Tactical pens, cleverly disguised saps, modified brass knuckles, and so on. There’s a whole industry out there selling hidden/disguised weapons to the self-defense crowd.
I like none of them. I suppose I could be forced to make an argument for them if boxed into an intellectual and tactical corner, but in general they are gimmicks, sold to people who 1) aren’t thinking the problem through, 2) are dazzled by the latest tacti-cool thingy, or 3) are strange rangers, mall ninjas or both.
OK. Got that off my chest. Now here’s why.
Many years ago I wrote an article for Combat Handguns (RIP) pointing out that there were six levels of force options that a well-prepared person ought to have available on them.
- Verbal/de-escalation skills
- Soft empty hand skills
- Hard empty hand skills
- Impact weapon capability
- Chemical options
- Deadly force
Let’s set aside the fact that most people never bother to study, let alone acquire, appropriate street verbal/de-escalation skills, soft hand skills and hard (striking) hand skills. That aside, this list means, again to most people, that they need to carry a piece of hardware to have options 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 available to them. But if you’ve made the appropriate investments of time all you need is a can of OC and a gun to have all six options at your immediate disposal. Carrying some gimmick to achieve options 2, 3 and 4 means that you don’t have enough investment in good combatives/martial arts skills…and let’s be honest, that’s a serious deficit. (Note that I’m saying that impact weapons capability can be achieved with good striking skills…there’s blows, and there’s blows!)
When I’ve argued this point with a gimmick-enthralled person the reply I usually get is, “That’s all well and good for someone with martial arts training, but I don’t have any”, usually followed by some variant of “Besides, I’m not in great shape.” Well kid, get your lazy ass off the couch, get in shape and learn some skills; you got no sympathy from me. I know it’s more fun to feel like a man by shooing guns, but if you’re deficient in these other areas, going to the range instead of going to the gym or dojo is just being irresponsible, lazy, and self-indulgent.
You know: hard work and sweat. They’re still virtues.
There’s also some very serious tactical reasons that I don’t like these gimmick weapons:
- They take time to access; using your empty hands is always faster.
- They can perform only certain tasks and thus limit what you can do with them; you lose the flexibility to flow into some other technique in real time.
- Once they are in your hand you become focused on using them and continue to try and deploy them even if the situation has changed and they aren’t the best or even an appropriate option. Related: you become reluctant to simply drop them and flow into a more appropriate technique or level of force (either force escalation or de-escalation).
Finally, there’s one other, admittedly second-level reason, that I don’t like them. If you’re searched or arrested with one of more of them on you, you look for all the world to a DA and a potential jury pool like a paranoid strange ranger, and that can only work against you.
Bottom line: you don’t need them, and they are actually tactically harmful.