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zackmars

Less than lethal, and the problems with it

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Less than lethal is a broad category, it can encompass things like stun guns, tasers, paintball guns, to all manner of sprays.

Lots of people carry less lethal tools, but not too many understand the issues and potential downsides of them. Keep in mind, I do not think LTL are useless, but like everything else, they have their place, and knowing what that place is, is absolutely critical to being able to properly defend yourself.

 

I've been pepper balled (long story) tased and hit with a stun gun (volunteered), and been pepper sprayed (i was curious) so I understand how these things work, and i know they can/can't work. I'm not here to poo poo these tools, I'm not some badass that can get tased a million times without flinching. This isn't a thread about how lethal force is the only way, but downsides are downsides, and deserve to be pointed out

 

 

To start us off, there is no such thing as "non lethal", not anymore. "Non-lethal" is a very dated term, minted back when things like tasers and stun guns first hit the scene. The early versions of these tools were weak, and designed to cause absolutely zero permanent damage to people. Unfortunately people are not all the same, designing an incapacitation tool that won't harm a small, skinny person meant that many people could just shrug off whatever was thrown at them, so more powerful versions were designed, and the margin of safety became smaller and smaller. Plenty of people have had their hearts stopped by stun guns and tasers, and plenty of people have suffocated from pepper/bear sprays. One key thing to know about self defense, is that it is very hard to stop people. People have taken multiple .50 cal hits, have been blown up, shot in the head, fallen out of airplanes, lit on fire, and continued to function. Be it a Glock, or a taser, never pick something up expecting it to stop a person from functioning 100% of the time, this is why redundancy is important. Always have something to fall back to, even if it's your fists.

 

So, lets talk about stun guns and tasers!

 

Stun guns are close contact weapons, and have two metal prongs next to each other. Electricity flows through, and will go into whatever it touches. Issues are,

#1, it might not phase an attacker. If they are wearing thick clothing, a stun gun can be almost useless

#2, the second it no longer touches the target, the effect stops. When defending yourself, distance is your friend. When using a stun gun, you are banking on the chance the attacker is not willing to press on their attack after being zapped

#3, you are in close with an opponent. Without good training in hand to hand, you can easily find yourself on the ground, and at an extremely huge disadvantage.

#4, most rely on batteries, so preventative maintenance is absolutely critical

 

The market is absolutely flooded with cheap zappers. If you've ever been to a gun show, you know what I'm talking about. The most effective part is the extremely annoying "ZAKZAKZAKZAKZAKZAKZAK" noise they make. Really, the only good things i can say about these is that the noise might intimidate an attacker (DO NOT RELY ON THIS) and you can find them pretty cheap.

I don't think I can reccomend one of these. If you are willing to spend more money, get a really bright flashlight with a crazy aggressive bezel.

 

Tasers. Tasers and stun guns are names that are used interchangeably by many, but since I'm talking about two distinct things here, it's best to seperate them. "Taser" is a specific brand name that makes a specific style of stun gun. Other companies also make their own interpretations of "tasers", but i have no experience with them.

 

Tasers have one thing over stun guns. You can have a bit of a stand off with them, while also being able to use it as a stun gun for super close in. But this comes at a cost.

 

#1, if you are too close, and the barbs don't get a good spread, they are less effective. If you hit a target under 3-5 feet, the barbs will be less effective

#2, heavy clothing can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the barbs. The current can "jump" a bit, but it's still going to reduce the effect.

#3, cartridges are expensive. Tasers (the brand) tend to come with 2 cartridges. A two pack of replacement cartridges is almost $80 USD. doesn't sound like a big deal, but remember, practice is absolutely critical.

#4, if you incapacitate a threat with a taser, they can still quite often recover from a hit. Depending on the situation, this can make escape quite dangerous/impossible. Though you can continue pumping current into a target with barbs in them, so you don't have to be right up on them to keep them incapacitated.

