in Honor of
Jeff Cooper & Col. Charles “Boots” Askins
I don’t recommend you deploy any of the weapons or tactics I discuss here. What I present is for informational purposes only. Every state and country has their own laws and regulations regarding self-defense. You check out your OWN laws pertaining to YOU. Take responsibility for yourself – develop real and useful self-defense skills and know the law.
Note: See update at end of article.**
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Fortune favors the prepared.
Champ Joe Lewis summed up the plight of many an aspiring street photog when he said…”Nothing replaces ring time.” The modern day camera fondlers will do everything they can to ‘buy experience’ with books and seminars – everything short of getting their hands dirty, day in and day out, training on the street and pushing themselves to keep expanding the envelope.
The German’s have a saying…’You grasp by grasping.’
Cartier-Bresson once said “your first 10,000 pix are your worst.” In the digital age, I say it is your first 100,000, not 10,000.
Experience usually precedes insight.
I see this phenomena all the time on the photo forums, they want insight without any experience. People will ask if I do this…then what? With digital imaging, nothing could be easier than to push the button and find out the what for yourself.
Fortune favors the curious…that gets their hands dirty.
People want it all breast-fed to them nowadays. Pretty soon they will be sending out robots to do their street photography for them.
The post that follows is from my nearly 50 years of ‘ring time’ on the street, pushing the button and more importantly, surviving to tell the story !
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book
I had to laugh at reading some crap written by Eric Kim. (He blocked me from posting to his blog…luckily I have another outlet for saying what I want.) Anyway, he presented a piece about arguing on a long term, continual basis with a guy about a dispute over Kim taking his pix without permission.
Well, that is how wannabes do it. You know the ones…”Hey, I read 200 books on photography…now I’m a street photog!” and lets not forget…“I don’t know if it will look better on film or digital – so I shoot it both ways.”
Goddamn…they got the blind leading the blind nowadays, don’t they. Listen up…YOU NEVER, EVER STAND THERE AND ARGUE.
What the hell are you waiting for…things to escalate????
When you are in an argument what happens – blood starts to boil.
Fortune favors the wise.
Don’t stand there like a jackass, being an accommodating stationary target, arguing for 20 minutes with an idiot that could turn dangerous. If someone is a nut case your not going to reason with them. Once you take the pix. (As you camera fondlers call it ‘captured.’) you move the fudge on. YOU take control of the situation, move out and let the person chase you down if they want to keep the conversation going.
This is an important ‘acid test’ in itself as to which direction this confrontation may take. The person may let it go and shrug it off or maybe they will stand there and yell at you. Well, people can yell and blow off all the steam they want. I’ve heard it all before from the cowards behind the keyboards.
Where the line gets crossed is when words turn into a physical assault. If the person starts to follow you to continue arguing with you that shows intent on their part that should warn you to be prepared for a possible escalation in the situation.
Joel Meyerowitz tells a story about Cartier-Bresson. He said Bresson was accosted by a drunk and flung his Leica in the drunks face to stun him. Bresson retrieved the camera with the shoulder strap and quickly disappeared into the crowd. That is how you do it. Don’t argue, don’t make a big fudging deal over it, give them the spiel on your rights about taking photos in public and move on.
Fortune favors those with street smarts.
Never give the person involved in the dispute your name and especially don’t ever hand out a biz card. Many street wannabes think they can persuade someone they are OK by trying to convince them they are legit photo forum camera fondling photog. Well a biz card means nothing nowadays. All you have done is to give the person your contact info so they can track you down and continue the harassment after a conflict erupts.
When Bresson slammed the drunk he didn’t hand out a card and tell him to contact him for a free photo. But that is how things go nowadays with the photo forum street posers.
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book
If the person is physically prevented you from moving on, then give them what they want to appease them or use force as a last resort to defend yourself. You need to decide which road is best for you. The person could fold up with a little self-defense effort on your part or they could pull a gun or a knife and kill you. There is just no telling what can happen in any given situation. My advice throughout this post is to avoid confrontation if at all possible.
If confrontation is not avoidable, then incapacitate the attacker as quickly as possible and get out of the situation. Fortune favors those who run away to live another day!
Sometimes you will run into a person whom cannot be satisfied no matter what you do. You can apologize to them and give them whatever they asked for and they still have a hard-on for you and wont give it up. No matter how you try to reason with them it wont cut it. Maybe they have a mental illness or early onset Alzheimer’s…I don’t know, I’m not a mental professional.
The only success I’ve had with these type of people is to do an orderly retreat ASAP. If I stand there and argue and try to reason with them, blood starts to boil – for there is NO reasoning with them. Don’t get suckered into their sick mind games. Now, in my limited experience with these type of personalities I’ve never known them to be violent, they seem to be all talk. But there are always exceptions to the rule, so keep an eye on them as you move out.
Infrared flash photo from Gay Bar artists’ books
The other night I was shooting at a group run by lesbian separatists. Lesbian separatists are a militant sect of lesbianism that envision an ideal world composed solely of women with the extinction of men.
One lesbian that did not like me taking pix started pushing me around and was very abusive. As I was leaving, I was surrounded by a group of 5 or 6 lesbians demanding that I delete the photos. First thing I do when confronted is to get my pepper spray or tactical light in hand. For a group like this I forget the light and go straight to the pepper spray.
I knew I had some good material, so I refused to delete a thing. After seeing talking was getting nowhere, I didn’t waste time, I didn’t suck my thumb, I told them the conversation was over and walked away. The lesbians kept following me verbally harassing me, but it was an all-talk attack with nothing physical. But if things escalated, the hot Tabasco was ready to be served with my other hand fingering my collapsible baton.
Check out the S.C.U.M. manifesto for a taste of lesbian separatism…
I was in my 60’s when I shot all the pix in this post. Sometimes people on the street think they can pick on me just cause I’m old…they are in for a big surprise. These current crop of camera fondlers would shit their pants if they shot where I do. I routinely get threats, gear broken and attacked as normal business.
Selections from Bikers’ Mardi Gras artists book (Candid)
But, before the need for self-defense comes to fruition, you have to ask yourself…what caused the conflict in the first place? Was it your lack of skill as a candid photog? Over nearly 50 years as a street photog I have refined my skill level for candid photography to a very high degree.
Staten Island Ferry (Candid)
Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book.
Beside the lack of skills question ask yourself…is your photo worth that much to get in a fight over it?
Fortune favors those who are flexible.
Sure, you can quote principles and being in the right. But it is like the rules of the road when driving…you may have the right of way, but you don’t demand it if your up against a knucklehead driver.
OK, I’ve done many landmark photo projects. Even though I’m underground, and the curators snub me like a homeless man offering them a sack of shit, my photography is in over 130 museums and curated collections around the world. (See partial listing)
If I have a special pix, I will fight to keep it. Now, if it is a crapper, I’d just delete it to keep the peace. I’m not one to fight for principal, but I will fight for more museum prospects. But, why should I fight and risk my life over a nothing pix I will just delete anyway?
In your case, ask yourself what are you producing? Maybe a pix for Flickr of a person walking by a funny sign or someone walking in or out of a shadow with the hope you can get a thumbs up from 2 people on the photo forums? Is it worth dying over?
My advice is…fortune favors those who are realistic.
If your photo is not going to win any contests and you see you are dealing with a potential threat or crazy person, just apologize and delete the photos…then walk away as fast as possible.
There are plenty of other funny signs and shadows with people walking in them for you to shoot another day. If you don’t like to delete photos to keep the peace, then you had better be ready for a physical confrontation.
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book
Now, if you are a legitimate street photog, altercations should NOT be a big problem for you. You should have developed candid skills by now that allow you to work unseen for the most part.
But, candid skills or not, you must prepare for problems, as a threat can arise at any moment out of nowhere. As your walking away from the person that is a potential threat, you keep aware of what is happening behind and all around you. One lady tried to burn me with a cigarette as I passed by her. I think she was drunk, in any case I was lucky that she grazed me and did no damage other than hair singe. It was not because of my awareness, it was just luck. Now I keep an eye on the person as I pass them by, if I cannot turn around and go in the opposite direction.
