American Survival Guide - - NEW PRODUCTS - BY LARRY SCHWARTZ

When it comes to selfde­fense and home in­va­sion sce­nar­ios, most of the train­ing we take focuses on the use of a gun of some sort: a shot­gun, ri­fle or pis­tol. And it makes sense to train for the most dras­tic sit­u­a­tions. They re­quire more skills, more men­tal preparedness and hav­ing to make tougher de­ci­sions—all while your adren­a­line level is spik­ing through the roof. How­ever, train­ing and prac­tic­ing only for sce­nar­ios that end with a bang limit your op­tions. But they can also leave you vul­ner­a­ble to po­ten­tially se­ri­ous le­gal is­sues that could have been avoided.

Some­times, you won’t be able to use a firearm due to who is around, the dis­tance be­tween you and your at­tacker or how quickly you can get to your gun. A gun is not al­ways the ap­pro­pri­ate tool to use: Not ev­ery sit­u­a­tion calls for deadly force.


The key to mak­ing the right choice is twofold: first, an un­der­stand­ing of “es­ca­la­tion of force,” and sec­ond, hav­ing the skills and tools to give you op­tions other than deadly force.

“Es­ca­la­tion of force” means us­ing the right amount of force to re­move or negate the threat. If you are just show­ing that you are ready and will­ing to fight to make the at­tacker back down, that is what you should do. If your op­po­nent is just try­ing to stop you from do­ing some­thing and not threat­en­ing you with bod­ily harm, a non­lethal ap­proach is def­i­nitely called for. If they es­ca­late their ac­tions and you feel threat­ened with bod­ily harm, less-thanlethal meth­ods should be your next step … fol­lowed by lethal force, if it gets that far.

A key point to re­mem­ber is that ev­ery time you step it up a notch, the other per­son might do the same in­stead of back­ing down. You need to be pre­pared for that con­tin­gency. What gives you the abil­ity to go up and down that force con­tin­uum are op­tions, in terms of skills and tools.

Don’t count on just one tool or tech­nique. Have a va­ri­ety of op­tions ready so that when one fails you can go to Plan B, C or D. Some­times, stun guns don’t work on an at­tacker, and Tasers can be in­ef­fec­tive against heavy cloth­ing. And noth­ing works on some­one hopped up on drugs.



Ev­ery year, mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions con­duct more non-lethal and less-than-lethal train­ing, be­cause they un­der­stand that lethal meth­ods are not al­ways the best ap­proach. They might not work; they can have neg­a­tive po­lit­i­cal and pub­lic re­la­tions ef­fects; and there might not be enough time or dis­tance to use them.

When it comes to de­fend­ing your­self in a fight, a home in­va­sion or a mug­ging, there are three lev­els of force you might choose—or be forced to use: lethal, lesslethal and non-lethal. Each has its place, and each is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

“Lethal” is just that—po­ten­tially deadly force that can, and most likely will, kill some­one. The op­tions in this cat­e­gory that are avail­able to civil­ians in­clude weapons such as hand­guns, ri­fles, shot­guns, and knives and other edged tools. It can in­clude sticks and clubs if they are used in a lethal man­ner. These im­ple­ments are de­signed to kill some­one and should only be used if that is what the sit­u­a­tion calls for: You should use lethal force only if you truly fear for your life or the lives of oth­ers and you can’t oth­er­wise stop the ag­gres­sor.

“Less-lethal” is in­tended, and de­signed, to stop the ag­gres­sor, but with­out killing them. How­ever, depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, it can be lethal. Items in this cat­e­gory that civil­ians can get in­clude bean bag shot­gun projectiles, stand-off elec­tro-shock de­vices such as Tasers and close-in elec­tro-shock de­vices such as stun guns.

Non-lethal de­vices are in­tended to in­ca­pac­i­tate, con­fuse or de­lay the ag­gres­sor with­out killing or per­ma­nently in­jur­ing them. The items avail­able to the civil­ian pop­u­lace in this cat­e­gory in­clude pep­per spray, flash­lights and hand­held strik­ing tools such as kub­otans or tac­ti­cal pens.