The taser is pretty expensive, a bolt is about $300, and if you want to go all out, an M26c advanced is $700 to $600. If tasers are legal to carry where you live, but firearms aren't, they are probably going to be your best choice. I can't speak for everywhere, so do your research.

As with any less lethal option, it is not guaranteed to work. Yes, there are tons of vids showing cops and soldiers getting shut down with a taser, but those are in conditions where the taser is given ideal conditions to work. No super big guys in marshmallow jackets pumping full of adrenalin getting hit at near contact distances, or only getting hit with one barb. If you pick this, get some good hand to hand training. (You should get this no matter what really)

(I EXTREMELY reccomend watching this guy's stuff, tons of good info concerning all sorts of self defense stuff)

Paintball guns.

 

One popular option for LTL is to carry a small paintball pistol loaded with pepperball rounds, like this tippmann TiPX

Tippmann TiPX

10x concentrated pepper balls

 

These use regular Co2 cartridges, and will only break the seal on the cartridge when you first pull the trigger, so no leaking.

These offer better range compared to a taser, and regular paintballs can be found dirt cheap, so practice is nice and cheap, but pepper ball rounds aren't, but will be far more effective than some paintballs

 

Downsides are

 

#1, pepper balls have an area of effect, and if you aren't careful, you can incapacitate yourself quite easily.

#2, pepper spray/pepperballs are easy to defeat, if an attacker has enough brain cells to wear eye, nose and mouth protection, you basically are reduced to a gun that shoots fragile plastic balls. I will point out here that plenty of people have pushed through pepperballs/pepper spray with no trouble, with no protection

#3, even the smallest paintball guns are large. Carrying them can be a pain, to the point carrying them off-body is the only practical solution. And off-body carry is a really bad idea.

 

A small paintball gun and pepper ball rounds pretty much bridges the gap between a taser and pepper spray, and suffers from many of the drawbacks that every LTL option is burdened with. One upside of pepperballs are that you get range, and incapacitation can potentially take out an attacker for a good while, so it's less risky to remove yourself from an area, but remember, the chemicals in the pepper ball rounds don't discriminate. I know people who keep these in their desks at work in case a bad guy comes through, but none ever seem to realize that hitting a guy possibly near your escape point with pepper ball rounds means that even if the attacker is incapacitated, that whole are is a no-go zone, some pepperball rounds are even potent enough to turn an open area on a windy day into a place that makes you want to take a milk shower.

 

You could use this to take on multiple threats, but you are putting lots of faith on the ability of the pepperballs to incapacitate people long enough to stop the threat, and escape, but it's better than trying to fight them off with a stun gun, or trying to reload with a taser and hoping the first guy is down, and will stay down.

Pepper spray/bear spray

Many issues with pepper ball rounds apply here, but unlike the pepper balls, you will need to be closer for the spray to be most effective. On the upside, you can get sprays in all manner of shapes and sizes, from giant fire extinguisher looking ones, to tiny key chain fobs. Smaller sprayers tend to be cheap, but always check the MFG date. If you are in sensitive areas, this may be your best option.

 

Issues, 

#1, area effect, but you are closer to your target. Crazy easy to take yourself out with this. At least with pepper balls you can move away from an attacker, making it less likely you'll incapacitate yourself

#2, indoor use will ruin your day. They few sprayers I've messed with put out a lot more capsicum than a few pepper balls. And again, depending on effectiveness of the chemicals, and location, this can work for/against you.

#3, again, easy to defeat. Since you aren't launching a projectile and might be close to an attacker, I reccomend training both with whatever spray you carry and get some hand to hand instruction.

 

If you carry a spray or pepper ball rounds, i reccomend exposing yourself to what you are using, simply so you know what to expect, and don't freak out when you use it. You don't want to spray an attacker and start freaking out because your eyes are watering and its hard to breathe.

