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Non-Lethal Self-Defense Options


A firearm is always a tool of last resort

A firearm cannot be legally presented unless you are matching deadly force against deadly force. If your attacker is obviously more physically fit than you and appears to have the capability to cause great bodily harm or death, you can use a firearm for self-defense. If the assailant is not excessively larger, stronger, or in some other way, does not have a physical advantage over you, the use of a firearm when another weapon is not present, is likely not an option--you will be forced to defend yourself using non-lethal alternatives.

If possible, try to avoid a physical conflict by simply stating you don't want to fight and are going to leave. Obviously, this probably won't work if the other person is determined to engage you in a physical altercation. When preparing your personal self-defense plan, consider other viable options to include with it.

Martial Arts Training

Martial arts training is vigorous, physically and mentally demanding, and provides the added benefit of exercise to your personal lifestyle. You don't need to become a black belt master, but you will definitely build confidence, develop new skills, and will be better trained to protect yourself during a close combat situation. Martial arts can come in handy in situations when you don't have your firearm with you or when the attacker is simply being a bully and wants to engage you in a fist fight. Additionally, most self-defense scenarios occur at close range where access to your weapon may not be readily available or where you will need to place some distance between you and your attacker. While there is a lot of controversy over how effective martial arts may be over an armed person with a knife or a gun, having formal, close combat training can certainly be helpful. A drawback to martial arts can be physical limitations; you may not be physically able to train or use martial arts properly. In these cases, you will need to consider other alternatives for self-defense.

Pepper Spray and other Chemical Spray Options

Pepper spray should always be considered as part of a personal protection plan. Pepper spray is legal in most states (check with your local attorney and/or law enforcement) and provides a temporary method to ward off an aggressive attacker, allowing you the opportunity to flee from danger. Pepper spray is designed to be sprayed into the attackers face and eyes causing them to be temporarily incapacitated as they react to the spray irritating their eyes, inflaming their nostrils, causing them to cough uncontrollably and temporarily hindering their ability to breathe comfortably.

On the down side, pepper spray requires the assailant is within a relatively close proximity to you, which can cause some inherent issues, such as you receiving blow back or the attacker being able to harm you before you get away. Chemical irritants vary in strength, with some being more effective than others. Irritants have an expiration date that must be observed to be effective against an assailant. There's also case studies which prove chemical irritants are not equally effective against different assailants and about 15% of assailants may not even have little or no reaction to the chemicals used.

Delivery Options

There are two basic delivery methods: Ballistic and Cone Shape. Ballistic allows for a direct, straight, streamline spray similar to a water gun or water bottle spray pattern. Cone Shape offers a cone shape pattern similar to a water bottle "spray" setting, but is much more forceful and less likely to disburse in too wide of a pattern. Some states have restrictions on the distance in which the spray pattern can project (e.g.: 10 ft. - 20 ft +).


The size of the container usually dictates the diameter of the bottle and its length. Some states have restrictions on the amount of spray chemicals the unit may contain (e.g.: .05 oz - 5 oz +).

Chemical Sprays (at the time of this writing) are not permitted in:

Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin.

Chemical Sprays (at the time of this writing) which may restrict the type of spray pattern include:

Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Wisconsin

Stun Guns and Tasers

Both Stun Guns and Tasers deliver a high-voltage electrical shock to the assailant causing them to experience temporary muscle control, dropping them to their knees and to the ground allowing you time to escape. The difference between the two is in their effective range of use.

Stun Guns have their contact points at the end of the device. In order to use a stun gun, you must be close enough to the assailant to be able to place the contacts of the stun gun directly against the assailant's body. Stun guns deliver anywhere between 100,000 to 4.5 million volts of electricity depending on the make and model. Stun guns are highly regulated (illegal in: HI, MA. MI, NJ, RI, DC, VI, DC; restricted in: CT, IL, IA, MD, PA, PR, WI); check with an attorney or local law enforcement for additional information.

Stun Guns do not require special licensing nor background checks


Tasers can expel electrodes a distance up to 15 feet, which means to use them, you don't need to be in close, physical contact with the attacker. A drawback to a Taser is you may miss your attacker and will have to rely on the stun gun feature to disable the attacker, which means they must be within close personal contact to be used. Tasers deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity and tend to be highly regulated (illegal in: HI, MA. MI, NJ, RI, DC, VI, DC; restricted in: CT, IL, IA, MD, PA, PR, WI); check with a local attorney or local law enforcement for additional information.

Tasers require an FBI background check!

Stun Guns and Tasers (at the time of this writing) are illegal in the following states:

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, US Virgin Islands, District of Columbia

Stun Guns and Tasers (at the time of this writing) are restricted in the following states:

Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Wisconsin

Stun Guns and Tasers (at the time of this writing) are restricted in the following cities:

Annapolis and Baltimore MD (as well as Baltimore County); Chicago, IL; Denison/Crawford County, IA; District of Columbia; and Philadelphia, PA.

When considering any non-lethal form of self-defense, it's important to remember that training and the proper use of the device is important. Many firearm instructors will encourage students to consider non-lethal options as there are many situations where a firearm, a weapon capable of lethal use, may be inappropriate, Discuss these considerations with your personal firearms or self-defense instructor, local attorney, and law enforcement for additional information and consideration.

When traveling, always check the state you are visiting for their local laws, contact local law enforcement for their opinions, or contact an attorney in that state for additional information.
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