There are many devices available on the market to enhance personal safety. Some can be effective. Some are not effective. Some are junk.
First, some of the devices:
"...instantly stops attacker..."
Sounds effective, eh?WRONG!!!
Stun guns supposedly use electrodes to, when pressed against an attacker's clothing or flesh, send high voltages (50,000 to 300,000 volts at a tiny fraction of an amp) of electricity streaming through the assailant's body, instantly disabling them by overwhelming the assailant's nervous system.
When these devices first came on the market, some police officers and others were even video-taped in demonstrations where the stun guns supposedly "knocked them down" — carefully staged demonstrations where the person being "stunned" had been set up -hyped- into thinking they were going to be knocked down.
Through lengthy discussion of how it was going to feel, signing liability waivers, placing cushions/mats below where they would surely fall, placing strong men on either side to catch them before they hit the ground, and other psychological tricks to "prep" them into truly believing they were going to be physically knocked off their feet.
Well, if you believe something strongly enough, it may happen. Unfortunately, your attacker will probably not be so carefully prepped into believing that your stun gun is going to have the desired effect...
Our OUPD self-defense instructors became aware of the the problem of all the bogus "zappers" on the market several years ago at an Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) school where the trainers advised that the FBI had conducted testing on a number of "stun gun" devices on the market and had found: 1) none that worked as claimed (i.e. disabling an attacker) and, 2) some that didn't even produce enough power to cause any significant pain to the attacker.
Our self defense instructors have attended CLEET training where we've repeatedly "zapped" each other with various brands and models of "stun guns". The effects?
Being "zapped" by a stun gun just made us MAD!
And that's very likely what will happen if you use a stun gun on an assailant...just make them very mad.
Firearms are unlawful to carry, especially when concealed, in most states. Many states have passed laws allowing citizens to obtain permits for concealed carry, but impose conditions and qualifications which must be met before a firearm can be acquired and carried. Firearms are the most lethal legal weapon, and (depending upon the type of ammunition used) may inflict fatal injuries on unintended targets.
If you're thinking about a firearm for personal defense, make absolutely certain you're informed about the applicable laws.
And, if you're considering a firearm for personal defense, definitely plan on seeking out proper TRAINING on safe use, defensive/combat and weapon retention training (keeping an attacker from taking it away from you!) AND practice.
Knives may be unlawful to carry, depending upon their size and type. Those which are legal to carry are often not very effective as weapons. Knives are difficult to achieve proficiency with, and almost impossible to practice with effectively. Knives require close proximity for use, and thus put you closer to an attacker.
While knives can be very effective as defensive weapons, proficiency takes professional training and plenty of practice.
Martial Arts Devices
Ranging from swords to kubatons (essentially a short stick), martial arts devices may be unlawful to carry. Those which are legal can be effective only in the hands of a trained user, and the user must practice frequently to maintain proficiency. These devices also necessitate close proximity for use. Not recommended.
There are a variety of devices available whose utility as a weapon is disguised. Ranging from push-knives which double as belt-buckles to very thin blades enclosed in ball-point pen casings, the majority of these are unlawful. They are also exceptionally difficult to access and get into use if attacked by surprise (and most criminals don't announce their attack). These devices also necessitate close proximity for use. Not recommended.
Pitfalls of Chemical Weapons
The majority of the following statements are applicable to almost any chemical weapons, whether it be aerosol, stream, foam, or otherwise applied:
Pepper Spray (Oleoresin Capsicum)
Unlike "zappers", pepper spray may be quite effective, if used properly, under certain circumstances.
Many police departments issue pepper spray for use by their officers, including OUPD. Police generally use the same 10% concentration mixture available to the general public. Pepper sprayers are available to the public in 5% and 10% concentrations in many states.
Before you run out and buy a canister of pepper spray, however, consider:
Pepper spray is legal to sell/carry/use in most states.
Other Chemical Sprays
"Tear Gas" (chemically alphachlorocedenphone and generically 'CN') is sold in packages intended for use by citizens as a self-defense device. It works by irritating the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and throat. It is fairly effective if sprayed into a "normal" person's nose or throat or directly into the eyes. Considered by many authorities to be less effective than OC Spray.
Chemical dyes, especially those which are "invisible to the naked eye" are almost universally worthless for self-defense. Not only does law enforcement not have ultraviolet detection lights conveniently available in most cases, the application is indiscriminate, and innocent bystanders in the vicinity when the material is used are as likely to be "dyed" as the intended target.
