If you’re looking for a non-lethal form of self-defense, you’ve come to the right place! While we know that it’s hard to beat a handgun for self-defense, we also know there’s a lot of reasons why you don’t want to or can’t carry a gun.
In times like those, pepper spray or a stun gun will keep you safe and sound.
We’re going to talk about the best choices for pepper spray and stun guns, but first, we’re going to talk a little bit about how to use each safely, as well as what to look for in each when finding one you like.
Why Carry Non-Lethal Self-Defense?
First, let’s talk about why you might want to choose a self-defense weapon that isn’t a gun.
If you’re in a state where getting a concealed carry permit is difficult, you might choose to go the less-than-lethal route to protect yourself without the hassle of permits.
Additionally, there are plenty of places where you can’t take a gun, but still want protection, such as college campuses. Carrying pepper spray or a stun gun can keep you secure and on the right side of security.
Sometimes you aren’t dressed for carrying a gun. Maybe you’re all fancied up for a party, or hitting the jogging trail and don’t have a sturdy waistband to attach a holster. You shouldn’t sacrifice your safety simply because carrying a firearm is impractical.
Finally, if you have a problem with pulling the trigger and ending a life, a non-lethal option is for you. You can use it confidently knowing that you’re not using lethal force, rather than freezing up and being unable to defend yourself.
Carrying Pepper Spray or a Stun Gun Safely
Whether you’re carrying a firearm or a non-lethal weapon, you still need to train with it and be ready to use it when the time comes.
Any stun gun or pepper spray worth carrying will have a safety mechanism. This keeps you from accidentally discharging your weapon while carrying it, but it also can be an obstacle in a self-defense situation.
Know how to work your device’s safety without looking. Practice turning it off and getting ready to strike so you can build muscle memory.
You should also make sure that your device remains reliable and ready to use. For electrical self-defense tools, this means that you should charge it or change the batteries as instructed by the manufacturer.
For pepper spray, that means checking the expiration date and replacing your canister as needed. Aerosolized canisters can lose pressure over time, rendering them ineffective.
How to Use a Non-Lethal Self-Defense Weapon
Obviously, there will be some differences between using a stun gun and pepper spray, but it’s important to know just how to operate yours.
Using a Stun Gun
Stun guns require you to make contact with your attacker, which can be challenging. You obviously want to avoid hitting yourself, but it’s worth noting that, if you’re touching your attacker, you won’t hurt yourself by shocking them. If you’ve got the shot, take it.
The first step to using a stun gun is taking the safety off as soon as you feel unsafe. Even if you can’t see the threat yet, you’ll be ready.
If you are attacked, you’ll want to press the trigger and hold the probes firmly against your attacker. The neck, shoulder, underarm, groin, and abdomen are all good targets, but it’s better to zap anything you can reach if you can’t get to one of these points.
Generally, stun guns need to be held in place for 3-5 seconds, but bigger assailants may require additional time.
Using Pepper Spray
Ever seen someone in a movie use pepper spray by extending their arm, turning their head away, and spraying madly? Turns out, this is about the worst possible way to use pepper spray.
Instead, drop back into a defensive posture. This means taking a step back to increase distance, bending your knees to lower your center of gravity, and making yourself generally hard to hit or knock over.
Bring both hands up to your face, keeping your elbows slightly bent. When firing, aim for your attacker’s face and moving back and forth in case you missed with your initial burst.
It’s tempting to close your eyes, but it won’t protect you from blowback–but it will make you unable to see what’s coming next. Since pepper spray can take a second to take effect, you’ll want to be properly alert.
You should also make a commotion to attract the attention of bystanders and get witnesses. Scream, curse, shout–whatever it takes.
Finally, you can find inert pepper spray canisters that will allow you to practice with your spray. Train with these so your first time using your pepper spray isn’t in an attack.
Choosing a Non-Lethal Self-Defense Weapon
We’re going to talk about our top choices in a minute, but we wanted to give you a quick rundown on what to look for when choosing your own.
Choosing a Stun Gun
There are a few traits you’ll want to look for in a stun gun, including:
- Voltage: The higher the voltage, the stronger the shock. You’ll want at least one million volts–anything less is sacrificing safety for price.
- Power Source: Some use replaceable batteries, some use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable devices often have a better battery life and deliver a stronger shock, but do need regularly charged.
