The false gods of self-defense:
We had the pleasure of attending a gun show a few weeks ago. There were the typical gun sales booths, concealment shelves booths, those annoying vape guys, and a plethora of booths that sold knives. I also some a few booths that sold stun guns in the name of non-lethal self-defense. It was explained to me (by THREE different people at THREE different booths) that a stun gun can incapacitate someone for 5-10 minutes while you can run away. I thought that just seemed too good to be true! If it were true wouldn’t law enforcement and military folks be using these regularly? Sure, law enforcement have and use Tasers, but it’s not all the time and it’s not for the reasons that the civilian market says it is. Admittedly I didn’t know much about stun guns, Tasers, or pepper spray so I decided to do some research as this defensive tool seemed too good to be true. This article entails what I found.
First, let’s talk about stun guns:
This device was created in the mid 70’s as a pain compliant device. It was intended to aid law enforcement officers in arresting a threat. Theoretically, a law enforcement officer would use this device when a bad guy was resisting arrest. The officer would stun him and hopefully, the bad guy would comply with the officer’s orders. The downside to this device, however, was that the officers had to already be hands-on the bad guy to use this device. For us civilians, that means that the bad guy is within arm’s length. That’s way too close for my taste. The clothing thickness on the bad guy definitely impacts how well the stun gun can change the bad guy’s behavior. This is something that one must be aware of when dealing with stun guns. You might possibly just burn a hole in his jacket, not immobilize him in the least.
A stun gun has two prongs that come in contact with the bad guy. Theoretically, it immobilizes the attacker quickly and effectively allowing the victim to run away or officers to gain control of the situation. The stun gun uses amperage and because the amperage is very low, it is said to cause little to no harm. However, the supposed immobilization effect only lasts while the stun gun is “stunning”.
The Reality of Stun Guns:
This device was intended to be a pain compliant device also. When this device is used within its intended purpose it works great. However, when used as a SELF-DEFENSE tool to stop the threat from attacking, causing more harm, raping, kidnapping you, this device fails in an epic way!
The reason is because it’s very simple to knock it off contact with the bad guy. This means that the bad guy can bat at your arm or hand and once the stun gun is no longer in contact with him he is no longer in pain. There are no lasting effects in an attacker, other than the possible slight discomfort of the skin, once the stun gun is removed from direct pressure from the assailant. As demonstrated in MANY YouTube videos (links below), those who are willing stunned by a stun gun show no signs of quick immobilization. They are not even briefly dazed or confused, not to mention immobilized.
At the gun show that we were in I was able to speak with a few different companies about their stun guns. Again, self-admittedly I didn’t know a lot about these devices so my intent was to get information then go research it. One company, pink pepper spray something, was one of the companies that I was able to get information from. This lovely lady was so severely misinformed. She told me that when she walks to her vehicle at night that she gets her stun gun out and buzzes it around herself as if she is spritzing on perfume. “UM, WHUT?” was my first thought. While this method of use may make her feel better, that she is presenting herself as an “armed and dangerous threat”, all this simply does is let a bad guy know that this is (more than likely) her ONLY means of self-defense. This also takes away her element of surprise should she be attacked. Not to mention that the bad guy could come up behind her and snatch’s it out of her hand and she would be up a creek.
The biggest problem with a stun gun is HOW THEY ARE MARKETED. Another problem is potential customers not doing the proper research on this tool and what it was designed for. It was NOT designed for self-dense, end of story. There is a HUGE difference between pain compliance and self-defense. Think of pain compliance when you tug on your child’s ear when they’re not listening well or when you have to swat your baby’s hand when they try to play with an outlet. It is uncomfortable, but it’s not going to seriously hurt or kill them. Would you swat a bad guys hand, in pain compliance, when he’s trying to steal your purse or rape you? OF COURSE NOT! Tasers, stun guns, and pepper spray are pain compliant. They might deter the bad guy for a few moments, but they will not STOP THE THREAT PERMANENTLY.
Another of the booths that I was able to speak with was Damsel in Defense. The lovely young lady told me that if I stunned a bad guy that he would be immobilized for 3 and 8 minutes before he could move again. That sounds way too good to be true. What makes this whole issue heart breaking is that the CEO OF THE COMPANY has a video on YouTube (link below) that completely disproves this statement. She gets stunned and says “ouch” while still standing. Seriously guys… seriously.
Second, let’s talk about Tasers.
Tasers are a device similar to the stun gun but it has the capability to stun or “tase” a person at distance. Meaning that when the Taser is activated that two prongs, attached to two wires are jettisoned from the handheld device.
