April 4, 2009
Let’s define the two most common types of stun guns. Really when you talk about a stun gun you’re talking about the hand held guns that you have to physically contact someone with in order to get it to work. The other type of stun gun is what most people think about when they think about stun guns. Those are the stun guns made by Taser. So when we talk about stun guns, we mean the handheld ones and the Taser is the “shooting” stun gun.
Now there are two main number you look for when you’re talking about a stun gun. There’s the volts, anywhere from 50,000 to 1,000,000 volts. This actually doesn’t tell you much about the tool except that a 1,000,000 volt gun will work a bit quicker than a 100,000 gun, for instance. Another number to keep in mind is tha amperage of the stun gun. 1 single amp is enough to kill someone. Most stun guns run at about 3 or 4 miliamps.
Another thing to consider is how strong you are. It is pssible that a small man or woman won’t have the strength to keep someone from taking a stun gun away from you and use it on you. There are several styles of stun guns that masqerade as common items like cell phones. In addition there are multiple use items like flashlight/stunguns. This can be an advantage in that a potential attacker dismisses or doesn’t realize that an item really is a stun gun. Since most attackers try to sneak up on someone unseen and grab someone, this can be an effective counter to that kind of a surprise.
Now, one popular misconception about stun guns is that if someone is touching you and you stun them, the current will somehow leap and stun you as well. The human body isn’t that good of a conductor and the energy from a stun gun is discharged from between the two prongs of the gun. What happens when a person is hit by a stun gun is that the current travels along the nervous system of the body interfering with the signals between the brain and the muscles. That pretty much keeps someone from doing pretty much anything while they are being stunned.
The C2 and Advanced Tasers work a bit differently than a stun gun. First off, they shoot prongs that lodge just under an attackers skin and the current travels along the wire into the system of the attacker. While a Taser also interferes with the signals between the brain and the muscles, it also causes the muscles to contract and deplete themselves of glycogen. Glycogen is what muscles use for energy and when that is depleted, blood sugar is converted into glycogen thus the muscles have more energy to use. Now when blood sugar in the body is depleted, as anyone with diabetes will tell you, you get very tired. Very tired. So your attacker won’t be thinking about continuing the attack any time soon. Plus in a pinch, the Advanced and C2 Tasers can be used as regular stun guns, if you’re grabbed unawares for example.
Now I’m a big fan or less than lethal technology for several reasons. First we live in a country that has more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world. So if you go around shooting people, even in self defense, you can expect that sometime you’ll wind up in civil court. I don’t know about you, but I have better things to spend my money on than lawyers and court fees. Not to mention that if a judgement goes against you, you’re on the hook for damages that could run to the millions. Second, when you hit with a stun gun or a Taser, your adversary is going down for the count. With a gun if wing someone in the arm or leg or even in the torso, they might still be able to come after you. Third, I also believe that people do stupid things and sometimes they can learn when they hit a brick wall, especially punk kids. At the very least you won’t have someones death on your conscience.
March 31, 2009
Personal alarms seem to be the red headed step child of self defense. They’re not as sexy as pepper spray or stun guns, but as a defensive tool, they can be better. The most important ally a criminal has is anonymity. As long as they can keep their crimes from coming to light, they can usually get away with it. That’s why personal alarms change the entire calculus of a violent confrontation. Personal alarms come in many shapes and sizes. Some are small enough to be keychains while others are integrated into flashlights and batons. Some of the best have straps that can be pulled away, so that if an attacker grabs the alarm and pulls it away from you, the pin is pulled from the alarm and it goes off until the pin is replaced. Now, just because you’re kited out in all this cool self defense gear, it doesn’t mean that you can walk around heedless of your surroundings. Alarms, for instance, are much more effective in heavily trafficked areas. The more people who can hear the alarm and respond, the better off you are. Even if nobody responds, you still will have a second or two while your attacker is confused by the howling alarm in his hand for you to grab your pepper spray or stun gun. You’ll have to be quick because you might only have a second or two. That’s where multipurpose alarms come in handy. If, for example, you have a flashlight/stun gun/alarm, when you set the alarm off, you’re ready to go with the stunning part. If you’re in a darkened area you’ll already have the flashlight out looking around, so you don’t have to waste time digging around for it. Several types of alarms come with door and/or window attachments. These are perfect if you’re traveling or live in dormitories or know people who do. They work by using the principle of current. As long as the current between the door and the jamb remain closed, the circuit is complete and the alarm doesn’t go off. As soon as the door opens…130 db of of hi fidelity disorienting power slams a burglar in the face. Have you ever seen those lamps that turn on when you touch the base? Certain dual purpose alarms use that process to arm themselves. They come with a strap that you hang on the doorknob on your side of the door. When someone touches the handle on the outside of the door the alarm will go off. You do need to be careful as the alarm will not work with metal doors. Dormitories are notorious for using metal doors so be sure yours isn’t before you get one of these. The main benefit of an alarm is to buy yourself time. Time to escape, time to summon help, time to fight back. A criminal has the advantage in that they know when and where they’re going to strike. It gives them quite an advantage, but planning and practice, wedded to the right tools can overcome that advantage and give you the initiative.