As you walk away, you stay in a public place and you are also getting your self-defense weapons in-hand for quick deployment if needed. If your weapons are in-hand, you don’t have to worry about a fouled draw. You have also practiced what to do with them under duress. The assailant grabs your shoulder and spins you around…boom there they are ready for deployment. This ‘surprise’ attack should not startle you too much if you have kept aware of your surroundings. I’m always checking behind me after a potential conflict to see if they are following me…you do the same.
No matter what weapons you have or how highly skilled a fighter you are – the best self-defense is ALWAYS avoidance. You try to avoid the fight at ALL cost. If attack is unavoidable, then you have no other choice and are justified to deploy your weapons or physically fight off the attacker to defend your life. (Well, this may not apply to those living in the UK.)
Now, for justification, study up AOJP. (Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy, Preclusion)
Here is a good intro as to how it will apply to you.
On the net it is easy for everyone to be an expert. I’m not going to bullshit you, I am not some big marital artist or self-defense expert. But, early on in my social documentary career I realized physical attacks were an ever present danger. As such, I had to put a little effort in learning how to maintain my safety.
Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book
I carry self-defense weapons for defending against an attack. I’m old, got a bad neck and bad back, so I am not one for wresting a guy on the street. I am also at a disadvantage in that many times I have a camera strapped to my wrist and a backpack of photo gear on my back. Irrespective of my age and health issues, if need be, I can snap a neck or bust a head open like a cracked egg with a collapsible baton. That is the beauty of weapons…they are the great equalizer, they add power to the powerless.
If I am shooting in dangerous areas, I use 12mp to 16 mp ‘disposable’ cameras and get my pack value down to a few hundred dollars. My cheap Pentax bodies start at $100 and 50mm manual lenses at $25. That is about as disposable as I get.
Fortune favors those not dependent on attachments.
Luckily for me I am not a anal fanboy of any one brand of cam. I can generally get along with most of the cams out there. That is where my nearly 50 years of experience has paid off.
Ken ‘Know it All’ Rockwell poo-poos the backpack for photogs. He says the shoulder bag is best. Well, Ken ‘Know it All’ Rockwell is right…if your shooting macro shots of flowers, your kids birthday party at the park or your latest ‘$50 for a DVD’ maternity gig.
Isn’t this what you all lust after?
Then you can take some sandpaper to your Fuji or Leica to age it and then you can look like Indiana Jones ready for his next adventure.
Here is the bottom line…
Irrespective of ‘Know it All’ Rockwell, for staying low key and having something secure that wont work against you in a fight, the backpack wins hands down for street work .
How would you like an attacker to take your shoulder bag and choke you out with the strap? A thief can pull a shoulder bag off your shoulder in an instant and take off. Getting a backpack off your back is much harder. If they get the pack off your back, maybe then can beat you with it, but at least you wont be choked out with the pack.
The drawback of the backpack is it is less convenient for access than the shoulder bag. So you are trading off convenience for safety. But if you are serious about street shooting you already have your camera in hand, so access is not a big deal for at least one of your cams.
See my previous discussion of camera readiness here:
Sometimes I use an old Think Tank StreetWalker, but most of the time I use a $5 thrift store or $10 Walmart backpack with camera skins for protecting the gear. If you can find a cheap backpack with a waist belt for extra security that is great.
I also use a large fanny pack for some shoots. In it there is a fast draw knife secreted where it mounts tight against the body. I don’t have to dig for it or open the knife, just reach behind, give it a yank and boom it is there. Same thing with many of my backpacks. Many of them have a fast draw knife secreted in them that can be accessed from the outside. It never hurts to have a backup weapon or two. Never forget…two is one and one is none if you have a malfunction. Fortune always favors the prepared.
Since I started street photography in 1970 I have had many altercations over the years. Just between July 2014 and July 2015 I had 6 or 7 potential fights / threats and attacks that I was able to avoid or quickly fight off. Although this was an unusually high year for trouble. Luckily for me, the worst injury I suffered was a grazing blow from a fist to my tooth. If it had connected squarely, then I would have had a cut lip, loose tooth or worse. But as it was, it only caused a little discomfort for a day or so.
These altercations weren’t from being caught taking photos of the person attacking me. They were all from walking or standing with a camera in my hand while doing nothing. Some of these attacks came out of nowhere, so you must always be on alert and ready. The other day a drunk wanted to fight me because I didn’t have a beer to give him. The camera can be a magnet for problems in some locals. I try to be as low-key as possible with it, but it is impossible to be perfect at all times with candid work.
Selection from De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District artist’s book
One of the problems photogs have with awareness is the tunnel vision many of us experience when doing street or doc work. We are concentrated on a scene or object and oblivious to the rest of our surroundings. Charles Ponzi, the great con-man of last century who gave us the Ponzi Scheme, used to say…”When a man’s mind is concentrated he is blind.” Concentration is a great trait to cultivate for doing candid photography, but it is a detriment to those under attack. I don’t have an answer to the problem except take a break and look around you every so often to keep aware of your world.
Awareness possibly saved my life recently. I was shooting IR flash for my project Piercing Darkness. It was late at night and I saw something happening on the edge of the parking lot. When I went over to see what was happening this is what I recorded…
Infrared flash photographs from Piercing Darkness artist’s book
Earlier that night I was almost run over. I don’t know whether the guy was drunk or was just trying to run me over for fun, but the he headed right for me. If I wasn’t paying attention I would have been clipped. Luckily I saw he was coming right at me and I was able to jump out of the way and he barely missed me at the last moment. Fortune favors the alert.
My first line of defense for weaponry is a 200 lumen to 1000 lumen tactical flashlight. I do a lot of night street photography, so the tactical flashlight is a very important tool for me
Surefire make one of the best. The tactical switch is what you want for self-defense. Surefire’s are very tough and nearly indestructible. Tactical lights can be had for as low as $15 to $30, but when you need it will it be there? Don’t skimp on your self-defense tool if you want to keep fondling your cams for years to come.
Many tactical flashlights incorporate a crenelated bezel also known as a strike bezel that can be used as a weapon itself. The edge of the crenelated bezel is pounded into an attackers temple, eye socket, collarbone, knee or elbow. It can cause a lot of damage. (I know…I’ve had one used on me.) When the edge of the bezel hits skin on bone it splits the skin wide open.
There are some really crazy tactical bezels out there…
These type of bezels may cause a lot of bleeding – blood can carry disease. Extreme bezels could also foul the draw when you wish to deploy your light. They also may pose a legal problem if you ever have to go to court. If you cause a lot of facial disfigurement or blind someone from using such an extreme bezel you may have to answer in court how that is to be considered self-defense? I just stick with Surefire’s minimalistic, classic designed tactical bezels – it gives me the best of both worlds.
Be warned, if you strike someone in the eye with your light, you may cause permanent eye damage. If you strike someone in the temple or trachea they may die depending on the force you use. You should only be using deadly force when you are concerned your life is in eminent danger. But, if someone is out to kill or gravely injure you, they must be stopped at once using any means necessary.
For self-defense you want a minimum of 200 lumens and preferably way above that. Surefire makes a 500 lumen model, the E2D Defender Ultra LED, a 600 lumen P2X Fury and the 1000 lumen P3X Fury. (I’m sure the megapizel chasers will be all over the Surefire’s 3000 lumen light!.) The ordinary household flashlight is about 10 to 20 lumens. So any way you cut it, tactical lights are way beyond that.
Surefire 600 lumen P2X Fury Tactical
The tactical light is a very useful tool to carry beside self-defense use. If your on a rough road in the dark it lights the path. When going to your car in a dark parking lot it is an outstanding bright light to illuminate the lot. You can see who is lurking in a parking lot or near or in your car before it is too late. It also signals any would-be attacker that you are not going to be easy mark.
One of the ways a tactical light differs from a household flashlight is with beam focus. The tactical light has a highly focused beam, whereas the household light is spread wide. Be careful, some tactical flashlights have a capacitor that needs to be charged up for max output. It is charged by powering up the light then turning it off and repowering it. In a self-defense situation you will not have full power until you go through one ‘on / off / on’ power cycle. You don’t want that, you want on and full power, no games.
