The idea of using improvised weapons for personal defense has been around as long as man. In a critical situation, human instinct naturally compels us to grab the closest, sturdiest object and use it to fight for our survival. But due to the events of recent years—particularly the phenomena of active shooters, workplace violence, and school shootings—the carry of purpose-designed weapons has become much more restricted. And with that trend, the number of “non-permissive” environments where weapons are totally forbidden has increased significantly.

History clearly shows that banning weapons has no real effect on stopping violent crimes. Laws only affect the law abiding, so we “good guys” typically only have two choices: either play by the rules and be vulnerable to violent attacks or break the rules and carry a weapon.

Fortunately, there is a third choice. By understanding the how to recognize and use innocuous, everyday objects as improvised weapons, you can bend the rules and ensure that you always have a capable weapon available no matter where you are.

Reality Check

Defending yourself against a committed attack with a purpose-designed weapon is challenging. The less capable your weapon is the tougher that task becomes. With that in mind, the last thing you want to do is to fool yourself into relying on something that doesn’t have a high probability of really hurting your attacker.The best way to ensure your safety in a street attack is to quickly and decisively disable your attacker. In simple terms, you must hurt him badly enough to make him stop trying to hurt you. Anything that is not a direct route to achieving this goal is a waste of time, so skip the cheesy MacGyver tricks. Concentrate on finding and carrying things that you can grab at a moment’s notice and swing with full force to create fight-stopping damage. You must also make sure that whatever you grab does not do more harm to you than the bad guy.

Get Off the Couch

Another critical aspect of using improvised weapons in self-defense is actually investing the time and energy to develop real defensive skills. Thinking about stabbing someone with a pen isn’t enough; you need to actually practice the skills of doing through challenging, realistic training. Your training should emphasize simple, gross-motor-skill body mechanics that are practical for critical incidents and common to the application of a variety of improvised weapons. Learn these skills well and practice regularly so you can really rely on them when you need them.

You must also accept the fact that improvised-weapon tactics alone may not be enough to end a fight. A few well-placed stabs with a ballpoint pen will certainly leave a lasting impression; however, they are not guaranteed to make him stop. By using pen tactics to create an opportunity for a true disabling strike—like a low-line kick to the knee or ankle—you have a much more reliable and effective defensive skill set. And, again, you’ve separated the reality of effective personal-defense tactics from misguided myth and misinformation.

Categories of Improvised Weapons

In my practice and teaching of improvised weapon use, I separate them into three basic categories:

• Prepared Weapons – Items that in their basic form are not capable weapons, but with a little preparation can have weapon potential. For example, a magazine by itself won’t do much, but rolled tightly it can be a potent weapon.

• Weapons of Opportunity – Items that you find in your environment that can be adapted to weapon use, like a rock, beer bottle, a mop, or a trash can lid.

• Personal-Carry Items – Items that you can easily carry on your person that can be used as weapons, like a flashlight or a ballpoint pen.

Weapon Attributes and Awareness

All serious students of self-defense know that “awareness” is a key component of a good personal-defense plan. When most people think of awareness, they think of color-code systems, condition “yellow,” and looking for signs of unusual activity that could represent potential threats. All of these aspects of awareness are correct, but real awareness goes much deeper than that. It should include things like assessing your footing and your ability to move quickly, consciousness of obstacles, cover, and concealment, mental planning of escape routes and, very importantly, consciousness of potential improvised weapons in your environment.

Many things can qualify as improvised weapons, but the best objects are those that share a number of common attributes. By learning to identify these attributes—and objects that possess them—and spot them as you move through different environments, you’ll greatly expand your defensive options.

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  • XPigSkin

    This is a MUST Read and OFTEN Review Article! Improvised Weapons are most often more accessible than a firearm. If one keeps one’s eves open ant the brain on “ON” one will realize the arsenal of improvised weapons which surround them. There is no such thing as a “Harmless” item. Some items are only “one time” use weapons. Some items are more obviously “Weapon material” than others. Some items are more simply employed as others. The list of variables goes on as the almost endless list of items continues. the only thing that renders ANY Item HARMLESS is the IMAGINATION DEFICIT of the USER!