It is understood that most who read this article are gun advocates who probably legally carry a concealed handgun and most likely keep guns at home for defense. However, practically everyone knows someone who despises guns for one reason or another. The goal is that everyone be protected to the degree they can handle. Also, some people are just not competent enough to own a gun for one reason or another, or they may be denied the right due to age (college-bound children) or where they live. There are options to home and personal defense that incorporate products called less-lethal since their primary defensive design does not usually result in the death of the attacker they are used on.
Products such as pepper spray, stun guns and TASER units are commonly referred to as less-lethal weapons. They used to be called non-lethal, but that term was not 100 percent true. The weapons are capable of initiating a secondary cause of death. One example would be encountering an assailant on a flight of concrete stairs inside a parking garage. The victim sprays the attacker in the face with pepper spray. The attacker turns to flee and falls down the stairs breaking his neck. Though the pepper spray was not the direct cause of the attacker’s death, it was involved.
We know that the real cause of death of the attacker was his choice to attack someone in the first place. His decision was the fundamental cause that lead to everything else. However, in civil trials the rules are different. Listening to points made in court, we can find a savvy attorney beginning a discussion about cause and effect at any point during the event. While the attorney seeking damages would emphasize how the fall happened immediately after the victim sprayed the pepper spray, the defending attorney would emphasize that the event would never have happened if the attacker had not made the choice to attack. Then we leave the decision up to 12 people who do not want to be there in the first place, with the ones that really, really want to be there being even scarier. That is pretty much why the products are no longer called non-lethal.
Stun Guns and TASERS
Stun guns can be found in all shapes and sizes with big advertising claims on the amount of voltage they put out. They are based on the premise of static electricity. Yes, that may be an oversimplification, but it works here. There probably is not a person out there who has not experienced a jolt of static electricity. In fact, little brothers everywhere have chased their sisters around the house threatening to zap them the moment they discovered that rubbing feet on a carpet can generate the charge. In a darkened room, the blue sparks of the static discharges can be easily seen.
This author was helping to decorate an event years ago. The event included fabric and lights on a drop ceiling. It was winter, and the air was dry. About a hundred feet of fabric was rapidly pulled through a plastic ring attached to the ceiling by a plastic clip. When a finger got close to the metal grid of the ceiling, a blue flash went off followed by a crack that sounded like mini thunder. Being on a ladder at the time made it even worse. The shock was disorienting and painful even though it lasted only a fraction of a second. Imagine being able to zap a person with a continuous static zap. That is how a stun gun works.
The voltage, or pressure of the electricity, of stun guns can be 150,000 volts or more. The reason people do not usually die when zapped by one is that the total flow of the zap (amperes) is very small. Think of it like water. A blast from the tiny diameter hose of a pressure washer can cut through skin. It is high pressure but low volume. Suddenly dropping a tank of water the size of a boxcar on a person is different. It will be the volume that causes the damage. Touching a doorknob and getting zapped by a static charge may be around 25,000 volts. Sometimes it can be more or less.
A TASER is different. It is a computer-controlled release of current designed to interrupt the signals from the brain to the muscles. The current is pulsed through the electrodes based on an algorithm that controls the level of the current, the pulse rate and the time duration. The TASER C2 version shown in the image will send out a full 30 seconds of neuromuscular-interrupting current. The older police model of TASERs sent five seconds of current into an assailant. That makes reports of TASERs being used by police as being cruel actually humorous since grandma would have time to get away from an attacker while he is writhing on the ground being zapped for a full 30 seconds by the consumer version of the TASER product.
Regular consumers do not have to stick to just the TASER C2 product. The TASER website offers consumer versions of the gun-shaped TASER models used by law enforcement. The gun shaped models may be easier to manipulate in a situation where a TASER needs to be used. The C2 version has a shape reminiscent of the Phaser on Star Trek: The Next Generation. This author did a complete review of the TASER C2 a few years ago. Everything about it was good except the shape and the method of activating the device.
On top of the TASER C2 is a little sliding plastic door that must be pulled back by the thumb. Immediately below the door is an LED light that shows the condition of the battery and the actuator button. It seems to be an easy thing to accidentally discharge the device by the movement necessary to open the sliding door. This is because downward and rearward pressure is required to open the safety cover (door). It is easy for the tip of the thumb to hang over the edge of the cover as it is being opened. The downward and rearward pressure required to open the cover can get the tip of the thumb very close to the actuator button. Also, the pattern in the cover does not give a good grip to open the cover if the thumb is wet with water, sweat or blood.