The items just dis­cussed are avail­able to civil­ians for self-de­fense. Law en­force­ment and mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions have other, more so­phis­ti­cated, prod­ucts avail­able to them (wa­ter can­nons, tear gas, pep­per spray, paint­ball shot­gun shells, shot­gun shells that act like Tasers and mi­crowave trans­mit­ters that cause pain and nausea). Al­though they are ef­fec­tive, they are not avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic.


A stun gun is a close-in tool for self-de­fense. It is bat­tery-op­er­ated and gen­er­ates a high-volt­age, low-cur­rent charge across two elec­trodes. When pressed against an at­tacker’s body, it will cause the mus­cles to twitch un­con­trol­lably, mak­ing the per­son lose con­trol of their body. It is an ex­cel­lent non-lethal tool when used cor­rectly, but it can be­come less-lethal or lethal if used in­cor­rectly. It is most ef­fec­tive when used against ex­posed skin or light cloth­ing, be­cause the charge needs to make con­tact with the skin. It is not ef­fec­tive against some­one wear­ing mul­ti­ple lay­ers or thick cloth­ing.


The Taser is an­other elec­troshock tool that is sim­i­lar to the stun gun, but it is de­signed for use pri­mar­ily in a stand-off mode, al­low­ing you to keep dis­tance be­tween you and your at­tacker. Com­mer­cial ver­sions have a range of ap­prox­i­mately 15 feet. It pro­pels two elec­trodes that are con­nected to a bat­tery via two thin wires. The elec­trodes have barbs on them so that they will stay in the per­son’s skin or in their cloth­ing. They have the same strengths and weak­nesses as the stun gun, in terms of cloth­ing get­ting in the way, but mod­ern Tasers are more ef­fec­tive than stun guns when heav­ier cloth­ing is en­coun­tered.


“Pep­per spray” is the generic name for a num­ber of for­mu­la­tions of Ole­o­resin cap­sicum in the form of pow­der, spray, mist or foam. Its ac­tive in­gre­di­ent is cap­saicin—the same thing that makes chili pep­pers hot. Pep­per spray is de­liv­ered to the at­tacker’s mu­cous mem­brane ar­eas, such as the eyes, nose and mouth. It ir­ri­tates the mem­branes, caus­ing pain and in­flam­ma­tion. It also makes it dif­fi­cult to breathe if it gets into the lungs. Swelling of the eyes can also cause tem­po­rary blind­ness, be­cause the per­son can­not open their eyes.

This makes it easy to get away or coun­ter­at­tack if nec­es­sary. Depend­ing on its form, you can pur­chase it in a pen, in spray cans of var­i­ous sizes or in a pis­tol-like dis­penser. It is in­tended for use as a non-lethal prod­uct, but there have been cases in which it did cause deaths, likely due to overuse or pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

As with any aerosol, cau­tion must be used when em­ploy­ing it, be­cause even a slight breeze can blow it back at you in­stead of at your op­po­nent. It is also best not to use it in­doors, be­cause it can be blown from room to room by ceil­ing fans and air con­di­tion­ing, and it can also stick to the walls.



Now that we have cov­ered the tools you can use to de­fend your­self, let’s talk about some tech­niques you can use.

The first thing to keep in mind is that depend­ing on your strength, skill level and luck, any mar­tial tech­nique can be non­lethal, less-lethal or even lethal.

The down­side of us­ing mar­tial arts is that when they are needed, you are prob­a­bly close to your at­tacker. For that rea­son, grap­pling tech­niques such as Kenpo karate, judo and Jiu-jitsu, which em­ploy joint locks and pres­sure point strikes, are good choices to study. They al­low you to con­trol your at­tacker when you are close to each other and can also in­flict pain to make them stop their at­tack.

Styles such as Krav Maga that don’t de­pend on kicks and full-length strikes or punches are also good choices when it comes to pick­ing a style to learn and prac­tice. “Krav Maga,” or “con­tact com­bat” in He­brew, is all about fast and vi­o­lent ac­tion that is in­tended to stop a fight quickly. For that rea­son, it is a good choice for those who are not big and strong and don’t have time to de­velop ex­per­tise in a num­ber of tech­niques. Learn­ing a few ef­fec­tive tech­niques that work for your

body type and skill level will serve you well if you need to de­fend your­self.

