On Her Own: Defending Yourself Without a Gun

Here's what to do if you have to leave your gun at home.

by posted on June 15, 2020
Man Following Woman In Street

This is NRA Women, so it’s no surprise that many of us choose to carry a gun every day. Carrying a gun is called “The Great Equalizer” for a reason, and will always be the ultimate method of self-defense. But there are many reasons why we might not have a gun with us at all times.

Some of us choose not to carry guns because it’s inconvenient; some of us cannot carry everywhere due to local laws or those established by private businesses. Some of us don’t feel well-trained enough to have our guns with us, or don’t have the right equipment to do it all the time. And some of us just aren’t comfortable carrying a firearm that we may have to use against another person one day. They’re all good reasons.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be defenseless just because you don’t have a gun. Here are five options that can help you stay safe:

Bring Friends
There is safety in numbers. If you stick with a group of friends, you have built-in extra sets of eyes to look out for problems, and extra sets of hands if you need to defend yourselves. At the very least, you will be less of a target for criminals who attack solo victims to avoid witnesses. Just be careful of friends who might be more interested in starting fights than walking away from them, especially if you’re going to a potentially volatile setting like a bar, club, party or concert.

Pay Attention
“Maintain situational awareness” and “keep your head on a swivel” are popular bits of advice whether you’re armed or unarmed. However, usually no one actually tells you what to look for. It might be more helpful to think of it as paying attention to things that don’t belong. Almost everywhere we go, we have a pretty good idea of what the activity should look like, the regular noises that are part of the setting, even the smells that we can expect. Know or learn what they are, then set the back of your mind to look for anomalies. When they pop up, you’ll know to investigate further and decide if you need to act.

Aziz, Light!
Flashlights are one of the most underrated personal safety tools available. They are reasonably priced, available in easy-to-carry sizes and are acceptable pretty much everywhere. A flashlight will let you see into shadowy spaces where people can hide, and make it clear that you are looking for anyone meaning to harm you. The very brightest flashlights can even provide a momentary distraction when shined into someone’s eyes. If you find yourself in a dark area, at least you won’t have to rely on a dying cell phone to guide you to safety.

Pepper Spray
One of my favorite self-defense tools, oleoresin capsicum (“OC”) sprays use the extract of spicy peppers to cause inflammation, resulting in burning pain and tearing in the eyes, along with coughing, gasping and gagging. It sounds unpleasant because it is, and it’s a fantastic distraction that temporarily debilitates the attacker. It’s also safe and easy to use, not to mention legal and permissible in more places than carrying a gun. A high-quality spray is lab-tested for the percentage of capsaicinoid content, and the stream pattern will spray as quickly as possible while minimizing the chances of you getting it on yourself.

Fists and Feet
It’s true that on average, most women are physically smaller and weaker than most men. That does not mean that it is impossible for women to learn useful fighting skills. For one, physical resistance of any kind may be enough to scare off casual attackers looking for easy prey. If you commit to learning striking- and grappling-based martial arts by practicing against real opponents, you can not only learn skills that work, but also gain the confidence to persevere through a dangerous situation. That innate belief that you can and will make it through an attack is nearly as important as being able to deliver a knock-out punch or escape being held down.

Guns are called “The Great Equalizer” because they level the playing field between big, strong, violent attackers and the smaller, weaker people they try to victimize. Firearms will always be the quickest and most efficient way to stop a threat to your life. That said, a combination of wisdom, non-ballistic defensive tools and (most importantly) a never-quit attitude can carry you through many dicey situations.

About the Author: Annette Evans is the Beauty Behind the Blast and founder of "On Her Own," a project for women navigating the world solo. When not studying shooting and self-defense, she is a competitive shooter who goes to the gym too much. Annette is also an NRA- and Rangemaster-certified firearms instructor, author of “The Dry Fire Primer, and a commercial attorney in her spare time. Her cat's name is Tuna.

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