Whenever possible, you want to train as realistically as the situations in which you may find yourself.
Let’s look at some of the different defensive tools, and what options we have.
Stun Guns. Very difficult to train with. Who wants to stand in as your “dummy” and get shocked? The nice thing with stun guns is that accuracy is not an issue. They work as long as the probes come in contact with any part of the assailant’s body.
With these, you can do a periodic operating review of how the stun gun works. Where is the safety switch? Where is the trigger? How do you change the batteries? Are the batteries fresh?
Tasers. Easy to train with, but a bit pricey. Taser cartridges will cost you about $25 a piece, and that will give you a single shot. Still, it’s your safety we’re talking about. On at least a quarterly basis, you should test fire your Taser.
You can practice in your backyard, firing at a cushion suspended from a tree limb. The consumer version of the Taser fires 15 feet, so be sure you are within that range before firing. This practice will help you to be able to judge that distance (it would be horrifying to fire the Taser when the assailant was 20 feet away) and practice accuracy.
Pepper Spray/Tear Gas. Training with both of these is identical, and quite easy. We recommend that you set up a stake or use a tree and staple a paper plate at least 5 feet off the ground. Pace off 10 or 15 feet – whatever distance you specific brand of spray indicates it will reach – and test it. Start your aim approximately 6 inches above the plate and proceed in an “S” formation down to the bottom of the paper plate. It should be a 1 or 2 second burst.
Re-do this test until the spray canister is empty. This gives you plenty of practice, and also lets you know how many shots are REALLY in your canister. At $10 or $15 per canister, this is very inexpensive practice.
The key is to make sure that where ever you set up your training area, you ensure the wind is to your back. You don’t want to inadvertently spray yourself during training! Also, don’t touch your eyes or mouth until you’ve washed your hands with detergent soap.
Firearms. Far and away, the easiest defensive tools to train with because there are facilities specifically designed for their usage – shooting ranges. We recommend that you use an indoor range whenever possible. Since you are most likely to be using a firearm in your home, the sound characteristics of an indoor range much more closely reflect those of your home (when compared to an outdoor range).
Guns ARE loud, and becoming familiar with the report (the bang) of the gun is important when performing under pressure. Indoor ranges are also more flexible, in that the targets can be easily set at different distances – typically from 5 to 20+ yards – with the flip of a switch. And being indoors, you can train year around.
A box of 50 cartridges will cost anywhere between $10 and $40 depending upon the caliber. Range fees will typically cost you around $10 per hour.
Proper initial training and ongoing practice in any endeavor are the keys to success. You personal safety is no exception.
Safety Tip: Regardless of what you’re training with, assume some sort of mishap will occur. For instance, the wind might change directions while you are testing your pepper spray. Be sure you have clear, fresh water close at hand to allow you to immediately wash out your eyes in the event of a problem.
Whenever I go to the shooting range, I ALWAYS have a number of QuikClot sponges to stop blood flow in the event of an accident.
Think through what might go wrong, and plan accordingly.