FightingArts Home Connect to the FightingArts Forums! Explore the FightingArts Knowledge Base in the Reading Room Shop the FightingArts Estore
Free Newsletter
Estore Martial Arts Products

Self-Defense Weapons:
A Comparative Look

By Meghan Gardner

Let's discuss weapons.

We all know the basic three: Pepper/Mace Spray, Stun Gun (Electric Shock) and Hand Gun.

Each of these is either banned, heavily restricted, or requires Firearm ID to legally carry in many states. Be sure that if you carry or own any weapon that it is legal in your state!

There are also "nuisance products" which either emit high, piercing sounds or, upon activation, dowse the potential victim with a foul smelling ointment (in an effort to make the victim less "appealing").

First I will reiterate that which cannot be overstated: Any Weapon You Wield, Carry, or Own Can Be Used Against You! Now an analysis of each weapon type.


Pepper Spray (Oleoresin of Capsicum) usually comes in strengths of 5-10%. May cause eye closure, skin irritation and shortness of breath for several minutes. Mace contains CN Tear Gas which may cause tearing and eye closure for several minutes. Either can contain such additives as dyes (visible or ultraviolet) for identification of attacker, and/or a foaming agent which causes the spray to expand rapidly upon impact into a sticky foam which may further inhibit the attacker's sight and/or breathing.

Advantages: Non-Lethal. Easily Concealed. Disabling attacker's eyes may prohibit pursuit. Dye may aid in attacker apprehension.

Disadvantages: Limited Range (generally 10-15 ft., depending on model). Limited Target (must hit attacker in face). Small percentage of population not affected by spray. Adrenaline or even sheer determination may postpone or inhibit affects of spray. DO NOT discharge into wind.


Device delivers electric shock upon contact with skin. May cause confusion, weakness, disorientation, loss of balance and muscle control for several minutes. Some have a wrist strap that disarms unit if separated from strap. Requires batteries. Available in various voltage levels (normally 65,000 - 125,000).

Advantages: Non-Lethal. Effective anywhere on body.

Disadvantages: Range - must make physical contact with assailant.


Various sizes/models (9mm, .38, .44, etc.). Each caliber differs in "stopping power", recoil, conceal ability (size/weight), number of rounds contained in single load/magazine. Requires permit in every state. Concealment or carrying while loaded illegal in some states.

Advantages: Intimidation Factor - sometimes just the sight of a gun is enough to halt an attack. Range (depending upon shooter's ability). May be more effective against multiple attackers.

Disadvantages: Constitutes Lethal Force. Requires regular training to become proficient in accuracy beyond 15 ft. Risk of accidental firing and/or innocent bystander getting shot. Takes time to draw, aim and fire. Requires regular maintenance. Expense. They may also be lethal if taken away and turned against you.


Personal Alarms activate by switch or separation of strap and emit loud, high decibel (100 dB) sound. Stench Ointments are contained in a small breakable vial that when broken, dowse the wearer with powerful smelling chemical. Usually comes with neutralizing chemical.

Advantages: Non-Lethal. Purchase and use are not restricted in any states.

Disadvantages: Not physically damaging. Willful intentions on part of attacker can easily nullify effect.

There are also various forms of kubotons/keychains (small bars made of metal or plastic that are held in the fist). Be careful - any extruding parts could be classified as "Brass Knuckles" which are illegal in many states. As well, many airports will not allow you to carry these on the plane.

Makeshift weapons include: Hair Picks; Pencil/Pen; Keys; Hot Coffee/Tea; Hair spray; Steering Wheel Locks; Dirt; Rocks; Sticks; Loose Change; Pots & Pans; Bottles; Chair/Stool; Golf Club; Shovel; Hair Pin; Roll of Quarters; Hand Weights; Pool Cue; Camera; Rolled-Up Magazine; Eyeliner; Umbrella; Briefcase; Purse; Toothbrush...and I could go on ad nauseam....

If it is has a point - thrust it at them. If it is long - swing it at them. If it is flat - use it as a shield. For everything else - throw it at them. Even a teddy bear in the face gives you a moment of surprise.

But always remember - the most effective weapon of all is Your Brain! Utilize your environment.

And do not hesitate - take your advantage and either Run or Fight! With every ounce of strength you have. Use your fear and anger. We have all heard about the 90 lb. mom who lifted the overturned automobile to allow her child to crawl out to safety. It isn't a miracle - it's called adrenaline. It's the beast that resides within us all. But you first must unleash it.

Copyright 1999-2000 by Guard Up, Inc.

About The Author

Meghan Gardner is the CEO and Instructor Director for Guard Up, Inc., a company that offers programs to companies and organizations in martial arts, Japanese fencing and swordsmanship (Kendo and Iaido), European fencing, boxing and Street Defense. ASAP Seminars, a subsidiary of Guard Up, provides assault prevention training to clients across the country.

Mrs. Gardner is also the founder of the American Martial Way Association, a martial arts system based out of eastern Massachusetts. She has been actively training and teaching in the arts and assault prevention (with a specialty in Knife/Counter-Knife Techniques) for 18 years. More information can be found at:

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Self-defense, Pepper spray,Mace Spray, Stun Gun, hand gun, stench ointments, kubotons, Brass Knuckles, Makeshift weapons

Read more articles by Meghan Gardner

Return to Self Defense

Return to the Main Reading Room



Advertising InformationFeedback
Home Forums Reading Room Estore About Us

Copyright 2017 - 2030 a division of eCommunities LLC.
All rights reserved. Use of this website is governed by the Terms of Use .

Privacy Statement

Action Ads
1.5 Million Plus Page Views
Only $89

Self Defense
Offering stun guns, pepper spray, tasers and other self defense products not available in stores.

Pepper Spray
Online distributor of self defense supplies like videos, stun guns, Tasers and more.

Spy Cameras
Surveillance, Hidden Cameras, Nanny Cams, Digital Recorders, Spy Equipment, Pocket DVR's and more

Stun Gun
Wholesale Directlhy to the Public! Stun gun and Taser Guns and personal protection products. Keep your loved ones at home safe!


Unbreakable Unbrella