Updated on 12/03/2018
On an e-mail list I’m on, there was a discussion about what your every day carry for self defense is. This is a topic of debate that you routinely find on the Internet. There are usually two camps:
- You can never carry enough weapons/ammo aka “Lock and load, boys! There’s no such thing as overkill!”
- Only carry a minimum for what you might need.
The funny thing on the list was this: a professional soldier, one who is active in a war zone and has seen the elephant, got his rant on about civilians who walk around trying to imitate an armory. I think he has a point. It’s fashionable these days to talk about carrying multiple knives and guns plus ammo because you might:
- Lose the knife so you can go for a back up. And when you lose that one you still have five more back ups to go to.
- You can throw the knife because you still have back ups.
- If your gun runs dry, you just grab another, no need to reload.
- If you do need to reload, you have tons of ammo on you.
As such, I don’t think these statements are wrong per se. They seem logical and have a ring of common sense to them. But that still doesn’t mean they are right. Let’s take a look.
Some basic assumptions.
Before I move on, I’ll make a couple of basic assumptions about you, dear reader. I admit up front, they will be off for some of you. If that’s the case, don’t get upset about what I’ll write next. But for the most of you, I’m willing to bet my Metallica vinyl record collection that I’m not too far off. Here goes:
- Most of you are civilians. If you’re not a LEO or a soldier, then you’re a civilian. Statistically speaking, there are always more civilians in society than otherwise. If not, then you’re living in a dictatorship. (Sucks to be you, BTW…)
- Most of you haven’t been shot at or stabbed at in the last month or so. If you have, you’re one of those exceptions I mentioned before.
- Most of you haven’t been shot at or stabbed at more than once in your life. It can happen to anybody, sure, but it doesn’t necessarily happens more than once.
- Most of you aren’t involved in illegal activities. And by that I don’t mean swearing or pissing on the walls of city hall. However, if you’re in “The Life”, then you’re an exception too. (Sucks to be you too, BTW…)
- Most of you have wives, husbands,partners,children, etc. Meaning, you have people who count on you to be there for them. At the same time, these are the people you’ll fight for, to make sure they’re safe.
- You live in a democracy with laws and regulations. You’re a citizen in a country with a justice system and police to back it up. However imperfect these may be, they’re still there.
Tell you what, I’ll even bet my Megadeth CD collection that I’m spot on for the majority of readers here. :-)
So everything. If this list describes you (and I’m confident it does for most of you), then your life isn’t in immediate danger. Nor will it be in the foreseeable future. So do you really need to be armed to the teeth every time you step outside? I don’t think so. If you insist on doing so, then you’re loading up for other reasons than self defense. Maybe because you feel insecure. Or because you enjoy carrying those weapons. Or perhaps you have a phobia that makes you believe there are assassins lurking behind every corner. Could be a lot of reasons. But self defense? Not really.
While I’m all for being prepared, I’m against preparing for things that are as unlikely to happen as a meteor hitting me on the head while I’m walking down the street. It’s possible, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be sprinting from doorway to doorway in an effort to dodge those meteorites. Nor should you.
My point is: if my basic assumptions apply to you, then there is no need for you to walk around armed to the teeth. Could something extremely bad happen to you? Of course, I never claimed otherwise. But does the mere existence of a remote possibility necessitate being armed to the teeth? No. If it would, you’d always be zig-zagging through the street, making sure you have adequate cover for when that meteor comes down too…
What if the feces hits the rotating blades big time?
It can happen. In fact, every day, for many people around the world, it does. But that still doesn’t mean all those weapons will make a difference on that day. Case in point:
A few years ago, three guys with Uzis robbed a supermarket I occasionally go to; it’s 10 min. from my house. Had I been there, the best thing to do would have been to drop to the floor and get to the back of the store. To do that effectively, how many knives I carry doesn’t make a damn difference…
Time for a reality check: what if I want to confront them?
Confront them with what? A knife? A gun? Two knives, a gun and pepper spray? Against three guys with Uzis? Doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me…
Another reality check: anything that gives me good odds against three guys with sub-machine guns is unlikely to be very portable. Let alone be legal to carry around (my country has insanely strict gun laws.) So that’s not a realistic option either.
If confrontation is out, that leaves self-defense. What if they come after me for some reason and I have no other choice but to act? Then that knife or gun means I don’t die alone, at best. But it still doesn’t do me much good to survive the situation. Not compared to trying to escape.
