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I’ll start this by saying I’m against violence.
By that, I mean gratuitous violence because I acknowledge it is much part of life, the natural state of things. But being peaceful is different than being harmless. In fact, the most peaceful people I know are also the most harmful.
Throughout my entire life, I have always strived for conflict avoidance and de-escalation. I’m constantly training my awareness skills and studying violence and crime to detect and avoid it as much as possible. Not being there is Rule #1 in survival.
But we must be ready to fight violence with violence if necessary.
That’s Rule #2: Be prepared to use violence. I have no shame admitting that I run first. But I also practice martial arts, combat, and tactical shooting, among other self-defense techniques.
Because violence can be unavoidable sometimes, and we can only focus on what we can control (that’s ourselves). The rest is not really up to us. The world is dangerous, and there’s a lot of evil out there, even when things are normal. It’s obviously much worse when SHTF, as we know.
But that doesn’t mean we should employ violence in all violent situations.
Knowing when it’s necessary is critical (it comes with studying violence and training). It’s sort of a Catch-22, but it’s important to understand that the consequences of violence are, more often than not, worse and far-reaching than non-violent options.
Besides potential consequences, there’s always some risk involved in any direct engagement. We may know how a situation starts but can’t say how it’s going to end. Ever.
Surviving is the goal. Winning is for the ring. This leads to Rule #3: Violence should be the last resort. Even if we’re ready to deal with it, we should do everything in our power to detect, avoid, defuse, de-escalate, or escape.
When the enemy picks the time and place.
Sometimes violence comes to us. That’s when weapons and training can be an asset. It’s reassuring to know that you can at least handle yourself to some level if things go awry.
Firearms top most prepper’s list. It’s the #1 weapon of choice for SHTF. Rifles and pistols are great to have at any time, and certainly more if the world goes Mad Max. I love shooting and competing as much as anyone.
But there are intermediary levels of SHTF to prepare for.
When handguns aren’t a viable option or the most appropriate for a situation, urban weapons can provide a tactical advantage for personal protection and self-defense.
By carrying these weapons and being efficient at using them, and also knowing about them and how they work, we can improve the odds of avoiding, deflecting, or neutralizing these weapons, in case they get used against us.
This is what good LEOs everywhere do.
Because it’s part of their job to contend with thugs and criminals that use improvised and adapted weapons all the time. And no one wants to get caught by surprise.
In fact, much of what I’m presenting here was learned from cops and other security agents, experts, and instructors during my street survival outings, interviews, direct training, and other situations. The following general tips also come courtesy directly from them.
Before we dive in, here’s the skinny of urban weapons conduct. Take note, if carrying one of these (or any other) is in your plans: Beware the rules of the streets. Study the law. Don’t flaunt. Practice constantly. And keep the concept of deterrence always in mind.
Weapons are items designed to inflict physical (body) damage or act as deterrents to discourage someone from doing something bad or violent against us.
Selco talks about how this works during SHTF in his many books, and whether or not you think a civil war or other total breakdowns may take place where you live, it’s worth knowing about deterrence at least as mental preparation.
Know the Law
Federal, state, and municipal. This is very important, for obvious reasons. Governments and authorities are becoming more and more strict, even though public safety has been decaying with the passing of time.
Don’t just do a quick first page on what’s allowed or not in your town. These things change all the time, frequently without notice. Go deeper, and check what is being practiced out there and what the authorities will allow, tolerate, or enforce.
You may be surprised that some items forbidden by legislation are not actually enforced, and vice versa. I’m not telling you to carry this or that, just to wise up. In the end, if something happens and you’re brought to justice, it will be taken by the letter of the law no matter what the street practice.
Street fighting rules
Talking about the street, the only thing to know about street fighting and urban violence, in general, is that there are no rules. Everything is game to incapacitate your opponent (temporarily or definitely) and escape intact. Know that because your opponent already does.
In perhaps 99% of the situations in life, being discreet, restrained, and low-key is a good thing. When we’re carrying a self-defense weapon, this is even more important.