Some chemical sprays come in "foam" form; be aware that a target can gather foam and throw it back at the user....
There are hybrid chemical sprays on the market that combine OC and CN, and these are considered by some to be more effective than either agent by itself.
There are a nearly infinite variety of martial arts which may be learned. Some are intended for defense while others are primarily offensive. Every martial art requires physical dexterity, conditioning, very substantial mental discipline, and lots of practice. To think that you can take a few lessons and pick up a few pointers and be ready to defend yourself is delusional. While martial arts techniques certainly do enable a diminutive individual to defeat a larger, stronger person, success is dependent upon proper execution; difficult in the practice environment and often impossible under conditions encountered in everyday activities.
We encourage participation in martial arts; they're good for you mentally and physically, and constitute outstanding exercise even if you never utilize the techniques. But we discourage the "ordinary person" from relying upon martial arts for personal safety and defense.
The short classes OUPD teaches in "self-defense" are focused almost exclusively on "escape and evade" tactics and discourage in the strongest terms any confrontation with or retaliation upon an attacker. The best defense if attacked is to draw public attention to the occurrence. The best defense prior to attack is to develop sound personal security habits, maintain awareness, and project an appearance of confidence.
(or even a simple whistle)
Many types of electronic alarm mechanisms are available, often on keychain attachments, which can be carried and sounded if you find yourself in trouble as a way of attracting attention and discouraging an assailant. Better models produce sound levels above 110 decibels.
As a device, such items are still only useful if kept immediately at hand. If you don't have it with you, or readily available, when assaulted, it won't do you any good. A positive side is that these devices are not offensive weapons and can't really be used against you like a can of pepper spray might be, should the attacker take it away from you.
Like virtually all electronic personal defense devices, if the battery is not replaced, it will eventually just be taking up space in a purse or pocket, useful only as a handy object to throw at an assailant.
If you're considering a "noise maker" as a means of summoning help, alerting passers-by, and discouraging an assailant, we'd suggest you consider a good quality whistle. There are several extremely loud whistles on the market that have no moving parts, no batteries to replace, have little weight, take up little space, cost very little, and can be used while running away from an assailant.
Unlike an offensive weapon, noise-makers don't require that you be (and stay) within a certain proximity of your attacker to use. You don't have to "confront" your attacker to use a noisemaker.
The only self-defense "device" that OUPD endorses for use by the public is a simple, loud, whistle. (The kind you blow.) We even distribute "personal safety" whistles at some crime prevention events.
Consider, however, that just making noise isn't enough. If there are other people in the area, yell to get their attention and call for them to help. Yell for them to call the police. Even yelling at an non-existent passerby to call the police ("Hey, YOU! Call the police!") may make your attacker pause to look, giving you a chance to gain distance and get away.
Why your "self-defense strategy" shouldn't be built around a device:
There are a number of components to building an effective self-defense strategy. While gadgets and devices may be handy, if available, we strongly recommend against purchasing and carrying one as your central strategy for dealing with an assault:
What you don't want to do is depend on a single device, ploy, or defense technique to handle any possible assault under any set of conditions.
A well prepared/trained person will have given the potential for an assault a lot of "pre-thinking" and pre-planning.
That well-prepared person will have the confidence that comes from knowing both his/her limitations and strengths, and have a flexible strategy that accommodates varying circumstances and which can best utilize whatever tools or conditions are at hand.
Good preparation for an active defense includes not only simply learning some good defense techniques in a book/classroom, but also practicing the techniques, visualization, role-play training, how to use common items as defensive tools, as well as preventive measures including such things as body language and eye contact in public, how to minimizing your risk factors, and creating positive mental images of how you will handle, and survive, any type of potential assault.
And, no matter how many techniques you learn, the first rule to avoid an assault is often, "Run!" Even police officers have to be taught that there are certain times when "descretion is the better part of valor" and it's wise to pull back and call for reinforcements. The best self-defense strategy is usually:
There are a number of excellent books on the market, at any major bookstore, which can help you devise your personal defense strategy. Most communities also have local martial arts instructors, or even free defense training through the local police department.
Contact the Crime Prevention Unit of your local police department to find out what type of training resources may be available in your area.
OUPD offers free defensive tactics training each semester to both campus individuals/groups and to the general public.
Before you consider purchasing a gadget for self defense, consider buying a book on the subject, or attending a local class/workshop. We think you'll definitely be glad you did.
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