bit of paracord is minimum.
    What’s more effective is a car antenna worn around the waist under the belt.

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    • Automotive hose, cat litter or gravel to fill it with and a clamp or something to cap it and you have a slightly flexible club that is nothing but hose and litter before you fill it but in situations you dont have that minute some packets of salt thrown in the eyes is very effective and ready to go in a fast food bag, a potato in a sock or bandana will do the job and is less likely to cause a skull fracture since it has some give compared to an cue ball, a sturdy magazine like a reader digest can be folded over and anything from a pen or piece of metal to a sharpener pencil can be put through before folding so that it rest against the magazine when folded and not your palm it makes a halfway decent pushknife in a pinch, broken glass or window even and a shirt to make a handle also works in extreme circumstances.

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  11. Being a woman i normally have a large purse or backpack; set of keys; pens and a pencil freshly sharpened (so can sketch when inspiration hits); loose change; loyalty cards; larger nail clippers; a pocket knife of two with nice edges (sharpness); a small hair brush; and being a rock hound and crystal healer, i also always have at least 2 small stones on me, but most of the time it ends up being a handful amount.

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