Response to a question: Why not less lethal?

In comments to a post at Larry Correia’s blog (buy Monster Hunter Alpha!), commenter and gun control supporter Alex posted a response to me suggesting I look at less lethal alternatives to firearms, with a link to an article about such alternatives. My response started to get a little long, so rather than hijack Larry’s thread I decided to post my answer here. To give anyone who didn’t read the (very civil) exchange some background, here is the relevant part starting with my comment, in response to an earlier comment of his.

Alex said:

given the choice I would take a knife over a gun any day (faced with the prospect of being brutally stabbed I’m pretty sure I could outrun almost anyone, short of a professional athlete

So what about those of us who couldn’t? What about someone like Kurt Hoffman? What about my dad, who can’t run very far or fast (if at all)?

If you want to take your chances that you can run faster and farther than the thug or group of thugs that want to hurt you, you are free to do so. Just don’t force everyone else to do the same.

And his response:

@Jake Might I suggest a less lethal alternative

Guns are designed for one purpose. Killing. It’s hard really to think of any other tools designed to cause only death which are legal anywhere. There are better alternatives for self defense, ones which are less likely to lead to a death on either side

So, here’s my response.


Alex, I will address each the suggested alternatives in reverse order to how they are presented at that article, since issues with some of the later ones carry over to the others.

7, 6, and 5 – the Tire Thumper, tactical pen, and kubaton (respectively): I’m going to address these together as a group, because they share the same essential and critical weaknesses. They all rely on the physical strength of the user to be effective, and they all require that you be within arms reach of your attacker. I hope I don’t have to explain to you why both of those are Bad Things when it comes to self-defense. They all also require that your attacker react to any pain you manage to inflict – something you cannot rely on, especially if the attacker is on drugs.

4 – the personal alarm (with flashlight!): This is a reliable defense? Make a loud noise and hope is scares him off, or that someone comes to check it out (and is actually willing and able to help if they do)? This isn’t a defense, it’s a scam.

3 – the mini stun baton: Stun batons and stun guns are better than any of the previous items, but not by much. Contrary to popular myth (perpetuated here by Gizmodo) they do not actually “stun” an attacker – they cause intense pain, but only at and near the location they are applied, and only for as long as they are applied. The attacker can keep coming if they are motivated or high enough (just like with the impact weapons above, and for the same reason), and once you break electrical contact you’re right back to having to run faster than he does – but now he’s mad. They also share the same glaring weakness as 7, 6, and 5 – you have to be in arms reach of the attacker to use them.

2 – pepper spray: Again, better than the previous items, but with it’s own serious problems. You gain some range – most sprays will reach about 10-20 feet – but now you have to worry about it backfiring. A shift in the wind – or even if the attacker is simply positioned upwind of you – can blow a “mist” from that spray right back in your face and leave you incapacitated, especially if you’re sensitive to it or have asthma. Your attacker might not be incapacitated even if he gets a full dose right in the face. Some people just don’t respond to pepper spray, or they can overcome it easily. Even if they do have a strong reaction, they can still fight through it – the police and military do this as part of their training, and they are required to fight with a decent amount of proficiency while doing so. Pepper spray is simply unreliable.

1 – the Taser: Ah, yes, the Taser. Everybody’s “miracle” Less Lethal weapon… except it isn’t that good. This one I’m going to spend a bit of time on.

Like the pepper spray, you  gain range with the Taser, which is good, and you don’t have to worry about it backfiring and disabling you instead of your attacker. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t overcome it’s weaknesses. First, you only get one shot – if one of the probes misses, or doesn’t make good contact, or if there’s more than one attacker, you’re back to hoping you can run faster than the other guy. It’s easily defeated by heavy or layered clothing. If he manages to break one of the wires it stops working. If he’s wet, it doesn’t work well or at all.

Even if you get good hits with both probes, it doesn’t guarantee he can’t fight through it. The following video of a police training illustrates that very well (if it starts at the beginning, the relevant part starts at about 2:06).

The first time, one probe is stopped just by the pocket of his jeans, and the Taser is totally ineffective. The second time, they get good contact, but he is still able to fight through it and continue the attack. You can see the wounds at the end of the video – good penetration and contact on at least that second try.

Here’s another one (relevant part starts at 4:30).

He goes down, but as soon as the connection is broken he is able to get back up again immediately. In a real life situation, you would again be hoping you can run faster than he can.

There are many real life stories of Taser failures available from a quick Google search. There is a reason most police departments have a policy that another officer be ready with a gun if at all possible if the Taser is going to be used. Just like other alternatives, it simply is not reliable.

Firearms have proven their reliability over hundreds of years. They don’t rely on physical strength to be effective. They allow you to defend yourself from outside of grappling range where an opponent may have a physical advantage. They aren’t liable to disable you when you use them. They allow you to defend yourself against multiple attackers. And finally, yes, they can indeed kill – but sometimes killing someone is the only way to stop an attack. This is why the police still carry guns. They are still the best, most reliable, and most effective tools for self-defense in existence.

My life, and the lives of those I care about, are worth nothing less.


Leave a comment


  1. I, honestly, carry a gun for far different reasons than most people in the cities.

    I have livestock and predators. Yes, I’m cognizant of the human threat and my “light summer” carry is a keltec and not much use against coyotes. I know the score.

    But most of my choices in actual carried or accessible firearms is way more “country” than all the gang drive by combat scenarios on the net.

    and all this is minor.

    The one thing Alex misses, and probably can’t get (due in part to his nationality) is that defense against muggers isn’t the main point.

    Defense of the nation, and of the people against all threat (yes, domestic, too) is the point. That’s the core. That’s the end of the line. It’s a duty and responsibility of a fully enfranchised citizen.

  2. Also I wonder if this guy is like most gun control supporters who do believe that violence is an acceptable tool for non life-or-death scenarios. “I’m not going to shoot the guy for calling my wife a whore, but he DID insult me, so I’ll tune him up a bit with this tire thumper!”

    For me, I’m de-escalating, or getting distance from any situation that is turning ugly, but isn’t yet a direct threat. I don’t want to get into a fight, and I don’t want to hurt anybody, no matter how much of an asshole they are.

    But if I DO need to use physical force its means I’m in fear for my life. Nothing less. If that’s what’s on the table I am NOT doing with those half-assed responses that MIGHT leave me safe, and just as well might be ineffective and leave me dead.

    Sorry, when I have a screw that needs to be tightened I reach for a screwdriver. If my life is in danger I reach for a gun.

    Tools and jobs.


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