March 29, 2009
I did forget one other type of pepper spray. There’s a foam type of spray that can be used in certain situations. One of the benefits is that it can be used in windy/rainy weather and still maintain it’s effectiveness. The main benefit, however is the fact that in order to get the foam off, the criminal has to wipe it off the affected area. In essence this forces someone to grind the foam deeper into the mouth, nose and eyes.
The main drawback is the limited range of the product. You pretty much have to be in hand to hand range, “decicively engaged” as our military likes to call it, but as an “at all costs” measure, it’s very effective.
To recap, pepper sprays are great for delaying an attacker and giving you time to summon help. Pepper sprays are inflammatory agents that affect the eyes, nose and mouth of the attacker. Remember, they stop focusing on hurting you and focus all of their attention on the fact that they have to think about breathing.
Pepper spray effectiveness is measured by the percentage content of OC agent and SHU which is a measure of the “hotness” of the spray. Pepper sprays come in several types of dispensers. Stream sprays like the cops use, cone sprays and fogger sprays which can be used as area denial tools and foam, which can be the most devastating type of delivery, but has the drawback of being very limited in range.
A final note concerns bear sprays. They are usually fogger type sprays which are ideal because you don’t want to engage a bear up close and personal. So you’ll use them on a bear at the range of 15-20 feet. The formulation is about 2 percent OC which makes it legal in places like Michigan and Wisconsin. So yes, you can also use bear spray against humans, dogs, other animals, etc. Also not only do the several states have differing laws about the use, formulation and who can sell pepper spray, so too do certain cities have laws regarding the sale, posession and use of pepper spray. Protect yourself from lawsuits and/or criminal charges and get to know your state and local laws concerning pepper sprays. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief in the future.
March 26, 2009
First off we need a few definitions. There are three types of agents used in defensive sprays. CS (orthoclorobenzalmalonitrile), CN (alphachloroacetaphenone); both of which are commonly known as tear as or Mace; and OC (Oleoresin Capsicum); commonly known as pepper spray. All three work about the same, they irritate the lining of they eyes, nose and throat causing a person to tear up, begin coughing and forcing they body to try to flush the irritants from the body. This is the basis of the stopping power or pepper spray. Now some things you should know about CS and CN spray. They, like OC spray, irritate the membranes and cause pain as one of their effects. Now pain can be an inducement to stop whatever it is a criminal is doing, but you don’t want to rely on that solely for protection. People, after all, can block out pain, some people are also immune to CS and CN spray. You don’t want to find that out after spraying someone who’s attacking you, only to discover that it doesn’t work. Another pitfall is the length for the spray to take place. Not only have field tests by police officers documented the failure of CS and CN spray, especially when the target is drunk or high, but the effects can take anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 second to manifest themselves. In a combat situation 5 seconds can seem 5 years and 30 seconds an eternity.
OC is different in many ways. Rather than irritate, it inflames. This is critical when you think about how a small man, woman or teen can protect themselves against a large man or woman. Rather than use pain, OC disables a person by making it hard to see and breathe. The swelling won’t completely close off they windpipe, so the attacker won’t suffocate from somebody using pepper spray on them. There are two pieces of information that you need to look for when deciding on a pepper spray to buy. The first is the percentage of OC in the product, relative to gas, dyes, etc. and SHU or Scoville Heat Units. To give you an example the SHU of a habenero pepper is about 200,000 to 300,000 SHU.
Now in my younger years I ate a habenero pepper whole. Once. The pain could be best described as if you had put a porcupine in your mouth and held it there for about 30 minutes. It was excruciating. Most pepper sprays have SHU up to 2,000,000 SHU, 9 to 10 times the heat of a habenero pepper. The effects of pepper spray will wear off in about 30 minutes, much less time than CS or CN spray, which still gives you plenty of time to leave the area. That’s the most important safety tip I can give you. After spraying your assailant, leave, run, yell and scream for help. Call the police if you have a cell phone that works. Many defense sprays come with a dye that shows up by UV light, making it easier for law enforcement to identify your attacker.
