Self preservation is at the heart of every prepping philosophy. Whether its your EDC bag, your bug out bag, or something in between, you’ll likely include some means of self defense in your kit. I’m a big fan of having a firearm (or two) as your primary means of defending yourself and loved ones.

However, not every scenario calls for lethal force. Also, some people vehemently object to using deadly force and therefore refuse to use a firearm. Traditionally speaking, the knife, offers you the ability to use deadly force if necessary. But, for those opposed to lethal force, the knife can also be used to deter a would be attacker without killing them.

So, then the question becomes, is a knife your best self defense option? Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this. Different scenarios require different tools. We’ll examine some of the most popular forms of self defense, their benefits, their weaknesses, and some examples of when each is appropriate.


The lethal nature of the firearm makes it quite the deterrent for the bad guys. Nothing puts the fear into a home invader quite like the action of a pump shotgun. But we focus on everyday carry. So how does the firearm stack up?

Intimidation Factor: 4.5/5
Lethal-ity: 5/5
Effective Range: > 20 feet
Conceal-ability: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Pros of Firearms For Self Defense

I consider the firearm to be the most lethal weapon of choice for self defense. If you need to put a perpetrator down, this definitely has the stopping power. This is particularly true if you are able to recognize the threat from a distance, or create enough distance between you and them. There’s really no true alternative to a firearm, it’s meant to end a confrontation succinctly and permanently. This is the most lethal form of self defense.

Firearms are referred to as the great equalizer. I want you to picture a single mother, who weighs in at 140 lbs, and stands just over 5 feet. Now envision a 260 lbs lineman, who towers over her at 6 feet. Generally, you’d never think the single mom would never be the last one standing in a life and death struggle. However, with a firearm, physical superiority is far less of a factor.

Furthermore, numbers are far less of a concern as well since you’ll likely have more than one bullet available to defend yourself. Finally, there’s really no comparison between the other methods of self defense and a firearm. There’s a reason the saying is “never bring a knife to a gun fight.”

Cons of Firearms For Self Defense

However, pulling your firearm, aiming, and firing accurately all take time. Sure the movies make it look incredibly easy. In reality, while you’re under duress, you’ll be far less likely to remain steady. Your adrenaline will be pumping, and trying to control your body in that situation is difficult unless you are a trained professional.

Furthermore, the 21 foot rule states that an attacker can close the distance between you and them before you are able to utilize your weapon if you’re less than 21 feet away. Of course, a pistol can be used as a blunt force weapon as well, but that is not it’s intended purpose.

While concealing a weapon is definitely possible, it’s not as easily concealed as some other forms of self defense. There are comfortable conceal carry options available, and if you’re interested, check out my recommended apparel. Carrying around a loaded firearm isn’t exactly as comfortable as carrying around some of the other means of self defense. Essentially, you’re trading comfort for lethal force.


This is likely part of your EDC kit already, and has an abundance of uses beyond self defense. However, in a pinch, or as your primary, this tool can be used to defend your life. Let’s look into some of the pros and cons of using a knife as your self defense option.

Intimidation Factor: 3/5
Lethal-ity: 3.5/5
Effective Range: < 5 feet
Conceal-ability: 4.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Pros of Using A Knife For Self Defense

The great thing about a knife, is that it can be used to inflict lethal damage when necessary. Targeting extremities is less likely to result in a mortal injury. Another great feature of the knife is that it is easy to carry. Because it it light weight and not bulky it is much easier to carry every day when compared to a firearm. Similarly, the sizing of most fold out knives makes concealing it simpler. Even if you choose to carry your knife openly, you’ll draw far less attention than open carrying a firearm.

While the knife is not nearly as effective as a firearm at deterring an attacker, it does provide some level of intimidation. This is particularly true if you exhibit characteristics of someone trained to use a knife.

Cons of Using A Knife For Self Defense

Unfortunately, using a knife as your primary means of self defense is not advised. While both a firearm and a knife require diligence in training to use effectively, the skill involved in wielding a knife requires much greater effort. Ultimately, the limiting factor for using a knife for self defense is you.

While a bladed weapon does tip the scales in your favor against an unarmed opponent, it also requires them to be dangerously close to use. Unless you have mastered the art of throwing a knife, and are using a blade designed to be thrown, the effective range is very short.

Even with proper training, there’s a risk of your attacker(s) wresting the weapon from you and using it against you. Using a knife against multiple assailants is ineffective, and this is largely due to its lack of stopping power.

The two methods to inflict damage are the slash and the stab. A slash is unlikely to do major damage to your opponent(s) unless you manage to cut tendons or some major blood supply. Couple this with the fact that most folding knives have only a single edge, and it makes using a knife even more difficult for self defense. Stabbing is likely to inflict more damage. However, any and all attackers will be wary of the hand holding the knife. This makes it less likely to land a decisive blow allowing you to focus on other assailants.


