Question of the Day: Do You Carry a Non-Lethal Self-Defense Option?


By Brandon via

Pepper spray? Tactical Pens? Brass Knuckles? Whistle? That last one is a joke. To us pro-gun folks, at least. Aside from your firearm, do you typically carry a non-lethal form of self-defense? Do you think it’s a good idea? The use of deadly force isn’t to be taken lightly, but could there ever be a scenario where something non-lethal (or less-lethal, in the case of tactical pens) would play a better role besides a firearm in your self-defense arsenal?


  1. avatar Vhyrus says:

    If you count the flashlight, then yes.

    1. avatar Another Robert says:

      Me too-4-cell Maglite (but only after dark). Among other things, it could distract, blind, or club an attacker while I’m getting my pistol.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        A few folks here should really rethink what they consider “non-lethal.”

    2. avatar Joel says:

      I try to keep my brain with me at all times. I consider that my “non lethal” option. Using my brain to find a better way to resolve the situation.

      I also carry a flashlight. And know a handful of self defense moves….

  2. avatar Some Guy #7 says:

    Yes, it’s called trigger discipline.

  3. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    Soft armor. Complements firearm.

  4. avatar General Zod says:

    Fists, feet…

    1. avatar Joe-in-NC says:

      Exactly 🙂

    2. avatar McCann says:

      Mine are just “less lethal.”

  5. avatar PeterW says:

    I can wave my phone at them and threaten to call ‘911’
    Also keys on a lanyard, flashlight, leatherman tool, last ditch force multipliers.

    1. avatar notalima says:

      You can add:

      “Dazzle them with deception”


      “Baffle them with bullshit”

    2. avatar VaqueroJustice says:

      The Leatherman would be a multiplier, I suppose 🙂

  6. avatar PNG says:

    Pepper spray, sometimes a knife since I don’t have CCW yet.

  7. avatar BDub says:

    Other than my wit, no.

    1. avatar notalima says:

      But is it sharp? 😉

  8. avatar DJ says:

    Nope. Consequently I’ll never have to respond to a prosecutor asking why I didn’t just Tase a violent assailant.

  9. 16″ ASP Baton is my LTL go to tool.

  10. avatar triple banger says:

    What is a tactical pen?

    1. avatar IdahoPete says:

      Usually made out of steel with a hardened/glassbreaker striking end. Enter “Uzi Pen” into Google.

  11. avatar Dr. Michael S. Brown says:

    I’d love to see TTAG do an in-depth review of electronic stun guns. The contact type with prongs, not Taser-style devices.

    It is very hard to find useful info about this non-lethal option on the internet.

    1. avatar Vhyrus says:

      In general, they suck. Bad.

      A good rule of thumb is if the police it then it works. If they don’t then it doesn’t.

      1. avatar KingSarc48625 says:

        Also, if you’re close enough to zap’em, they are close enough to stab you.

      2. avatar Rick in NH says:

        Last year my stun gun flashlight saved my dog’s life when she was attacked by a pit bull. I walk on a quiet road with the flashlight off unless a car is coming. The first sign of the attack was when my dog yelped in pain. The sparking alone kept the pit bull a bay, and the owner is $1400 in vet bills lighter. Not all who wish to harm you are human.

        1. avatar Another Robert says:

          I’ve used the aforementioned Maglite to tap (and it was indeed just a tap) a big dog on the nose to keep him from noshing on my Chihuahua. Worked great, I only had to shake it at him on a subsequent stroll and he retreated.

  12. avatar What The Heck Is That says:

    On days that threaten rain I carry a large, heavy umbrella. Unassuming and makes a handy club if need be.

  13. avatar IdahoPete says:

    Pepper spray, although that is more likely to be useful on a dog than a human attacker. Sometimes I add a cane with a heavy metal handgrip.

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Yup. Pepper spray works great on dogs that aren’t polite.

  14. avatar Deano says:

    Motorcyclist here, so heavy chain with a duct tape handle… Road Rash style

    1. avatar Chrispy says:

      Oh how I miss the glory days of the SEGA Genesis…

    2. avatar Wade Garret says:

      One of the greatest games ever and it had a killer soundtrack to boot.

  15. avatar TX Gun Gal says:

    Sabre CS/pepper spray on key chain. Have never had to use it nor the revolver in my pocket.
    More likely to use spray off leash dogs if two or more

  16. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    Although I don’t carry anything, besides my firearm, I try to be cognizant of whatever may be lying about.

    My primary defensive tool (not weapon) is my body. Being the founder of the Church of Devout Cowardice, my game plan is to flee. Since I regularly jog, I feel it’s a realistic ideal.

    I don’t envision much time to deploy less than lethal force – If it’s that serious, it’s time to go for broke!

