Protecting your family and home is a serious undertaking. If you’re unable or unwilling to employ firearms, why not consider some less-than-lethal alternatives?

An effective, protective security strategy should include both preventative measures and tactical options, but a full spectrum approach to planning is essential. When considering non-lethal weapons, this planning must also extend to local legal considerations; just because something is non-lethal doesn’t mean that it’s legal, and there would be a bittersweet irony in successfully defending your home only to be prosecuted in the aftermath.

Your primary aim should always be to neutralize the threat as quickly and efficiently as possible, and with the law as an ally. If you do that, you win. So, with that outcome in mind, let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of generally available non-lethal weapons.

CS Gas and Pepper Spray

Incapacitants such as CS gas and pepper spray can be very effective and should be seriously considered for home defense purposes. Both are inflammatory agents and work by simultaneously irritating the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, causing temporary blindness, shortness of breath, and, frequently, panic. However, they also have downsides which must be considered seriously.

First and foremost, the effect of incapacitants cannot be guaranteed; some people react very badly to CS gas, for example, and are completely incapacitated, whilst others suffer almost no ill effects. CS gas also becomes airborne when deployed and will envelop everybody within a confined space, such as a home. So, if it turns out that you are the one who reacts badly and your opponent is unaffected, you have simply incapacitated yourself, and potentially your whole family. Unless you have previously been exposed to CS gas in the military, police or elsewhere, you simply won’t know how you will react until you are exposed, and this must also be seriously considered.

Pepper spray, on the other hand, provides a more localized option where a reaction is generally contact-based. This is achieved through either a gel or spray deployed from a canister at between 1-10 feet. The main drawback here is accuracy; you may only get one shot before being overpowered and thereafter having the spray turned on you.

Points and Blades

Although often considered less lethal than firearms, sharp and bladed weapons also have numerous drawbacks. Firstly, a knife or sharp object should not be considered a non-lethal option; stab and slash wounds result in unintended fatalities all the time, and in the adrenaline-fueled scenario of you defending your family from harm, the presence of a knife or sharp object is very likely to result in a fatality. Secondly, if you don’t know how to use such an object as a weapon, you are just as likely to injure yourself as the intruder in a skirmish.

Thirdly, if a knife or sharp object is dropped or taken from you during a struggle, you have introduced a potentially lethal option for your opponent. This means that whilst pointed and bladed weapons can be very effective in life threatening situations, their introduction significantly raises the stakes in less critical circumstances by adding a potentially lethal element. However, if you are faced with a lethal threat then a potentially lethal option may be your only option.

Stun Guns

Stun guns, or electroshock weapons, work by delivering an electric shock which inflicts pain and disrupts muscle function for a short period of time. This will briefly immobilize the threat and buy you precious time during an attack. Further shocks can be delivered without risk of serious injury.

Whilst there have been deaths attributed to such weapons, in the vast majority of cases the fatality has been linked to underlying health conditions and so stun guns are still classified as less-than-lethal or non-lethal weapons. If you live in an area where stun guns are legal to own, consider including one or more within your protective security strategy, but as with any weapon be mindful that anything you use can also be used against you.


Large, heavy-duty flashlights are excellent tools for home defense as they are dual purpose: they produce a blinding light and can also be used as a defensive weapon. They are also relatively easy to deploy in confined spaces, such as hallways, and don’t represent a risk to younger family members if placed strategically around the home.

Personal Attack Alarms

Although often not considered for home defense purposes, and certainly not as weapons, personal attack alarms are excellent additions to any home security plan. The reasons behind this are quite straightforward: the very loud noise produced, some models reaching 130 decibels, is very disorientating. It also raises the alarm, and often induces panic in attackers. So, although these items don’t offer physical protection, they are effective and should considered when planning for home defense.

Baseball Bats

Baseball bats and similar objects can be employed as impact weapons which will cause severe blunt trauma at and around the impact site. Whilst this can be very effective in fending off an attack, and as a deterrent, there are practical issues to consider.

A bat generally needs to be swung to develop enough energy to be effective as a weapon. Does your home have space for this at likely points of entry? Do you have the physical strength to use a weapon in this way, and enough strength to retain it in a skirmish? If the answer to either is no, consider other options. Remember that the mere presence of a weapon will not protect you, it must be employed.

The Weaponised Mindset

A key mistake made by lots of people when planning for home defense is reliance on weapons alone. A weapon is rendered useless if you freeze, and having a weapon doesn’t mean you won’t. In addition, are you physically and mentally capable of employing that weapon effectively? This is a far bigger problem than many people realize when they purchase weapons and thereafter consider themselves safe, but it is not an insurmountable one. To counter this you need to prepare yourself in advance by employing the following techniques:

  • Visualize different threat scenarios in detail and the countermeasures you will employ.
  • Practice using your defensive weapons tactically.
  • Run dry drills to identify weaknesses in your planning and develop contingency plans.
  • Brief your family on what to do in given scenarios to reduce distractions, and your workload, during an actual attack.
  • Finally, reinforce the notion in your own mind that you will defend your home by all means necessary. This means that you will work your plan and if the plan isn’t working, you’ll change it and keep moving forward toward a successful outcome.

When considering non-lethal weapons for home defense, ensure your planning is realistic, effective, and tailored to your individual needs and capabilities. Know your local laws, know your weapons and, most importantly, know that you will act when the time comes.