One of the good points of the C2 unit is that it is compact. It can easily be carried on a belt or in a purse. If carried on a belt, the Tuff Products C2 Ambidextrous Clip-On TASER Holster is by far the best holster for the device. (The case in the photo is the TASER C2 holster made by Tuff Products.) It was reviewed by this author as well. Another good point is that a TASER is designed to interrupt the nerve conduction from the brain to the muscles and is an incapacitating device. Sure, there is a video on the Internet of a tough guy walking while supposedly being zapped by a TASER. The thing is that the guy is being held up by two other guys! Stun guns are more of a pain compliance weapon like pepper spray is.
Pain Compliance Through Pepper Spray
Pepper spray is everywhere. Most jurisdictions allow adults to carry pepper spray without any sort of licensing. Around here, it is even sold at Kmart. There are all kinds of brands making all kinds of claims of being hotter than other brands. Data is manipulated to be able to put big numbers of how hot a pepper spray product is in the advertising. Though it is nice to be able to run out to the local Kmart and grab a can of pepper spray product right now, this author recommends ordering pepper spray from FOX Labs instead.
Hours have been spent in communication with the president of FOX Labs. The little details of how the industry works came out in the conversations. The finer points of how the numbers of the heat a particular product has demonstrates what some companies will do to grab market share. The brand that is actually trusted and used by the real pros is FOX Labs. People who have been hit with the product know what it feels like. The president of the company being directly involved with every detail of the fundamental components of the ingredients that go into every size and shape of canned pepper spray FOX Labs puts out makes all the difference.
Without getting bogged down into every little detail, one of the impressive things that FOX Labs does is to use higher quality base ingredients. Pepper spray is seen marketed as OC Pepper Spray. The OC stands for Oleoresin Capsicum. The hot part of pepper spray is actually capsaicin from hot peppers. It is extracted and refined into a dry powder, mixed with a chemical that keeps it in suspension, put into a canister and pressurized with a propellant and voila, you have pepper spray. However, anyone who has ever had a garden understands that taste and quality can vary greatly from season to season. The hotness of peppers can vary too.
FOX Labs uses a finer particulate matter of the main ingredient of its pepper spray product. The finer powder and the insistence on consistent quality sets them apart. The quality control makes every can of FOX Labs pepper spray as effective as the last one. The finer particulate matter is similar to the difference between sand and talcum powder on skin. It is easy to visualize how fine talc will get down to the nerve endings in the skin faster and better than sand. This one thing in pepper spray can make all the difference in its effectiveness. The key is getting the hot stuff where it needs to go to work.
FOX labs is upfront about all the little details of their products. They do not make grandiose claims or use manipulative ad tactics. The company even has a web page that demonstrates the truth about shelf life claims. If the reader wants the hotness of pepper spray explained in greater detail, just click on this link to the FOX Labs website. If pepper spray is chosen as a defensive weapon, FOX Labs should be on the label. By the way, they did not pay me to say any of that. It is the only pepper spray that my family uses.
The Limits of Less-Lethal Weapons
It is 3:00 AM and the sound of splintering wood rouses you from a pleasant dream. Was the sound part of the dream sequence or did it really happen? You are barely conscious and hear your spouse whisper loudly, “What was that?” Then your blood runs cold. Your brain has already processed the sound. You know that it was the front door being kicked open, and now your spouse has confirmed that there actually was a noise. You see your cell phone on the nightstand as you are trying to get up without giving away your position. Your spouse grabs your arm and asks you what you are doing. You toss the cell phone to your spouse giving instructions about calling 911 to report an intruder.
Now you hear things being banged around downstairs. You try to quietly open your bedroom door to check on the kids. You can see your oldest child standing in the hallway as the door squeaks open. The sound is deafening in the night. It catches the attention of the intruder and the sound of boots can be heard on the carpeted stairs. Time freezes for a moment. You have no plan and no weapons.
In the morning, your paper delivery boy sees your front door open and calls his mom to report it. The police find you, your spouse and your three children murdered by a sociopath. They eventually catch the guy. He confesses to the crimes he committed against your family and many others. He was armed with a knife, strung out on drugs and just wanted to see what it would be like to torture, rape and murder a family. You and your spouse talked each other out of both home fortifications and training to safely keep guns at home. That is it. From your perspective, this story is over.
Now, what happens if we alter components of this scenario? Maybe the family lived in an area where guns are prohibited. The man and wife wanted to own a shotgun and train to be able to use it defensively. They were working class people who could not afford the several thousands of dollars it would cost to fortify their home in the neighborhood that was seeing an uptick in violent crime. They definitely could not just sell and move away. They wanted the option of owning guns for defense but were denied by law.
The law denied them the best and most affordable means of self-defense but would not provide them with personal security as they slept in their beds at night. Being law-abiding citizens, they complied and made no attempt at hiding guns in the home. Those who legislated their protection away were convinced that it is the right thing to do. The last thought through the mind of one of the parents who died that night was how things could have been different if they only had something to use to defend themselves with.
