Over the last few years law enforcement officials have replaced the term ‘non-lethal’ the more appropriate term ‘less lethal.’ Less lethal weapons are those that are intended to deter, disrupt or incapacitate rather than kill. Be aware though that even the most benign less lethal weapon risks a lethal outcome based on the situation and target. There are reports of lethal outcomes for virtually every type of less lethal weapon developed. Below are some less lethal weapon options for your bug out bag. Remember: that the use of less lethal weapons on a person should only be considered in the face of significant danger to life or severe bodily harm.
Walking Stick: Walking sticks have been used for thousands of years as a method of self-defense and are an option even in areas with the most restrictive weapons laws. Walking sticks also benefit from the fact that most people don’t view a walking stick as a weapon which will make you less threatening to those who don’t mean you harm and provide a surprise for those that do. Many martial arts disciplines teach methods of stick fighting including traditional Irish Stick Fighting or bataireacht which uses the shillelagh. Other disciplines use longer sticks like a Bo Staff. If you’re a current or former U.S. service member you were likely taught to fight with a padded bo stick (the services refer to these as pugil sticks) as part of your hand-to-hand combat and bayonet combat training.
Stick Selection: Select the type of stick that you’re most comfortable with and the stick that will fit in best in your surroundings. I’d select a longer stick because of my pugil stick training and I live far enough out west that seeing someone with a tall walking stick isn’t completely out of place. If you select a cane length walking stick it should have a weighted top. I own a Victorian walking stick that has a very heavy ivory head that I’m sure was meant for more than decoration. Regardless of your selection the shaft of your stick should be dense and durable but not so heavy that it’s too slow to wield.
ASP: An asp is a lightweight, telescoping baton that’s generally made of steel or an aluminum and steel alloy. An asp doesn’t look like much on your belt or in your hand until you deploy it with the flip of your wrist. Asps come in varying lengths and was my self-defense tool of choice until my State passed its concealed carry law. There are a number of accessories available for asps including holsters and flashlights as well.
Sprays: Pepper Sprays and mace are also close quarter weapons and unlike the other less lethal options we’ve discussed so far these have a finite useful life or number of sprays before they are ineffective. If you chose to carry this incapacitating agent, make sure that it isn’t your sole method of self-defense. To give yourself more ‘ammunition’ and greater range consider carrying ‘Bear Spray’ instead. Bear spray is heavier than the sprays designed to use on humans but will work just as well on a human predator as it will on a bear. Be aware that use of these agents in confined areas like vehicles or indoors is going to affect you almost as much as it affects your target. Additionally, before you use your spray, make sure you’re ready to capitalize effect that it will have by running or launching a follow-on attack as appropriate not only because of the situation that caused you to use the spray in the first place, but also because whomever you sprayed will be very angry with you.
Electroshock Weapons: Tasers and Stun Gun offer another less lethal option. These electroshock weapons vary from having to make direct contact with the target to shooting out to a range of 35 feet. The sight of an electric arc does have a certain value for intimidation but the need to charge batteries or buy expensive replacement cartridges has deterred me from recommending this as a primary less lethal alternative. One place I can see a use for electroshock weapons is as an at-the-ready surprise weapon for those without other options. There are now models that appear to be cellphones and can be carried ready to use without drawing undue attention.
Lights: There are several classes of disorienting light devices currently available.
The Tactical Flashlight has an intense beam often with a strobing effect. The beam disorients the target and the flashlight often has an aggressively toothed face to also use as a striking weapon. Tactical flashlights aren’t very effective for self-defense but are a great accessory when used with a firearm.
Maglites® are an old school security guard solution for those who need a flashlight and a striking weapon. In my opinion the advances in flashlight technology make this a solution whose time has passed. If you want a flashlight and a baton look into a lightweight ASP with a flashlight accessory and you’ll have a much better weapon and still have a flashlight.
Laser Dazzlers: Dazzlers are an emerging technology still primarily available just to the law enforcement and military communities. These take the idea of the strobing tactical flashlight to new extremes with targets reporting severe disorientation and nausea. Dazzlers are calibrated so as not to cause permanent blindness which could be the result if you attempted to use other lasers against humans.
Batons: Whenever I think of the baton I picture the tonfa style used by William Shatner as T.J. Hooker to battle the bad guys in the early and mid 1980’s on T.V. A baton can be used by someone trained in its use to bludgeon, jab, block or apply armlocks. I’m not trained in the use of this striking weapon but if I were I might consider this as a possible less lethal alternative but would rather carry an asp or walking stick if I felt my training would transfer appropriately.
Improvised Weapons: Improvised less lethal weapon options are only limited by your imagination. I encourage you to consider your own experience when selecting any potential less lethal options. For example, if you’re a sports junkie and former baseball player maybe you take your ‘prized’ bat with you when you bug out.
Others There are a number of additional less lethal technologies in use by law enforcement and the military and some of them are straight out of a science fiction novel like acoustic and microwave crowd control devices while others like rubber bullets just aren’t appropriate for a bug out situation.