The tactical light can also be used as a photo light to shed a little more light on the subject. I lit up this guys butt crack and highlighted the liquid being poured from the bottle. I could not use the light on high or it would blow out the highlights. But on low power it was just right. I could not do this with the P2X tactical Fury, I had to use the LX2 that has a low setting tactical switch.
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book
The product shot below was done on the fly. I pulled the light out of my pocket, lit it up and boom there it is. As a street photog…that is as anal as I get with studio work!
Selection from De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District artist’s book
Lets get back to self-defense…
If someone is following you and you are threatened, you turn around and light them up. If it is dark outside they will be blinded, startled and cringe away from the light. If they are wearing sunglasses in the dark of night, they may not be as affected. (But anyone wearing dark glasses at night is giving a lot of pre-warning right there that something is wrong with them.) In daylight, the tactical flashlight wont do any good for blinding people unless it is very high lumens.
The big benefit of the tactical flashlight is out of all the weapons discussed in this post, it is the most benign weapon that can be deployed. If you can blind someone and they get the message and they lay off great – you haven’t had to spray pepper in their face or stab them with a sharp object or strike them with your baton. So if it is at all possible, use your flashlight as a first warning shot.
Alertness and Surprise are 2 tools you can benefit from mastering.
After you light them up you yell loudly ‘BACKOFF – GET AWAY’ or ‘WHAT’S THE PROBLEM’ or ‘STOP IT – YOU ARE SCARING ME!’ Keep walking away as you stay aware of what they are doing. Ladies may wish to scream ‘HELP I’M BEING ATTACKED’ and deploy a personal alarm. These loud commands give fair warning to the attacker to lay off and hopefully attract attention from passerby’s to your problem.
If you think a threat is eminent, while the assailant has been blinded by the tactical light, you must be proactive and spray them with pepper spray that is ready to be deployed in your other hand. Blinding light then hot pepper gas…a one two punch. A second or two after the pepper takes effect, you gas them again so they can’t catch a breath. Then start running and get as far away as you can.
You have a strong hand and a weak hand, you decide which hand gets which weapon. I try to practice weapons use in both hands. My weak hand is not as good as the strong hand. But with practice, my weak hand is much better than it would be without practice.
Here is a test to show the durability of the tactical light as a striking tool.
The reason you need to determine which weapon goes in which hand is; if you plan on following up the one – two punch with number three, four and five, make the most of the weapon by putting it in your strongest striking hand. After you light up and spray the assailant, you follow up with a hit from the crenelated bezel of the tactical flashlight…then a kick to the balls…then a knee to the face or a hammer fist to the back of the skull as they bow over from having their testicles juiced. Work the assailant high and low, high and low.
A good tactic for tactical light and pepper spray use is to always sidestep his line of approach after they are temporarily blinded from the light and gas. This way the attacker is disoriented as to where your current position is. Once the attacker is stopped, get far away from the attacker.
Sad Buskers Times Square, NYC (Candid)
Infrared flash photo from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book
I usually wear cargo pants and sometimes a hoody, so I have many pockets to carry weapons. You can also get snap-out belt holsters for your light, spray or baton. I sometimes pack 2 pepper sprays…large 2 oz or 4 oz sizes. (In NJ you can only have 3/4 oz sprays, so know your local laws.) You don’t want to run out of gas in an emergency.
The bottom of a pepper spray can will make an improvised weapon – you bang the bottom edge of the can into the assailants temple or eye socket…hard! Another use is as a breakaway aid. If the assailant has grabbed your shirt, you come down hard with the edge of the can on their forearm repeatedly until they let go. Then step back and gas them.
If things escalate and you see them start for their pockets, tell them STOP…TAKE YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR POCKET. Don’t warn them again if they don’t comply, you act immediately. Only you can decide what self-defense measure you will employ next to incapacitate them. But, once the attacker gets whatever they have in their pocket out…it will be too late and too bad for you.
In this situation you just can’t afford to wait and find out. Mistakes can happen, they may be reaching for Kleenex or a asthma inhaler. Do you really want to kill someone over a sheet of Kleenex? Yet that is what proper self-defense dictates in such a scenario. On the other hand they could pull out a knife or gun.
If the attacker proves to be unarmed and you use a weapon against an unarmed person…guess what? Your the criminal in the eyes of the law and good chance your going to jail. Do you see why I tell you to avoid conflict if at all possible?
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book
In recent times there have been numerous reports of criminals and attackers using pepper spray on the victims. Awareness is your only defense. If you see someone approaching you with something in their hand it all may revolve around who has the fastest draw.
Here is my experience with pepper sprays…
Cone spray is my first choice of pepper sprays. Stream / Gel / Foam spray can be defeated if the assailant moves out of the line of fire or covers up the area with a hat or cloth. The cone spray is all encompassing and pretty well atomized. No escaping it if you are in the large sphere of influence of the gas.
Cone spray can also be sprayed behind you if someone is following you. Be low key about it, but give them a whiff of gas…maybe they will get the message. Stream /gel / foam spray requires a direct hit. Cone spray is like a scatter gun..it is amazing stuff and just needs to get near them.
Stream / gel / foam spray seem to run out quicker than cone spray. This may be due to the fact that your spraying large amounts of product trying to find the face of your attackers. Whereas cone spray atomizes the product into a large area and make it effective by just being in the general vicinity. Even though stream / gel / foam spray may be near the attackers head, it will still not have any effect unless it is a direct hit. So as the old saying goes – “when it comes to a miss, an inch is as good as a mile…close only counts in horseshoes!”
There is a shortcoming to cone spray. Since it has such a large sphere of influence, whenever I have deployed it I get some blowback. With stream / gel / foam spray, you seldom get any blowback unless you are very close. There is no perfect solution to irritant dispersal systems. I suggest you thoroughly test out the various options before your life depends on their use.
I don’t advise you use the little pink or black mini sprays except as a last resort. Many of them only contain 1/3 to 1/2 oz of product. 2 oz spray is the minimum size for self-defense. What would happen if your in a bar and you need to clear a path to the door that is being blocked by a guy and a few of his friends? You going to do it with a puny 1/2 oz. spray and then run out of product in the middle of the job?
Always read the labels, don’t go by looks. Some larger sized cans that are the exact same size of a 2 oz can only contain 1.25 to 1.5 oz of product.
The compact, little cutsie sprays can be next to useless for multiple deployments or extended range. Don’t bet your life on toys like the little lipstick sprays they market to women. You may have to deploy the spray repeatedly – the mini sprays generally have poor range and have very poor capacity for multiple deployments. When it comes to you life, forget fashion for a moment ladies and use serious equipment. You don’t want to lose your life over not having one more spray of gas that you didn’t have in your pink cutsie toy spray.
Infrared flash photo – Hollywood, CA (Candid)
From Women are Beautiful – Beyond Snapshot Aesthetics artist’s book
Even after all I have said against the little cutsie / pocket sprays …they can come in handy if you need to spray someone right next to you. Most of these sprays don’t have much power. So they may be the best tool for the job if the attacker is right next to you and you are worried about backsplash. But you will have to test them all out for yourself….fortune favors those that test…test…test!
Fortune favors those with a shield. If you can get to your car, you may be able to put a shield between you and your attacker. Within your car you should always have a 3 to 4 oz can of pepper spray handy. If someone threatens you coming through the window you can gas them and drive off. If you can’t get to your car, duck into a business for a shield and yell for Help I’m being attacked! and to call the police.
When you deploy pepper spray in CQC you should be using foam or gel spray. You can see in the photo you will get lots of blowback if you use cone spray. Actually, no matter what you use you will get lots of blowback with someone sticking their head in your car window.
Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book
To make some space, gouge their eyes and smash their face to push them away from your window before you spray them. There is no reason not to have foam and cone sprays in the car so you are covered for CQC or long distance use. The thing is to mark ‘which is which’ if the cans look alike and try to store them in different areas of the car. You don’t want to grab your spray to stop an attacker 10 feet away and have foam dribble out 3 feet away.
