Alternative Weapons

By Ralph Mroz

There are times when you either choose not to, or can’t carry a firearm while off-duty. In theory, the recently-enacted federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) allows active and retired police officers to carry handguns nationwide. Certainly this law, coupled with the fact that most officers don’t mind other officers being armed in their jurisdiction, will get you a long way.

However, there are still some wrinkles being worked out in the implementation of the law, particularly in regard to retired officers. And, there are some jurisdictions where the political atmosphere and the attitude of the politically-appointed police brass make it more likely that you’ll get an unfriendly reception to being armed.

Of course, there are places where you can’t be legally armed: airports, etc. And, there are times in which you may simply choose not to be armed. Most of us don’t strap on our gun to run to the grocery store. There are several weapons that you can easily carry.  Let’s review a few and touch on some things to avoid.

Empty hands 
Yes, good old basic empty-hand skills. These can get you a long way, and the fact is you should have them already! You need them for three reasons. First, in many bad situations where you’d like to access a higher level weapon, (your OC, Taser, baton or gun) you simply won’t have time due to the spontaneous nature of the attack. You will thus be forced to deal with the attack with empty hands either entirely, or initially to gain time to access your weapon.

Second, empty-hand skills—power generation, balance, movement, flow etc—are the basis of higher-level weapon skills. The coordination and balance you develop with empty-hand skills help you move better when you have to shoot, or use any other weapon.
Firearms instructors often notice that martial artists pick up gun skills more quickly than people with no empty-hands background.

Third, let’s not forget that most of the time we have to mix it up with subjects, we do so “hands-on”. We use our empty hand skills a lot already on the job.

You don’t need to be a black-belt or invest years of study to acquire effective empty-hand skills. The street-realistic, reality-based combat systems that have sprung up go by the generic name of combatives, and many of these systems are very good indeed. Chances are there’s a school near you where you can learn a lot in a short time.

High-intensity light 
Yeah, your flashlight! Surefire, Blackhawk, Pentagonlight, Pelican and others make a wide variety of small high-intensity lights. You most likely already have one…or several. You should always carry one with you while on duty, and one with you whenever you are out after dark off-duty. These 60+ lumen lights are force multipliers for any other weapon you have—fighting someone who’s blinded by them is a lot easier.  And while they aren’t really force tools in and of themselves, they can act a lot like one. Flashing their light in an attacker’s eyes can provide you precious seconds to escape, access a weapon or initiate a surprise counterattack.

In some instances you may be able to carry pepper spray when you can’t carry a gun. Small canisters of it can easily be carried even if you are only wearing swim trunks.

Cane/Walking Stick 
You are superbly armed with nothing more than a simple stick if you know how to use it. If you have ever seen the martial arts of Arnis, Escrima or Kali, you may have come to the same conclusion. These exquisite Filipino arts are stick-based and they turn a simple stick into a blazing blur of deadly (or non-deadly) weaponry.

Check out your local area, for a school teaching these arts. While the Filipino stick arts favor a light, medium-length stick, some Western based stick systems favor a heavy, longer stick. In addition to their excellent line of edged weapons, Cold Steel ( puts out a series of fighting canes and walking sticks, and a set of instructional videos for their use. You may run across cane-fighting systems based on a cane with a larger crook. I’m not convinced about these, however, as the systems I’ve seen are fairly elaborate and rely too much on snagging your assailant with the crook—something that seems far easier in the training hall than on the street.
A knife 
Most of us carry a folding knife. A pocket- or waistband-clipped folder with a 3- to 4-inch rapidly opening blade is a formidable weapon, as most of us know from the classic police training film, Surviving Edged Weapons. If you want to know how to use it defensively, I recommend four easy methods.

First, remember those Filipino stick schools I mentioned above? Well, in the Filipino arts, the stick is the tool used by beginners, but it really represents a machete or a knife. So these schools not only provide you with stick training, but knife training as well.

Second, the Police Officers Safety Association offers a basic tutorial on knife skills for law enforcement to any verified police officer. Just go to the website ( which will verify your law enforcement status with, and you can download the entire 90-minute video program for free.

Third, Cold Steel also has excellent knife training tapes.

Fourth, Paladin Press ( has quite a selection of good knife combatives video programs.Stick with a basic, ordinary, one-handed opening knife. Avoid odd or unusually shaped knifes. Also, avoid switchblades because many states
outlaw them, federal law restricts them, and they really aren’t a lot faster to open than you can learn to accomplish with a regular one-handed opening folder.
The Taser C2  Taser International has just introduced a new citizen Taser that is not shaped like a pistol. It is meant to be a one-time
use device for citizen self-defense, as opposed to the Tasers carried on duty. It fires a 15-foot cartridge with a 50 (yes — 50!) second duty cycle. It is meant to be fired, dropped and to provide you with a 50-second window of escape. The Taser C2 is legal in a lot of states and it has an attractive $300 price tag.
What not to carry 
There’s a ton of information and misinformation about self-defense weapons. In making your choice, remember that any alternate weapon you carry for defense has to meet three criteria. It must be easy to carry and simple to deploy; it must be effective and it must be legal. Items like Kubutons can certainly be used to great effect by experts, but they will just get in the way for most people.

Things like sap hats (yes, you can buy a hat with a sewn-in lead weight) or caustic aerosol sprays may seem cool, but they can land you in trouble after the fact. Martial arts weapons like nunchuckos or brass knuckles are illegal in many places. A word about pens—ordinary writing pens. We all know that these simple items can be turned into deadly weapons if need be.

There are now some talented people selling special all-steel or all-titanium pens to be so used. Two comments: 1) any sturdy pen will probably serve as in improvised emergency self-defense weapon, and 2) don’t rely on a pen or any improvised weapon to save the day—it’s real purpose is as a force multiplier.

Without empty-hand skill, its value is close to zero. Self-defense is a system, not a technique. You need basic empty-hand skills as a foundation. Don’t believe that your weapon—whatever it is—will save the day. Don’t forget that self-defense is fighting, and you need to be able to fight.  Sandals and loose shoes will land you on your butt rapidly in a fight, so wear lace-up shoes whenever you are out.

Don’t attract trouble by wearing anything flashy or expensive—blend into your environment. And don’t wear anything that identifies you as a cop, including those popular tactical pants and shirts. Not only do you lose the element of surprise should you be attacked, you are sending an invitation to be singled out in situations such as a robbery or hostage-taking.

Last, carry your badge and ID with you, but not in your wallet! If you carry it there, it can be seen whenever you pay for something. Worse, if your wallet is taken during a robbery or hijacking, you have just identified yourself as someone who ought to be “put out of the way.” Carry your badge and ID in a separate badge wallet in an out-of-the-way pocket.

Ralph Mroz is a Massachusetts police officer currently assigned to a narcotics task force. He is the Training Director of the Police
Officers Safety Association

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