 

People will bring up the idea of carrying bear spray. Keep in mind that it is less powerful than regular pepper spray. This stuff is to make bears go away with absolutely no long term effects, and since bears here in the US tend to have various protective laws surrounding them, manufacturers tend to be careful with this stuff. Plus there is a fundamental difference between making a bear go away, and making a person physically unable to do anything other than cough and rub their eyes violently.

 

Bear sprays tend to have spray nozzles that are designed to act more as a fogger. This not only greatly decreases range, but also makes it much less useable indoors.

 

Wasp spray is meant for wasps. Whereas pepper spray is an inflammatory agent, wasp spray is a neurotoxin that isn't really effective on humans. It is toxic, and can cause immediate adverse effects on people, but that is extremely rare, and most people who get tagged with wasp spray are able to drive themselves to a hospital for care, and only ever suffer from minor discomfort. Just compare a human to a wasp.

Wasp spray use in violent attack

 

Now that I've done that blathering, I'll talk about what I'd do.

 

Now, i live in Texas, in the USA, so I have the right/ability to carry a firearm, and i do so everyday. If you have this same right/ability, i reccomend that you do so as well, but if for some reason I could only use one of the LTL options I've listed, I'd think I'd pony up the cash for an M26c advanced and some cartidges. I avoid any area effect, and get a medium range weapon with an ability that lets me use it as a contact weapon, in addition to getting more hand to hand training.

Even though this thread is dedicated to LTL, I feel a sort of disclaimer is needed. Despite being far more likely to kill an attacker, handguns (what most people tend to carry for self defense) still aren't very lethal, even solid center of mass shots with good ammo isn't guaranteed to incapacitate a bad guy, even if there are multiple good hits, but it is still much more likely that the bad guy will die, but that is the trade off, for that, you get range, stand off ability, no need to remain with the threat to keep them incapacitated, no area effect that can hurt you, (relatively) cheap way to practice, and if the threat persists despite being tased/zapped/sprayed, lethal force can be easily achieved with a firearm, compared to other options.

 

But again, that option might not be available for you, so do your research, and decide what works best for you, and your needs.

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Of course any one of those things would land you in trouble with the law in Canada, but the people getting in trouble with them in my neighbourhood are the gangbangers and hold-up artists.  They are using bear spray mostly in the LTL category but paintball guns and stun guns are getting seized as well as handguns.  Add sawed-offs and machetes and the odd zip gun and the list looks complete.  I don't carry anything specifically for self-defence but I have a bum leg and sometimes I like to use a cane.

Edited by Rick
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3 hours ago, Rick said:

Of course any one of those things would land you in trouble with the law in Canada, but the people getting in trouble with them in my neighbourhood are the gangbangers and hold-up artists.  They are using bear spray mostly in the LTL category but paintball guns and stun guns are getting seized as well as handguns.  Add sawed-offs and machetes and the odd zip gun and the list looks complete.  I don't carry anything specifically for self-defence but I have a bum leg and sometimes I like to use a cane.

Yeah, I was going to do a bit about melee weapons, particularly batons, but they can easily be lethal if you aren't careful

1 hour ago, dthomasdigital said:

@zackmars Great post and some good information. 

Thanks!

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15 hours ago, zackmars said:

Yeah, I was going to do a bit about melee weapons, particularly batons, but they can easily be lethal if you aren't careful

I can see the lethality in clubs not only from head injury but internal injuries depending on how they're used.  In the 70's a friend constructed a sap out of an RCMP riding crop; my memory isn't perfect but I think he cut it to length, split the middle and inserted a piece of spring steel then wrapped the shaft and bound leather pouches full of lead shot to the ends, then sewed a pocket inside his jacket to hold it. Absolutely lethal but he never got caught with it, and I believe he did deter a mugger with it once..  The law here seems to centre on intent, an example being a man in the bar with a butcher knife stuck in his belt.  If he is a butcher from the shop next door grabbing a small beer on his break and forgot the knife was there he has an excuse, otherwise he's probably going in the back seat.  Any sort of club is questionable, even if not designed or commonly used for fighting, but a walking stick is common, and at least it's something.  A baseball bat in a car with no game pending is suspicious, as is a tire iron under the seat when it should be elsewhere, but there is one exception.  The locking steering wheel "Club" was even given away to all comers in my city by the police department in an effort to deter vehicle theft, and it belongs right beside the driver's seat.

