Open-ended questions like these are often answered using personal experience or second-hand chatter. What is often ignored are the actual studies and verified results coming from these studies. For instance in the United States did you know that while Bear Spray (somewhat more elevated approach to pepper spray) works very well on animal encounters while similar products are less likely to have an immediate stopping effect on humans? (Smith, et al. 2006) (Vesaluoma, et al. 2000) Facts matter when it comes to self-defense of any type.
What I hope to give you with this article is a compilation of data that shows enough for you to make appropriate decisions regarding your defense of self and family. The best defense is avoidance of potential harm through better life decisions and practices.
An indisputable reality is that those who seek war will find it, and those who seek peace will also find it. Lastly, training is inherently necessary with any form of defense and or tool used in said defense. Without training, any tool used in defense is as useful as a brick sitting on the ground. With the preaching out of the way, its time to look at what is the best non-firearm home defense weapon!
Non-firearm defensive implements take many forms. Some of the more popular are as follows, in no particular order.
- Blades (knives, swords, and farm or working implements with blades)
- Chemical repellents (oleoresin capsicum otherwise known as OC spray or pepper spray through hairspray and even ammonia in bottles as suggested by some misguided individuals.)
- Taser-type devices (tasers, stun guns, cattle prods, and spring or air powered electric prong launchers)
- Bludgeoning tools (bats both cricket and American ball bats, rocks, bricks, anything that can be held in your hand and used to bludgeon an animal or individual who may be attacking you)
- Walking aids and support material (canes, walking sticks, umbrellas and or walkers etc.,)
When you are in the home what is your plan of defense and approach to safety? Do you have plans in place with alternative meeting locations for all individuals in your house and immediate family group? Do you know what you will do in case of a fire? Have you made plans and practiced them with regards to potential home invasion by armed assailants?
It has been established that armed home invasions while relatively small in number compared to other crimes are still a large enough risk that if you practice fire drills than you should also be practicing home invasion drills. It is essential to understand that there is no glory in battling from room to room with individuals regardless of situation when your family is also involved.
In fact, while it may seem a bit cowardly it is the more intelligent thing to avoid this and barricade yourselves into rooms resorting to using of armed defense only when directly threatened.
Obviously, if you live in a rural area and have no backup from emergency responders or neighbors within a reasonable distance and time frame, in this case, it would be important to have studied how to repel individuals intent on harming you and yours. It is still the best approach to barricade yourself and loved ones and defend from a secure position.
Hunting the intruders is pure Hollywood and will only get you or those you love harmed physically or otherwise. I for one would rather my children never have to take a human life or witness its occurrence. Use of less than lethal tools for defense allows for a solution that while not always immediately effective reduces these issues. It should be noted that firearms are not immediately effective either.
Use of bladed tools for defense is hotly contested by many countries and in many states within the United States. Regulations on length and type of bladed tool are important to know for your individual location.
Where I happen to reside blades are relatively unregulated and I am able to own virtually any type of bladed weapon and even use them in defensive situations. However, the same legal implications apply with the use of a bladed tool and a firearm as both are seen as deadly weapons in the eyes of the law regardless of where you live.
Be very careful about the laws and take the time to review recent cases where blades may have been used defensively in your residential area (country, state or social area).
Using a blade takes a substantial amount of training to be effective with, however, due to the alternative uses for blades as utility tools they can be easily carried, procured and kept around. With this one, I definitely suggest training from someone who has a proven background in use of these tools (i.e. Ghurka) or in the Filipino art of Arnis/Escrima/Kali or similar Filipino bladed martial art as these are widely considered the best for self-defense and modern combat approaches. (Wagner, 2014)(Alonso, 2010) There are several extremely solid schools where you can train over the course of a 2 or 4-day seminar and learn enough to practice and have a good footing for future use. As with all things related to personal safety continued training is an essential component.
Chemical repellents have been shown to be somewhat more effective when employed properly. Meaning directly to the eyes and face of the assailant or assailants. It should be noted that in many tests with products and individuals over the years these sprays have had less than stellar results, some uses ending in harm coming to the person using the spray due to it simply not working at the time.
There have also been deaths related to use of OC and other similar sprays. (U.S. Dept of Justice, 2003) There is a relatively high failure rate of the spray canisters themselves to function. These devices are not legal and are outright banned in many locations around the globe. I disagree with the reasoning behind these decisions made by governments, however, they exist so make sure you understand the local laws!
As for overall effectiveness, OC spray ends up being about 85% effective per several studies, when used properly. (Kaminski, Robert et al. 1999) I would suggest training with one and even being sprayed if possible so that you understand exactly how this spray works and can better use it or avoid the use of it when needed.