Intimidation Factor: 4/5
Lethal-ity: 4/5
Effective Range: < 10 feet
Conceal-ability: 2/5 – 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Pros of Using A Blunt Object For Self Defense

Anyone who has seen the Walking Dead knows about Neegan. His weapon of choice during the zombie apocalypse is a simple wooden baseball bat, outfitted with some barbed wire for flair. A bat can be very intimidating to an unarmed assailant.

Unlike a knife, landing a blow on an extremity can cause serious damage by shattering bone. Targeting the head and other soft spots is a quick way to end an attackers advance. For this reason, a baton or bat can be used for lethal force when necessary.

Baseball bats and telescopic batons keep your opponent at a distance, and is probably the biggest advantage this weapon has over a knife. Even if your assailant is armed with a knife, they’ll need to advance well within the range of your weapon before their weapon becomes effective. This same principle applies when multiple attackers are involved. The arc of such a weapon can be used to create distance between you and multiple attackers.

Cons of Using A Blunt Object For Self Defense

Similar to the knife, the limiting factor when using a baton or bat is your own skill. If you haven’t trained using escrima or other similar fighting styles, you’ll probably end up just flailing your baton or bat around wildly. You are most vulnerable if an enemy can parry one of your attacks and get inside your guard.

The second issue I have with this method of self defense is concealment. Telescoping batons are best, and can easily be carried and concealed. Something like a baseball bat is far more difficult to carry around.

Pepper Spray/Pepper Gel

Intimidation Factor: 2/5
Lethal-ity: 1/5
Effective Range: varies
Conceal-ability: 5/5
Overall: 3/5

I’ve lumped pepper spray and pepper gel into one weapon choice. They function using the same principle, which is to cause irritation to the eyes and generally cause inflammation to the mucus membranes. This allows time for the victim to flee.

Pros of Pepper Spray/Gel For Self Defense

I’ll begin by saying that I’ve never been sprayed with either pepper spray or pepper gel. However, I have known people who have tasted it’s bitter sting. Described in two words, “it sucks.” Pepper gel allows you the advantage of being able to spray your attacker from a greater distance. Because of the consistency of the gel it’s also likely to target more precisely.

Where these methods have a distinct advantage is ease of carrying and concealment. Often touted as ideal self defense for women, these can easily be stowed in a purse.

Cons of Pepper Spray/Gel For Self Defense

My biggest concern about these methods is their stopping power. While they may be fine for buying time, I have also seen videos of MP’s successfully performing their duties after being hit by pepper spray. If it is possible for a determined MP to ignore the effects, it seems to me you may encounter an attacker who can also conjure up the gumption to ignore it.

My second concern is that against multiple attackers this method can be just as effective on you as it is against them. Spraying in a confined space means you’ll likely be affected by the spray as well. The same holds true for spraying indiscriminately in all directions to deter multiple attackers.

Stun Gun/Taser

Shocking your assailant into submission seems like the ideal candidate for non-lethal self defense. Lets take a look at the pros and cons and see if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be.

Intimidation Factor: 3/5
Lethal-ity: 2.5/5
Effective Range: varies (< 5 feet)
Conceal-ability: 4.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Pros of Stun Gun/Taser For Self Defense

Again, I’ve never been hit with the electricity from a stun gun/taser, but my buddy has. We’ve been to a few gun shows, and inevitably, someone will spark up one of these bad boys. It makes me laugh every time to see him jump at the sound. For this reason, I’ve given the stun gun/taser self defense method slightly higher marks for intimidation.

Depending on the model of stun gun/taser you’ll likely have similar success as with a can of pepper spray when it comes to concealment. While slightly larger in size, it’s easily concealable in a purse. Oft represented as a premier self defense tool for women, this makes sense.

Cons of Stun Gun/Taser For Self Defense

Unless your model has a way to shoot the electrodes into someone, the effective range is similar to that of a knife. Should you have one that utilizes cartridges, your aim better be impeccable, as the models I’ve seen only come with 2 cartridges. This makes it less than effective against multiple attackers.

Another disadvantage of stun guns is that they must be charged. Presumably you’ll keep your version juiced up, but the last place I want this to fail is when my life is on the line. I can look at my magazine and know that I have “X” number of shots before a reload.

Finally, stun guns do have the capability to be lethal, albeit unintentionally. Depending on the method with which the shock is delivered dictates whether pain is more localized or widespread. Regardless, tasers have been known to cause cardiac arrest, and therefore may not be a non-lethal as you might expect.

Parting Shots

When it comes to protecting myself and loved ones, I believe in the old adage. “It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” If the time comes that I feel the need to defend myself with force, I want to be sure I neutralize the threat indefinitely. If you are of a like mind, check out my concealed carry apparel section for recommended ways to conceal your handgun. If you’re still hell bent on carrying a knife for self defense, take a look at my recommended knives.

Before you go, let me know how my evaluation of self defense methods stack up against your own? Feel free to leave comments below.