For anyone in the US where the devices originally reviewed are legal it's great to have those options, (some, like pepper balls, I'd never heard of), so thanks for a well presented and comprehensive post.

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LTL options with real guns

 

Some people who can own/carry guns may still want to carry rounds that aren't as lethal as FMJ or soft/hollow point rounds.

 

I do not reccomend this, a firearm is a deadly weapon in the eyes of the law, and where a taser or paintball gun might have some form of legal protection, firearms typically won't, outside of laws allowing OC/CC, castle doctrine, etc. You will want to do lots of research here.

 

To start off, i want to say this, since it's true of everything on this list.

Nothing here has a method of incapacitating an attacker.

So keep that in mind, since i didn't feel like being a broken record

 

Rubber bullets. Easy to find in shot shells, but suffer from light weight (about 4 grains per rubber ball), slow velocity, and general uselessness

 

I'm pretty familiar with rubber buckshot, a previous neighbor had a very aggressive pit that made several attempts to kill my dog and my chickens, and I tried a few rounds of s&b rubber buck. I shot 3 rounds, each one as it ran towards me.

Issue #1, effectiveness vs range was really obvious. Light rubber balls do a very poor job at retaining velocity. Only at about 7-8 yards did the dog actually seem to notice that something was hitting him, the hit at 3 yards made him run away.

Issue #2, lack of effectiveness. Sure it can change an attackers mind, but there's no incapacitating effect, no more than a cheap airsoft gun

Issue #3, ricochet. A sphere is the most likely shape to bounce back right to it's origin point, especially if it's made of rubber. It's extremely unlikely, but you run the risk of putting out an eye.

 

Honestly, if i had to pick these or a slingshot with some glass marbles, I'd pick the slingshot.

You can find specialty loads for all sorts of calibers with rubber projectiles, but these should be avoided. They won't cycle semi autos, are extremely inaccurate, and are made by people in their garages, which should throw up every red flag possible.

 

You can occasionally find rubber baton loads, and while I've heard lots of good about those, I have no experience with them.

I did mess around with some bean bag rounds, but if the 5 i got, 2 flung off in some random direction, and the other 3 were torn apart and left 2 holes each in the target. I imagine other brands arent as bad, but i haven't checked out to see the options

 

For pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, you can get simmunitions, and other brands of marker rounds.

 

I have a decent little bit of experience with these, and got hit in my arm (plus a bunch of armor shots) by a sim round when helping a local PD train for active shooters, so i can say with no uncertainty they sting. But remember, if you're using a firearm, chances are you aren't playing paintball.

 

Issues

 

#1, cost. You can get kits for most types of guns, assuming they are popular, but you can be looking at spending anywhere from 200-700 us dollars. Thats not counting ammo and magazines which are typically proprietary

#2, availability. The kits, ammo and mags are avalible to the public, but it's not a hot commodity item, so most places don't bother stocking it. The places that do tend to be LE distributors who might only order enough to fufill a LEA contract

#3, again, it's not going to be very effective. It's a compressed round of dust going pretty fast. While it's great for FOF training, not so much for trying to stop a threat

#4, the kits are designed to not function with real ammo, nor is the ammo designed to function in real guns, so Dutch loading (which is already a terrible idea) won't work.

 

Blanks. Really, here all you have is the hope the guy gets scared and runs off.

I criticize LTL about how incapacitation isn't guaranteed, so you can guess how i feel about these.

It is worth noting that people have died from close up shots from blanks, so they are not without risk

 

The problem with LTL out of real guns is that superior purpose built LTL tools exist, and accordingly (potentially) have features that make them better suited for their roles as LTL tools, for example, tasers can apply a constant shock to keep someone down. Pepperballs/pepper spray will temporarily effect a persons vision/respiratory system so they will have a hard time functioning.