- Safety and Ease of Use: Can you quickly switch off your safety and fire? If there are too many steps to get your stun gun ready to use, you might be unable to use it in time. Similarly, if the safety is too easy to turn off, you might give yourself a zap. Some even have features that can prevent the stun gun from being taken away or being used if it is.
- Carrying and Concealment: If your stun gun isn’t easy to conceal and carry, you won’t do it. So make sure it’s comfortable for how you want to carry. You can even find models disguised as objects like lipsticks and cell phones, for added concealability.
Choosing a Pepper Spray
Like stun guns, there are a few traits you might want to keep in mind when shopping for your next pepper spray:
- Formula: There are three major formulas on the market right now–CN, CS, and OC. CN and CS are military-produced irritants that cause pain. OC, which is actually “pepper spray” and not just a self-defense spray, is an inflammatory that causes pain and swelling of the mucous membranes around the eyes, nose, and throat. This makes it hard to breathe or open your eyes.
- Spray Pattern and Range: There are a few different spray patterns, each of which has an effective range. Streams have the longest range and better targeting, but they aren’t as easily inhaled, which can limit their effects. Mists have a shorter range and more danger of affecting you or bystanders, but they are easily inhaled. Foams are the least effective since they have a short range, aren’t easily inhaled, and take time to work. However, they’re safer for people who are concerned about respiratory issues from blowback.
- Size: Large canisters are harder to tote with you, but give you a longer burst, better range, and more stopping power. Most keychain canisters hold about a half ounce, while a one or two-ounce container gives you a good combination of portability and effectiveness. Anything larger than that is better suited to home defense.
Now, for the stuff you came here for–let’s talk about our top picks for the best stun guns and pepper sprays!
Best Stun Guns
If you’re looking for the most widely recommended stun gun on the market, you’re looking for the Vipertek VTS-989. It has a voltage of 300 million, which makes it the strongest stun gun on our list, and pretty much able to stop any threat.
- 300 million volts
- Bright LED flashlight
- Takeaway prevention features
The VTS-989 also has a safety switch that you need to slide upwards before it can be used. There also is another safety feature that prevents and assailant from grabbing the stun gun and wrestling it away from you–two metal strips that wrap around the sides ad conduct electricity.
You just gotta make sure that your fingers are well clear.
This stun gun uses a rechargeable battery, so you’ll need to charge it for an hour or two every month, even if you haven’t used it.
It’s on the bigger side at 6” by 2” by 1”, but it’s still small enough that you shouldn’t have any problems concealing it and carrying it. We also loved that it came with a built-in, super-bright LED flashlight. This will definitely come in handy, especially if you don’t already carry an EDC flashlight.
Since we like its power, price, features, and rechargeability, we’re giving the VTS-989 our top spot.
POLICE 305 Stun Gun
At first glance, it can be easy to mistake the POLICE 305 Stun Gun for a flashlight, which definitely gives you the advantage of surprise. With a 160-lumen adjustable beam and 38 million volts of power, it handily serves double duty.
POLICE 305 Stun Gun
- 160 lumen LED light
- 38 million volts
- Rechargeable battery
- Hard to fit in a pocket
It’s 7.5” long, which may make it a little large to stick in a pocket and go, but it’s a great option to stick in your bag or your car for safety.
The safety is a simple switch, so you won’t accidentally zap yourself but it’s pretty quick to use if needed. This stun gun also uses a rechargeable battery, so don’t forget to keep it topped up every month so it can be effective.
If you liked the first Vipertek, but wanted something a little smaller, check out the Vipertek VTS-880. It’s about the size of a deck of cards but delivers 35 million volts.
- Multiple color options
- 35 million volts
- LED flashlight
- Requires monthly charging
It doesn’t have the same grab protection that the VTS-989 has, but it does come with a bright LED flashlight. And for our fashionable readers out there, it’s worth noting that it comes in pink, purple, and black!
Best Pepper Sprays
Sabre Red 3-in-1 Pepper Spray
It’s quite possible that the Sabre Red 3-in-1 pepper spray is one of the best out there. Sabre Red is a top manufacturer of self-defense sprays, and the 3-in-1 spray is trusted by the NYPD, Chicago PD, and the US Marshals.
Sabre Red 3-in-1 Pepper Spray
- Trusted by law enforcement
- Formulated with CS tear gas
- Formulated with UV dye
- Safety can be switched off in a bag or pocket.
This spray uses a stream pattern with an effective range of 10 feet. It also is formulated with CS tear gas and a UV dye to mark assailants. The dye glows under blacklight, making it easy for law enforcement to identify your attacker.
