In parts 1-4 of our series we covered a few steps that you can take to protect yourself at home, at the office, and while on the street in the last part of our series we are going to cover protecting yourself using pepper sprays and firearms.
NOTHING in this article SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE! It is up to YOU to know the laws of your city, town, and state and what constitutes the LEGAL application of pepper sprays and deadly force under those laws. This article is meant to be merely a series of recommendations that will allow you to make an informed decision on whether or not you wish to add another, more deadly deterrent layer to your security plan.
Modern aerosol pepper sprays typically consist of a propellant, a carrier or dispersant, and oleoresin capsicum, a reddish-brown, oily material that contains many related chemicals and is extracted from chili peppers. It works by triggering the body’s pain sensors creating a sensation of intense heat. The Scoville Heat Unit, (S.H.U.) a measure of a given pepper’s spiciness, is based on capsaicin content. typically Tabasco peppers rate in the tens of thousands of S.H.U.s; Habanero’s are in the low hundreds of thousands. A typical pepper spray used by police might be rated in the low millions.
In an effort to discover the a way to mitigate the effects of pepper spray in 2008 a study was conducted at Fort Sam Houston, during the study forty-nine volunteer-law-enforcement trainees, their faces, specifically, were exposed to pepper spray as part of their normal training. Researchers then separated them into five groups, each of which attempted to alleviate the effects with a different substance: water, milk, baby shampoo, lidocaine cream, or Maalox. They found the only effective treatment was time.
The sale and use of pepper sprays among civilians has grown nearly 600% (according to industry statistics) and is legal for sale and possession in all 50 states, though most states have some form of regulation on its possession and use. You can find a complete listing of state laws regarding the sale and use of pepper spray here.
How to Carry Your Pepper Spray
If you are female and anything even remotely like my wife you ever go anywhere without your purse or handbag, It doesn’t matter if you are on your way to school, to work, shopping, or just to visit friends or family, you grab your purse on the way out the door. When you get out of your car, you take your purse, it’s always with you and that means your pepper spray is too. the large inside pocket of your purse can be a poor location because if it falls to the bottom, the canister is not always accessible. You should always carry it in an outside purse pocket, if you must carry your pepper spray inside the main compartment of your purse use one of the small, open inside pockets to make sure it is always available.
Another great way to carry pepper spray is in one of the “Pepper Pens” or new “Pepper Phones” that are out. They are ideal ways for you to carry pepper spray while at work without raising any concerns with your employer or co-workers.
You can also carry your pepper spray on a key chain or in your pocket. You would think that your own neighborhood would be safe. But most assaults occur within 1 mile or less of a person’s home or workplace. And the risk isn’t just walking near your home or to and from a parking garage. A violent situation can happen anywhere, even at the local mall or in a restaurant. Violent assaults can also be committed for reasons of racial, sexual or other discrimination. So carrying your pepper spray when you leave your home is a good idea.
Tips for Using Pepper Spray
Shouting “STOP!” creates a slight diversion. Raising your arm, the one without the pepper spray toward the predator may cause his immediate attention to be focused on that hand, not the one with the pepper spray. This gives you time to shoot the spray before the predator can react.
Never thrust the hand with pepper spray (your shooting hand)out in front of you towards the predator. They may react quickly and hit your hand aside or grab it! Shout “STOP!” as you shoot, back up and continue backing up away from the assailant. This gives you a little more time and draws the predator into the pepper spray cloud you are creating.
If you do have to use your pepper spray make sure you have some distance (3′-6′ minimum) between you and the predator if at all possible. Aim the spray at the eyes and facial region of the predator then release a 1 to 2 second burst of spray. After you have done this MOVE out-of-the-way but keep your eyes on the predator. Pepper spray ingredients can take a couple of moments to cause a reaction and by watching the reactions of the predator you will be able to determine if they require another shot of liquid justice.
If a predator is attempting to attack you, always move off the line of force before spraying. Deliver the pepper spray by in a few short bursts of a second or so each in an “X” or “Z” pattern. You can’t always count on the predator staying still and spraying in a pattern will help you hit the assclown. Once you have delivered a good dose of your liquid justice, get out of there! Once you are safe, contact the police and report the attack. You want your description of the attack to be the first one they hear.
Obviously you may not have time to shoot the pepper spray in such a textbook way as described above. You may not have time to do anything but bring the spray up and start shooting. If that’s the case, don’t worry about aiming correctly, or even correcting aim. JUST SHOOT! Use a “fan” pattern which is to say hold the button down and swing the spray from side to side in a small arc. Keep in mind if you shoot your spray in this way you will deplete the can very quickly.
An old saying goes, “God made all men, Col. Sam Colt made them all equal.” Firearms allow even those who are weak and infirm stand up against the largest predators. Simply having a firearm reduces the fear of becoming a victim of violent predators. If you choose to use a firearm as part of your self-protection plan then there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
- If you have children assume they will find your firearm and play with it, unless you have taken the time to teach them firearms safety. So TEACH THEM FIREARMS SAFETY!