All any self defense tool does is give you time to summon help. Pepper spray is no different. There are three methods of dispersal when you’re talking about pepper spray. Stream, mist and fog. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
A stream, for example is good for distance (5-20 feet) and you have less of a chance of blowback when you use it. Some disadvantages are that you must spray directly into the mouth, nose and eyes of the attacker and, like all sprays, effectiveness can be muted by wind, rain, fans, etc.
Mist sprays shoot out cones of spray which is good for “area denial” applications, say down hallways, up staircases etc. The mist is more immediate than the stream sprays, but more vulnerable to wind and rain conditions. Fogs emit the spray kind of like a fire extinguisher, which is considered the most effective and immediate when stopping an attacker. They are also less vulnerable to wind and are excellent in “area denial” applications.
Fogger type sprays have a range of 15-20 feet, making them a valuable “stand off” tool. The only drawback to these types of sprays are the limited number of shots compared to other sprays.
So when deciding on a spray to use, you need to think about how and where you’re going to use it. Will you be best served by a personal keychain spray that shoots a stream? Perhaps you need a fogger type spray for home defense. Keep the advantages and disadvantages in mind when choosing a pepper spray and you’ll have a tool that will serve you well against any criminal.
March 25, 2009
There are two schools of thought when it comes to protecting your person and your property. One school devotes itself to disguise and hiding the fact that your person and possessions are warded against violence and theft. The other school believes that a “show of force” is a good idea, or not hiding the fact that you have tools at your disposal to defend yourself.
In most cases, the second school carries the most weight in my opinion. Why? Because criminals are naturally lazy. Rather than do honest work, they’d rather take what you’ve worked for. Ironically, criminal behavior rarely leads to riches, plus you have to watch out for treachery. Treachery from criminal “allies” or informants of law enforcement. You can turn this to your advantage.
There are several tools that are useful when securing your person or property from crime. At the top of the list are alarms. Whether on your person or around the house, alarms lessen the amount of time a criminal has to perpetrate against you. They can alert others to you predicament and/or summon authorities. In many cases an alarm is all that’s needed to foil a mugging or burglary.
Assaults and rape are a different matter. While alarms can be useful in summoning help, the fact that a person wishes to harm you changes the time needed to do so. A stabbing or shooting takes much less time than snatching a purse or ransacking a house. In cases like these, pepper spray and stun guns come into their own. Many people may feel hesitant at causing pain to another person. Don’t. By their very actions, these people have forfeited their right to be safe in their person.
At this time peeper sprays and stun guns come into their own. A sensible person should own both and know when to use them. You don’t want to use a pepper spray when firing into the wind for example. Also outdoor conditions like rain can have an effect. Pepper spray is less effective in rain for example, whereas stun guns will work regardless of wind or rain conditions.
This shows an attacker that you’re willing to defend yourself and won’t be easy meat. Using a pepper spray for stand off value can protect you and your stun gun can protect you in close quarter situations.
So these tools provide a circle of protection. The alarm cuts down on the time a criminal has to perpetrate against you, while the pepper spray can be used as a stand off weapon or and area denial weapon. The stun gun can be used as a last resort to incapacitate an attacker, while you run towards help. Do not under any circumstances wait around to see the person taken into custody. Most sprays come with a dye that shows up under UV light, so the police can make identify someone you’ve hit with pepper spray.
In reality you’ll probably only need one or two of these tools. However you can’t predict crazy, so it’s best to be prepared to defend yourself and your home. These tools have a benefit above and beyond the physical protection they provide. In our litigious society you can be taken to court if you shoot and kill someone. By using less than lethal force, you strip your attacker or their next of kin from any pretext they have to try to destroy you through lawyers. In later posts, I’ll go into how and why you might want to use these various tools solo and in conjunction with other tools.
March 23, 2009
The death of a 4 year old in Echo Park, Los Angeles by a recent “non-violent” parolee leaves one questioning if anyone released from prison can be trusted. And these people will have to be let go. California is among the worst with budget shortfalls, many states will be following in the near future as tax receipts from sales tax fall.
Another unintended consequence of the law is this report by California’s Sex Offender Management Board regarding the living places of sex offenders. Apparently one of the effects of the law has been to push these people past the margins of society and into homelessness, where law enforcement can’t keep track of them. Now instead of being able to see where these people live, they move invisibly among the growing homeless population every day. Could the even be in the tent cities springing up all across the nation?
If so, this could be a disaster waiting to happen. I’ve worked with kids who have been sexually abused. Sometimes you can bring them back and sometimes you can’t. The deciding factor seems, at least to me, to be the level of violence involved in the abuse and the victim’s reaction to the violence. I would think that life among the dispossessed in the tent cities will, sooner or later, degenerate into violence.