There is a big problem when using certain foam sprays. Some brands give you a shaving cream consistency that is not too powerful, which is what you want for CQC. Other brands I’ve tested shoot out foam like buckshot having an explosive range of up to 15 feet. If you try to use these explosive foam sprays in CQC you will have it backsplash all over you. If you fear backsplash, try to guard your eyes and face with an open hand.
Fortune favors the knowledgeable. Test your sprays. I’ve used many, many sprays over the years and can tell you some are excellent and some are garbage. The spray pattern may be poor, range could be poor, and some dribble out and get your hand all full of spray after you use it.
Some foam pepper spray is only good for CQC, I use it if I have to deploy inside a car or house. The right foam to look for is the one that shoots the pepper foam out with a little more force than a shaving cream can with a 3 to 4 foot effective range. If you use the wrong pepper foam it shoots out too powerful for CQC and will get all over you. If you ever deploy cone pepper spray inside your house it can spread 15 to 20 feet into an adjoining room, not to mention the blowback you will receive being near the sphere of influence.
This spray takes some practice to get both buttons working in sequence for deployment. Why get a complex design that you may have trouble with when under pressure?
Look for high potency sprays. Sometimes pepper spray is made with less heat for general crowd control. You want the maximum available heat for a self-defense spray. Civilian and Law Enforcement Pepper sprays range from 0.18% to 1.33% Major Capsaicinoids. Bear Sprays range from 1.0% to 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids.
Pepper spray can kill someone with asthma or a respiratory illness. Pepper spray is not a toy. Check your local laws. NJ / NY have tough laws, you can’t have a spray bigger than 3/4 oz and it must be a diluted formula. Pepper spray is as about a humane a deterrent as you can get for 95% of the people. (The old East Germans had a tear gas that would eat the enamel off you teeth…that is some potent gas!)
Pepper for self-defense is nothing new. In his book ‘I paid my dues….Good times…No bread’ beat legend Babs Gonzales wrote about using .10 cent bags of powered red pepper he would throw in a person’s face for self-defense.
In an emergency I’ve read people have used Deep Heat spray, women’s hair spray, DEET bug spray, brake cleaning spray and wasp spray as a deterrent. But most of these sprays are pretty big cans and vary in effectiveness and liability.
If you want a fast cleanup spray and one that the assailant can recover from more quickly, go with water based pepper spray. The most painful and long lasting pepper spray is petroleum based. Even if you wash out the eyes, the oils hold the irritants in place. While it is devastating stuff, you don’t want to use it in your car or house.
Here is the test I use to test the potency of petroleum based pepper spray.
I don’t advise you to do this test. Don’t blame me, I am not responsible for adverse reactions you may have from this test.
I spray a little pepper out of the can. Usually a dab of pepper liquid is left on the nozzle. I rub my finger on the nozzle getting pepper liquid on it. Then I wash my hands with soap and water. I dry my hands then I rub my finger that touched the liquid around my eye. If I have a potent spray, my eye will start burning like hell in short order. I flush my eye out with water until the burning subsides. This test is meant for petroleum based pepper sprays. With water based sprays the effect will be less.
I’ve tested pepper spray that was almost 10 years past the expire date. It still was plenty potent and had OK range, But it had lost ‘some’ of the pressure that it originally had. (I save my retired sprays to use as trainers or to see just how long they last.)
Don’t fall for the lie to change your pepper spray every year, it is bullshit. Buy a sample spray, test it then buy more of that lot number. Just like we did in the old film days with lots numbers of film.
Selection from Bikers’ Mardi Gras artists book
Another thing to be concerned with sprays is angle of deployment. I’ve had some sprays that wont work in certain positions. All you get is propellant with very little or nil pepper. Look for nitrogen powered pepper spray that sprays in any angle of deployment.
Spend some money and buy some sprays to test thoroughly. You camera fondlers out there that spend thousands of $$ so you can masturbate over your photo toys, can’t you spend $30 or $40 to buy and test various sprays on the market so you can have confidence in your self-defense weapons?
With regards to impact weapons, a collapsible baton is a good self-defense weapon…if you know how to use it. If you don’t know what your doing, your assailant may take it from you and beat the shit out of you with it. The collapsible baton can also be deployed as a defense tool without extending it, similar in use to an oversize kubaton.
If your in NJ, NY or CA, collapsible batons are not legal. Check out your state for the law. But you can substitute this:
The monopod will do lots of damage. Esp the spike…so be careful. I take strap off of mine and crank it down tight so it wont come loose during deployment. I seldom use it for photos, I use it for protection in the states where criminals have more rights that law abiding citizens. If you really want to keep it tight, Loctite it. Others may wish to leave the strap on and use it as a keeper or even as a leverage tool to swing the monopod from the wrist similar to a nunchucka.
Laws vary so much, but in general it is illegal to use a weapon against an unarmed person. So, if a drunk takes a swing at you it is illegal to even hit him in the leg with a baton or similar bludgeon. If you’re being attacked by multiple opponents, there is a big difference in size of the attacker or a big age difference, there is the doctrine of disparity of force that may be taken into account for using a weapon for self-defense against an unarmed attacker. But, all this would have to be settled in court and you may be arrested…again TRY TO AVOID PROBLEMS is the best advice.
Auto lock and friction batons both have their benefits. You study up types and how to use them. Auto lock batons are on average 2 inches longer than friction batons of the same lengths due to the auto lock mechanism. Auto lock batons are generally harder to open than friction batons. A 21 inch baton is a great EDC size. In my opinion, 26 inches is too long for plainclothes without a holster. If you find yourself in CBC, 26 inches can get hung up on obstructions. I don’t advise to go below 16 inches if you can help it.
The super cheap batons may look good when you handle one, but once you hit something hard they bend and wont close. Although even the more expensive models can bend. The push button baton that shoots out the front is crap…a camera fondlers delight. The mini baton, the size of a kubaton, is also not very useful.
Some of the auto lock batons do not lock securely on the first deployment. It reminds me of the tactical flashlight I talked about above that needs the capacitor charged from cycling on and off before it can reach full power. The auto lock batons (ASP & Monadnock) exhibiting this phenomena require a secondary snap to engage the lock fully. In an emergency you may not remember to give it a second snap and it can close during deployment. Always test your gear in real life scenarios before trusting it to save your life.
In the shadow of City Hall Los Angles homeless tent encampment.
Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book
Friction lock batons also have a problem when it comes to their locking mechanism. A friction lock baton may close unexpectedly if you hit it a few time up against something hard like a stick or metal pipe. I don’t think it will come unlocked just from hitting a person, but be aware of this problem. Once they are truly locked, an auto lock baton will generally stay locked securely, until you press the closure release.
Aluminum ASP Airweight batons are very comfortable to carry, but they tend to bend more than steel batons and can be harder to open do to less inertia from their low weight design. You can adjust the tension spring in the base cap to make it easier to open. But, too much bending for adjustment can cause an early failure and spring breakage. Just as you get a trigger job for your gun to make the pull smooth and lighter, so you do with your batons. With proper adjustment, the deployment of an aluminum baton can be comparable to a steel baton.
Beside being harder to open, aluminum batons also seem harder to close than steel batons. As far as I know, nothing can be done about that. If you hit something hard with an aluminum baton you will feel it in your wrist and hand more so than a heavyweight steel baton. Just like the S&W Airweight snubby gives off more recoil due to its lightweight design.
Even with all their drawbacks, I favor airweight batons for EDC when it is shorts season in the summer. If I deploy one and it bends I will just buy another one. It is the price one pays for insurance to stay alive on the street. If I had a baton that weighed too much I will end up not carrying it as I should. So what good would a heavyweight baton that may not bend do me if I leave it at home? The little ASP 16 inch Airweight weighs 7.5 ounces. That is next to nothing to carry – my keys weigh 4.5 ounces. BTW…the ASP 21 Airweight does a lot better opening than the 16 inch ASP.
For fall / winter use, when I wear hoodies and long cargo pants I go with steel batons. Steel batons are also my first choice for my car. They open easy and have great impact feel as compared to the hollow feeling aluminum batons that can twist your wrist from the top heavy feel when you hit something hard.