    1. avatar Chrispy says:

      I find myself sharing that last sentiment with you.

      My bro-in-law carries a tactical flashlight, pepper spray, a knife, and a gun. He recently took an armed security guard course of some type that told him how (in a neat and organized manner) you are supposed to escalate your force in accordance with the threat.

      I simply don’t agree with that training. Watch a few YouTube videos of REAL attacks and you’ll see plain as day that you don’t get to ramp up. It’s goes from nothing to everything in .002 seconds.

      1. avatar FedUp says:

        If you’re a cop, you get to ramp up / escalate a non violent encounter into a violent, then lethal one.
        The rest of us, not so much. We don’t get to act until it’s time to act with lethal force.

    2. avatar anomad101 says:

      Amen Brother!

  17. avatar notalima says:

    • DB Customs Crook Bottle Opener

    • Harsh language 😉

    • Fake heart attack (“This is the big one. I’m coming, Elizabeth.”

    1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      I find that those three draw rather than repel assaults. “The Ebola hurts so bad!” might be better.

      1. avatar notalima says:

        Lol @ ebola. I’ll have to remember that one.

      2. avatar Timmy! says:

        I have thought that a fake faint (feint faint?) or fake “drop to the ground while wetting myself and begging for mercy” might… MIGHT be the distraction needed to draw and fire if attacked. Thoughts?

  18. avatar Owen says:

    I always carry a flashlight. Currently it’s an “tactical type” with a crenulated stainless steel ‘glass breaker’/’people motivator’ on the light end. Good to have something on your offside to aid in weapon retention, or so I’m told.

  19. avatar Chip Bennett says:

    I carry my hands, feet, mouth, brain, and phone.

    1. Your beer stein might come in handy.

      1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

        If I’m standing at my grill, I might have a cider bottle handy, but that’s about it.

  20. avatar Blake says:

    Less lethal: Criminal survives being shot center mass.

    I’m a charter member of the Church of the Devout Coward. (new record for stealing a phrase, I do believe) If at all possible I and my loved ones will run away from trouble.

    However, I also know that’s not always an option.

    If it’s time for me to fight, it’s time for me to shoot.

    1. avatar Ed Rogers says:

      Welcome, Disciple!

      1. avatar Blake says:

        Thank you, thank you very much.

        What’s the credo? “Flight before Fight?”

        1. avatar Ed Rogers says:

          Ooh, nice – I like it. It is so!

  21. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Nope. If I’m in position Where escape isn’t a option for me. I’m going full tilt lethal. Or as I’m supposed to say. Stop or Incapacitate my attacker. If possible.

  22. avatar Capybara says:

    I carry pepper spray, a Spyderco Matriarch knife and a S&W M&P Shield in 9mm. Choices and backup options are good.

  23. avatar Stewart Vardaman says:

    My GF just doesn’t think she can get used to using a gun well enough to carry, but I have convinced her a collapsible baton is a good option. I suggested one that extends to 12″, because a longer and heavier one I think she just won’t carry it. I want to get one as well, plus I also carry a spring-assisted knife. I agree with Ed Rogers above…both me and my GF are pretty fit. Taking off running is #1, if that option is available. We’ve discussed it as strategy that if someone were to attempt to mug us on the street we run even though I’m carrying a .40.

    1. avatar Stewart Vardaman says:

      Forgot a couple….my .40 has a green laser/tactical light combo in strobe mode, and my .380 has a red laser. The lasers can be intimidating, and the strobe light is quite blinding.

  24. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Kimber pepper blaster for over 4 years.Always carry it-except to court. A knife always(but that is easily lethal). I’ve never used the Blaster but came within a few seconds this week when the idiot neighbors pit bull got out and into my yard(I was riding my bike). Before all the vicious dog lovers yowl the same dog got out a few weeks ago and attacked a woman walking her dog-in front of my house. Damn lucky my GOOD neighbor ran out and hit the dog…

  25. avatar Other Tony says:

    Tac pen or taclight where I can’t carry knife etc. Used to carry pepper spray but it seems not as practical for me anymore. But each person should decide for themselves.

    1. avatar Timmy! says:

      I picked one of those up… as in took it off of the table to grok not buy it, and found the Vienna sausages at the end of my arms don’t fit through the holes. Looks like a neat, stealthy, knuckle duster sort of gizmo though.

  26. No. Why would I want to waste time or risk my life on that crap?

    1. avatar Colt carry says:


  27. avatar Ralph says:

    No non-lethal of less-lethal options for me, ever. Why? Because if I am ever forced to shoot somebody, I don’t want a prosecutor drilling me on why I didn’t use my pepper spray instead of my gun, that’s why.

