Dear Brendan,

A friend recently asked me a question about the pen I carry and the value added to your EDC.  The bottom-line is a quality tactical pen can go with you just about anywhere and the same cannot be said for a firearm (handgun) or edged weapon (knife).  It’s a great impact weapon and it’s low profile.  I carry such a pen clipped inside my pant pocket daily.  Another often-overlooked improvised weapon is the steel beard comb.  For those of us men that have grown our own face Kevlar you will appreciate Old Familiar Beard Co. and Hudson Design and Manufacturing beard combs.

There’s plenty of material out there about tactical pens and improvised weapons. With that said, there are always people looking for tools that fly under the radar at work and when traveling, especially today. Some dedicate a significant amount of time thinking about what they can get through airport security. Truthfully, I’m more concerned about my exposure on the ground between checking my bags and getting them back. Let’s face it; if you are on a plane and there is a problem, you are more likely to be killed in the crash than by someone on the plane.

Years ago I trained 2nd Bn 7th Mar Scout-Snipers in combative arts. When I started to cover down on weapons of opportunity and improvised weapons, I tasked them with the following. They were told to come in the next day and tell us about one improvised weapon in their room. They gave some creative answers, to include 550 cord, power cords, laptop, and beer bottle. I asked the Marines to tell me which parts of the body they would target with their weapons. Most said the head. A few with the 550 cord and power cords mentioned that they could use the cord to choke an attacker; much like a garrote is used. It’s good to think outside the box, just don’t get carried away with Hollywood smoke and mirrors.  You must be able to utilize it under stressful conditions so keep it functional.

Before discussing improvised weapons, we need to understand combative anatomy, which can be defined as how to stop aggression or violent acts in the shortest amount of time. When we involve weapons, most people think about edged weapons and firearms. Attacking the body with these tools has a good likelihood of serious physical injury and death, but they can take some time to be effective. It’s kind of like putting a hole in a garden hose or draining an oil pan.

For our purposes, the body has three main systems.

1.     The central nervous system, which is comprised of the brain and spine.

2.     The structural system comprised of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

3.     The circulatory system, which includes both the traditional circulatory system, comprised of the heart, arteries, and veins, as well as the respiratory system.

There are only three ways to cause trauma to these systems: burning, cutting/stabbing or crushing. When it comes to burning, I like hot liquids. A steaming hot cup of coffee in your hand can be a very effective improvised weapon. Burns do a great job of overloading the central nervous system, causing the person to fixate on their injury instead of what is going on around them. A hot Starbucks in the hand is a great example of an improvised weapon: it is not carried as a weapon, but is effective nonetheless.  Another real world example is a lit cigarette.  Now, I don’t smoke however I would carry a pack overseas and light one up if in a bar or restaurant type environment. You flick it in the attackers face, attack and escape.  It works very well and is effective when dealing with multiple attackers.  This is a great distraction technique that buys you time to strike and position yourself to end the fight and or maneuver towards the exit.   

There are only two types of weapons that you can hold in your hands: edged and impact. Even a bullet is a hybrid that travels at a high velocity, crushing bone, and cutting through tissue. Here it is in simple chapter and verse.  As a rule, at least with handheld weapons, impact weapons seek bone and edged weapons seek flesh.

If you pick something up, hit someone with it and it does not cut them, then you have an impact weapon. If it cuts them, then it is an edged weapon.

If you end up on the ground in a dark parking lot fighting for your life and start feeling around for something to use as a weapon, you are way more likely to grab an impact weapon. And that can be a good thing.

Say you pick up a rock and swing it into the head of your attacker, attacking the central nervous system. Just like watching a good movie on TV, the cable does not have to go out to mess up your viewing pleasure. All that is needed is a bad signal. So, you strike him repeatedly until the cable goes out/the threat no longer exists. Since you are in the neighborhood anyway, land a few shots to the collarbone, extending your attacks to the structural system. This can limit the capabilities of his arm.

The rock is a small weapon that can be easily manipulated. If you pick up something heavy, you will naturally swing wide to hit with it. The same thing goes for something long. The bigger it is, the more room you need to deploy and use it. 

So, let’s go back to the Marines’ task of identifying improvised weapons in the barracks. There is no need to be exotic. Most people overlooked things that were likely right beside the bed: flashlight, pens, beer bottles, etc. How the object feels in your grip is a good indication of how effective it will be for follow-up shots if your first one fails. This is especially important if you are dealing with multiple attackers.

Another interesting thing about impact weapons is that you have several natural ones: feet, knees, elbows, hands, and your head. We may not be naturally equipped with the best tools to kill someone barehanded, but we are very well equipped to defend ourselves and stop a person that is attacking us.

Now that all of the above has been stated, one of my favorite weapons, even though it is not so much improvised, is the common Escrima or Arnis stick. I have one in each bedroom and in my truck.  It not only extends my striking distance, but its also great for multiple attackers.  And as mentioned in a previous letter I carry the Stanley FuBar along with the Stanley FuBar demolition bar in my truck. 

After receiving the above combative arts training, the Marines within 2/7 STA Sniper Plt looked at things a little differently. Maybe you will too.

Never forget what you are fighting for.


Your Friend,