 

Rubber buck and sims rely on someone REALLY not wanting to get shot, to the point where making a finger gun amd whispering "bang" might send them scurrying. And they might, but they might pop a few very real rounds back at you and duck out, or start shooting back, and keep shooting. Unless you are Carnac, you won't be able to predict which.

 

So if you have the means to own a real firearm, but aren't willing to use it defensively if a persons life could be ended, put the gun in the safe and get a dedicated LTL option. If you are willing to use a firearm defensively even if a bad guy might not make it, load up with some decent self defense ammo and remember that you are most likely going to be reacting to a threat, and that time is way too critical to mess around with a few rounds of, what is basically nonsense in the form of ammunition.

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A couple of notes on Taser updates, and the laws in Canada.

The new tasers are both higher voltage and supposedly not painful unless there is an air gap ( thick jacket etc. ) in which case they cause burns but still freeze muscles. I'm assuming more research has gone into pulse duration, wave forms and frequency. Also probably current limiting, so if the stickers are dug in they don't need to deliver as much as they would to jump an air gap. I still don't see ever wanting to be on the receiving end though. 

The law in Canada; these things are prohibited. Just owning one can mean jail time. The police can carry them but if used they need to be able to justify it very well or potentially face charges for use of a prohibited weapon ( not a minor charge ).

That lead filled riding crop Rick mentioned. It's owner got sucker punched and the rest of the bar beat up and ejected the person who did it. The next day he told me, laughing, "must be getting old, I didn't see that one coming". He didn't have time to pull it, and really the event more proved the value of friends. He had used the threat of it once before ( on the street ) as a deterrent so there is that, and there is a point to being in jail as opposed to a mortuary, but it's nothing you want to do if there are any alternatives.

Lots of things = charges in Canada. Switch blades, or really anything carried while committing a crime. ( what is a crime is open to some interpretation, so expect to be held for questioning at the least if you are in even a defensive fight. If you had any chance to avoid the fight you are probably at fault. ) Anything, when the only use is killing or injuring another human, will be on the list ( great great granddad's cane with the concealed sword for instance ). Bear scare, carried when you are in an urban ( non-bear ) area, again the intent appears to be to use it in a prohibited fashion. A loaded gun in a city , that will probably be good for multiple charges starting with improper storage, rules are double locked ( the front door or trunk counts as one ) unloaded and the ammunition stored in a separate locked container.  Also need a license to posses or acquire, and if a hand gun a permit to transport it between two legal locations issued on a per trip basis.

A can of wasp spray isn't likely to be an issue in the summer, unless you spray it in someone's face, then it's a noxious substance and again you were carrying a weapon with intent unless there is a wasp nest handy.

If this all sounds pretty restrictive, well it was meant to be, but if someone does attack you , you have the right to use reasonable force to defend yourself. That "reasonable" of course is wide open to interpretation, expect lawyers. Being armed before the event will be interpreted as intent ( a great line for the lawyer representing the attacker ) and will put you under suspicion.

An open hand is generally ok, a fist will not be. So there is a bit to be said for learning how to take a fall and practicing a few throws until they are reflex. Break falls ( back and side ), if you can recover from a fall without getting stunned you are in a much better position to act. Osotogari ( putting you opponent off balance and using your leg to sweep your opponents from under him ) isn't tough , yellow belt level judo. Tsuri goshi , especially the old form, is more complex and difficult to master, even if throwing someone 12 feet in the air is likely to end a fight right now. I've seen that demonstrated and the brown belt receiving it touched the dojo ceiling about 14 feet overhead.  Messing it up.. well you are holding the person by their collar while you spin, squat and lock your arm, then stand up and pull forward, all in a fraction of a second. Lots of ways to end up in trouble if it's not reflex.