  28. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    A few folks here should really rethink what they consider “non-lethal.”

  29. avatar Jack Wagner says:

    Paracord Monkey Fist on my key ring.

    1. avatar dph says:

      My wife carries one those, with a 1″ diameter steel ball bearing in the center.

  30. avatar Cknarf says:

    I call ’em legs. They’re great for running away.

  31. avatar Rob.G says:

    No, never.

    If I ever feel my life is in danger, I see no reason to respond with pepper spray, flashlights or tasers, etc.

  32. avatar Southern Cross says:

    In my part of the world, self defense options are limited by law. But this does not affect the criminals for some reason (/ sarcasm).

    Don’t underestimate a pen (especially Uniball Micro pens, the 0.5mm tip easily penetrates clothing) and can work as small stilleto knife.

    And steel-capped construction boots are another deterrent, along with that I’m 5’11”, over 200 lbs, and with crew cut hair makes me look like a biker minus the tatoos. Shame my 6-pack has turned into a keg.

  33. avatar Paul says:

    Spring assisted knives and brass knuckles can get you arrested in many jurisdictions, even those that are firearms-friendly. A lot of people in my neighborhood carry golf clubs (irons) when they take walks, especially at night. More likely for dogs, foxes and coyotes than for people, because it is a good neighborhood surrounded by woods, but the message is quite clear. Interesting question if they were hassled by a cop, as the likely use is obvious but “it is not concealed.”

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      I used to carry a baseball bat in my car. You know, just in case I was driving along and a game broke out. Just to make it look more kosher, I also had a glove and ball nearby.

    2. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      Good tip. Brass knuckles are illegal to carry in Texas. Texas did repeal its ban on switchblades in 2013, though, and imposed knife preemption on cities in 2015 (take that, San Antonio and Corpus Christi!). However, a poniard, though undefined by statute, is still specifically listed as an “illegal weapon.” Oddly, both the penal code and case history are silent on bardiches, halberds, and morning stars.

  34. avatar Cal S. says:

    Yes, I carry a .22lr backup pistol.


  35. avatar xwing says:

    Knuckles (lately my Koch Tools EDCarabiner that is my key clip) and a knife (a Spyderco Roc or Victorinox Trekker). When I was in college I’d sometimes have a Monadnock baton if I thought I’d be returning late and didn’t want to risk carrying, if I was just going to my studio I’d carry in my bag.

  36. avatar Paelorian says:

    I do carry a (very small titanium) whistle on my keychain, but it’s not for self-defense situations. It’s a signaling device that is more effective than shouting repeatedly. “I’m over here!”

    I think that anyone who carries a lethal self-defense tool without any non-lethal self-defense tools is a fool. Sometimes lesser force is justified, and if you don’t have a tool you don’t have the advantage of an authorized weapon in that situation. You’re left bare-handed. I carry as much as I am legally allowed. Sometimes, the only non-lethal option I’m allowed are less-lethal improvised non-weapons. New York City would rather me stab people than use a Taser on them, so I might have to use my pen or grab the nearest object when lethal force isn’t appropriate. I do carry pepper spray where legal (illegal in many places internationally, like the UK), but pepper spray is not a weapon or even a self-defense tool. It’s a compliance device. If you’re threatened with grievous bodily harm and you dick around with pepper spray you’re an idiot. Unlike a Taser, it does not disable. It just makes eyes water and it painful to keep one’s eyelids open. It doesn’t stop the body at all. Even unloading the full canister in someone’s eyes is no impediment to them beating you or raping you if they get their hands on you. And with the little over-the-counter pocket units, you need to be no more than about a foot from someone’s eyeballs to get most of the spray on target. I don’t carry it in case I’m threatened. The only situation I can imagine using it is to break up a fight. An assailant is on top of the victim pummeling him, I spray in his face. If it was a more threatening, severe incident I’d use a Taser. It’s unlikely I’d blow him away if they were about the same size. Although if a huge man is viciously beating a small woman or girl to the point where her life is endangered, lethal force may be justified. But in a common fistfight, it isn’t.

    1. avatar Paelorian says:

      I also keep a stack of dollar bills in a stainless steel money clip (which I paid less than a dollar for), with a $5 bill on the outside wrapped around singles (if I wore a suit, it’d be a $20 visible). The cash has a little heft, enough to toss and run. Looks impressive enough to satisfy most muggers. I got the idea from Massad Ayoob’s In The Gravest Extreme. It’s worth $19 for a chance of avoiding a gunfight or knife fight. If he wants more than I’m willing to give, I have forceful options I can resort to.

      1. avatar anaxis says:

        I keep a tightly rubber-banded gangster-roll of $1 bills wrapped around a bunch of fake $3 Clinton notes, with a real 20 on the outside for the same purpose. It has a bit of weight so I can toss it some distance.

