Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Understanding Less-Than-Lethal Defense Options

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

Are there any non-lethal or less-lethal alternatives to a concealed carry gun? Some people would prefer to not kill another person or at least to have a non-lethal alternative in case of a less-than grave threat to their person.

It’s not an invalid question. After all, mere fisticuffs don’t necessarily qualify as a grave and imminent threat to life and limb (though plenty of people have died after taking a punch) but one doesn’t necessarily want to take a beating just to stay on the right side of the law.

Some people will carry pepper spray as a supplement to their concealed carry gun. Police have been carrying pepper spray and TASERs for years as less-lethal or non-lethal weapons when use of a service weapon would be inappropriate.

So, are there any good less-lethal or non-lethal alternatives?

Actually, yes. There are, in fact, three excellent alternatives to resort to if facing a threat that isn’t lethal. All three are known to be effective when deployed correctly, though all three have limitations that should be known about.

A knife is not one of them. A knife is a deadly weapon. Bludgeoning instruments, such as a folding baton, nightstick or baseball bat (or cricket bat if you can get one) are likewise considered deadly weapons; just because ignorant members or the media or for that matter the public perceive them as being less deadly than a gun doesn’t mean it’s the case. Trying to say so will not fly with a prosecutor and/or a judge.

Perhaps the best is pepper spray. The active ingredient is capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers. Capsaicin is a phenolic compound that is a powerful irritant. It doesn’t actually burn or damage skin or other sensitive areas permanently but it makes them hurt like hell for a good period of time.

Incidentally, there is no mace in pepper spray. “Mace” is/was a brand name of riot control sprays containing phenacyl chloride, which was found to be less effective than capsaicin spray and also toxic. This may be disappointing to those who want bad guys to be incapacitated but get a delightful hint of nutmeg.

The higher the concentration of capsaicin in a pepper spray, the more powerful it is. Most self-defense sprays have a concentration of less than 1 percent (often less than 0.5 percent) though bear spray can have a concentration of 1 to 2 percent. Some states regulate the maximum concentration that can be carried, so make sure to consult your state’s regulations.

Pepper spray is known to be very effective, until it isn’t anymore. Like anything, there is a failure rate, which is something to be aware of.

Energy weapons, meaning electroshock weapons and not a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range, conduct electricity into the body of an attacker. The electric shock causes pain and convulsions in muscle groups, which can cause an adversary to basically seize from the pain.

Thus, it is a pain compliance tool, which is exactly how police use them.

There are two delivery methods, namely by direct contact or by use of fired electrodes. The former, when activated, produces an arc between electrodes and – when placed against a bad person – gives them a shock. The latter fires two barbed electrodes, with wires, into a target and delivers the electric shock.

Output varies by device, but what you want to pay attention to is not wattage or voltage, but rather amperage. If you think of electricity like water going through a pipe, voltage is the amount of water pressure and amperage is the volume of water going through the pipe. A trickle of water at high pressure (say a stun gun claiming 200,000 VOLTS, YE GODS MAN!!!) doesn’t necessarily do much, but 500 gallons per minute at only a few pounds per square inch is still a heck of a lot of water.

Fatal damage can be done to humans with currents of 100 milliamps to 200 milliamps (or 0.1 to 0.2 amperes) as currents of that strength induce ventricular fibrillation, basically a seizure of the heart’s ventricles. However, currents above 200 mA basically cause the heart to immediately clamp shut. While this can be fatal, electric shock of this magnitude is often not fatal provided the victim receives treatment fast, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Since the heart completely seizes, ventricular fibrillation (or “v-fib”) doesn’t occur.

Police tasers, such as the TASER X26 models, usually produce less than 4 mA.

However, tasers are much like pepper spray in that they work until they don’t, at which point another solution may be needed.

The last is not exactly high-tech, which is namely a good old-fashioned punch in the face. Literally.

Martial arts training can help you defend yourself against a threat, to be sure, but take care to select one (or multiple; some people like to train in multiple disciplines) that has a proven track record in the field. Boxing may be a sport, but a right cross to the jaw or the nose can be very dissuading.

Here’s a good rubric: if they use it in MMA, it probably works. Grappling disciplines such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, sambo and judo are proven to be effective, as are striking disciplines such as Western boxing, Muay Thai, and kickboxing. Krav Maga is also good, and so on and so forth.

A fist or foot in the right spot or dumping someone on their head is usually a sure-fire way to take the starch out of them in short order.

With that said, some people will not stop short of injury. If a person has ingested enough of the right substance, they may not stop with less than catastrophic injury or losing consciousness. Just like anything else, hand-to-hand combat has a failure rate as well. Additionally, the elderly and otherwise infirm are at a disadvantage as some physical prowess is required.

So there are less-lethal alternatives or less-lethal weapons that can be deployed short of using a gun if attacked. They work, and have a track record of working, until they don’t.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.