Constant practice of carrying, deploying, and operating is advisable. That’s no different than firearms or any other weapon, really. The goal is to become as smooth, as quick, and as efficient as possible.
Surprise and efficiency are big factors in any combat. It’s possible to revert the situation by surprising an attacker and being skilled. This takes practice, and practice, and more practice.
Do some testing, too, to see if it will hold and perform or break on the first strike. The worse time to learn is when you actually need it.
(Looking for more information on emergency evacuations? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide.)
The following items are so commonplace that they should pass unsuspected in most places.
There are others. This is just a primer. The idea is turning everyday, ubiquitous, unsuspected items into force multipliers, so creativity and improvisation play a big role.
But if deployed efficiently and timely, these improvised urban weapons can help achieve the ultimate goal of buying time and distance from an attacker (to escape) or get us out of a dangerous situation.
I got this tip from a friend who works as a bouncer in a downtown club where the lowlife gather. He applied a choke hold on a guy who had just slapped someone on the dance floor. The fellow lit a Bic on his forearm to break the grip. He’s 6’2” and strong as a bull, but the intense burning made him back off instantly. Took him a few seconds to realize WTF was that while the guy ran away. It’s effective over fabric as well (but you know the potential implications, so beware).
I saw this one myself during a construction job I was supervising here: a guy stopped two coworkers who attacked him using a tube of superglue. There was an argument, one of the guys pulled a small blade, and this fellow gushed superglue all over them. It was a mess, but the result was immediate.
This is a tricky one to pull out, but when I thought about it, I saw the potential and some advantages: 1) Superglue is easy to find; 2) It’s above suspicion; 3) It’s perhaps the last thing someone (police or not) would think is being carried as a “weapon”; 4) It’s unexpected; 5) It’s very effective and quick in incapacitating attackers without being fatal, which may come handy if the case is brought to justice.
As always, there are some cons: it’s not as easy or fast to deploy. It must also be used in a way, so we don’t worsen our own situation by “gluing” ourselves to our attacker or something else. But I can imagine this being used stealthily in some close-body situations, though, with the attacker not realizing it until he’s stuck.
Small, inconspicuous, legal, heavy, and powerful. Padlocks have been used as weapons for ages. Tied to a bandana, a lanyard, or even a t-shirt, they become a slingshot with tremendous reach and blunt force. Square types have sharp and pointy edges, making them dangerous and effective if used as a swinging weapon.
It can be thrown onto someone to gain a few precious seconds to allow an escape. Padlocks and chains have been used by urban cyclists for decades, meaning it’s time and street-tested. A hefty lanyard can replace the bandana. Cons: Bulk and weight mostly.
Aerosol (hair spray or other)
You’ve probably seen aerosols used as flamethrowers in movies. This has been used in real life too. Most aerosols are also highly flammable, and some are highly irritating too.
It requires a lighter or other ignition source, which all but prevents its use in surprise attacks on the street. It’s also relatively short-reaching, though no one will take a chance when a flame is being thrown around. But no one will make an issue of someone carrying a can of hair spray either.
Twist-and-pull corkscrew pullers may not be the most efficient when it comes to opening wine bottles, but they are incredibly effective when used as a weapon. They are a “civil” version of the push dagger, a.k.a. knuckle knife, a very popular choice in the U.S. in the 19th century, but certainly a more discreet and, above all, permitted item. If you get pulled and asked by the cops, you can distill your immense knowledge in enology, and everything will be fine.
The umbrella is touted in many prepping circles as an effective weapon. There are many videos on the internet showing people swinging an umbrella against attackers, though it’s not really an effective weapon to inflict serious damage nor incapacitate a stronger opponent or attacker – unless you can poke the person’s eye or other soft parts with precision. This is mostly movie stuff, though, I can assure you.
What I have seen done effectively is using an open umbrella to hide another weapon, like a firearm, pepper spray, or something else. The person opened it while using the other hand to draw a pistol and shoot the criminals coming for him. You see them turning around and running away, desperate in surprise.