The scenario can be altered to include only less-lethal weapons. Just as the saying goes of how a tiny pistol in the .22 Long Rifle caliber being carried when facing a lethal threat is far better than the big old .45 left at home, the same holds true for at least having less-lethal options available over nothing at all. The best thing for the scenario used here would have been a trusty inexpensive 12 Gauge with buckshot being put center mass when the knife-wielding intruder topped the stairs. However, pepper spray, stun guns and TASERS are better than nothing.
The Three Favorites
In the photo below, there is a FOX Labs canister with a hose, a Lock-On Grenade, FOX Labs Mean Green pepper spray and a TASER C2 next to a Tuff Products holster. The canister with the hose is no longer available at the FOX Labs website. It has a hose connected to a can that is the same shape yet a little smaller than a can of shaving cream. The pepper spray is routed through the hose to the target. This makes it perfect to send a blast of pepper spray through to the other side of a door. It is designed to buy time and discourage attackers from continuing. Imagination can come up with lots of uses for this type of product.
The Lock-On Grenade is not explosive. It is just thrown like one would throw a grenade. The actuator button that sprays the product is locked in the on position when it is pressed down. Aim it away from you, press the button and throw it down the stairs or into a room where an intruder is at. Cross contamination of the home’s occupants is a real possibility. This can be negated by staying out of the area where the device was deployed, moving to a secure area or even putting on a filter mask. Forced air heating and cooling systems could spread the pepper spray throughout a home. Still, it is a good option if used wisely.
The can of Mean Green is a FOX Labs pepper spray product that is water based and has a green dye to enable identification of the attacker that the product is used on. Both the solvent-based and water-based FOX labs products are good choices. Just having something to multiply the force one can exert when being attacked is better than nothing. Punching and kicking are the least effective means of incapacitating a determined attacker. Unless one is physically capable of inflicting enough trauma to the attacker to render him unconscious or otherwise physically incapable of continuing, it just does not work.
For those who cannot or will not keep guns in the house and train to use them defensively, pepper spray is a better-than-nothing option. Do not forget that it is a pain compliance weapon. It works by inflicting so much pain that the attacker cannot continue the attack. An attacker under the influence of some drugs will not feel pain, thus negating the effect the pepper spray should have. There will be the involuntary coughing spasms, but the product is just not as effective on some under the influence of certain drugs.
The good thing is that the passive have an instant mindset change when an attack is actually in progress. Hopefully pepper spray being used as a less-lethal weapon can buy time to get away or time to deploy an improvised lethal weapon (if appropriate) such as a baseball bat or blade. The TASER products are incapacitating weapons. If the “if” conditions are met, the product will work.
The “ifs” of a TASER are many. The cartridge must discharge the electrodes. They do have an expiration date. The battery must have enough of a charge to cycle the weapon. The electronics must be functional. It is expensive to test using live cartridges. Reloading is time consuming on a TASER C2 if you miss or the cartridge fails. Yes, the TASER will continue to work as a contact weapon, but the point is to shoot, have the electrodes stick in the attacker, drop the TASER and flee.
If one electrode misses and the other sticks, it will not work. The electricity is good at getting through clothing to still incapacitate. However, it is possible to have on clothing thick enough that the device will not work. It is also possible for the wires to be damaged between the electrodes and the TASER during deployment. Lots of “ifs.” There are plenty of “ifs” for shotguns too, but shotguns have been around a lot longer and there are several backup shells in the tube of a pump gun if the first one or two fails.
Left – FOX Labs canister with dispensing tube. Great to send pepper spray through to the other side of a closed door. (No longer available at the FOX Labs website.) Top Middle – Lock-On Grenade. Does not explode. The sprayer just locks in the on position and you throw it. Lower Middle – FOX Labs Mean Green water-based OC pepper spray with green dye. Right – TASER C2. The black case is the best holster for the C2 and is made by Tuff Products.
If you know someone who will only agree to learning how to use and keep less-lethal weapons on hand for home or personal defense, please encourage them to go ahead with the choice. As long as the limitations are understood, it is much better than nothing. Plus, FOX Labs pepper spray and a TASER are actually great choices for a college-bound student who is not yet old enough to legally carry a handgun and would be denied the right on campus anyway. Explore the options. Just do something to be prepared to actively defend against a determined aggressor.
Cody S. Alderson is a long-time regular contributor to The United States Concealed Carry Association. He is a private consultant and author based in southwestern Pennsylvania. Cody invites you to visit his website at www.aldersonarts.com or his Facebook Page to comment on this article.
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