This is an extreme example, I know, and you can scale it down to situations where a knife or gun will definitely be useful. But that’s not the issue. My point is, I don’t see that many situations where three or four knives/guns strapped all over your body will make the difference between life and death. That’s just not a realistic scenario for the vast majority of people. If it does happen to you and you survive, then your thought process should go something like “WTF was I doing that I end up in a situation where three knives isn’t enough?” In other words, you screwed up long before there was a need to clear leather.
I understand this won’t win me any brownie points with some of you and that’s OK. But before you write a flaming comment on this post, go to your local PD and ask them this question:
How many incidents have there been where somebody needed to pull a third or fourth weapon to successfully defend himself?
Then you ask:
How many incidents have there been where pulling one weapon was enough?
Now compare both figures.
To put it mildly: in most Western countries, there will be a gaping abyss between both figures.
So I say again, for most people there is no need to pack multiple weapons to safely go about their daily lives.
What do you suggest then, Mr. Smartypants?
We all make our own security assessment and act accordingly. Nobody can do that for you and I’m not claiming I’m right and everybody else is wrong. What I am saying is that a bit of realism and perspective might be a good thing for your daily self-defense carry. Not only to avoid wasting time preparing for a situation that is extremely unlikely to happen. But also for the consequences that could follow:
In this day and age, cameras are everywhere; even when you wouldn’t expect them to be present. On top of that, almost everybody has a cellphone with camera function. Just go to Youtube and you’ll find a truckload of videos caught that way. So chances are high everything you do is going to be on video for when your trial comes up. If it looks to the jury like you’re going for one weapon after the other, the term “vigilante justice” will soon replace “self defense” in the courtroom you’ll find yourself in.
Even if there are no cameras, don’t just assume you’ll get away with using a weapon. Because believe it or not, it’s much harder to do that than ever before in history. The press loves to drone on and on about the cases where the police doesn’t find a killer or the perpetrator of a violent assault. But they fail to mention all the cases they do solve. There’s a bunch more of the latter, so don’t think they’ll never catch you if you use your weapons.
Case in point:
Ten days ago, a few guys shot and killed three people here in Brussels. Probably a carjacking gone bad. Last week, the police caught one guy in Luxembourg. This week, they caught two more who were laying low in Paris.
That’s only ten days from the killers running and hiding in two different countries, to having everybody in custody…
Sure, there are still a bunch of assaults and murders that happen without anybody ever being brought to justice. Again, I’m not denying that. But do you really think it’s a good idea to count on getting lucky that the police screws up as a survival strategy?
And then there’s the justice system.
Even if you are in a clear self defense situation, the prosecutor or the other guy’s lawyer will have a field day when the cops bring you in (if only for questioning or to hear your statement) and you’re clanking because of all the hardware that’s on you. Kind of hard that way to convince people you’re a peaceful guy…
Enough already, what should I carry?
If by now you think I’m advocating carrying nothing at all for your daily self defense needs, you’re wrong. My whole point with the above was to convince you to think realistically about many aspects before deciding on what to pack. For me, that means self defense is about awareness, avoidance and preparation just as much as using weapons. Here’s a selection of things that fall into these four categories. I believe they are all useful for self defense, but you can carry them for more purposes than just that
One caveat for my Belgian readers: I’m not advocating carrying everything listed here as it is illegal to do so in our country. The list below is simply an an example of what I would consider to be valid choices for self-defense. That said, here goes:
I’ve been using the Photon Micro Light for years now and it’s been an exceedingly practical tool.
I’ve attached it to my key ring and it hasn’t moved from there since; it’s rock solid. I got rid of all the metal you see in this picture and looped my key ring straight through the hole on the body of the micro light itself.
How is this a self defense tool?
- I use it as a divider between my house keys and the two other ones. This way, I can get the right key by feel and can keep my eyes open for my immediate environment.
- Many years ago, it prevented me from be assaulted in basement when the lights suddenly went out. I used my micro light and right away, I was the only person in the room who could control how much everybody could see. Kept things nice and civilized.
I’ve had my Samsung Galaxy S6 for almost six motnhs now and love it. It’s just the right size for my needs and has a bunch of functions that are very useful.
What’s the self defense use?
- I can call for help whenever I need it, call an ambulance if I get injured, call back up if I mess up so bad I need it. I charge my phone every day, by the way, so I never run out of battery when I need to make an emergency call. Charging it up every day is SOP.