When the Taser prongs are jettisoned it must make contact with the threat in two locations to get the cross current, which makes it effective. It only one prong hits the bad guy, it’s 90% useless.
Just like the stun gun, the thickness of the clothing of the bad guy does impact how effectively the Taser works as a pain compliant device. Again, this is a pain compliance and will not STOP THE THREAT PERMANENTLY. The bad guy only complies (hopefully) when there is a pain. Once the pain stops, there is no longer compliance.
The Taser is a less than lethal force option for law enforcement to use when they are authorized to use lethal force.
The reality of Tasers:
With a Taser, you have to assume that you have time, distance, and opportunity to employ it. Where this becomes crucial is that civilian Tasers do not have a drive-stun option. This means that if you get a “bad hit” where the two prongs both don’t connect, that you cannot use your Taser as a stun gun.
As stated above, if the clothing is too thick it won’t work. Also, if you miss with one, or both, prongs you will need to change out your cartridge and start all over. Assuming that the 31-foot rule (formerly known as the 21-foot rule) doesn’t apply to you and the bag guy isn’t right on top of you by that point.
Here is a scenario that we often use when explaining Tasers to our clients. What if you’re walking in a dark parking garage and there are multiple threats? You can pull your Taser and zap the first bad guy. Now let’s pretend its winter and he has a heavy jacket on so the zap isn’t as strong as it should be. Then you realize that there is one or even two other bad guys coming around the corner. To use your Taser on them as well you must disconnect the current cartridge, which effectively stops zapping the first bad guy who is more than likely just pissed off at this point. You now have to find and connect the new cartridge and employ the new cartridge at bad guy #2. All the while bad guy number 1 is still there and angry and you haven’t even touched bad guy #3 yet! This is a situation in which a firearm could effectively and quickly stop the threats.
Food for thought: this is purely for the civilian self-dense side of the house. Law Enforcement and Military are capable of obtaining these devices with different schematics and they can/do work differently.
Third, let’s talk pepper spray:
Pepper Spray and all capsaicin products are a pain compliant and disorientation product. Note that it is NOT a threat immobilization product. The pain and disorientation happen to assume that a direct hit and proper dispersion, of the product, happens. The risks are 1) you get blow back from the spray and being just as effected as the threat. 2) or worse, you come in contact with someone who has been pepper sprayed before and knows how to fight through it and understands that the pain is only temporary and limited.
Getting hit with pepper spray can be equated to child birth. Once your body reaches a certain level of pain, it just hurts. The varying degrees of pain melt away. However, just like child birth, you can work/fight your way through that. Our brain goes to our happy place and we still get the job done. If you speak with any law enforcement or military personnel they will likely tell you that it sucks, it burns, it made their eyes water, but when it was time to “go to work” or finish the drill, they still got the job done.
The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin. This is what makes peppers spicy! It’s just a plant ingredient. Getting pepper sprayed is like cutting onions or jalapenos and rubbing your skin or eyes.
The reality of pepper spray:
Many people have said that pepper spray will “temporarily blind” a bad guy. Well, that’s just plain not true. Any law enforcement officer, state trooper, and some military folks can attest to that. Sure, it burns and stings your eyes, skin, and really anywhere it touches. But it’s not blinding any more than chopping an onion is. It can cause watery eyes, but you can still see, though, right? Of course, you can!
So, when someone tells you that pepper spray will “completely immobilize the threat” you can speak with education and intelligence and make the informed decision for your family. It might be the best option for you, or it might not be. That’s up to you to decide based on your unique situation.
These 3 less-than-lethal options are not worthless. They are not terrible options even. But they are options that must be understood. When using any of these tools one has to know their intended purposes and limitations. If you’re going to carry one of these options you have to do your research and dare I say, try it on yourself, under the supervision of a professional. My point with this article is not to persuade you to always and only carry a firearm; although for self-defense I think it’s the most effective. My point here is to inform and to get you, the reader, to do research of your own and make the decision that’s best for your position and your family.
What frustrates me about companies that push self-defense products is they sell their products as if they’re the best thing since slice bread. Furthermore, they market their products as a tool to completely incapacitate a threat. Not every tool is for every person in every situation. Tools like this are not cookie cutter. Just as we do not all have the same taste in clothing style, we all don’t have the same situation. Those subtle differences are what makes us unique, but they’re also what makes our self-defense unique. While some can’t carry a firearm in their place of occupation, some can carry a stun gun or pepper spray and so on.
So, when someone or some company tells you that any of these 3 options “completely immobilizes the threat and gives you MINUTES so you can get away” you can say “Bye Felicia!” and move onto an option that you’re more comfortable and confident with.