- Simply owning a firearm, going to the range, and putting holes in paper DOES NOT MAKE YOU A GUNFIGHTER!
- Do Not carry a firearm unless you are prepared mentally to take a life! I have seen and heard far too many “Armchair Rambo’s” who talked a great game but when the time came to put their money where their mouth was, so to speak, they ended up dead, usually by their own firearm.
- Seek out professional training in Gun Fighting (which you can find here). No disrespect to your Uncle Bob the Vietnam vet, who is without a doubt a total bad ass, so much has changed in Gun Fighting since then what he is teaching you is probably going to get you killed.
- Know the firearms laws for your state! You can find a list of them here.
There about as many opinions on which firearm “is the best” for personal protection as there are people on this damn rock so I am not going to keep things in more general terms when it comes to firearm selection.
Having seen and used various firearms for personal defense over my years in Special Operations, as a Contractor, and in LE I have come to the conclusion that the minimum defensive caliber is .380. Anything smaller and you just don’t have the power you need to stop a predator. Not that the .380 is a “powerhouse” of stopping power itself, at close range it will certainly make a person think twice about continuing an attack.
What I tell people when they ask what firearm they should use for self-defense is, that they should carry and use the largest caliber handgun they can safely control. Now just because you can “safely” fire a .50AE Desert Eagle doesn’t mean that should be the weapon you carry and depend on for self-defense. The heavy recoil and slow follow-up shots make it a poor choice for self-defense. Handguns in the 9mm to .45ACP range make for some really great self-defense handguns and come in a large variety of configurations.
Semi-Auto or Revolver
This debate has raged for years and there are no easy answers and no “correct” answers. While revolvers are easier to operate, have fewer FTF’s (Failure to Fire) and come in a large variety of calibers they are more difficult to reload quickly, carry fewer rounds, and typically have heavier recoil do to their smaller size and weight. The decision is one of personal taste and the amount of training you are willing to undertake to become proficient in the use of a handgun. As a matter of personal choice I carry a semi-auto Sig-Sauer P220 .45 ACP AND a S&W Airweight in .357 as a back-up to my back-up.
The 9mm has been a staple of self-defense for many years, the light recoil (compared to other handguns), large magazine capacity, and the easy availability of ammo make a 9mm a prefect handgun for self-defense, especially for women. The only issue I have with the 9mm is that more often than not it takes multiple shots to eliminate a threat. I have seen well-trained shooters have to dump 9 or 10 rounds into a bad guy before that threat was eliminated. this is mainly due to the speed at which the 9mm travels and its relatively small diameter , it tends to pass through soft tissue very quickly and doesn’t impart its full kinetic energy to the target. That is not to say that you should dismiss the 9mm out of hand as your weapon of choice, it just means you need to be aware of its shortcomings as a defensive caliber.
.40 Caliber Handguns
The .40 caliber was introduced by Smith & Wesson in 1990 as a replacement for the 9mm round. It is ballistically similar to the 9mm but with a muzzle velocity that exceeds all 9mm loads, and most .45ACP loads. Most pistols chambered for the .40 caliber round have a magazine capacity of 15 (except the compact and sub-compact models chambered for the round) compared to the 7 round capacity of most .45ACP pistols. One of the drawbacks of the .40 caliber pistols is that they tend to have noticeably more recoil than pistols chambered in 9mm and ,45ACP, this is especially true for inexperienced shooters.
.40 caliber pistols have stopping power that exceeds the 9mm and thus requires fewer follow-up shots to eliminate a threat. Because of this increased stopping power the FBI, DHS, and many local police departments started switching to the .40 caliber beginning in 1995. Recently, these same agencies began looking for a replacement caliber and have begun looking to the venerable 9mm again.
.45 ACP Pistols
The .45 ACP was first developed by John Browning in 1904 at the request of the US Army and adopted by the US Military in 1911 for use in Browning’s 1911 pistol. It was used by US forces until 1980 when it was replaced by the Beretta M9 in 9mm.
The .45 ACP has great stopping power and accuracy which make it an awesome choice for self-defense. I used the SIg-Sauer P220 .45 ACP while running around Iraq and Afghanistan to great effect in close quarters.
The only drawbacks to the .45 ACP are its relatively heavy recoil, overall weight, and its inability to defeat body armor. though with training and proper shot placement these shortcomings can be easily overcome.
Shotguns come in everything from .410 to 4 GA, though 20 GA and 12 GA are the most common shotguns used for self-defense.
If you are considering adding a firearm as part of your home security plan a shotgun can’t be beat. It doesn’t take a “perfect aim” to hit your target, and one of the most recognized, and feared, sounds is that of a 12 GA being racked. Often times that sound alone is enough to cause a predator to run in fear. The recoil of a 12 GA can be a little intimidating for some, especially women, but with training and familiarity it can be easily overcome.
