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What is the most useful self defense tool you can carry? How about…the humble flashlight!

What is the most useful self defense tool you can carry? How about…the humble flashlight!


Is there something you can carry which can actually help keep you safe, to help identify and prevent trouble before it happens? The flashlight can, which is why I believe everyone who is interested in personal safety and preparedness should carry one.

While I spend a lot of time talking about firearms and shooting, I’ve also said (many times) that self defense isn’t all about the gun. The firearm is a specialized tool, applicable to a very narrow range of circumstances but invaluable when it’s needed. In risk management terms, it’s a tool applicable to events of low incidence but high consequence: you don’t need it very often, but when you do you really do!

Of course, as a response tool for lethal threats the firearm isn’t applicable to lower level (non-lethal) encounters, nor does it do anything to prevent or avert those encounters. Sometimes too many people, some of them shooting instructors, believe that the possession of that gun will serve as a magic talisman to ward off evil. It doesn’t work that way!

I’ve found that there is a tool I can carry that will help me identify a developing threat, deter that threat from presenting itself, give me the means to help counter the low-level (non-lethal down to simply annoying) threat, and finally can help me efficiently employ my firearm in certain environments. That tool is a high quality, ultra-bright, pocketable LED flashlight.

The flashlight is, to me, the most important non-lethal tool you can carry. You can have it on your person in virtually all situations where everything else is verboten — including the sterile areas of airports and on airliners. It’s also incredibly useful even when it’s not being used as a defensive tool!

The flashlight allows you to survey your environment in cases where you might not be able to see without supplementary light. A dark parking lot, for instance, has lots of places where an attacker can hide; there’s a reason a large percentage of attacks happen at night! The very bright light allows you to scan your immediate area and see people who might be concealing themselves. It allows you to look under your car from a distance and check inside the vehicle before you open the door.

The light itself can serve as a deterrent to a would-be criminal. Of course it’s not going to stop someone who is truly committed to hurting you, but then not all criminals are equally motivated and skilled. I’ve had two instances in my life where I’ve caused someone to back off and leave the area when confronted with that bright beam shining in their eyes. One of those encounters was with a large male who was attempting to break into my car. I caught him before he did any damage, and as my light was blinding him he held his hands in front of his face and concocted the story that he had dropped his keys and was looking for his wallet. He turned and ran out of my office parking lot.

Just the fact that you’re using the light to look around may be enough to deter someone from proceeding with a crime. It shows them that you’re alert, can’t easily be taken off guard, and that you’re aware of their presence and quite likely are able to respond effectively. It’s like a beacon that says “this person isn’t a pushover!”

The flashlight also gives you a couple of means to respond to an attack: the light itself can be used to distract an assailant, and the body of the light gives you an impact and possibly a pain compliance tool when used with Kubotan control techniques. (It’s important to understand that you won’t actually blind an attacker, but you can distract him for perhaps a second while he adjusts to the intense illumination. That second may buy you the time you need to escape or bring your other weapons/skills into play.)

Finally, in those situations where lethal force is the correct response the handheld flashlight can help you positively identify your target, confirm that his actions present a lethal threat to you, and can help you solidly index your gun on target to deliver the bullets to the precision you need to stop the threat.

Perhaps the best thing about this tool is that it has great daily utility. You’d be surprised how many times, even in broad daylight, the flashlight comes in handy: looking in the dark corner of the cabinet; finding the pen that rolled under the couch; compensating for bright sunlight when looking in the shadows of the car’s engine compartment to find the tube to put the oil dipstick back. I did all of those just yesterday! Could I have done those things without the flashlight? Yes, but that tool made each easier and it’s something I already had on my person — because I always do.

If there was one tool I’d not want to do without, it would be my flashlight. It does so many things to help keep me safe and make my daily life easier that I’d feel naked without it!

The choice of the specific flashlight is another article entirely, and I’ll get to that in a future installment.

-=[ Grant ]=-


  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On March 18, 2014

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