Two Letters Re: Improvised Weapons for Restricted Environments

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have been reading your blog on a daily basis for about a month now and I have been involved in preparing myself and my family for approximately the last year. Today I read Pat Cascio’s review of the CRKT Tao Pen, a brilliant tool, and one that I am sure to purchase soon. My father had a similar pen many years ago, a basic heavy aluminum pen, which he carried wherever he went strictly for the purpose of self defense and much less for the convenience of having his own pen. My father, younger sister, and myself have all been involved in martial arts since we were young, and continue to practice today though we do not attend a specific school. As a martial artist and former boy scout I always try to be prepared, and because of where I live I always carry a knife, both a basic locking folder and a basic Swiss Army pocket knife. I carry a pen specifically for its use as a self defense tool, as opposed to using my knife because using it could land me in a lot of trouble, and it comes in handy when signing paperwork at my place of employment.

I love the idea of the Tao Pen, but I did want to focus specifically on the point you made about airline travel and other public places the pen can be taken that other self defense weapons cannot. Similarly a cane shares the same benefit. At a former dojo, we hosted a seminar from a Master who specialized in using the cane as a self defense weapon. He made it clear that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ensures that citizens who require the use of a cane cannot be denied its use. Additionally, the cane is generally not perceived as a weapon, not surprising as its use implies the individual is unlikely to be a threat due to his or her need to use a cane in the first place and so it is unlikely that it would be taken away. Image does after all play a role in whether you are assessed as a threat, and sometimes its best to appear less of a threat than you really are.

The cane as opposed to a pen when carried in public areas, airports, trains, or other types of public transportation where other self defense weapons are banned, offers advantages such as reach, weight, and versatility. The cane offers its user the same protections that the pen offers, but also keeps your assailants at a greater distance. Furthermore, the cane provides a means of hooking and tripping an assailant, and can also be used in the same manner as an escrima stick to strike, trap,
and break when properly trained in its use. While I am not really at an age where I require the use of a cane or walking stick I could still carry one if I didn’t mind drawing attention to myself but my dad who is older than 40 at this point and had several pins put in his ankle to correct an injury from his service days takes his whenever he has to fly or is going to be walking around with a bunch of crowds or entering a situation where its use is possible. If a self defense weapon, that isn’t a “self defense weapon” is sought after I would recommend learning to use the cane and begin carrying it with you wherever you go it is highly effective and protected by law. Best Regards, – Coastal Texas Prepper

The recent posting of Pat’s Product Review: CRKT Tao Pen, brought something to mind: I too work as a Security Officer and let me say this is a great idea. As to your issue of flying without a weapon, I have been including a pair of socks and four D size batteries in my carry-on luggage for several years. I have never been stopped, or questioned about these items. However if need be, those batteries dropped into a sock could make a nice little field expedient sap. I personally have never hit myself or anyone else in the head with this improvised sap, so I can’t say exactly how effective it is, but it doesn’t look like it would be fun to be the recipient. – RedFiveAlpha

JWR Replies: There are a lot of similar improvised and “at hand” weapons that are relatively innocuous in appearance, depending on the circumstances. For anyone traveling by car, road flares and a medium-length Mag-Lite flashlight look innocuous. (A 3-D cell light doesn’t look much like a baton (unlike the 6-cell monsters), but yet it can still be a devastating impact weapon. A lit road flare will encourage nearly any right-minded goblin to flee in fear.) For pedestrians and rail commuters, walking sticks and umbrellas (depending on the season) don’t even get a second glance–especially for those of us in the graying generation. For air travelers, even a stiff pocket comb can be an effective weapon. See Larry Wick’s Split Second Survival video.) For bicyclists, a frame-mounted tire pump can be effective as in impromptu baton, especially if it is a variety that can have its sliding handle lock in the closed position. Depending on the jurisdiction, bicyclists and runners can also justify carrying either “dog chaser” stick or a large container of pepper spray–such as those sold under the brand name Guard Alaska. Commercial truckers often carry a “Tire Checker” baton, which can of course serve dual purposes. And anyone that works at a retail store can often justify carrying a box cutter pocket knife. (If carried in a well-worn utilitarian leather belt pouch, then they just look like a “tool of the trade.” But make sure that you also have a business card that identifies you as a “retail sales associate” or something similar. )