Understanding The Mechanics of Your Defensive Tool
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In all of our personal safety classes, we
spend a great deal of time discussing and demonstrating the working parts of each defensive tool. Here is a brief
overview, limitations and cautions for each one:
Stun Guns - These
work by delivering a low-amperage, high-voltage charge to your attacker. They
"fry" the regular electrical impulses of the person or animal, causing a temporary loss of muscular control.
They deliver between 100,000 and 1,000,000 volts. Bigger is better!
They will generally have an "On"
switch, and a trigger mechanism to deliver the charge. At least two (if there are more than two) of the protruding electrodes
need to come in contact with the attacker, while at the same time, the trigger is being pulled. If you lose contact
with the attacker, or release the trigger, the device is ineffective.
- Taser is a trademark of Taser International. Like a stun gun, they deliver an electrical charge to the attacker.
Unlike a stun gun, they fire two barbs connected to wires which deliver the charge - up to 15 feet away for the civilian models.
They are low-voltage when compared with a stun gun - only delivering 50,000 volts.
Like a stun gun,
the two probes must both be in contact with the attacker to be effective. Once the attacker has been hit, you can set
down the Taser body and it will continue to deliver the charge for up to 30 seconds. If you miss with one or both of
the barbs, the body of the Taser can be used as a stun gun.
- These work by delivering an aerosol solution into the face and eyes of the attacker.
The solution has a cayenne pepper derivative which causes an involuntary physical reaction to the eyes and breathing of the
attacker, incapacitating them for a half hour or more.
Depending on the model and manufacturer, the sprays can
be disbursed from 5 to 20 feet away from the attacker.
There are generally two types of plungers that must be depressed
to dispense the spray - a flip-top and a sliding safety top. Buyers with large fingers or long finger nails should try
the different styles before purchase to ensure you are able to effectively depress the plunger.
Revolver Pistol - All handguns deliver a lead or copper-clad bullet into the attacker. A revolver
has a part called the cylinder which generally holds between 5 and 7 bullet-tipped
When the trigger is pulled, the firing pin stikes the end of the cartridge, causing the bullet to be
rapidly fired from the barrel of the gun. The cylinder "revolves", bringing the next cartridge in line with
the barrel, ready to fire.
Revolvers are generally considered as the best choice for firearms owners that will
be using the gun in a home defense situations with little ongoing practice. Their operation is much more streamlined
than with a semi-automatic handgun.
Semi-Automatic Pistol - Semi-automatic
("semi-auto") pistols deliver a bullet in a similar fashion as a revolver, in that the firing pin strikes the cartridge,
sending the bullet down the barrel. Instead of a cylinder, the cartridges are held in a device called a magazine, which is generally inserted into the handle of the pistol.
When a cartridge is fired, a mechanism called the slide expels the now-empty
cartridge, and a spring in the magazine feeds the next cartridge into firing position.
Semi-autos generally hold
more cartridges than a similarly sized revolver - any where between 6 and 10 cartridges for civilian handguns (law enforcement
officers are allowed larger magazines).
Because of the number of moving parts and complex mechanisms, various types
of failures happen more often (though still very rarely) with semi-autos. Unless you are committed to ongoing practice
with your pistol, semi-autos are generally a poor choice for home defense.
Regardless of what type of
defensive device you choose, don't just buy it and store it. You must practice regularly to ensure it is operating
properly, and you know how to use it in an emergency.
We offer beginner and advanced classes for all of these defensive tools.
Next Issue: Choosing a Self-Defense
Bison Risk Management Associates is a Northern California-based company providing Personal Safety and Emergency Preparedness training, workshops and consulting
for individuals, businesses and organizations.