The Use Of Non Lethal Defense Devices

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#1
Hi Lee

I've never owned a gun nor would I ever want to. As a result can you give us all a brief description of the types of and use of non lethal defense devices such as pepper spray, mace etc
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#2
Hi Lee

I've never owned a gun nor would I ever want to. As a result can you give us all a brief description of the types of and use of non lethal defense devices such as pepper spray, mace etc
One thing I know from reading and watching super intellectual shows like "Cops" is that not all people react to pepper spray and mace the same. Some people aren't incapacitated and just become enraged and it makes them want to beat your ass a little harder if that is all you are bringing to the table. If you ever pepper sprayed or maced one of these types, it would make you rethink your stance on not wanting to own a gun.
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
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#3
If you are indoors you're likely going to gas yourself too.
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#4
Pepper Spray

One of the most common non-lethal weapons is Pepper Spray. Used by law enforcement and soccer moms alike, it's become a popular item on keychains and in purses.

As Mark mentioned above, individual reactions to pepper spray vary. In the same way that some folks can eat "atomic" habanero peppers, etc., some folks have higher resistance to the debilitating effects of pepper spray. Resistance to pepper spray can be attributed to several factors, some of which are individually-driven, some of which are operator usage, and some which are tool-driven.

First, let's examine the stuff itself. Peppers (and pepper spray) have different "hotness" levels which are represented on the Scoville Scale. This is actually a simple and non-scientific test that measures how much dilution of a certain pepper sample is necessary before no "hotness" can be tasted. Starting at "0", where there is no dilution necessary and no hotness present, the scale proceeds to place common hot peppers from 50,000 to 200,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). There are a few exotic peppers that rarely reach close to one million SHU. Typical law enforcement pepper spray ranges from 1.5 to 2 million SHU, making it too "hot" to comfortably taste undiluted. The scientific flaw of the Scoville rating is that it is based upon human taste testing! There is obviously a huge potential for error.

Pepper spray's active ingredient is capsaicin. It is the capsaicin extract from a given sample that is diluted with sugar/water solution to produce the Scoville ratings. Pepper spray contains the capsaicin, propellants, and inert ingredients. Pepper sprays come in various size containers, from keychain "toys" to keg-size crowd control devices.

For the average civilian user, pepper spray has been available in four different configurations which each have strengths and weaknesses. I'll describe these in a moment. There are two different consistencies of pepper spray in common use: liquid and foam. I'll briefly outline the differences:

LIQUID: Since capsaicin has the greatest irritant effect on mucous membranes, liquid has the better penetration/infiltration qualities. It can seep upward into the nose, into the mouth and eyes and has greater potential to affect more tissue area because of this viscosity. Liquid pepper spray sometimes contains a dye marker ingredient that will temporarily identify the person sprayed to law enforcement personnel. Overall, liquid sprays are used much more frequently by police than foam.

FOAM: Foam came into popularity as a vehicle for capsaicin delivery due to a couple factors. First, it tended to "cling" to the person sprayed and would get on their hands as they attempted to wipe it off, thus allowing further distribution of the pepper in a manner similar to how one spreads poison ivy when scratching it. There have also been dye-infused foams used, in the hope that the spray would also distribute the dye. Foam, however, does not penetrate into mucous body cavities as well as liquid, so many reports state that its incapacitation abilities are not as good as liquid.

The formulation of choice is typically liquid due to these comparisons.

FOUR TYPES OF PEPPER SPRAY: there are three common variants of liquid pepper spray and the aforementioned foam.

1. Linear "stream" spray: This is a thin, fine stream that has the highest velocity leaving the canister, resulting in the longest spray range of the group. Many people are impressed by the distance figures, but forget that almost all confrontations will occur at a very close range. With the thinnest stream of the sprays, AIM is more of an issue as we attempt to hit the mucous membrane-rich area of the maxillo-facial region. Eyes are the primary target!