Peacekeeper batons are the ‘Rolls Royce’ of collapsible batons. There only drawback, beside being very expensive, is Peacekeepers are also very heavy. Just for comparison, an ASP 21 inch Airweight baton weighs 9 oz. An ASP 21 inch steel baton weighs 16.5 ounces and a 21 inch Peacekeeper weighs 22.5 oz. The Peacekeeper is a great choice for durability and striking power if you have a holster. But for plainclothes use in your pocket, the Peacekeeper is way to heavy. In any case, if your a true blue camera fondler and pixel peeper, I’m sure you will give the Peacekeeper a go…just so you can say…I have the best!
Be sure you keep your baton in line with your strong hand that will use it. A clean and fast draw is important. It is also good to practice opening and using the baton with your less dominate hand. If something puts your dominate hand out of commission, where is your back up? Again, check your local laws regarding batons. Be careful, if you hit someone hard in the head or neck you can kill them.
1,2,3,4,5…fortune favors the fast. When your life is at stake you must meet a serious attack with enough force for it to be stopped…quickly and permanently. A good practice drill is to use a heavy bag or dummy to beat on with your sticks or baton. But, you just don’t beat randomly on it. You practice specific hitting pattern drills to develop power and speed. The other benefit is, this training conditions your wrists and hands for using impact weapons.
As fast as you can read 1,2,3,4,5 is how long it should take you to deliver 5 powerful blows with your baton to the attacker. You really need hands-on training, you wont develop skills by reading a book about it, anymore than you can learn to skateboard by reading a book. But what is of foundational importance to all stick and impact fighting methods is to develop power from short, direct hits – not long wind ups.
When you use an impact weapon you don’t want to do a big wind up like your hitting a baseball and telegraph your intent. The assailant may strike first or block you if you give them time to see what you are doing. Let me give you an example. If someone is coming at you with a knife, you have your pepper spray in your weak hand and can gas them. As they take a pause to refresh, you slam you baton into their wrist with the knife in it.
Hopefully they drop the knife. In any case you don’t wait to see, from the wrist hit, you immediately strike your baton into their face, then a fast snap to the other side of their head or neck area. Then it is a blow to the side of their knee with a direct arch from the previous neck blow. As they bend over another strike to their head or back of neck. As I said, 1,2,3,4,5 should be how long it takes to deliver 5 devastating blows to the attacker. Each blow flows from the previous blow. (Don’t forget you can also use the butt of your baton as a strike weapon.)
In the mosh pit!
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book
Some training techniques use 12 preplanned baton blows to practice. I dunno, I got a pea brain and 5 blows is enough or me to remember. Moreover, even if you got a genius brain, do you really think an assailant will stay put for you to complete your circuit of 12+ pre-planned blows in the exact order you have practiced them? The benefit of a 12 blow practice session I that it familiarizes you with delivering blows and blocking attacks from numerous angles. Like all things, there are pros and cons to everything.
A good technique to practice with your baton for CQC is the piston motion strike or circular power strike aka redondo in the Philippine stick fighting terminology. It is similar to the old steam locomotive action where the main connecting rod moves up and down as it moved the wheel around. All the action is in a linear motion. So it goes with your piston strikes – it is an in-out motion that does not involve wide swinging.
With your striking hand you piston whip the attacker with the baton and with the other hand you palm smash him in the face as you advance. Once you are clear of obstacles, you can swing a little wider for working them high and low. Whenever you strike with your baton you want to envision going through the object, not just hitting it. for instance, if you going after a knee you want to do it like your chopping through a piece of wood…look beyond the knee as your target and take it out.
Another good training method for developing dynamic skills is to have a training partner throw a medicine ball at you. You strike it with the baton and also a palm strike. Once the ball hits the ground, follow up with an attack to the ball as if it was your assailants head. Your eventual goal should be to get 2 baton strikes, as well as a palm strike, to the ball while it is still in the air.
Keep in mind the importance of training for consistency and efficiency in movement. The foundation of your movements should be deliberate and to the point. This not only goes for using firearms or your baton but also when it comes to street photography.
A good training tool for baton, fist or knife fighting is to train by the combat clock system. You practice hits and blocks as a partner yells clock time as the guide…1 o’ clock, 7 o’clock, 11 o’clock. This is a very good way of practicing techniques for various angles of attack and defense. If an attack is happening so fast you don’t feel you have time to deploy the baton and make a strike. The opening and strike can be in one motion. As the batons snaps open it hits the attacker at the same time.
Inevitably you will get the bleeding hearts that worry about hurting the attacker ‘too much.’
A few words on the subject from Jeff Cooper on consideration. (Quote condensed)
“Anyone who willfully and maliciously attacks another without sufficient cause deserves no consideration. We are fully justified in valuing the life and person of the intended victim more highly than the life of the pernicious assailant. The attacked must be stopped – at once and completely. An armed man is dangerous as long as he is conscious. Take no chances – put him out. When your life is in danger and under lethal attack don’t be kind – Be harsh – Be tough – Be ruthless.’
Every time you touch an attacker, you want to hurt them. And much better if you can give them a ‘2 for 1’ sale with the pain outlay.
If the attacker persists in following you after you have lit them up and gassed them, a Class IV weapons laser (with a tactical switch as opposed to a key switch.) has been used as a self-defense weapon, especially for long range defense. You can light up a threat from a hundred yards away and blind them. (Check your local laws.) It fits in the palm of your hand and is smaller than a tactical flashlight.
Class IV lasers can cause permanent eye damage – I don’t advise you to use a Class IV laser or any laser for self-defense. Always remove the batteries before you work on any laser.
Some of you may wish to just carry a gun. If you do decide on carrying, make sure you use self-defense ammunition and are licensed for your state with a CCW. Every state is different pertaining to the CCW laws. For instance, in some states the concealed weapon must be holstered. Other states don’t require a holster, just drop the gun in your pocket. Laws change all the time, so you keep abreast of the current laws in your local.
The hallmark of good stopping power for self-defense needs is expansion. There are many good choices out there. I generally go with Hornady hollow points.
Hornady also makes Critical Defense ammo. Mushroom tests vary, but they all have good penetration . Some of the Winchester hollow points really mushroom, maybe even a little too much, as penetration is on the low side. You test out all the ammo brands yourself, don’t reply on me or anyone else when it comes to your life. I’m just putting out a few brands I tested. Fortune favors the responsible person.
A new development with defense ammo is the ARX Devastator.
It is a composite bullet that corkscrews into the body creating a hydrostatic explosion within the tissue.
If you put a round into someone’s eye socket it will blow the back of their head open. A really destructive round in 9mm+P.
For short barrel wheel guns (snubs) I use 38.Special or possible some +P 38’s. The .357 mag is too uncomfortable for me to shoot in 2 inch barrel, lightweight guns. Just one shot of .357 in a snub and my hand is sore.
The .380 or 9mm Browning short is OK, but lesser so than the more potent 9mm. . The .25 is a toy, .22 Stinger is better than a .25, just Forget all these puny calibers unless it is a last resort. If you do find your life resting on a .25 or .22, they do the best job when placed in an eye or an ear. But we are talking about life and death here, generally not arguments over a photo. Isn’t it sad we have to worry about all this when all we want to do is press the goddamn button and freeze time? But that is our world…fortune favors those that accept reality.
The tradeoff is if you want great penetration it requires more of an armor piercing nature of a full metal jacket with low expansion of the bullet. This may cause problems with the bullet exiting the body cleaning doing less damage to the assailant, offering less stopping power and hitting innocent bystanders.
Here are a few penetration tests of stacked newsprint to give you an idea how various ammo performs.