One thing to keep in mind if you decide to use a shotgun for home defense is that the pellets WILL go through 99.9% of house walls! You will have to very mindful of what is behind that wall, you don’t want to eliminate the bad guy and one of your kids or the dog too.
A Thought on Women and Shotguns
One of the reasons firing a 12 GA, or any shotgun for that matter, is particularly frightening for women is because of the ass clowns they call boyfriend or husband. Far too often a woman’s first introduction to any firearm is her boyfriend/husband handing her a 12 GA and saying, “Pull the trigger…” and then said ass clown laughing at her expense when she gets kicked back or drops the weapon. If you fit this description you aren’t doing her any favors! All you have done is give her a fear of a tool that could save her life or yours.
Less than Lethal Shotgun Rounds
In any gunfight, if you hesitate, you die. That is the short and sweet of it, if you even for one second think that the taking of a human life, and I use that term very loosely, might cause you to hesitate or you’re the kind of person who thinks even cops and soldiers who are being fired on should give a warning or ten (and yes, I have run into more than a few of those people) then you might want to consider using Less than Lethal rounds in your shotgun.
You can buy rounds for .410, 20 GA, and 12 GA that have rubber pellets, bean bags, or compressed graphite that when USED PROPERLY will cause a predator to hate life, but won’t end it for them, though they probably deserve it to end.
In the end the choice of lethal or less than lethal is going to depend on you and the laws in your state concerning defensive firearm use.
Rifles for Self-Defense
Regardless of what you may read elsewhere, or what the media tells you, rifles are excellent choices for self-defense, if they weren’t militaries around the world WOULDN’T USE THEM!
There are many different rifles that would fill the self-defense bill pretty well, but chief among these are the AK and AR Families of weapons systems.
The AR 15
The AR 15 is the civilian, semi-auto version of the military’s M-16/M4. It is a lightweight weapon that is very easy to control and it packs a very good punch. The AR 15 is the best-selling rifle in the US today with over 13.9 million copies out there right now!
Its 30 round magazine and very low recoil allow for fast and accurate follow-up shots. Like shotguns and hand guns you need to be sure what is behind your target because the .223/5.56 rounds used by the AR 15 will punch through more than one wall.
The AK Family of Weapons
the AK series of weapons are the most prolific in the world with nearly 75 million copies in the world. It fires the heavier 7.62×39 and like the AR 15 use a 30 round magazine, has low recoil, and is easily controlled for fast follow-up shots. It is somewhat heavier than the AR 15 series of weapons and it takes a bit more practice to reload quickly. Just like the AR 15 the AK series of weapons will punch holes through multiple walls so you have to be very careful as to what is behind your target.
Just like a handgun if you choose a rifle as your home defense weapon you will need training (that you can find here) to become proficient in using it for self-defense, and no, being level 60,000 in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or watching a bunch of movies doesn’t count.
There is an every growing market of gadgets and accessories that can be added to various weapons systems today. Don’t get sucked into all the hype about the latest doo-dad that “will make you shoot like an Operator…” you simply just don’t need all the extra crap available today, though the various manufacturers certainly want you to think you do.
With practice, training (there’s that word again), and some basic knowledge you can achieve the same results that new shiny promises without having to shell out an extra $400-$500.
While having a weapon mounted light or a reflex sight will make certain task easier they aren’t a requirement. I, and countless others, can achieve the same or better results just as quickly as someone with all the latest bells and whistles attached to their weapons system simply because we train, train, and train some more, and so can you.
By adding pepper spray or a firearm to your security plan and learning how to use them properly you add greatly to your ability to protect yourself and your family. I can’t stress enough that you should get training (which is available here) so you will be better prepared should you have to defend yourself using deadly force.
Contrary to what is being portrayed in the media you ARE NOT more likely to be killed your own firearm in a violent engagement with a predator, but quite the opposite! You are more likely to END a violent confrontation with a predator in your favor by having a firearm. These false stories of firearms owners being injured or killed with their own weapon are the result of someone in a domestic abuse situation having a firearm in the home being used against them, this is why it is vitally important that you extricate yourself from any abusive relationship as quickly as you can!
Make sure you know the laws regarding firearms and pepper sprays in your city and state BEFORE you go out and get one! The idea is to protect yourself, not break the law! Once you have made the decision to add a firearm as part of your security plan it is up to you to make sure that everyone in your house is trained how to safely use it, it isn’t going to do your wife any damn good to have a weapon for self-defense if she has no idea how to use it properly or worse your kids decide it is a toy that can be played with because you didn’t take the time to teach them proper firearms safety and handling!
I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!
Nothing in this article is intended to be a substitute for training on the safe use of firearms. Nothing in this article is meant as legal advice and you a solely responsible for checking both state and local laws concerning firearms, pepper sprays, and the use of deadly force. Vanguard Survival, LLC, the author, their agents and assigns are not responsible for any misuse or misunderstanding of the information contained in this article.
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