When I was preparing for my concealed carry permit, I put in many hours of research trying to anticipate what would best suit my carry needs. I hoped to draw upon the experience of others in order to avoid common carrying mistakes, and to quickly ascertain what would be most the comfortable and effective solutions for my needs.
However, the majority of opinions and experience I discovered came from a male perspective.
Some of the advice was helpful as I narrowed down what caliber, where to carry, and what kind of holsters I might like. But, unfortunately, once I began carrying, I realized immediately that some of the options that work for males do not function with the same success for females.
Some of the differences are from an anatomical standpoint – women and men are not shaped the same. Other differences come from a more societal influence – men and women (at least in America), have different styles of dress.
As a woman who has spent many hours in research, and more hours in trial and error, I hope to discuss some of the options available to those interested in concealed carry, from a female perspective. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, but, hopefully, it will serve as a helpful introduction to the topic for those embarking upon their conceal carry journey.
What to Carry
The Wisconsin CCW permit gives its holder the privilege to concealed carry a “handgun, an electric weapon… a knife other than a switchblade knife …or a billy club.” And, although mace is illegal to carry, pepper spray is another option for those looking to carry self defense implements on their person.
Which of these, or which combination of these tools is the best? That could depend on the person, and the location. I’ll introduce a brief overview of some options along with some of their advantages and disadvantages here.
In Wisconsin, only 10% oleoresin capsicum (the hot pepper oil ingredient in pepper spray) concentration solutions are allowed. The canisters must be 2oz, or smaller, with a safety feature (to prevent accidental deployment) and must not be disguised. The general effective range is within 0-10ft.
- Advantages: easily concealed, inexpensive, can impair vision as well as cause mild to severe discomfort.
- Disadvantages: backspray can also affect operator, capacity is limited, relies on pain compliance to be fully effective (so attackers may have varying levels of resistance to it).
The C2 Taser unit has a six volt battery (lithium power magazine or LPM) that delivers 7 watts of electric power through two wires. The wires each end in a fish hook-like prong in order to attach to the skin or clothing. The electricity pulses through the wires with a signal that mimics the brain’s neuromuscular control, which results in the muscles contracting at random.
Each trigger press initiates 30 seconds of electric pulse, and each lithium power magazine will charge approximately 50 of these pulses. The C2 also has a drive stun function that sends an electric charge through the body on contact (pain compliance, as opposed to neuromuscular interference). The general effective range of the electric wires is up to 15′, while the drive stun backup is only effective on contact.
- Advantages: increased range, neuromuscular interference isn’t dependent on pain tolerance.
- Disadvantages: only one cartridge capacity makes the C2 less effective against multiple attackers, both probes must contact the attacker to complete the circuit – if one misses, the charge is ineffective.
These lights, such as the Elzetta ZFL-M60, or the Surefire Defender, are generally very bright (~200 lumens) with a hard casing (such as mil-spec aluminum) and crenelated bezel. At their basic level of operation, self defense lights provide excellent illumination within the range of the beam, but they also can temporarily disrupt an attacker’s vision if shined directly at their eyes.
The bright light saturates the eyes’ light reception pigment (rhodopsin), causing “night blindness” for a few moments, and impaired vision for about a minute (similar to what happens when you’re in a dark room and someone suddenly flicks on the lights). The hard casing and cleft bezel of tactical lights can also serve as a small melee device. Average effective self defense range is 0-20yds.
- Advantages: practical use (illumination) as well as self defense (light saturation, and blunt tool), easily concealed, is subject to fewer restrictions (allowed in more places) than tools such as pepper spray, knives, or firearms.
- Disadvantages: the night blindness effect has a short duration, use as blunt object relies on pain compliance.
There are tons of different styles of pocket knives that may be used for self defense. They may vary in blade, grip, deployment method, locking mechanism, and method of carry. The knife blade itself may vary in blade steel, blade shape, coating, serrations, and blade length. The grip may vary in material and shape. The deployment method may utilize different styles of assisted or unassisted open. The clip may be capable for alteration or fixed for tip up or tip down carry, or for right or left handed use.