.22 short 5/8 inch of newsprint (snubnose)
.22 quiet 1 inch of newsprint (snubnose)
.22 HVHP 2-3/8 inches of newsprint (snubnose)
.22 Stinger 3-1/4 inches of newsprint (snubnose)
.380 ball 3-3/8 inches of newsprint (Beretta)
.38 SP Federal ball 4 inches of newsprint (snubnose)
.357 Hornady plastic tip magnum 3-3/4 inches of compressed kraft paper (snubnose) (a)
.357 Hornady plastic tip magnum 6 inches of compressed kraft paper (Ruger 4″ barrel) (a)
9mm Hornady 6-7/8 inches of newsprint (Beretta)
9mm Herters nylon jacket 10 inches of newsprint (Beretta)
.45 Auto ball 4 inches of newsprint (Colt 1911)
(a) I was staring to change the tests to use compressed Kraft paper and never got round to finishing them. Kraft paper offer more resistance than newsprint. If the .357 was shot into newsprint I think the penetration would be about 25% more.
No matter what ammo you choose, always shoot a box before trusting your life to it. Some autos are fussy and will jam with a certain brand of ammo. A good torture test for an auto is to load 4 or 5 brands of ammo alternating brands for every shot. If the gun fires the magazine of mixed brands of ammo…it passes.
Although nothing replaces live fire, an excellent training tool for home use is the laser cartridge.
You can get them for autos or wheel guns. When the trigger is pulled, they shoot an intermittent red laser dot where the gun is aimed. Highly recommend them. As a safety precaution always inspect the gun is not loaded with live ammo prior to pulling the trigger at EVERY session. Keep ALL live ammo out of the room you are laser training in. NEVER point the gun at anything you don’t wish to shoot.
When in a life or death situation it usually unfolds a few feet from you. So sight picture does not come into play. If you stick you hand out and try to get a sight picture, the assailant may grab your gun. Having skills for shooting from the hip or ‘point shooting’ with your gun is important. Here is the correct defense for CQC contact shooting when there is no time nor distance between your life and the attacker.
Laser cartridges are a great training tool for making sure your indexing position is right for contact shooting. I use the position shown in the top photo, but keep the gun uptight against the pectoral muscle. The shots come out straight chest level. The laser cartridge will verify the point of impact.
Some autos may jam if you ram the gun into the assailant. The slide may come out of battery. A revolver can be rammed into the body and let loose without any problem. You will also benefit from the gas that comes out of the barrel. The gas can be very destructive just on its own…
Gas burns from a .38 special snubnose. Cloth was folded up and gun was placed in contact with the cloth before firing one shot.
With contact shooting you risk the chance of a fowled shot from them grabbing your gun. What I’m saying is, if you are an inch away and need to take the shot you will do more damage if the shot is right in contact with the person.
The general rule in self-defense is; every time you touch someone, you also want to hurt them. So, if your life is depending on you taking out the assailant, why not burn them by injecting hot gas into their body as well as shooting them if you have the chance to do both.
For instance, let’s say someone is choking you out on the ground, you can’t breath and you feel they are going to kill you. You pull the snub to shoot them to save your life. Well, let the gas as well as the bullet do damage and go for a full contact shot.
If you need to shoot someone and they are a few feet away from you, don’t go for the contact shot. Why would you risk it? Shoot from a distance that will get the job done and still keep you far enough away from harm.
Some guns produce so much gas they can sever a finger from the gas escaping from the barrel / cylinder gap. So don’t discount the damage that can be done from gas from your gun.
If you’re using a snubnose, you should test it in similar circumstances where it may be used. For instance, if you have to shoot your weapon indoors, in the dark with no ear protection, you could be night-blind from the muzzle and cylunder gap flash and deaf for a long time from a .357 mag round in your snubby. Not to mention the trouble you may have actually hitting your target with the magnum recoil. And speaking of gas burns, if you shoot your revolver with the cylinder gap in contact or near your skin, expect some hurt.
When doing penetration and mushroom tests always shoot through a few layers of clothes, heavy winter jacket if your testing low powered guns. You may think that is kinda anal shooting through clothes, but the gun below, shooting .22 magnums, will only penetrate a few inches of newspaper with no clothes. So make sure any low power gun you use will still penetrate decently in the real world where you plan to use it. If your unsure, just go with full metal jacket if you want maximum penetration. Teflon coated bullets can be dangerous as they have excessive penetration.
Without ear protection, you may be deaf for some time from the massive report of a magnum in a snubby. You may want to compare how many good hits you get from your snubby when you go with .38 Special instead of the .357 mag. Even though the .357 mag is a superior round to the .38 Special. The .357 mag does not do you any good if your night-blind, deaf, disoriented and your hand is sore and bruised. after the first shot.
If your a lady and having trouble operating the slide on an automatic or you have trouble with the heavy trigger pull on a revolver…check out Ruger’s line of LCR snubs.
They are lightweight and have an easy trigger pull. If the .38 special is a little too much for you to handle, look into the Ruger LCR .327 mag. But, load it with .32 H&R mag loads, as the .327 mag is a very hot round to shoot out of the little gun.
The beauty of the Ruger LCR .32 mag is it takes 6 rounds versus the 5 rounds your average .38 snub holds. But, you try all avenues to see what works best for you. If you like shooting the .327 mag out of the little LCR, then go for it.
But, be advised that some of the LCR’s have reliability problems. Test them out thoroughly. If you want the best for reliability it is Smith and Wesson in my opinion. Here is a brand new .327 Ruger LCR right out of the box with a trigger that jams.
Defective guns aren’t limited to wheel guns. I purchased a brand new Glock 42 in .380 caliber. Even when trying 5 types of .380 ammo, the Glock 42 would consistently jam.
Hammerless snubs can be fired right out of the coat pocket. Yes, shoot through your clothes if it is urgent enough. Autos and revolvers with hammers may get jammed up if you try to shoot them while they are in your pocket. My fav way to carry is with a un-holstered snub in my hoody pocket. I can shoot right through the pocket with no draw delay. My hand is resting on the weapon and the gun can be pointed at the attacker without them even being aware of their fate if things demand deadly force.
If you camera fondlers want the best snub, then by all means get an SW Airlite PD. They are built out of scandium and titanium and super light. You can shoot a .357 mag out of it and rip your hand off!
Just like we have pixel peepers that only will accept the biggest and most powerful sensor, so we have the same type of person in the gun world. They will tell you .32 H&R mag is underpowered. But the bottom line is; people have been killed by the puny .22 LR and 6 rounds of .32 mag in a person is going to do a good deal of damage. Esp if you get one in the ear or eye…scrambled brains usually seals the deal.
If your going to compare the .32 H&R mag to a .44 mag, it is way underpowered. If you compare the .32 H&R mag to a .25 auto, .22 L.R or .22 mag…it has much more power. So just depends on what we are comparing it to.
Here is a size comparison of the 38 Special, .32 H&R mag and .22 Long Rifle Stinger cartridges.
If you do settle on a .327 / .32 H&R magnum, you can also use the .32 H&R mag +P for something recoil wise in between the original .32 H&R mag and the .327 mag.
Besides carrying guns concealed, I also have one in my car (shield). I try to have 1 or 2 guns ready for action at all times. But for street photos, I also have other options than just brandishing / shooting the gun or cutting someone up with a knife over a photo dispute.
Jim Grover gave me some good advice when it comes to guns…
If you would not go someplace without a gun, then don’t go there with a gun, you just looking for a gunfight.
When it comes to knives, they should be used for defense against deadly force being used against you. For general self-defense, I don’t want to have to get that close to someone to start cutting their arteries and tendons as combat knife fighting training advises. Although if I am going to work in dangerous areas I do carry a knife & gun in addition to the rest of my self-defense weapons.
You should use the least amount of force necessary to put down the attack. You must always keep in mind you may have to answer for your actions. When you go to court what will you say? I took his photo and he didn’t like it so I killed him with my gun. I took his photo and he said something threatening so I slit his throat. You can see where the gun and knife will end up.
Of course, if you beat someone to death with a collapsible baton you wont be looked upon much different. If you have to use force to defeat an attack, it must be measured and proportionate. Don’t go for revenge, just use enough force to stop the attack. If you put the attacker down don’t be tempted to give the assailant a lecture while they are on the ground…get the hell out of there.
Contact shot, knife or ice pick. No time to fuck around. It is lights out in 4 or 5 seconds!