  37. avatar JohnF says:

    25 years of martial arts training, which I am NOT overconfident about. I am all about simple, sudden and violent, nothing fancy.

    Mace, mostly for dogs and drunks. I don’t want to have to shoot either one if I can help it.

    Spyderco Delica or Endura folding knife, very sharp. I consider it a tool, not primarily a weapon, but a tool that could be used as a weapon in extremis.

    Streamlight ProTac 2AAA. 80 lumens is not huge, but it would give someone flash blindness at close range at night and it is the perfect size to use as a Kubotan.

    Sometimes a 2″ thick Chestnut walking cane. I know enough “cane-fu” that anyone armed with anything less than a gun would have a problem with me.

    I like to have options.

  38. avatar Chadd says:

    I carry my “tactical” pen everywhere I go. I also keep my pocket knife with me everywhere I’m allowed, but that’s hardly non lethal, but the same can be said for my pen.
    I was raised with the knowledge that anything can be a weapon. “If you try to take my shoe and get it off my foot, im going to wrestle you to the ground and beat you with it.”

  39. avatar Wade Garret says:

    Roll of pennies wrapped in electrical tape. If I am forced to use them and then throw them into a field, stream, sewer, whatever, I am out $.50 cents.

  40. avatar Libertarian says:

    Illegal sometimes an gun in germany if i used public transportation late time.
    Legal an fixed blade that i carried open but only if i not carry the gun, then hidet only the two ^^

    best regard

  41. avatar OneIfByLand1776 says:

    No. First off, I’m not a big person: 5’6″, 150 pounds…I have all I can do to conceal a handgun well (I live in NYS, so it’s important to conceal well). Last thing I need is a duty belt a la Batman with a host of “Bat Tools”, to conceal. I use to carry a knife (which may or may not be less than lethal – LTL compared to what?), but I stopped carrying a knife because unlike firearms laws, where the state has supremacy (generally), knife laws are – well, up for grabs. I won’t risk revocation of my CCL for an illegal blade based upon some archaic law passed by some small village or town. New York has 62 counties which are subdivided into 932 towns, 62 cities and 10 Indian reservations. In total, NYS has over 3400 active local governments. Way too many variables there to risk carrying something subject to local regulation (is that petty tyranny? Seems so)

  42. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    The company lets me have a little knife. I have a Gerber Mini Paraframe. I am Tacti-Cool.

  43. avatar Gregolas says:

    Sabre pepper spray. The vast majority of confrontations do not require deadly force. Much easier to explain that you didn’t spray the dog too much rather than shot it too much.

  44. avatar Stu in AZ says:

    4 pockets:
    1: keys
    2: wallet
    3: cell phone
    4: defense device
    Do you really think I’m gonna use the fourth pocket for a taser or mace? Cmon man.

  45. avatar Williams says:

    I’ll try getting shot before I volunteer to get sprayed again. Worst experience of my entire life. That said, I only carry spray when I anticipate having alcohol in my system and can’t legally carry a firearm.

    1. Guns are legal and alcohol consumption is legal.
      What State do you live in that would unconstitutionally disarm you because you have a drink?
      In GA, it is lawful to carry and drink but not discharge a gun unless in a DGU.

      1. avatar JSJ says:

        Here in WI you can drink and carry… home. Walk into a bar and it’s either zero alcohol or zero firearms.

  46. avatar foo dog says:

    Surelight, tanto folder, sturdy stick while walking the dogs.

  47. avatar Fred Frendly says:

    The butt of my AK.

  48. avatar Wayne says:

    the “lethal” options (i.e. pistol, revolver) are verboten in Canada, so instead I carry and Emerson Persian, a small high output light & a tactical pen.
    I know me, and I know me to be an old guy with a limp. The likelihood of reaching for the tactical pen initially is virtually non-existant for anything other than to sign my name to something. If I needed to defend myself since I couldn’t run away (my first choice), I’d be using the Persian and trying to do some cutting.
    I carry a second small knife for regular cutting chores, and keep the Persian for SD only. it is always shaving sharp, and menacing in appearance, which I hope will dissuade an opportunistic mugger but not much else.

  49. avatar tsbhoA.P.jr says:

    i would use my belt to deter an attacker. it has a heavy brass buckle that would maim at 143 mph. but it quickly becomes nearly impossible to run away.

  50. avatar BillV says:

    Fogger-style 1.4oz personal pepper spray (don’t have to aim well) and Fenix 1000 lumen flashlight (brutally blinding). At home have 8oz bear spray fogger (see Cabelas). All my wife has to do is spray and hide in the bathroom. NOTHING will stay in the house when that is sprayed.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email