- I can make videos in a heart beat. As more people become aware of cellphone cameras, they understand the potential to incriminate themselves and leave video-evidence to boot. So whipping out your cellphone and start recording can be an effective SD strategy. Caveat: I’d only suggest it in low-level situations, lest you piss the guy off and he shoves your phone where the sun doesn’t shine… As an example: a while ago a young stud with a muscle car decided to harass me on the highway for no apparent reason. He would cut me off, hit the brakes, etc. Then he’d drive next to me and his girlfriend flipped me off repeatedly. As soon as I started filming her with my cellphone, the car accelerated and they sped off…
- The phone allows me to avoid situations where I might be targeted. I need to pick somebody up in a bad neighborhood? I call to confirm they’re there and we arrange things so I’m only parked for a few seconds. then I’m moving again. Something forces me to change the plan (like thugs hanging out in front if the door), I call up and change the rendez-vous. The same goes for a million other situations where you get lost, end up in the wrong part of town, wait too long to get to safety: making that one call beforehand avoids situations where you have no other choice than to fight.
A friend of mine gave me a Pepper Spray Kubotan as a gift and it’s one of those weapons that looks silly until you think it through.
- In every situation where pepper spray is a good solution to the problem, you’ve got it.
- If you need a strike enhancer, you’ve got it. Though I do feel making the most of a kubotan takes some training. So you’re probably better off doing that a bit first.
- But this tool works best when you use the Horatii defense: When you have to move into action, run fiercely. As you run, empty the pepper spray behind you. Anybody that can run through that cloud of pepper spray and catch up to you and force you to stop, will have a hard time taking a solid blow from a kubotan. I’ve practiced this many times but only came close to using it once. Glad I managed to de-escalate that one because ten against two is not great odds, kubotan or not… (BTW, the full Horatii fight is here. Sneaky, I like it…)
We’re finally there, a knife! Woohoo!
Seriously, a knife is just a tool. It’s not a magic wand that makes your attacker go away. As with all tools, it has strong and weak points. So let’s not get hung up on it.
- I don’t like folders all that much. The require more training to open correctly under adrenal stress. Fixed blades are easier.
- Once you get your finger through the ring and grab the handle, it’s hard for somebody to take away your knife. Or for you to drop it…
- These knives are primarily for cutting. Which is what I prefer over stabbing in most cases. It’s a personal preference, so to each his own.
- When I was 18, one of my friends burned alive when he got stuck in his car after a crash. I vowed never to go out like that if I can help it. The serrated bear claw-type knife lets you cut a seat belt and break a car window in a matter of seconds. I’ve tried it, works fine.
- It’s also a great knife to open boxes and do general cutting.
- Obviously, if you are injured after having to defend yourself, then you need the tools to make sure you don’t die or end up with a permanent injury. A portable first aid kit is exactly what you need to have on you then. If your injuries are severe but you are still conscious, you can tell an intervening bystander to use it in your stead.
- There are all sorts of shapes, sizes and levels of quality for these kits. If you’re unsure of what to get, start with a small, cheap medical pouch and then stuff it with some basic supplies. Or you can go for a bigger kit, one you carry in your car or in a backpack. It might take some trial and error until you figure out what works best for your specific circumstances.
- Of course, this kit is useless if you don’t train how to use it. I can recommend these guys if you live in the US. Failing that, contact your local Red Cross chapter and they’ll be able to help you learn the basics of first aid care. You can build on that later on. If you live in europe, try this.
Why no guns?
Because it’s illegal to carry one where I live, barring getting a carry license, which is extremely difficult. Which brings us to another point: make sure your daily carry items are legal where you live/travel. If they’re not and you use them, the justice system will screw you over, regardless if you were acting in self defense or not.
You’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six?
No worries: when you use illegal weapons to defend yourself, you likely will be judged afterwards. And, as Marc likes to say, take painful showers in prison with a guy named “Bubba”. Beats being dead, I guess. But using a legal instead of an illegal weapon and staying out of jail is even better. Which brings me to my final point:
Your daily carry should be the result of a long and individual thought process with the ultimate goal of keeping you not only alive but out of prison too. During that process, you should take many different factors into consideration. The number of the weapons you decide to carry is only one of those.
I shared a part of my thought process in this article, some of the assumptions and relevant points for my personal situation. These may or may not apply to you personally. If so, great. If not, figure out what works for you and take it from there.
P.S.: I wrote a follow-up article on how to choose a knife for everyday carry. You might enjoy reading that one too.