It comes with a super simple twist-lock that you can disengage with only one hand, making it easy to access in a high-stress situation. With a four year shelf-life, you won’t have to worry as often about replacing it, but don’t forget to change it out when it is expired, even if you haven’t used it.
The canister is small enough to conceal in your hand, pocket, or purse, but still delivers a pretty long blast. We also recommend spending a few bucks more and getting the Practice Spray Combo, which comes with a practice sprayer you can use to train with.
Overall, the Sabre Red 3-in-1 spray is our top pick, since its size, concentrated spray, range, and formula make it a fantastic self-defense weapon.
Fox Labs Mean Green
Instead of merely UV dying your assailant for identification, why not dye them bright freaking green? That’s the idea behind Fox Labs Mean Green spray, which contains a concentrated dye to stain skin.
Fox Labs Mean Green
- Contains green dye
- Powerful formula
- Available in stream or mist
It comes in three sizes: 15g, 1.5oz, and 3oz. The 15g can is a little small to give you more than a spatter of pepper spray, but the other sizes are both good for self-defense. You can find the larger sizes in both a stream and a mist pattern, so you can choose what you like best.
On the larger canisters of Mean Green, the safety requires you to flip up a tab to access the button. If you’re used to a twist lock, you’ll want to practice for this new safety.
Mean Green has a range of 12 to 15 feet, depending on the spray pattern and size. These canisters spray 3g bursts with one press.
Wrist Saver Pepper Spray
For runners, hikers, bikers, and others who want a hands-free way to carry their pepper spray, the Wrist Saver is a convenient method. The spray canister fits into a wristband-style holster, which also has a built-in LED and space for your ID.
Wrist Saver Pepper Spray
- Built-in LED light and ID pocket
- Convenient, hands-free carry
- Lifetime $1 replacement cans
- Small capacity
What we’re not a fan of is that The Wrist saver only packs half an ounce of capacity, making it more convenient to carry, but less powerful.
Despite its small size, it does have a 10-foot effective range and can fire 10-20 bursts before emptying, so we think it will get the job done, if needed.
Kimber Pepper Blaster II
We know–Kimber, like the gun company? Yes, it’s that Kimber. This also is one of the more unique pepper sprays we’ve found.
Kimber Pepper Blaster II
- Capsule increases effectiveness and prevents blowback
- Covers 13' in 1/10 of a second
- Trigger safety prevents accidental discharge
- Only two shots
The Kimber Pepper Blaster II looks a lot like a water gun, but it shoots capsules of liquid pepper spray, so blowback or missing your target is less of an issue.
You do need to have pretty good aim, since it fires a projectile, but it can spray 13 feet away from you in a tenth of a second. There is a trigger safety, which prevents accidental discharges.
It’s got a five-year shelf life, and since it’s not an aerosol, it won’t lose pressure over time.
What we don’t like is that you’re limited to two capsules and can’t reload, which can put you at a disadvantage if you miss or there is more than one assailant. Kimber does advertise that the formula should incapacitate someone for up to 45 minutes, though, so it should give you time to escape.
Concealability is a bit more tricky since the gun-shaped blaster works best with a holster. It fits pretty well in a pouch style holster, though.
Even for gun owners, a non-lethal self-defense weapon, like pepper spray or a stun gun, can come in handy. When you can’t have a gun on you or don’t want to carry, you don’t have to give up your safety.
We hope you never need it, but just to be safe, it’s good to know what’s out there. For a powerful stun gun, we recommend the Vipertek VTS-989 or the versatile POLICE 305 stun gun.
If you prefer to keep some distance, we like the Sabre Red 3-in-1 pepper spray or the Kimber Pepper Blaster II.
Do you carry a stun gun or pepper spray? If so, which one? Tell us about it in the comments below! Check out best EDC knives to round out your kit.
Your information on stun guns is erroneous. It is NOT the voltage that indicates power or effectiveness. It is amperage.
Higher voltage means it has more penetrating power. High voltage numbers advertised are for marketing, not takedown power. Voltage as low as 25,000 is enough to go through clothing so higher amounts are not necessary. The gold standard for many years was 50,000 volts. And these were solid and effective.
Now the insane numbers are to impress you to buy a poorly made device on which your life may depend.
Thanks for letting us know, Jayson! We’ll do some more research and make some updates to our article. We appreciate the feedback!