Lastly, make sure you get a solid version and do not settle for inexpensive knockoffs as this will simply lower the effectiveness with these tools.
These are tools that absolutely require a higher level of quality control from the factory and result in a higher price as well. One last consideration with these devices, OC spray regardless concentration can cause or significantly contribute to difficulty breathing which with already impaired individuals (asthmatics, obese individuals and similar) can and has lead to death as shown above.
SABRE Red is one of the most effective and is used by many police departments across the United States – check current price and availability at Amazon.com…
Taser devices work well in some scenarios also and do take somewhat less training to operate, though as with everything I do suggest practicing with your chosen tool. When it comes to taser type devices there are only a few types I can recommend as I have had numerous types used on myself and personally can attest that the vast majority of the low-cost noise makers hawked by unscrupulous individuals at local gun shows and even gun shops rarely function well.
The only versions I have used that functioned well every time contact was made are the Vipertek brand and Taser-brand stun guns. Vipertek is quite a bit less expensive than Taser with the trade-off being that Vipertek products require you to directly contact the assailant with the device while Taser offers this ability, as well as use as a standoff weapon through gas, propelled electrical leads. Both devices work quite well with human assailants when employed properly!
There are other brands out there, Sabre and Ruger both made forays into the stun gun market, my experiences with these are no different than my experience with off-brand versions. They are more gimmick than function in my strict opinion.
Stun guns may also result in unintentional death though the risk is relatively low compared to the overall use of said products. Again as with all other defensive tools, make sure you know the local rules and regulations attached. Good stun guns work well, again make sure you practice use of these and if possible test them on yourself so that you are able to better understand the effect. Practice, train and practice more!
Bludgeoning implements are the last segment we will look at for non-firearm based defensive tools. I will be including canes, walking sticks and umbrellas into this area simply because legally in some locations they are seen in the same light when used as a ‘weapon”.
Again with these make sure you know local laws, for instance in most areas around the world use of police batons and nun-chucks are banned for use as a defensive tool. However, some areas allow the use of expandable batons and other similar tools for defensive purposes. Again, you will want to have some training.
I highly recommend Filipino martial arts in this arena as they are unparalleled in the implementation of beneficial combative approaches utilizing batons and knives.
There are several approaches to using a cane, walking stick and even your umbrella as a defensive tool as well. It is relatively easy with training to use the extra leverage a cane or stick can offer to gain the upper hand in a situation requiring self-defense.
There have been several news stories over the years of elderly women and men using canes and or purses to bludgeon their attackers forcing a retreat and defending themselves safely. As one of the individuals I worked with over the years stated, everything can be a weapon if you know where to use it best!
There are canes that are specifically made for the dual purpose of being used as a cane plus as a self-defense tool when needed like this BadAss Cane.
So to answer the original question, What is the best home defense weapon that isn’t a gun? There is no definitive best home defense weapon. Any self-defense instructor with personal integrity and ability will tell you something similar to what I will.
Use your head, avoid potentially dangerous situations and get training in solid, functional approach that allows you to best defend yourself. More importantly, remain aware of your surroundings and continually train yourself to recognize threats that may present themselves! If you have anything to add or comment on be sure to do so below in the comments!
Free the mind and the body will follow
Alonso, R. (2010). In the Stick of Things – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos. [online] Web.archive.org. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20100615170421/http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/sim/sim/view/20100612-275230/In-the-Stick-of-Things [Accessed 29 Jul. 2018].
Kaminski, Robert et al. (1999). Assessing the incapacitative effects of pepper spray during resistive encounters with the police. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management. 22. 7-30. 10.1108/13639519910257801.
Smith, T. et al. (2006). Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska. [online] Wdfw.wa.gov. Available at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/bear/files/JWM_BearSprayAlaska.pdf [Accessed 29 Jul. 2018].
U.S. Dept of Justice (2003). The Effectiveness and Safety of Pepper Spray. [online] Ncjrs.gov. Available at: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/195739.pdf [Accessed 29 Jul. 2018].
Vesaluoma, M. et al. (2000). Effects of Oleoresin Capsicum Pepper Spray on Human Corneal Morphology and Sensitivity. [online] Iovs.arvojournals.org. Available at: https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2123766 [Accessed 29 Jul. 2018].
Wagner, J. (2014). Filipino Kali is Alive and Well in Today’s Police and Military Training – USAdojo.com. [online] USAdojo.com. Available at: https://www.usadojo.com/filipino-kali-is-alive-and-well-in-todays-police-and-military-training/ [Accessed 29 Jul. 2018].
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