If you ever find yourself in a chokehold with your back to your assailant on the ground with his legs wrapped around you…one of these can save your life.
It is very hard to extricate yourself from this type of situation unless you got something sharp to slice and flay their choke arm wide open and stab them in the leg with. Your tactical pen may be of use. But in such a dangerous predicament, I’d want the best tool for the job and the knife wins over the pen.
If you do decide to carry a tactical folder, Benchmade makes some of the best folders, assisted opening folders and fully automatic knives in their price range. Check you local laws…in some locals they are ALL illegal. Sometimes I will use an automatic knife, but mostly I’ve settled on assisted opening models depending on the local laws of where I am shooting.
If you live in a jurisdiction that has laws against carrying fixed blade knives. You may be able to get around them by carrying your folder with the blade locked open in a sheath. This is a good technique for the person that is worried about having to deploy a folder and open it one-handed under stress.
I cannot stress enough the importance of you knowing the laws of the state you wish to carry a knife in.
Here is an important video on knife laws that will illustrate this…
Even a slingshot is illegal in NYC…
My folding pocket knife (2-7/8 inch blade) is illegal according to NYC law. I don’t like carrying any folding blade knife in NYC because if ANYONE can manage to get the knife open one handed…you go to jail.
For NYC, this may be your best option as a neck carry. (It is illegal to show any part of the knife. Many people have been arrested just for showing a knife clip in their pocket.)
But…don’t follow my advice. You check it out to your own satisfaction. Laws change every day. All I can say is be careful in NYC, they make a business out of arresting people with pocket knives.
one other thing…
Never, ever, under any circumstances and without exception, admit your knife is for self-defense to the police. If you do it will make it an illegal carry and you will be arrested. Always have a legal reason to carry your knife.
An important part of any self defense-weapon deployment is to be familiar with your weapon. This may sound basic, but with the camera fondling personalities that make up today’s photo world it is not. You know, fondling gear for pleasure, versus actually using it, is not a monopolized by camera devotees. They have flashlight fondlers, knife fondlers, gun fondlers and down the line.
Faces of Gentrification
Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book
With knives there are all sort of slick opening mechanisms nowadays. They make some very sexy ‘out the front’ knives, but they tend to need lots of cleaning and prove unreliable with spring problems
Emerson makes a wave opening mechanism knife. I don’t use it, but some people love the design.
Benchmade makes a DUO model that looks like a normal, manual opening knife with a blade stud. When you push very hard on the axis closing button it turns into an automatic (switchblade) knife.
Right away this stealthy, dual opening knife would seem to appeal to the camera fondler. (Hell, it would appeal to me too!) But, the problem with this knife for self-defense is twofold.
1) It does not auto open in ALL positions. Benchmade does not tell you this, you have to learn for yourself by testing. If things are not just right with the geometry it jams 1/3 open. While your life is slipping away before your eyes, your slick switchblade will turn into a useless limp biscuit if things are not just right.
2) This knife is very close in design to Benchmade assisted opening knives. It is so close in design that you can’t know which one you have in your hand just by feel or even looking at it unless your a knife geek. Therefore you may confuse which knife you do have in an emergency if you change knives like people change shoes or the proverbial camera fondler changes cameras. You could be getting choked out as you keep pushing on what should be the auto-opening switch only to remember too late your knife is not the duo auto model.
This same continuity and familiarity with your self-defense weapons should be carried down the line in with all your gear…sprays, lights, batons, etc. Pepper sprays have all sorts of safety mechanisms. Almost all of my sprays are the same flip lock safeties for continuity and easy of use.
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book
Good old basic, dirty street fighting may help you in an emergency. If an attacker would grab you in a bear hug from the front, head butt them in the nose and face with your forehead, get your arms loose, grab their ears for leverage and bite into their nose like a fat kid eating pizza. Then dig your fingernails in their eye sockets while you knee them in the coconuts.
I grow my fingernails out to add to the eye attack. Believe me, they hurt. I had a nightmare and was flailing around. I gouged my face with my nails and it hurt for 20miutes.
Once you are loose, put your self-defense weapons into deployment. A dose of pepper spray and putting the assailant down with the collapsible baton will finish them off. Fortune favors the ruthless. But you have to have an excuse for using weapons on unarmed assailants. Either you are old and they are young or they are big and you are small or you are outnumbered. Something like that. It is called disparity of force.
Hopefully you won’t let them get so close to you to start with, but we all get blindsided once in a while. If you get a bear hug from behind, head butt them with the back of your head, stomp their feet and swivel your hips to the side while you deliver a series of fast, hard blows to their privates with hammer fist strike. Even if your caught firmly on the upper torso in the hug, you can generally still swivel your hips to one side or the other.
If you are being hugged around the waist and can’t swivel your hips then try this. Grab a finger on their hand and pull it back. Generally this breaks the lock. If they don’t let go snap the finger, then start on finger #2 and snap it. Once the lock is broken then turn around and deliver some of your weaponry.
If you have been lax in carrying self-defense weapons, a palm strike to the face, eye gouges, knees to the balls are some good options. Whether you are using a weapon or your hand, you reaction to any attack should be explosive and violent. If you put in a half-ass effort your attacker will know you will be a pushover.
Get some training in the hand-to-hand area. You need real life practice. There are just too many scenarios to train for. What training does is to make your reply to any attack second nature. Practice full contact, full power with someone wearing protection. Don’t just play patty-cakes. The general rule is; you will fight like you train, so put some purpose and effort in the training. Even if you never have a need for it, martial arts training helps keeps you in shape. You should be doing proper training and conditioning in a number of areas.
If you have to resort to hand-to-hand fighting because you don’t have any self-defense weapons, don’t forget you have many options for strikes. You are not limited to just punches. You have your knees, elbows, foot stomps, forearms and a number of hand strikes such as knife hand, hammer fist, open palm and the devastating eye gouging and raking. I don’t care how big someone is…you fudge up their eyesight or windpipe and they are finished. They will forget about you pretty quick and work on trying to see and breath again.
If your not flexible and used to throwing high elbows to the rear or using an overhead hammer fist, you may pinch up from the exertion. Fortune favors the flexible, favors the aerobically fit, fortune favors the speedy, fortune favors the coordinated, fortune favors agility and fortune favors those dedicated to strength training. These areas of fortune all make up a balanced foundation for any good self-defense program because all things being equal…fortune favors the strong.
Fortune also favors the protected. I’ve experienced lots of bodily abuse while shooting. Depending on the project, many times I will wear protection while shooting. I wear prescription eyeglasses and wear eyeglass keepers or Rec-Specs. There have been a number of times they came in handy and kept my glasses from being knocked off my face. On some projects a cup may be welcome insurance, so think about protecting your entire body.
Shins can get kicked, toes trampled on, stuff thrown in your face. I got an eye infection one time from having some paint splashed on my face. Someone threw a beer bottle at me and hit me in the head. Last month one of my toes was injured and shin was cut up from someone stomping on my foot and kicking me. I wished I had my steel toe boots and shin protectors for that shoot, but skipped wearing them. (Who wants to wear that heavy gear in hot July weather….so I paid the price.) I keep my hair about crew-cut length. I don’t want my hair being used against me in a fight.
Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book (Candid)
Since I brought up training, realize that training in a number of self-defense areas can pay off even if you don’t plan on using that exact method yourself. For instance, even if you don’t plan on using a knife you can learn how to defend against a knife by learning how to attack with a knife. Same thing with a baton / stick.
A tactical pen is another small device that may come in handy in an emergency. It would be weapon of last resort for me, but it will do the job if jammed in an attacker’s eye or ear. The whole point of this post is to give you options. You never want to be in the position of having to depend on one self-defense weapon and not have any other options.
What would happen if all you carried was one small can of pepper spray and it malfunctions due to the fact that someone played a joke on you and emptied the contents? Well, if you have a baton you bring it to bear or your tactical flashlight.
While the pen shown above is slick, it is useless if all you have is one hand free. The pen above would appeal to the camera fondler. They are more concerned with looks that use. You need 2 hands to unscrew the cap to deploy the sharp part, so the design is flawed for serious self-defense use.. In addition, the sharp part is weak as it is the pen’s writing tip. What you want is a double tipped pen like this.
