Let's start with the caveat that everyone should carry a firearm free of restriction, infringement or government interference whenever possible. There are, however, plenty of reasons why someone may either choose--or be required by law--to leave their firearm at home, though. Finding yourself devoid of a firearm does not mean that you are devoid of options. Let’s take a look at some things that are imminently useful in a wide number of scenarios, and can be carried almost anywhere. We’ll start with what you can carry everywhere, and end with a useful tool that you may not be able to bring into certain areas depending on the security screening you need to go through.
First off, carry a tourniquet (TQ). TQ’s are easy to bring with you through even the most stringent of security whether carried on your person, or off body in a bag. If detected during a security screening in my experience a simple explanation of their purpose has satisfied even the most zealous of security screeners at both public and private facilities. If you’re going to carry a TQ, and you should, make sure you’re carrying one with a windlass that has peer reviewed data illustrating its effectiveness. There are two excellent options that meet these requirements. The North American Rescue Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T) and the Tactical Medical Solutions SOF Tactical Tourniquet Wide (SOFTT-W). The C-A-T is easier to apply one handed, and easier to instruct others to use if you find yourself in the scenario where you’d need to talk someone who has not been trained through applying a TQ. The SOFTT-W packs down smaller and is easier to carry and conceal. Either can be staged and S-folded and onto the excellent PHLster Flatpack TQ carrier.
Having the ability to quickly and effectively stop major hemorrhage from an extremity is something that can be useful to every single person, everywhere. When discussing the utility of a TQ people oftentimes cite mass casualty incidents as the impetus behind their decision to carry one. In addition to the less likely mass casualty incident, TQ’s can be useful in the much more likely event of a vehicular accident, or even a household accident. Having a purpose built tool is preferred to attempting to improvise a solution on the fly, such as a belt or shoelaces, especially when you consider that improvised solutions are often ineffective, and require more time to apply.
The next item you should consider keeping on your person for personal protection is a purpose built flashlight. Depending on the facility you are entering, and more importantly the design of the light itself you may encounter some difficulty getting a flashlight past a security screening. I’ve not personally had a light barred from admittance to anywhere I’ve been, but I also choose not to carry lights that specifically look like impact weapons. There are also practical reasons to not selecting lights with strike bezels that I’ll cover.
There are many excellent options from a large number of companies. There are several things to look for in a flashlight. Is the form factor something that you are likely to carry on a day to day basis? While it’s theoretically cool to have a light that features crenelations reminiscent of the mace of Sauron, with enough output to force even the hardiest of midnight miscreants to do their best Major Arnold Toht impersonations, living with those kinds of lights may be difficult for the average person. The crenelations are hard on clothes, and the form factor often necessary for face-meltingly bright outputs can be difficult to conceal for those who are not able or willing to pull off the "tactical-hobo" look. Is the activation switch intuitive and easy? No matter which light you select, it is crucial that if you are carrying the light for personal protection you are able to access the maximum output of the light without needing to first run through several different modes.
Understand that aside from finding things under tables at restaurants and navigating out of public or private spaces in the event of a power outage, the primary purpose of a defensive light is not to “blind” someone. The primary purpose of a defensive light is deselect yourself from criminal assault by demonstrating an increased level of awareness. Nothing says “I see you” quite like 500-1,000 lumens to the face. Additionally, the light affords the the opportunity to parse through much of the ambiguity surrounding the intentions of an unknown contact. If, for instance, you take note of direct movement towards you that was initiated by you entering an area, lighting someone up and issuing a verbal command is a relatively consequence-free use of force. If the individual in question complies with your request to stay back, not come any closer, etc… then that is all well and good. If it turns out they had good intentions then you can apologize for rude behavior and move on. If however, you light someone up and they continue to aggress upon you after you’ve issued clear verbal commands, it’s MUCH easier to articulate why you chose to utilize a higher level of force afterwards.
Whether your circumstances allow you to have a gun with you or not, having a less-lethal option that does not require any physical strength to utilize effectively, does not require you physically touch the attacker, and has almost zero risk of permanent injury is incredibly important. Additionally, as Chuck Haggard, one of the leading experts on pepper spray notes, “You can’t shoot people a little bit.” Pepper spray is probably one of the most underrated personal protection tools currently available. Pepper spray is last on the list because it’s the item you’re probably not going to be able to carry everywhere with you. They’re illegal to carry past airport security, and most private facilities with security screenings won’t allow them if they’re found.
Pepper spray comes in many shapes, sizes, and formulations. As with most things, the most important consideration is whether or not the form factor is such that you’ll actually have the spray on you when you need it. Another, incredibly important consideration is what is the context of your use? Pepper gels are popular for some very specific uses where cross contamination is the primary concern they ARE NOT SUITABLE for the private citizen interested in self-defense though, because the amount of time between exposure and effect is simply too long. Of models and manufacturers currently available, I think one of the very best options for the private citizen interested in carrying pepper spray is the POM Industries units. They are small, formulated very well, and not immediately recognizable as pepper spray.
As with anything in life, you are ultimately the only one responsible for making decisions that fit your needs. If someone comes to you asking for help try and listen to what they’re telling you and consider that options that fit into your lifestyle might not fit into theirs. Some people have jobs, or routinely go places where they can’t, or won’t, carry a firearm. It doesn’t mean they’re any less interested in protecting themselves, it simply means that they have a different set of requirements effecting their decision making process. Offer options and tools that fit into someone’s current lifestyle, answer questions, and most of all be gracious. If you aren’t comfortable carrying a gun for whatever reason, then don’t let someone pressure you into doing it. A personal protection practice is exactly that, personal.