Here is an example:
Benchmade 275 Adamas
- D2 steel, drop point blade, Cerakote coating, plain edge, 3.82″ blade length
- G10 grip, ergonomic for traditional or reverse grip
- Unassisted, thumbstud deployment
- Tip up carry, adjustable for right or left hand
Effective range for a pocket knife is on contact.
- Advantages: there are a plethora of options so a user may choose a knife customized for their specific preferences, easily concealed, relatively inexpensive, no ammunition needed.
- Disadvantages: limited range.
Handguns, whether revolver or semiauto, provide a distance option for deterring threats. They can vary in feeding method (revolving cylinder, removable box magazine, or breech loading), caliber, and size depending on the operator’s preferences.
Even within a caliber, the bullet and amount of gunpowder in the cartridge can vary, altering a firearm’s ballistic performance. Effective self defense range is, on average, from 0-25yds (depending on caliber, and operator skill)
- Advantages: functional at short or long range, higher capacity allows for defense against multiple attackers.
- Disadvantages: expensive, ineffective after ammo is depleted, high potential for danger for untrained operators, less easy to conceal than the other options (and, generally speaking, smaller firearms concede either caliber size, ammo capacity, or both).
These five options are only some of the kinds of self defense implements that one can concealed carry on their person. Women uncomfortable with (or simply untrained for) carrying potentially lethal tools on their person, or those who are regularly in situations that make carrying tools like knives or firearms impractical, may wish to further study options such as a self defense flashlight, the Taser C2 or pepper sprays.
These tools also require little (if any) training in order to operate. Pepper sprays that deploy in a stream have a visible trajectory, making it easy to adjust aim during deployment. The C2 has a laser sight, as well as an LED light for aim assistance. Using a tactical light to deter an attacker helps by inflicting temporary night blindness, but lasts only moments. A pronounced bezel may help in hand-to-hand combat, but that necessitates that the victim be within contact range of their assailant.
Considering those aspects, tactical lights may not be as “threatening” as the other options mentioned in this article, but for that very reason, they are more readily permitted in anti-self-defense tool environments (such as in college, or in businesses that prohibit “weapons”). Conveniently, any of these options are easy to carry in one’s purse until need arises.
This reviewer always has at least some measure of less-than-lethal self defense on her person; I don’t want to be the person to escalate a situation to the life-threatening level, if I can avoid it. However, under circumstances where that threat is unavoidable, more lethal options may better suit one’s defense needs.
Knives, especially folding knives, are easy to conceal under most circumstances due to their small size. The variety in option for handle material, blade steel, shape, edge, and more makes it easy to acquire a blade for various purposes.
As an edged tool, a blade can serve for practical purposes as well as self defense. But their small size makes it feasible to carry more than one knife at a time, if the desire is to keep separate blades for separate tasks. However, pocket knives offer an edge in melee combat. So, to use them effectively, one must be within contact range.
Anatomically, women are smaller and less muscular than males. So, in physical conflict, women have a distinct natural disadvantage, and wielding a knife may not be enough of an advantage to counter the natural discrepancies between body type. In this situation, a firearm serves as a force multiplier. This type of tool allows a (smaller) female to defend herself effectively against a (larger) male attacker. A firearm’s ammunition capacity also helps an individual to better their odds in surviving a self-defense encounter against multiple assailants.
Concealed carry isn’t restricted to firearms. In fact, there are times when carrying a firearm simply isn’t feasible. Those who are interested in bettering their odds in a self-defense situation may want to consider a range of self defense options, including “less-than-lethal” and “potentially lethal” options, or a combination of both.
Of the tools available for permit-holding concealed carriers, each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages in price, effective range, and deterrent function (whether threat of mortal injury, pain compliance, or even neuromuscular interference). Hopefully, this overview serves as an introduction to the subject for people looking to begin carrying a concealed weapon. However, it is an incomplete list.
What are some self defense options you’d recommend? What tools do you rely on to better your odds of surviving a self defense situation?