Stuff is always clear cut, good guy / bad guy, on TV, takes all of 20 minutes plus commercials to wrap it all up. After the fact, in real life, it's seldom that easy to determine intent and fault, lots of innocent people have spent years in jail.

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9 hours ago, Gary_Gough said:

 Stuff is always clear cut, good guy / bad guy, on TV, takes all of 20 minutes plus commercials to wrap it all up. After the fact, in real life, it's seldom that easy to determine intent and fault, lots of innocent people have spent years in jail.

Here's an example of someone who thought he had the right to chase a trespasser:

http://leaderpost.com/news/crime/regina-man-was-stabbed-after-chasing-yard-intruder-with-bat-court-hears

Roy Rogers was so good at shooting the pistols out of bad guys' hands it was easy to accept and they went off to jail, and then when you grew up and got instructed it's shoot for the middle and repeat if necessary; any wounding is purely incidental.  As Zackmars pointed out most of the good non-lethal stoppers are potentially lethal but it shouldn't be hard to put that moral argument aside when you're under attack. 

Edited by Rick
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4 hours ago, Rick said:

Here's an example of someone who thought he had the right to chase a trespasser:

http://leaderpost.com/news/crime/regina-man-was-stabbed-after-chasing-yard-intruder-with-bat-court-hears

Roy Rogers was so good at shooting the pistols out of bad guys' hands it was easy to accept and they went off to jail, and then when you grew up and got instructed it's shoot for the middle and repeat if necessary; any wounding is purely incidental.  As Zackmars pointed out most of the good non-lethal stoppers are potentially lethal but it shouldn't be hard to put that moral argument aside when you're under attack. 

Yep. In the initial confrontation the home owner was clearly in the right, but the intruder left the yard. Arming himself and giving chase reversed the situation to the point the trespasser had a valid self defence  argument but killing the home owner would have been excessive and again placed him in the wrong. Came close as it was and the home owner has a lifetime injury. That's one of those where the prosecution and defence lawyers will be negotiating some sort of compromise to give to the judge, and he generally will follow their recommendations.   

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Great information mate, been mulling over this for the past few days and frankly here in the UK- my options are limited. :( That said, the taser recommendation seems well reasoned and your "round up" is incredibly informative.

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2 hours ago, Thomas said:

Great information mate, been mulling over this for the past few days and frankly here in the UK- my options are limited. :( That said, the taser recommendation seems well reasoned and your "round up" is incredibly informative.

Thanks! And yeah, not having many options always sucks.

 

If it was all i could have, i wouldn't feel too bad with a small can of pepper spray. Just gotta be mindful of where you are and where you gotta go.

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On 20/01/2018 at 2:45 PM, zackmars said:

Thanks! And yeah, not having many options always sucks.

 

If it was all i could have, i wouldn't feel too bad with a small can of pepper spray. Just gotta be mindful of where you are and where you gotta go.

Can't have pepper spray here either mate. :( Literally just hands and fist and even then you better hope the police don't arrest you too for assault.

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3 hours ago, Thomas said:

Can't have pepper spray here either mate. :( Literally just hands and fist and even then you better hope the police don't arrest you too for assault.

Any rules on sap gloves or caps? Guessing they're illegal too, but you never know...

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Canada again but I expect the UK will be similar. Saps are intended for fighting so fall into the same category as brass knuckles ( confiscation and charges ). Kevlar motorcycle gloves are meant to protect your hands from flying rocks and during crashes. For example  https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Motorcycle-Gloves-Man-Carbon-Fiber-Knuckle-Protect-Breathable-Glove-Men-Racing-Moto-Cycling-Motocross-Motorbike-Guantes/32789819195.html  so the primary intent isn't being in a fight ( helps if you can point at the '72 Triumph but even a pedal bicycle should do ) also much nicer thermal properties if you live around here. It's where the laws get very grey, if you have a legitimate reason to have a tool , your intent is probably tool use.