2. Cone "conical" spray: This pattern is exactly as described, where the stream immediately widens as it leaves the canister. Range is accordingly shorter, but hit probability increases due to coverage pattern. This is the pattern I would recommend if one has a choice. Note that this pattern is not the same with every brand, and care must be taken to avoid being surprised by how the pepper is released by your canister.

3. Fog spray: The best use for this delivery method is crowd control, where no specificity of target is sought. It basically just creates a cloud of the pepper, with range varying on container pressure and size.

4. Foam: With a relatively short range, foam is an option for those who would not choose the liquid options. I'll outline the limitations of all types below.


Before we even discuss tactical application of pepper spray, we should be aware that pepper spray carries some potential consequences to the user. First, wind may disperse some of the spray and the person using the spray may actually be hit by it too! For this reason, those in especially windy climates may prefer the "safety" of foam sprays. Even foam is not completely immune to wind dispersion. Liquid sprays may also splash off surfaces, offering a degree of cross-contamination to the user. Finally, any type of physical scuffle that occurs after spraying someone may result in some of the pepper being wiped off onto the user. For these cross-contamination reasons, anyone using pepper spray should not touch their own face after spraying, until they can thoroughly wash their hands and examine themselves. It would be "embarrassing" to blind yourself when fighting for your life!

Now, it is interesting to compare the relative "resistance" to pepper spray previously mentioned. Personally, as one who does not like hot spicy food, I think being pepper sprayed SUCKS! (Yes, we have been sprayed as part of training, so that we can understand the effects.) For some of my guys, who can eat a hot ember from the charcoal grill and grin, the effects are not as pronounced. At any rate, pepper spray does not always render a person incapable of harming you. They can still punch, kick, stab, shoot, etc. even though their eyesight is compromised. For this reason, it's best to get away as quickly as possible when you spray anyone. DO NOT STAND AROUND AND ADMIRE YOUR WORK! The most debilitating effects of pepper spray are often respiratory irritation, leaving an attacker unable to give chase. Eyesight is often affected too, such that they'll not be able to see clearly for a while. There is a small subset of subjects who exhibit very little incapacitation of any kind, but the variability of spray delivery make it difficult to assess exactly why this occurs.

By now, everyone probably wants to know HOW DO I USE IT? This is an area where we have done extensive work. We used training canisters of simulated pepper spray (exactly the same except for no capsaicin) so that we could assess how trainees would perform in field use. In an application more likely for members of this forum, the spray was carried in a pocket (or a purse for females). Since the spray had no pepper, we used cheap welding-style plastic face shields that can be found at local home improvement stores on our "bad guys". One telling drill placed the bad guy about 20 feet from the trainee, when BG would start encroaching on the trainee. Trainees, under pressure, almost universally fumbled to obtain a good grip on the canister and very rarely were able to spray the attacker as he moved in faster. Since most attacks happen at much closer range, it can be assumed that one has virtually zero chance of successful deployment of pepper spray if it is not "in hand" when needed. We then moved to dedicated carriers for the canister, many of which are similar to the waist-mounted carriers for our cell phones. Having a predictable position for the canister, as well as an unshifting orientation of the activation button, increased the odds of getting a spray off at the attacker. Depending upon the adrenal "rush" exhibited by the trainee as the bad guy rushed them, deployment and accurate use was better, but not optimal. Police deployment of their firearms against onrushing attackers follows a similar statistical pattern. (Tueller drill, for those whose Google trigger finger is itching). Finally, for those who had the spray in hand, hit results reached acceptable levels >90%. Aiming under extreme stress emphasized the reason for the conical spray pattern mentioned above.

A tactical deployment plan of "making a cloud of pepper through which the attacker must pass to get to you" has been suggested at times. Wind, and a greater chance of cross-contamination, make this a tenuous plan in my opinion.

SABRE and FOX LABS are reputable manufacturers of pepper sprays for civilian use. Our inert training units were from Fox Labs.

