Improvised Weapons And Targeting For Survival
March 28, 2011 by David Morris
I’ve been traveling a lot lately. One segment of a recent trip was a half-day ride on Amtrak where I couldn’t have “anything that could be used as a weapon.”
I’m used to traveling to Washington, D.C., where I can’t carry my firearm or a decent knife, but in order to avoid any problems if I got picked for random screening, I had to cache knives, multi-tools, scissors, pepper spray and even my scalpel blade from my mini-med/survival kit before getting on the train.
Ironically, after being so careful to take all of my “weapons” out of my luggage, I ended up sitting across the aisle from a lady who was knitting for most of the four-hour train ride with nice long pointy aluminum knitting needles. That was almost enough to make me want to start knitting… or at least carrying knitting supplies.
So, today we’re going to cover specific items that you can use to defend yourself, regardless of whether you’re at home when a home invasion happens, in a hotel or just out-and-about.
I’ve written about the fundamental concepts of improvised weapons in the past, and what you’re looking for is a way to focus your strikes, add mass and speed to your impact tool and/or extend your reach if you find yourself in a situation where you need to defend yourself from a violent attack without a firearm or a fighting knife.
With that in mind, here are 14 items that are very common that make effective weapons. You’ll probably see, if not touch, all of them within the next 24 hours. I’ve also included the particular style of strike you’ll want to use with each item.
- Shower curtain rod—puncture: Use it like a spear to focus your strike and extend your reach. If you’re lucky, it will break with the first strike and you’ll get a pointy end to focus your next strike even more. Don’t swing it… most shower curtain rods and clothes rods are fairly flimsy.
- Clothes rod—puncture: Use it like a spear… hopefully it breaks on the first use and you get a point.
- Sliding glass door stop—puncture: Use it like a spear.
- Towel with soap or a soap holder—impact: Take the towel, put the heavy object in the middle, fold the towel in half one way, fold it in half the other way and get ready to swing. You can play with your folding methods to secure the heavy object better.
- Sock with soap, soap holder, battery—impact: Same as the towel/soap combination. You’re essentially making an improvised sap (lead-filled, leather-covered impact weapon common to law enforcement until about the 1990s—when they were banned by most departments because of their effectiveness—and sometimes called a blackjack) that will make your strike faster, more focused and give you additional reach.
- Pillowcase (or bed sheet, shirt, etc.) with soap, soap holder, battery—impact.
- Ceramic toilet tank lid—puncture. Break at an angle and use as a puncture weapon. Hold it with both hands, thrust the pointy end at your attacker, and put your entire body behind the strikes.
- Fire extinguisher. Spray them with the white stuff and hit them with the red thing. I’m not sure who thought this up first, but the most colorful proponent of it is Clint Smith. In short, fire extinguishers are great weapons… especially if you have the element of surprise. I’m talking about the red metal ones… not the newer little plastic ones. The red metal ones are heavy and strong enough to swing at a head and the bottom edge helps to focus strikes nicely.
- Floor lamp—use it as a spear. Sooner or later the lamp part will break off leaving you with a more focused impact point or it will stick in your attacker. Lamps are kind of awkward because of the cord. In training with them, I’ve had the lamp part break off, but still be connected by the cord. The biggest problem with this is surprise—if you’re surprised when it happens, your attacker will gain an advantage. If you just go with it and keep thrusting it at your attacker, you will gain an advantage.
- Butcher block. Pointy knives for stabbing, serrated knives for slashing. Got a knife that’s pointy AND serrated? Stab with it. In a restaurant or hotel, even a butter knife will help focus your strikes more tightly, increasing your penetration and chances of causing internal damage.
- Break off a wooden chair leg—puncture. Don’t be surprised if you get slivers… possibly nasty slivers.
- Run at someone with all four legs of a chair aimed at them (should look like a diamond rather than a square). Or, just thrust it at them with your arms and body weight. You want the top leg aimed at their head and you really don’t care if they block or avoid it because the bottom leg will hit them in the gut and you have a shot at hitting their solar plexus or bladder. The important thing is to pile on additional aimed strikes after the first one until your attacker is non-functional.
- Lamp cord disconnected from lamp, stripped so you have bare wires, and plugged into a power source—electrocution.
- Have a little bit of time… or coffee already made? Hot water in the face can distract your opponent enough to be able to completely take them out of the fight.
Have any other common, everyday items that can quickly be used as weapons? Share them by commenting below.
I will share one that I don’t like: Punching with keys. The reason has to do with basic physics. Your hand is going to absorb the same force that your target does, and the base of most keys just isn’t that much bigger than the point.
One notable exception is “switchblade” style keys that flip out of a FOB. If you have any question about how well it would REALLY work to punch with your keys, simply try putting them in your hands and punching a board *LIGHTLY*. I’ve really torn up my hands testing different techniques and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to punch lightly. Increase your force slowly to see how effective your keys really are.
Scratching/slashing the face with keys is a different matter and will generally give you a much better return for your effort. Don’t count on it finishing a determined attacker unless you hit the eyes, so be prepared to follow-up with additional strikes.
It’s important to remember that whether you have a firearm, another weapon or just your body, you want to focus as much force as possible on the weakest parts of your attacker’s body.
Don’t punch someone in the gut when you can hit them in the solar plexus or the bladder.
Don’t punch an attacker on the hard bones of their face when you can simply crush their windpipe, strike their vagus nerve on the side of the neck, scratch their eyeball, or rupture their eardrum. Aiming can be the difference between just making someone mad and taking your attacker out of the fight.
With the impact weapons I mentioned, targeting is vital. Most people can take a few good strikes from a hard, fast-moving object to the butt, legs, or arms, but not to the neck and head. If your life depends on the effectiveness of your strikes, aim for places on the body where your attacker is vulnerable.
Cutting weapons are the same… targeting is key.
As a note on stabbing versus cutting, Roman Legions conquered the world by being willing to take cuts and give stabs. Why? Because the body is able to survive multiple HORRIBLE, vicious slashes across the body, but there are more than a dozen easy targets where a two-inch stab will quickly take an attacker out of the fight.
If you’re squeamish you might want to skip the following few paragraphs, as they are a little disturbing to some people.
What are some of the easiest stabbing locations to remember? Directly below the ribcage pointed upwards. You’ve got a ring of great targets all around the body at the bottom of the ribcage, like the spleen, pancreas, liver and kidneys. If you’ve got something long and it goes through those first organs, you’ve got even better targets, like the lungs and heart.
This topic IS gruesome, and many people don’t like to think or talk about it. Even if you’re a vegan pacifist who wouldn’t swat a mosquito, I believe it’s important to know how to respond to a violent attacker coming after you or a loved one. If you are unarmed and NEED to make an attacker non-functional as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible, it’s important to know a handful of specific targets to strike.
Along with specific targets, it’s important to know the best ways to transfer as much force as possible through as small of a contact point as possible so that you can end the confrontation quickly… before it turns into an endurance event where you’re trading blows and taking damage.
I’d like to have your thoughts on good or bad improvised weapons. Please share them by commenting below.