Carry a 8" pipe wrench and plumbing parts, and it's reasonable to assume you are going to fix a leaking pipe. Carry the wrench alone, esp if several local houses have mysteriously had the tumblers in the door knob locks sheared off, and it's probably going into an evidence bag and you'll be needing to prove where you have been.  You may well be just carrying it home, but it still would make you a suspect. Having a reason generally lets the authorities decide to pass.

Example from travelling. I was going from a job back to Canada , and passing through airport security in Frankfurt. I had some spare instruments and batteries in my checked luggage ( so some small electronic devices that looked like hollywood timers, cylindrical objects and a tangle of wires ). The XRay operator, with somewhat wide eyes, pointed at the screen and said "Uhhhh?". I shrugged, pointed at myself and said "techie". He thought a few seconds and waved me through. 

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6 hours ago, Gary_Gough said:

Canada again but I expect the UK will be similar. Saps are intended for fighting so fall into the same category as brass knuckles ( confiscation and charges ). Kevlar motorcycle gloves are meant to protect your hands from flying rocks and during crashes. For example  https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Motorcycle-Gloves-Man-Carbon-Fiber-Knuckle-Protect-Breathable-Glove-Men-Racing-Moto-Cycling-Motocross-Motorbike-Guantes/32789819195.html  so the primary intent isn't being in a fight ( helps if you can point at the '72 Triumph but even a pedal bicycle should do ) also much nicer thermal properties if you live around here. It's where the laws get very grey, if you have a legitimate reason to have a tool , your intent is probably tool use.

Carry a 8" pipe wrench and plumbing parts, and it's reasonable to assume you are going to fix a leaking pipe. Carry the wrench alone, esp if several local houses have mysteriously had the tumblers in the door knob locks sheared off, and it's probably going into an evidence bag and you'll be needing to prove where you have been.  You may well be just carrying it home, but it still would make you a suspect. Having a reason generally lets the authorities decide to pass.

Example from travelling. I was going from a job back to Canada , and passing through airport security in Frankfurt. I had some spare instruments and batteries in my checked luggage ( so some small electronic devices that looked like hollywood timers, cylindrical objects and a tangle of wires ). The XRay operator, with somewhat wide eyes, pointed at the screen and said "Uhhhh?". I shrugged, pointed at myself and said "techie". He thought a few seconds and waved me through. 

Yep, pretty much this here too. All about perceived intent.

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About 25 years ago, a job required me to spend some time in a very "sketchy" area of Washington DC, sometimes at night. (A friend was hired by a government agency in the same area, and told "working here automatically qualifies you for a concealed carry permit,  and we suggest you get one". 

In addition to my laptop case, I carried an unzipped canvas toolbag with a couple wrenches, some Teflon tape, a few pipe fittings, and an 18 inch length of 3/4"  black iron pipe with a hexagonal pipe union on it. A very functional medieval mace...

Never had to use it, fortunately,  but when a cop did ask "what's in the bags?", "just work stuff" seemed a good enough answer, when shown.

Not looking or acting like a perpetrator is part of protecting yourself.

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On 25/01/2018 at 8:55 PM, Wyzyrd said:

About 25 years ago, a job required me to spend some time in a very "sketchy" area of Washington DC, sometimes at night. (A friend was hired by a government agency in the same area, and told "working here automatically qualifies you for a concealed carry permit,  and we suggest you get one". 

In addition to my laptop case, I carried an unzipped canvas toolbag with a couple wrenches, some Teflon tape, a few pipe fittings, and an 18 inch length of 3/4"  black iron pipe with a hexagonal pipe union on it. A very functional medieval mace...

Never had to use it, fortunately,  but when a cop did ask "what's in the bags?", "just work stuff" seemed a good enough answer, when shown.

Not looking or acting like a perpetrator is part of protecting yourself.

Smart approach, but how will that help you in an area where gun crime is high? I know here in the UK its super rare (fringe benefit of being an island with very few ways to smuggle in contraband like firearms) but then again I imagine in Washington D.C, the risk of a gun being pulled on you during a mugging would be high, no?

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