Defensive weapon

A defensive weapon is a personal weapon that is primarily intended for defending the user against an attacker. [cite web |url=http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/defensive |publisher=Dictionary.com |title=Definition of defensive] [cite journal |url=http://www.gunblast.com/SW-MP45.htm |author=Jeff Quinn |date=July 7 |year=2007 |journal=GunBlast.com, "...a defensive weapon by definition is for fighting when the fight comes to you, suddenly and by surprise."]

Ancient and Medieval defensive weapons

With the advent of the Bronze Age, the defensive weapon of choice became a dagger or sword.cite book |title=Ancient Chinese Weapons: A Martial Artist's Guide |author=Jwing-Ming Yang |pages=59-63 |isbn=1886969671] These were small and light enough to be carried in a sheath worn by the user, and could be quickly drawn in case of an attack. With the changes in metal technologies and personal armor, the dagger and sword evolved to fit the needs of the user. In Europe, this was the usually a rapier or similar item, designed for the cut-and-thrust style of fighting, while in Japan it would be the katana, designed for slashing.

Modern defensive weapons

Firearms

With the advent of the reliable handgun, the sword and dagger began to fade in importance as a defensive weapon of choice, although there was a considerable overlap when it was not uncommon to see sword and/or dagger and pistol worn at the same time. With reliable handguns, the range of the defensive weapon moved from roughly twice an arm's length to dozens of yards or meters. Apart from its range, another redeeming factor for using a handgun as a defensive weapon is that its power is largely independent of the strength of the user, rather than the ability of the user to swing a heavy club or blade. The advent of the revolver, which allowed multiple, rapid shots before reloading, signified the final demise of the sword and dagger. The transition from 1 or 2 shot pistols to repeat-firing, 5 or 6 shot revolvers was a significant advance in civilian defensive firepower. An expert user could easily hit a man-sized target from 50 yards (46 m) with a handgun. Still, the handgun is primarily a defensive weapon.cite book |title=Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. |page=122 |isbn=0312039506] [cite web |url=http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4388 |publisher=History.com |title=This Day in History: January 4, 1847 Colt sells his first revolvers to the U.S. government]

:"...no law enforcement officer should ever plan to meet an expected attack armed with only a handgun.":--"Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness", 1989, FBI [cite book |url=http://www.firearmstactical.com/pdf/fbi-hwfe.pdf |author=Patrick, Urey W. |title=Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness|publisher=U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation |year=1989|format=PDF]

When portability is not an issue, such as defense of a vehicle or dwelling, a common choice for a defensive weapon is a riot shotgun. Being larger, a riot shotgun is aimed far more easily than a handgun, and the ability of the shotgun to fire multiple projectiles per shot makes the probability of obtaining a debilitating hit on an assailant much higher. Shotguns also give the option of using special ammunition, such as rubber buckshot or rubber bullets, that turns a shotgun into a less-than-lethal weapon, or shotgun slugs, which turn the shotgun into a short range rifle, with acceptable accuracy out to over 100 yards (91 m). A carbine or submachine gun is also a common choice in the military, for troops not directly involved with infantry combat. Police also often carry a carbine, such as a short AR-15 variant or a Ruger Mini-14, in their vehicle for situations where a handgun lacks the power, accuracy, or range needed.cite book |title=Pirates Aboard!: 40 Cases of Piracy Today and What Bluewater Cruisers Can Do About It |author=Klaus Hympendahl |page=300 |isbn=1574092308 |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=hU_NZ1Hz9j0C]

Less than lethal defensive weapons

Stun guns have been available for many years, in the form of small, handheld devices, batons, and projectile forms, such as the Taser. These deter an assailant by interfering with muscle control, and by inflicting pain. The popular small handheld versions require close contact with an attacker, and need several seconds of application to have an effect, making their effectiveness very questionable. [cite journal |title= CONSUMER'S WORLD; The Pros and Cons of Stun Guns |journal=The New York Times |date=August 13 1988 |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE0D8163FF930A2575BC0A96E948260] Tasers allow a greater useful distance from the assailant, 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m), but are more bulky than the contact units and only allow a single shot. [cite web |url=http://home.howstuffworks.com/stun-gun.htm |title=How Stun Guns Work |author=Tom Harris |publisher=How Stuff Works] Additionally, both electrodes must make contact with the intended target's body for a Taser to have any effect on the intended target; occasionally, only one electrode makes contact, effectively destroying the effectiveness of the single shot from the Taser. Studies have shown Tasers have been demonstrated to be effective in about 80% of police incidents involving their use, subduing the subject sufficiently to allow arrest. [cite web |url=http://www.seattle.gov/police/programs/taser/default.htm |title= Taser Use and Deployment Frequently Asked Questions |publisher=Seattle Police Department]

Riot control agents such as pepper spray and tear gas have been available in forms suitable for self defence since chemical Mace first became available in 1962. These disable an assailant by temporarily causing blinding and from causing severe pain. Since these agents are delivered in aerosol form, range and accuracy is dependent upon environmental conditions, particularly wind. Use on an assailant attacking from upwind, for example, can result in incapacitation of the user as well as the intended target. Chemical agents have widely-varying effects on different individuals; while they can disable most people for a short period of time, others often tolerate them well enough to continue an attack. Drugs and alcohol also increase the target's resistance to the effects of chemical agents. Studies have shown 85% to 90% effectiveness of pepper spray in police encounters, subduing the subject sufficiently to allow arrest. [cite web |url=http://www.nyc.gov/html/ccrb/pdf/pepperreport.pdf |title=Report of the Pepper Spray Committee |author=NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board |publisher=New York City|format=PDF] [cite web |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/195739.pdf |title=The Effectiveness and Safety of Pepper Spray |publisher=US Department of Justice|format=PDF]

Despite their limitations, less than lethal options are an attractive alternative to lethal force for self defense for many civilians, although they are heavily regulated or outright prohibited in many jurisdictions. See the sections on riot control agents and pepper spray for more information on use restrictions.

Less than lethal weapons, while not as reliable at stopping an attacker as a handgun, are carried by most police departments. While their use in warfare was prohibited by the 1924 Geneva Protocol prohibitions on chemical weapons, they are often used by militaries as a chemical weapons simulant. In addition to the traditional riot control use, chemical agents are also used by police to help apprehend or subdue suspects who are not posing an imminent threat to life, but who are resisting enough to risk injuring an officer. Like rubber bullets, their use has come under criticism in recent years due to a number of deaths that have occurred. It is for this reason that the term "non-lethal weapon" is falling out of use; any weapon capable of disabling a person is also sometimes capable of causing death, even if only unintentionally (for example, a mugger who is disabled next to a subway track might fall and be crushed by a train).

References


* [http://licgweb.doacs.state.fl.us/weapons/self_defense.html Use of Deadly Force for Lawful Self-Defense] , state of Florida
*cite book |title=State laws and published ordinances, firearms |isbn=1428962239 |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=kfA0lLfHJWkC many references to defensive weapons in various state laws


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