Go with what is sim­ple but ef­fec­tive. If you are not some­one who prac­tices a mar­tial art reg­u­larly, you need some­thing that does not de­pend on good tech­nique for it to work; some­thing that won’t fail you when you have adren­a­line pump­ing through your body and your fine mo­tor con­trol has gone out the win­dow—joint locks and lever­age, in­stead of strength and tech­nique.


Some of the tools men­tioned in this ar­ti­cle are reg­u­lated or banned in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. It can be dif­fi­cult to know what you can and can­not use. For in­stance, an item might be le­gal at the state level but not at the county or lo­cal level. Also, just as when trav­el­ing with a firearm, you need to know what the laws and reg­u­la­tions are in each ju­ris­dic­tion you are trav­el­ing in so you don’t un­wit­tingly break the law when you cross a state, county or lo­cal bound­ary.

For­tu­nately, no state or ju­ris­dic­tion leg­is­lates or reg­u­lates con­trol of your un­armed ca­pa­bil­i­ties, so you can take your Jiu-jitsu, box­ing, karate or Krav Maga skills across a bor­der. For this rea­son, hav­ing some mar­tial art skills in your bag of tricks is a good idea.

Just be sure to use them ju­di­ciously. You are bound by the same laws on as­sault and bat­tery as any­one else, and your ad­di­tional skills could in­flu­ence a jury in a civil le­gal case. Re­mem­ber to use only the level of force needed to stop the threat. Make sure the at­tack on you was ob­vi­ous and seen by oth­ers, if pos­si­ble. If you don’t have wit­nesses, it might bet­ter to try to back out of the con­fronta­tion if you can. And that is the best plan in any sit­u­a­tion.

It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the in­di­vid­ual to make them­selves aware of, and abide by, all laws and reg­u­la­tions per­tain­ing to weapons and ac­tions used in their self-de­fense ef­forts.



As men­tioned at the be­gin­ning of this ar­ti­cle, you don’t want deadly force to be your nor­mal go-to so­lu­tion for a con­flict or at­tack. As the new id­iom warns us, “Ev­ery bul­let has a lawyer at­tached to it,” and if you do have to shoot, you also need to be pre­pared to find your­self in a court­room.

Give your­self some op­tions so you can choose the level and type of force you will use.

A palm strike is an­other good close-quar­ters de­fen­sive tech­nique that does not re­quire a lot of strength—just de­ter­mi­na­tion and the op­por­tu­nity to use it. (Photo: Me­dia.de­fense. gov)

Above: Krav Maga tech­niques are fast, to the point and very ef­fec­tive. The whole con­cept be­hind this style is to end the con­flict as quickly as pos­si­ble—ideal for in­di­vid­u­als who can­not de­pend on phys­i­cal strength and well-prac­ticed tech­niques.

Stun guns cre­ate a highly charged elec­tri­cal arc be­tween two con­tacts lo­cated at the front of the de­vice. Ap­ply­ing it to a per­son’s body will cause them to tem­po­rar­ily lose con­trol of their mus­cles. (Photo: Me­dia. De­fense.gov)

Tasers, al­though they work on the same prin­ci­ple as stun guns, trans­mit their elec­tric shock through barbs at the end of the wires (seen feed­ing out of the front of this de­vice). (Photo: Me­dia. De­fense.gov)

Above: The mist form of pep­per spray makes it easy to cover a wide area on your tar­get to help en­sure you get the mu­cous mem­brane ar­eas and fa­cil­i­tate their breath­ing it in. (Photo: Me­dia.de­fense.gov)

Be­low: When pep­per spray is used as a stream in­stead of a mist, it is eas­ier to en­sure you hit a par­tic­u­lar place on the per­son’s body. While the stream’s range is greater, make sure you are within the dis­tance lim­i­ta­tion of the can­is­ter. (Photo:...

Train­ing in the use of grap­pling tech­niques is a good place to start in your mar­tial arts jour­ney. If you need to use mar­tial skills, it will very likely be in close quar­ters such as this. (Photo: Me­dia.de­fense. gov)

Not ev­ery sit­u­a­tion calls for deadly force. Ac­tu­ally, some sit­u­a­tions call for not do­ing any­thing—un­less some­one’s life is in dan­ger.

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