Caution must be used, as pepper sprays can lose their heat and can also lose their propellant strength. We were actually doing a seminar and I picked up an inert trainer canister for use and it didn't work at all. A second canister fared no better, prompting a healthy dose of laughter that also drove home an important tactical lesson: never rely solely on any "tool" to work perfectly. Have a backup plan.

I'll do my best to answer any questions about pepper spray, but there are folks far more knowledgeable than me out there. I will refer any questions beyond me to them.

Note: I just looked and pepper "gel" is being introduced as well, with properties similar to foam.

Regards

Lee
 
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RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#5
I'll post some ideas for use in personal defense and home protection, as well as a few thoughts about purchasing pepper spray later today.

Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#6
For personal protection applications, I believe I made the case above that one must have the spray in hand. Having to retrieve the canister from a pocket, purse, etc. simply takes more time than the average encounter will allow. Since most sprays have "flip-top" flaps that cover the activation button, it's quite difficult to goof up the direction of fire. It is, however, easy to develop overconfidence in your ability to accurately hit a moving, aggressive target. For this reason, I'd recommend that folks buy an inert trainer unit that matches their live pepper spray canister. Please realize that your choices will then be limited, since not all models are offered in "trainer" versions.

Here's a great overview of the Fox Labs products (both live and inert trainers):

http://foxlabs.com/pepperspray.html

Fox is actually rating their sprays at 5.3 million SHU now!

As examples, here's a price list showing one of the preferred models 22FTM, which has a mated inert trainer unit 102FTM:

http://foxlabs.com/fox_labs_inventory.pdf

For carry, the 2 oz units are a convenient size. For those who plan to keep the unit as a "front door greeter" tool, the 3 or 4 oz units are OK. Please note that the matching inert trainers in the larger sizes are not stock items.

Whatever size is chosen, it is extremely wise to know the range and spray pattern of your unit. Not only should you practice some with the inert unit, but go outside in a safe area and shoot one quick squirt with your live unit. Now, not only do you know that the live unit functions properly, but you know exactly how it feels to activate the live unit. Please note that you must use protective gear if you use the inert unit to spray another person. Although they don't contain the capsaicin, the propellants can irritate skin and mucous membranes too!

Please ask any questions. The stakes involved when we use force against another human being are high. Being "sure" about our competence and knowledge is a foundation for success.

Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#8
Tasers and Stun Guns

Moving on, let's briefly discuss tasers and stun guns. Classified as Controlled Energy Weapons (CEW), these devices produce a high-voltage, low-amperage charge that can "short-circuit" the neuro-muscular system. The effect is one of paralysis and inability to engage in the confrontation. These devices can be useful, but must be considered to be under the same precautions as pepper spray for personal protection.

Tasers utilize a hand-held base module that uses compressed gas to fire two electrode probes and their connecting wires. The probes pierce lightly into the subject and the electrical charge is delivered. Civilian Tasers, as compared to police models, have a shorter range of about 15 feet. They are electrically the same as police models. Tasers are expensive, from $500-$1000, depending upon the model selected. The models that are configured with a pistol-like hand grip are typically more expensive. With Tasers, you have limited shot capacity and must be able to effectively aim the device. While one would think that "within 15 feet" it should be easy to hit a target, the effects of adrenaline and the aggressiveness of the attacker also are factors that influence one's success. I always place my reservations and cautions first, since weapons have been known to give the owner a "magic amulet" condition where they feel invincible. As in my "dead pepper spray canister" example above, it's wiser to think of any weapon as an adjunct to one's skills, rather than be the entire skillset alone.

In use, tasers are usually very effective if the target is hit with both electrodes and they pierce the clothing appropriately. Most subjects exhibit complete incapacitation.

Stun guns, also CEW, do not fire projectile electrode probes. They are contact devices which must be held against the subject. These devices have reputations for extremely wide variances in quality control. Models that are functioning according to specification can be very effective when used properly. Understand that you will most likely be engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict at the time you use a stun gun. The attacker is already within arm's reach.

