Ever tried to hammer in a nail with a screwdriver?
It doesn’t work well, even if you’re pretty dang good with that screwdriver. You need the right tool for the job, plain and simple, and that logic applies to non-lethal self-defense weapons.
We’ve put together a basic assortment of weapons for your evaluation. Each one is perfect for a few situations, but none are ideal for all scenarios.
Before deciding which is best for you, look at the following guidelines.
Non-Lethal Self-Defense Guidelines
It is imperative to understand the fine line between lethal and non-lethal. A grazing cut from a knife can end a person’s life, and a knockout punch can result in your assailant cracking their head open on the sidewalk.
Note: Self-defense is not a lighthearted undertaking and often has permanent, life-altering repercussions.
A fraction of extra force can turn innocent self-defense into manslaughter. Besides the legal ramifications, there is a permanent psychological impact when non-lethal self-defense turns lethal.
Do not take the use of these weapons lightly or on a lark. This is serious business, and it demands the attention of a serious and mature individual.
Learn How to Use Your Tools
Although many of these weapons operate intuitively, you still need to practice, and ideally, you’ll have a bit of hands-on instruction from a qualified professional.
You’ll need to drill regularly to make your self-defense tool use automatic.
Practice makes perfect, but “proficient” will do in a pinch.
The laws on self-defense vary dramatically from place to place, but this is a good jumping-off point to refresh yourself with some basics.
If the SHTF, you can probably forget those worries, but until then, it’s wise to understand your rights and the law.
Best Non-Lethal Self-Defense Weapons
I would consider a knife essential for EDC whether you’re concerned with self-defense or not. It truly is more of a tool than a weapon, but in the case of self-defense, it’s doubly valuable.
The knife is placed at the top of this list for several reasons:
- It’s the go-to selection for most folks in a self-defense option
- It’s readily available and capable of multiple uses
- The presence of a knife can be a powerful deterrent that ends a scenario before it starts.
But a knife will very quickly become a deadly weapon. Exceptional restraint and training must be rehearsed before relying on a knife to save your life.
And if you pull a knife in almost any situation, you’re likely to get busted without sympathy by the fuzz.
Read our review of the best self-defense knives you’re likely to find on the market.
- Simple and reliable
- A powerful deterrent
- Very effective at what it does
- Almost too effective at what it does (knives quickly become deadly)
- Illegal to draw and use in nearly every jurisdiction
- Fairly limited attack options (stab or slash)
My favorite thing about a baton is its simplicity. You grab hold of it and club away as necessary; that’s great!
Most batons are also pretty discrete to carry, and in a pinch, a simple piece of pipe can serve as an effective baton, especially if you’ve drilled yourself in its use.
While capable of lethal strikes, it is less deadly to wield than a blade, which gets another gold star in my book.
My biggest concern with batons is that they are almost guaranteed to be considered an illegal weapon to carry on your person.
You’ll have an easy time choosing the right baton for yourself but a difficult time talking your way out of a legal scenario after using it.
See our guide to stun batons.
- Powerful strikes that require minimal training
- Easy to carry and to fashion an improvised version
- Can extend your reach by over a foot
- Almost definitely illegal to carry
- More varied striking options than a knife (club, smash, jab) but still relatively limited
Self Defense Keychain
Not my favorite option on the list, but it works on many levels. It’s an affordable option; let’s get that out of the way first. You can easily purchase a self-defense keychain for less than ten dollars, so the price isn’t a concern.
It’s also straightforward to disguise and keep discrete. Some options disguise themselves as just another decorative doodad on your keyring but are, in actuality, effective self-defense tools.
The best aspect of self-defense keychains is that they are often a multi-use kind of tool.
There are multiple striking methods to employ with this modest tool; all are unexpected and effective. Have a read of our best keychains for self-defense.
- Multiple options for attack
- Discrete and easily accessible
- Effective and unexpected method of defense
- Many designs are illegal to employ or carry
- Requires a solid foundation of practice to be truly effective
My first encounter with pepper spray was when my brother bought my sisters a few keychain-mounted pairs as self-defense tools.
He had the foresight to purchase additional canisters so they could practice and gain experience; that little bit of practice ended with all of us staggering away from pepper spray drift.
This is not the end-all option for non-lethal self-defense, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if it isn’t high on the list.
There’s no way to gain familiarity with this stuff; it burns your eyes, nose, and mouth when applied. Even a tough-as-nails dude will weep like a baby if he eats a face full of pepper spray.
But there is that annoying drift action. Chances are that if you use pepper spray, you’ll soak up some of that nasty stuff in the process.
Also see our guide to pepper spray guns.
- Readily available in almost any retailer
- Powerful deterrent that is easy to use
- Easy option for the smaller user
- Drift can cause complications for the user
- Can be considered illegal in some areas above a legal dose
- Need to replace the can after each use
Another option is bear spray, although this can have some serious downsides; see our guide:
Yes you read that right umbrella!
We recently reviewed the Unbreakable Umbrella and found it to be a more than competent non lethal weapon.
Whilst it has the appearance of a standard issue umbrella, this thing can inflict some serious damage.
- No-frills design means great reliability
- Can be used to stab, smash, and club attackers
- Totally discreet and looks just like a standard umbrella
- Fairly expensive
- Less effective in the open position
Holy smoke, you’re caught in a scenario where you’ve got to think quickly on your feet with next to nothing in your hand; what do you do?
Find yourself some DIY survival weapons, my friend.
An improvised weapon can range from a loose piece of lumber to a piece of lead pipe to a trash can lid to a rock in your hand.
It’s impossible to describe the utility of an improvised weapon because I have no idea what you’re using! But as a basic premise, this is an excellent option because something is better than nothing.
Remember the three D’s when you’re constructing an improvised weapon: durability, damage, and dependability.
- Something is better than nothing
- Usually tailored to the situation
- Can be impractical and highly illegal
Brother, this is what I’m into. Bruce Lee himself said that an attacker with a knife is the one who is at a disadvantage against an unarmed opponent.
Lee’s logic said that the attacker with a knife focused on the weapon in hand and limited their options, whereas the unarmed attacker had zero limits to their options.
In general, we need to recognize that in self-defense, the best choice is to step far away from the scenario and get to safety. But when your assailant is insistent on ruining your day, you need to strike back with everything you’ve got.
Luckily your options as an unarmed combatant are expansive; the only requirement is that you know what the heck you are doing before you start swinging.
- Provides limitless options against an opponent as the scenario necessitates
- You aren’t carrying a potentially illegal weapon
- You don’t need to bring anything extra with you
- Requires extensive training to become proficient
- Leaves you potentially at a disadvantage against an assailant with a weapon to wield
Ever hear the phrase, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail,”?
Try your best not to settle for a single method of defense. You’ll limit your options in any scenario; being an unarmed assailant may afford you better legal defenses, but in a winner-takes-all scenario, you might be better off with a weapon in your hands.
Take your time and carefully consider your options before jumping too far into one line of thought!