[Watch] Improvised Weapons Training Tactics: It’s a Mindset

A recent disturbing trend has become the dramatic increase in the amount of people who become victims of violent assaults in so called “safe zones”, or environments where weapons are not permitted. Violent criminals have been targeting these “safe zones” to great effect, because they know the odds of armed resistance are low.  Most of us spend a lot of time in environments that are either very restrictive, or non-permissive when it comes to carrying weapons.  The places you live and work in, places you spend a lot of time in, or during times of travel, make it impossible for you to have a primary or secondary type of weapon (gun/ knife) on your person. I’m sure you heard people say something like “I feed naked when I can’t carry my (insert weapon here).” There’s no need to feel naked when it comes to not having a primary weapon: not if you have the right mindset. This article is intended as a brief, but broad dive into the subject of “alternative” or “improvised weapons”. It is not intended to be instructional, but instead getting the reader to think about the actual “mindset” of improvised weapons. When most people think of carrying or using a weapon for personal protection or home defense, they naturally think of a primary weapon like a firearm or edged weapon, which by design has a specific purpose and use. What if the circumstances you find yourself in for any reason or length of time, put you into a position where a dedicated primary weapon is unavailable? There are many practical options to alternative / improvised weapons. In order to determine the most realistic and practical solution, you have to think about your own personal circumstances: (a good friend of mine calls that “the self, in self-defense”) Think about your own real life factors like where you live, where you work, how you dress, what is legal for you to carry, your own physical attributes, etc., etc. There are no one size fits all solutions for this.  However, there are a lots of things you CAN DO which cover the gap between having nothing but your bare hands and harsh language, to having an improvised weapon with some real stopping power. I emphasize “stopping power” because the critical value of any weapon used for self- defense should be: how quickly and effectively does it end the fight? With that said, let’s take a look at some alternatives.

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Types & Examples of Improvised Weapons:

We obviously can’t cover all types of possible improvised weapons, and the tactics to employ them in this article. However, here are some things that I think are very viable, practical, and highly effective. They have different levels of stopping power, but I would not want to be on the receiving end of any of these things, especially from anyone that had some training. Remember that having the mindset on employment of these weapons does not equate to training time. If you want to be able to pull things off under stress, then it’s wise to dedicate some practice to any type of weapon you consider adopting.  Here are a few types and some examples of each:

Small Knives, Sharpened or Pointed Objects: Credit Card Knives, Very small fixed Blade knives or Folding Knives of 2 inches or less: Small enough that they would be legal under the vast majority of jurisdictions for length and type. Knives or stabbing implements made from G-10 or Carbon Fiber. Ice Picks, Leather Awls, Screw Drivers, Kitchen or dining flatware.

improvised weapons

Impact Weapons: Canes, Batons, Kubatons Saps, Hammers, Tactical Pens, Flashlights (my 2 personal favorites)

improvised weapons

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Fist Loads: This is really the mindset part where the environmental creativity side of things becomes interesting. Technically, a fist load can be anything you can hold in your fist and use to deliver focused impact and manage impact shock. If the object does not hurt you in the process, and it’s good for at least one good strike before it falls apart, it’s a viable weapon, even if only temporary. See video portion of this article for examples and use.

Flexible Weapons: Monkey Fists, Garrotes, Coin –Saps, Bandanna and pad lock, or a Bicycle chain and pad lock. Towel and bar of soap. A length of hose filled with rocks or sand.

improvised weapons

While some people may argue that some of the items I have mentioned are actually purpose designed weapons, they are certainly not weapons that fall into the category of a primary weapon, or a weapon most people would choose first, if firearms or full sized edged weapons were available or permissible. Personally, if I am only carrying a pen and a flashlight, I still feel like I am adequately armed for the majority of types of physical confrontation the average person might encounter. I don’t have that “naked / unarmed” feeling, though admittedly I have invested considerable time developing the skills to use these tools. Two very important yet often misunderstood issues to think about when discussing alternative weapons are:


Obviously, what you’re doing should not be obvious in terms of how you carry or conceal the object you intend to use as an alternative or improvised weapon. You don’t want to draw attention: You should be asking yourself: Does what you are doing look threatening to random people you may encounter? Does it print over clothing? Could it attract the attention of law enforcement? Do you look like are trying to hide something? Sometimes hiding something in plain sight works well. Examples: Clipping a tactical pen between two buttons of your shirt, or keeping a letter opener on your desk top instead of inside your desk drawer. Remember that drawing attention to yourself can ruin the element of surprise, which could diminish the weapon’s potential for use or limit its effectiveness. This is a very important thing to consider when using a contact distance weapon.


Just because you carry or conceal a weapon on your body does not mean it is easily deployable under stress. Think about how easily can use or deploy the improvised weapon regardless if concealment of that weapon is necessary or not. Hiding an object in my shoe may be great way to conceal it, but how easy would it be to deploy from there while someone is already in the process attacking me? Can I possibly hurt myself using the weapon I choose? Think about a flexible weapon coming back on you, or objects you might use that could end up injuring you at the same time? If I use a glass as a fist load and it breaks on impact, could I severely cut my own hand in the process? If you are trying to strike, hit, cut, or stab something, remember…your effective range is limited to the combined length of your own arm and the length of the object in it. You have to get close to the threat to use what you’ve got. Even if the application of the improvised weapon does not deliver the fight ending stopping power you wanted, it still might thwart the attack, or buy you time to escape to safety.

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Environmental Weapons:

Another related topic I want to make a brief, but necessary mention of are environmental weapons. Most people don’t spend 100% of their lives in a sterile environments, like empty rooms or prison cells. Human beings like “stuff” around them. The thought process of turning that “stuff”….ordinary objects from your immediate environment into weapons, is a very practical skill to develop for a self-defense minded individual. Maybe you’ve heard the saying: “Your mind is your primary weapon.” Use your imagination, and think practically about what can be used in your physical environment to defend yourself if a threatening situation occurred. Thinking about all these things in advance can greatly increase your reaction time in a very bad situation. Could it be the leg of a chair or piece of furniture? The stapler or letter opener on your desk? The salt or pepper shaker on a restaurant table, a heavy, glossy magazine off a coffee table rolled up tightly in your hand? (Don’t laugh, done properly, it’s not fun being on the receiving end of this, try it sometime).

In closing, think about how just having a basic mindset on improvised weapons could improve your odds of survival in a potential life threatening situation. Also, think about how you would explain why you have a particular item on your person in advance, if you happen to be questioned about it by someone of authority: Like a boss or a teacher on campus: “Hey Bob….why do you always carry that flashlight around during the day?” Remember….you MUST always know your own State and Local laws and ordnances concerning legality of weapon types, as well as those of where you plan to travel to. It makes no sense to survive a violent encounter only to be subject to criminal liability, or possibly look like the aggressor because you failed to reasonably comply what the laws are in your area.

Article by GetZone.com contributor Robert Rudis

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