Even when closed the pen is deployable. It also has a dedicated sharp tip that is not as fragile as a pen tip. When you use a tactical pen you want to strike repeatedly, hard and fast like your using an ice pick.
Pain compliant tools such as kubaton, a sharpie pen or electric shock are also an option. I don’t use them. Most of these, (other than the Taser) require you maintain constant contact with the assailant. “I don’t want to do things with the assailant…I want to do things to the assailant.” ~ K.M.
The kubaton can also be used as a striking tool and not just for pain compliant. I like them for that use. But in NYC they are illegal. So I use the tactical light in place of the kubaton. (If I did use a kubaton,, I would not keep keys on it.)
Series from Bikers’ Mardi Gras artists book
As I said above, there are all types of laws around the world, so you study them up. To show you how self-defense laws vary with local, the poor, defenseless U.K. residents have to use sharp pencils, WD-40 and a coin purse that can be used as a ‘sap’ or coin ‘blackjack’ for self-defense. No pepper spray, no lasers, no collapsible batons, no self defense knives. The criminals have more rights in the U.K. than the law abiding citizen it seems.
We may look at the poor U.K.’ers self-defense efforts with amusement with all the freedom we have in the US of A. But, you wont be amused if they jam a pencil deep into your muscle tissue and break it off. The UK’ers are very creative with their improvised self-defense weapons. Even so, if you have to break the law to save your life – it may be better to be ‘judged by 12 than to be carried by 6′ as we say in the US of A. But only YOU can decide what is best for YOU, no one else can.
If you are in a local that outlaws pepper spray this is a decent option for something compact and offers a cone pattern and usable range.
No matter what self-defense weapons you are carrying, try to stay consistent with their location. In a stressful emergency you don’t want to be hunting for the weapon…you want it at your fingertips. Fortune favors the organized.
DON’T JUST BLINDLY COPY WHAT I SAY HERE AND BLAME ME FOR YOUR PROBLEMS.
I’m not telling you to disarm an attacker that is holding a gun to your head or a knife to your throat with your flashlight. Yet, that is exactly what the expert can and will do…with their bare hands. But, it takes skill and a degree of luck. Frank Doorhof tells us…sometimes you can force luck. I tell you that you can help force luck by preparedness and training.
Fortune favors the bold…
Infrared flash photograph from Piercing Darkness artist’s book (Candid)
The bold street photog does best – not the timid one that is scared of their shadow. Although if you have great stealth techniques, then it does not matter either way.
From an interview of Clint Eastwood…the Pussy Generation…
We live in more of a pussy generation now, where everybody’s become used to saying, “Well, how do we handle it psychologically?” In those days, you just punched the bully back and duked it out. Even if the guy was older and could push you around, at least you were respected for fighting back, and you’d be left alone from then on….I don’t know if I can tell you exactly when the pussy generation started. Maybe when people started asking about the meaning of life.
….you gotta love Clint!
In any case, you want freezing time to be fun. Use your head when street shooting. Dress plainly and subdued so you don’t stand out. Leave flashy jewelry at home, you don’t need to advertise ”rob me!” (I wear no jewelry, only a cheap watch.) For street photography, fortune favors a low profile and those who develop a good technique for candid ‘sneak’ photography.
If you are caught shooting a person and they come up to you and ask for a few bucks, just give them something. You took something from them…they helped you out being your model…now you help them out. If they ask for $, don’t offer to email them a pix of themselves. That is not what they want. If you don’t want to pay, apologize and offer to delete out of courtesy to them.
A gal in Hollywood died over this exact same scenario I am telling you here. She took a pix, refused to pay a $1 tip and got stabbed to death. (I read elsewhere she may have mouthed off and the argument escalated. Don’t add fuel to the fire, delete, apologize, be courteous and keep your mouth shut. Beside guns and knives, ‘mouths’ are another big killer of people.)
Fortune favors those that are not idiots.
Eric Kim talks about becoming a fearless street photog. That is stupidity at its highest. Always remember…no one’s head is bullet proof. Only idiots are fearless, for when your fearless you think you are impervious to death.
When on the road shooting I seldom stay in a hotels…I can’t afford it. I boondock in my vehicle at rest stops, motel parking lots, casino parking lots, truck stops, hospitals or anywhere I think it is safe enough to park overnight. So I am especially aware of self-defense concerns while boondocking.
Jersey City campsite when I shoot in NYC…$55 a day for a parking spot for your tent or $65 a day to sleep in your vehicle.
If all this talk is making you feel squeamish about street photography, then don’t do street photography. Every time I head out on the street I am situationally aware and armed for self-defense. And it does not matter if I have a cam with me or not. In your case, no one is going to force you to shoot street.
In a 1979 interview entitled Inside New York’s Art World, artist Louise Nevelson said: “I think that when someone is willing to live and die for something…that means it is in the genes.” That pretty much sums it up…many an artist is willing to live and die for their art. Does that apply to you…is street photography your genes? Are you willing to risk your life to do your art?
If you’re uneasy about street photography, then shoot flowers, shoot sunsets, slap a sunglass filter on your lens and shoot smoky water or cutsie dogs and cats, star trails, burning steel wool or whatever you feel comfortable and safe shooting. Or do the watered down ‘Eric Kim brand of street photography’ where you ask permission and shoot 80 photos of the same subject while they strike different poses for you.
Infrared flash photograph from Piercing Darkness artist’s book (Candid)
Always remember…photography is not worth losing your life or anyone else’s life over. Be prepared, be smart and always try your best to walk away from any conflict before things get out of control.
Photos used herewith are from the following limited edition artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (See footnote a)
Encyclopedia of Photographic & Fine Art Ink Jet-
Printing Media – 12 Volume Set – 2014
Bikers’ Mardi Gras – 2015
De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District – 2015
180 – The Circular Fisheye at Large – 2016
Piercing Darkness – 2016
The Americans…60 years after Frank – 2016
Whoop-Whoop – Forthcoming
Gay Bar – Forthcoming
New York, New York – Forthcoming
Secrets of Candid Photography – In Development
(a) Product and self-defense illustration photos are from the internet and are used under the auspices of fair use.
**Update for 2021…
As we go into a new year, things have changed drastically in the USA. The ‘Summer of Love 2020’ proved that wandering hoards of zombies are a real threat. You went from trying to fight off an individual to fighting off mobs. Mobs that would break your car windows, then drag you from the car to stomp you into a state of unconsciousness or even death. And all for your crime of just trying to drive down the street.
We can see from the new world we live in, a 5 shot snub revolver wont go very far any longer. If guns are part of your self-defense kit, it may be a good time to add lasers and higher cap mags to the pistol equation. As well as a SBR in the trunk pass-through. (Depending on your local laws.)
Rioters shutting down freeways in the USA.
Screenshot Google images
You can’t depend on the police to save you any longer, they are ordered to stand down in some locals. And if you use a weapon to defend yourself…you can end up being the criminal.
So what I’ve told you throughout this article about avoidance and knowing the law is triply important nowadays. You won’t be fighting just one person in some of these situations. You will be fighting the Governor, Mayor, Chief of Police, D.A., and a majority of the citizens will also be against you for daring to defend yourself. Some states are working to abolish the Castle Doctrine. They are proposing you and your family must retreat from your home and not be able to use guns or weapons to defend yourself from a home invasion.
Depending on what city and state you are in, if you have to defend yourself with or without a weapon, and police are called in. You may only have to give a police report and be done with it. Or, if you are in the wrong state and city, the activist D.A. may have you sitting jail for a year or more, waiting for trial to sort things out. If you are lucky to be released after a year or two, you will have lost your job, lost your house, possibly lost your family to die homeless in the street. This is no exaggeration, so work smart. This is not the same world we used to live in…Mayberry is long gone.
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Small Gauge Film Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. VHS Video Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Advertising Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Audio Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Social Documentary Photography
Sex machine with nipple stimulator vacuum circa 1930’s/40s.
Selection from Iconoclastic Reporter artist’s book
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
For a complete listing of artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.