I personally am not extremely knowledgeable about the latest models and their performance claims. Prices and levels of performance, as well as reliability, vary widely as of my last close look at stun guns. I realize that this isn't that much help, but is truly what I can offer on this topic.

Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#9
My reservations about CEWs for personal protection do come from some experience with CEW training scenarios. As a disclosure, I was a certified Shocknife www.shocknife.com Safety Monitor for several years. This device is a training blade that has a live elctrode running along the plastic-core blade on both sides. When touched by it, you feel as though you are being "cut". The Shocknife is a valuable tool that allows us to more closely simulate the psychological, emotional, and physiological effects of facing an attacker armed with an edged weapon. Many programs use rubber knife replicas that allow safe training. However, the trainee quickly loses all "respect" for that weapon, as he knows it cannot harm him. The Shocknife provides a repeatable dose of "I don't want that f***ing thing to touch me!!!", closely replicating one's response to facing a live blade. It'll really make you dance.....

Lee
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,021
1
0
Seattle, WA
#10
For carry, the 2 oz units are a convenient size. For those who plan to keep the unit as a "front door greeter" tool, the 3 or 4 oz units are OK. Please note that the matching inert trainers in the larger sizes are not stock items.

Lee
Lee, let me first thank you for superb explanations. I know nothing about this topic and full of misconceptions from watching TV :). So it is great to be learning things this way.

I was going to post a related to question to above in a separate thread. But since you mentioned the topic, I will pose it here. Feel free to make it another thread.

What do you do when there is an aggressor at the door? I am talking a situation where you clearly know is out of ordinary and tense: say an angry stranger pounding on your door. Let's further assume that we live in modern homes with glass in doors and such so the physical security is not really there if the person wants to come in. Do you arm yourself as above? Call 911? Talk to the person or not?
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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www.fightingconcepts.com
#12
None of these devices are effective against an armed home invasion. a shotgun is your best defense. I refuse taking a chance at being a victim.
The forum's administrative team has agreed that discussions about use of firearms will not be part of WBF. All members are free to hold their personal opinions on this, just as in audio, etc. Feel free to PM me with any comments, etc.

Lee
 
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RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#13
Here's a short video clip demonstration of a test subject and a 75,000 Volt Stun Gun.

CAUTION: Language!!!


Note that while there was definitely pain involved, there was really no incapacitation of the subject. There have been many reports of exactly this sequence occurring: reflexive withdrawal from the pain, followed by an increased level of aggression on the retaliatory attack.

Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#14
Here's another video clip, this one far more "documentary-style", that features the use of a Taser. We have the same complete FIST armored suit seen in the video that we use for simulations. Take careful note of the comments about effectiveness of the Taser with regard to distance from the subject!


Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#16
Wow, I am amazed how that guy took the stunt gun hit and afterward acted like it had not even happened! The shot on the neck was remarkable.
The lesson to take away from these two videos is that we should never rely solely on a tool (lethal or non-lethal) to end a conflict. Proper training provides us with built-in backup plans in case of primary weapon failure to incapacitate. The stun gun is pretty easy to recoil away from, and the Taser will not incapacitate subjects if the two electrodes do not affix to the subject with the proper distance between them.

As a civilian, it is IMPERATIVE that we understand that the distance at which self defense tactics are employed is almost always ARM'S LENGTH. There is usually not the remaining space as shown in the "practice shots" portion of the Taser clip. So, it is unsure that the two electrodes will have the necessary spread between them. Note how close the wife had to be to use the stun gun on her husband, and how quickly he could have resumed an attack if he desired.

Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#17
As a further example of the uncertainty of a weapon's stopping power, here's a clip of a "good-ol'-boy" out playing with his friends. Pepper spray, a stun gun, and two non-lethal shotgun "bean-bag" rounds are used sequentially on this guy. Note the results. Now, let's get this guy hopped up on crystal meth and pretend that we're not concerned. He was not even in the "fight or flight" aggressive mode, so his motivation to escape or fight back was not present. Over-confidence has deadly consequences.


Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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#18
Tasers: Field Use Data

I had the opportunity to speak with a good friend who is a SWAT Commander about Tasers. I was interested in obtaining recent Taser deployment statistics and also asking questions about effective range, both close and farther. Since they get to play with all the toys, they can offer the largest number of user comments in the community.

1. As mentioned in the video clip I put up, the two Taser probes (essentially darts connected to the unit by wires) leave the unit subtending an angle of 8 degrees between them. This "spread" produces an optimal distance between the probes when imbedded in the subject so that enough tissue/muscle will be conducting the electric current. If the probes are too close together, the effect is not optimal. This can happen if the subject is inside approximately 8 feet from the user. Narrow probe placement produces pain and some incapacitation, but often not reliable enough for the intended purpose. This close-quarters limitation should be strongly considered if one is contemplating a Taser for personal defense. At longer ranges, over 20 feet or so, the probes can spread apart too far and misses (of at least one probe) become a concern. Distance also affects the depth of penetration of the probe darts, so heavy clothing may be protective against Tasers at this range and above.

2. Although WBF has set limits on topics of discussion in this forum (rightly so), I want our members to be fully aware of how the use of Tasers is viewed in the law enforcement community. Almost universally, departments have a policy of having a backup officer present any time a non-lethal subject control method is to be employed. The backup officer is armed with a firearm in case of failure-to-stop with the LTL (Less-than-lethal) device (be it pepper spray, Taser, etc.). As civilians, we do not usually have the luxury of a backup, so we must carefully consider our choice of defensive tools.

I originally didn't intend to turn this topic into a dissertation, but the overall level of understanding on WBF is impressive and certainly capable of digesting more detailed information. So, a short explanation of how Tasers operate in use is in order.

The two typical models, the X26 and the M26, differ in their configuration. As I mentioned previously, the M26 is the model that resembles a firearm and the X26 more resembles a stun gun in shape (no classic firearm grip style). In operation, firing the Taser at a subject is accomplished by pulling a trigger which launches the probes. Once the probes strike the target, a 5 second electric charge is delivered. If an additional charge is desired after the 5 seconds has passed, another pull of the trigger delivers another 5 second charge. At any time during discharge, a second switch may be pressed, halting the charge immediately. An important consideration is that the darts do not launch immediately upon pulling the trigger. There is a short latency period that either allows the gas pressure to build for propelling the darts or allows the capacitor to fully charge in preparation for delivering the charge. (I will ask the mfgr at next opportunity). So, you must maintain your aim for this short interval in order to hit your target.

Another tip from my friend involved the efficiency of the two models of Taser. He commented that the M26 gets quite warm in the user's hand when it is shot, while the X26 does not. I attribute this to an improved transfer of the electricity from the capacitor to the probe wires in the X26. Since it's also less bulky, the X26 seems to be the better choice for civilian carry if a Taser is your choice.

The probes are coded so that they may be traced back to the firing unit and the owner. This identification process clearly states which officer used the Taser, and will also identify the civilian user to police when the probes are found (either in the bad guy at the ER or in the dumpster behind the 7-11). Therefore, if you deploy a Taser, you will leave positive identification as the user.

I hope that this information has helped you to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of EMI (electro-motor impairment) devices. Quite honestly, except for massively lethal weaponry, there exist NO "sure things" in personal protection.

Lee
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Beverly Hills, CA
#19
Hello Lee,

What is your opinion of the Kimber Pepper Blaster II pepper gun? I believe this device contains two semi-automatic charges of pepper which are expelled from the gun like a low-speed projectile, rather than in the form of a continuous spray.

It seems to me to be the most serious of these kinds of devices, but I was wondering if you have had any personal experience with it.

I like that this device can be held securely like a small pistol, and that it has a trigger, rather than a push-down button like a can of anti-perspirant.

Thank you.
 
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