The pandemic has turned carrying a bottle of alcohol into a common thing. No one would think anything of someone carrying it everywhere, not even into restaurants or on public transportation. Except perhaps on airplanes, but you’re unlikely to need to defend yourself while flying anyway.
Alcohol can be used directly if you can splash some into the person’s eyes somehow or threaten with fire. This is tricky, though, but if you can pull this off without being detected, it can work.
People fear flammables and fire. There’s a famous video of a guy filling the tank at a gas station. A van with thugs comes by, and when they’re about to go down and rob him, he calmly pulls the nozzle and soaks them and the van with gasoline. Of course, they run away immediately.
Now we’re entering the legal gray zone.
Depending on where you live, one or all of the items below would be recognized as weapons by most anyone, especially the authorities. These are more efficient for incapacitating an opponent by inflicting damage or at least changing his mind.
Easy to conceal, deploy, and highly effective, the telescopic steel baton is used by many police forces around the world. In fact, it’s so damaging that in many places, it’s illegal (e.g., California). It’s my preferred urban weapon because it’s not as easy to be taken from you, and it’s highly effective even against more than one assailant.
In fact, it’s very effective as a deterrent because it’s quite intimidating. Opponents should desist just by seeing it being deployed. And if used, only one strike might convince them that insisting on attacking you is a bad idea.
These were also very common in personal combat and even during wars since the ancient Rome period. Though capable of causing serious damage, brass knuckles aren’t just to deliver a more debilitating punch: they’ll save your hands.
As anyone who’s ever been into a fight can attest, punching someone in the face (or anywhere) bare-handed can be painful. And dangerous too: it’s easier to break a hand or finger than most people think.
This may be OK during normal times, but thinking in terms of SHTF, breaking anything and especially the hands, may imply a serious handicap, not only for self-defense but for many other things.
Like firearms, pepper spray may be illegal in some places. In the U.K., for instance, they’re strictly forbidden. Despite laws and regulations, police may or may not have a more lax attitude towards someone carrying a pepper spray, so it’s really down to the local scene.
When it comes to efficacy, we must be mindful of the time it takes to make an effect: it can be anything from a few seconds to a minute – unless you hit the eyes. For this reason, it’s better if deployed discreetly or by surprise, and when it gets into action, you can run.
When it does work, though, it’s quite effective to incapacitate an assailant or assailants. Smaller canisters are easier to conceal and deploy.
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In close-quarter combat, knives can be deadlier than a handgun or other firearm. It’s easier and quieter to bring into action, and this makes a huge difference.
There’s just too much that can be said about knives, from size to type of blade, not to mention the plethora of attack and defense techniques. It would take another article to go over even a fraction of that. Training knife fighting and defense is really, really hard and tricky (not to mention dangerous).
Just know it’s messy and risky, and if you pull a knife on an attacker and he or she doesn’t change his mind and turn away, you better be ready to use it effectively. There’s always the real risk of getting it taken from and used against us, too.
There are many other kinds of blades that can perform the same function. Many are improvised, but there’s also a plethora of industrial options out there, some really low-profile like the fixed-blade tactical belt knives. These stay somewhat concealed but can be identified and might be forbidden in most places. Folding knives are controversial, so I’ll leave it at that.
One of the most elegant for civil use is the integrated belt knife by designer Dan Valois. It’s a rather sophisticated solution to keep a small knife concealed and easily available: a 2.75” blade in 420C steel with serrations, useful to cut through seatbelts, cords, and other tough materials. The blade is coated black to make it even more tactical.
It will sound the alarm from metal detectors and also show up in X-ray equipment. But in the urban environment, it’s the most discreet (I’d say camouflaged) fixed-blade knife that I’ve ever seen or known of. I wear mine all the time, and not once have I had someone asking me about it. For all purposes, it’s just a belt.
Are there other discreet carry options?
There are a wide range of other discreet weapons that could be considered I didn’t discuss above. If you know of any, let us know in the comments below. What are your thoughts on what I mentioned?
Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.
Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City , is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. He’s also the author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.
You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor