Self Defense Weapons for Daily Life
What I Carry for Self Defense During Long Runs
People who carry self-defense weapons must have a clearly defined purpose for doing so. Once the "why" is established, it also helps to know how to use the tool properly. Additionally, there are state restrictions on some “deadly weapons” and not others, so it’s important to know the law as well.
I need protection while running outside, so I use that to create my rubric. I want something lightweight and simple to use while on the go. Obviously, nothing bulky or hot which makes training in the summer all the more difficult. So with this in mind, I chose to use pepper spray for self defense while running.
Self Defense Risk Assessment
Below are some of the questions that I ask myself before choosing any type of self-defense carry. It’s important to know why you need something, how easy it is to carry around, and how effective it will be in a crisis. In my neighborhood, where most people carry golf clubs or big sticks while they are going on walks, I realized I should take better precautions for my long solo runs.
The Why and the Where
One of the first questions to ask is why personal protection is needed in the first place. Is the risk significantly lowered when the location is changed?
For me, the ease of running straight out my front door into my adjacent neighborhood outweighed the potential safety risks. Additionally, time of day factored into my decision. When I run in the middle of the afternoon, with lots of traffic going by and it's bright out, I feel safer than early morning or dusk. Unfortunately, due to the summer temperatures where I live, early morning is the best time for July runs. So, with that in mind, I decided that I needed to research and purchase something for self-defense.
Bulk versus Effectiveness
The top self-defense weapons are knives and guns, but they fall into the lethal category and have much more regulation around them. Comparatively, there are non-lethal options like brass knuckles, stun guns, and pocket striking sticks. Another plus for non-lethal weapons, they are very effective as deterrents and can be carried almost anywhere.
I chose pepper spray because it is effective at close range with minimal bulk. Pepper spray is easy, light, and small- but the downside is definitely the long range effectiveness. And, the possibility of getting it in my own eye… not good.
Cost versus Value
Another thing to consider is the value that you will get out of a gun or knife or spray. If it is never used, will it still be a good purchase? Clearly, guns and knives (that are well kept) don’t tend to lose value, but pepper spray will actually expire.
As my first self-defense purchase, I chose the spray because of its low initial cost, not its long-term value. The value for me is feeling safer and not having to worry about concealed carry laws in my state. This peace of mind made it worth that $30 investment every 2 years or so. With this method, I have an automatic re-evaluation in 2 years and I can upgrade to a more expensive tool if I want.
Concealed Carry Concerns
In most states, concealed carry of a gun is prohibited unless the person has a valid permit or license. Many states include any “deadly weapon” into the permit requirement, which would include knives as well.
The state of Alabama defines a deadly weapon as:
“The term “deadly weapon” as used in this section means a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purposes of inflicting death or serious physical injury, and such term includes, but is not limited to, a bazooka, hand grenade, missile, or explosive or incendiary device; a pistol, rifle, or shotgun; or a switch-blade knife, gravity knife, stiletto, sword, or dagger; or any club, baton, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles. [source]”
It is important to know the local and state laws before purchasing and carrying any kind of self-defense weapon in public. When doing research on brass knuckles, I found that Alabama has restrictions on who may have them and where they can be worn. This is frustrating since knuckles are so easy to carry and are very effective in a close-range attack situation.
Clearly, nothing should be assumed when it comes to self defense and the law. There are even complications with stun guns and tasers, which are BANNED in states like New York and Massachusetts. That’s right, civilians are not allowed to carry any kind of electroshock weapon at any time. Interestingly, these two states also have tight regulations on pepper spray. In NY and Mass, a person may only purchase pepper spray from a licensed firearms dealers in that state.
How to Choose a Self Defense Weapon
In summary, there are a set of questions to ask before deciding what to carry.
- Why do I need it?
- Where will I be using it?
- Is it bulky or hard to use?
- How effective will it be in my situation?
- Is it cost-effective?
- Is it legal?
I am not discounting a concealed pistol as a valid option. They can be light and with a good holster (plus some extra planning), it’s a great option for self-defense. For more information on that, Cardini Defense has an article about How To Conceal Carry for Exercise. For example, if I ran on trails and in more isolated areas, I would choose to take that extra step and conceal carry a handgun.
Why do I choose to carry mace/pepper spray with me on my runs:
Small size and lightweight
No training needed
Peace of Mind
No extra equipment required