The worst part of all of this is the fact that most of it will occur under the radar. With the budget cuts, increase of parolees and law enforcement being a less attractive career, there won’t be much if any manpower devoted to the problem. Much like the inner city projects before them, tent cities will be incubators of crime. Politics, as usual is focused on yesterday’s problems and this is going to blindside those in power just like the problems of the economy did. As usual, it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to protect ourselves from the tyranny of evil men.
March 19, 2009
There’s a perfect storm brewing. It’s not a thing of nature or weather or climate. It’s a thing of men. There are three seemingly independent situations that are going to combine into the greatest criminal wave to hit this country since Prohibition in the 1920’s or the bank robbers of the 1930’s.
The first theme in this symphony of crime is the current economic crisis, which contrary to mainstream economists, shows no sign of getting better. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have evaporated in the last few months and, if anything, the number is increasing daily. Whenever the economic situation gets bleak, rise in criminal activity is not far behind.
The second melody in the symphony is the pending release of people jailed during the height of the War on Drugs in the 1980’s. Most of these guys were given 20-25 year sentences. They’ll be due for release over the next few year. In a normal economic environment they’d be hard pressed to find a job, especially with a felony hanging over them like a Sword of Damocles. What chance do they have to find gainful employment now? Not to mention that they’ve spent the last two decades in the real-life version of the School for Scoundrels. No, they’ll go back to what they knew, drugs now with schooling in how to really be criminals.
The third movement in the symphony regards the forces of Light. It’s not only the criminals who will feel the consequences of the economic meltdown we’re now suffering through. Budgets for city and county law enforcement are being squeezed all over the nation due to declining tax receipts. A friend of mine told me that one of the counties around here are freezing the pay, not hiring any more officers and denying overtime in order to meet budget cuts. While this might be a good idea in the long term, it has serious detrimental effects when you look at long-term consequences.
First, by freezing pay, you increase the chance that people will choose to do something other than police work. Especially among the older, more experienced officers and detectives. This brain drain will take some time to manifest, but when it does the effects will be noticeable with less cases closed and irreplaceable knowledge and skill lost to the next generation of law enforcement. Second, by not hiring new officers, when crime does pick up, the newly pared down force will need to take up the slack. But wait, if they deny overtime, who will take up the slack?
When you combine the three factors, more people choosing crime, more criminals getting out of prison and less police on the streets, things start to look grim. At leas they do if you don’t believe there is anything you can do about it. The good news is that there is plenty a citizen can do to protect themselves from the coming storm. Much like preparing for a storm, it takes a little foresight and planning, but even this can be weathered. We’ll look at how in coming posts.
March 17, 2009
Let’s talk a bit about fear, you and I. Don’t worry, we’ll not go too far around the corner and down a dark alley. Fear is one of the most misunderstood emotions out there. Most people will do anything to avoid it. Much like anything else, however, fear in reality is a tool. Any like any tool, it can hurt or help you.
Over millions of years our ancestors have used fear to get them out of sticky situations, situations that for us living in the modern world have little to no conception. Living in the Third World or being in the military or law enforcement might give you some vague conception of the situations that our ancestors faced, but on the whole, we’re pretty lucky in this day and age.
Their legacy to us has been this tool known as fear. Neurologists are just now unraveling the mysteries of this most human of emotions. In fact, one of the largest growing mental disorders in the United States, PTSD, is intimately tied to how and why we fear what we fear. We’ll talk about that a bit later, for now it’s enough to know that it exists.
Fear, too, can kill. Ben Sherwood talks about “The Statues in the Storm” in his book The Survivor’s Club. If you’ve ever read Dune by Frank Herbert or have seen the movies based on his books, you’ve seen the title of my blog before. While fear can be used as a tool in a crisis situation, most times it turns us to statues. That’s why law enforcement and the military spend so much time trying to train that out of recruits.
This holds especially true if you’re a woman or a teenager. Or if you’re like me, a short guy. Many bullies and criminals, for what is a criminal but a bully writ large, think that smaller means weaker. Being small and weak doesn’t mean that you’re helpless or a victim.
Also preparing yourself mentally attenuates the amount of fear you feel in a real confrontation. It won’t eliminate your fear, which is good, because fear can be used as a tool in a confrontation. Fear can actually be used to jump start you if you’ve become a statue in the storm. Overwhelming fear is what seems to turn people into statues that await their doom.
In an emergency, your mind is the most valuable weapon or tool at your disposal. The more quickly you can recover from a shock, the more quickly you can start thinking and start surviving.