Estimated reading time: 19 minutes
If you look at the pattern of events in countries around the world enduring societal collapse one thing becomes apparent. Violence becomes a new and terrifying fact of life. From Haitian gangs roving the streets and dominating neighborhoods, to armed militias in Africa vying for control of the population to cartels in Central and South America acting with impunity where the rule of law is a lost memory.
It’s tempting to believe that industrialized societies with robust economies will fare better, but the response of those governments when faced with the collapse of economies and societies is often martial law. It’s at that point when the population is often rendered defenseless in an effort to prevent the emergence of those cartels, militias and gangs.
The result is a ban on sales of firearms, ammunition and anything else that could be used to arm an insurgency or criminal enterprise. Caught in the middle are everyday people who potentially find themselves at the mercy of events as local law enforcement is overwhelmed and the military takes over to ensure order.
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In the meantime, everyday life is turned on its head and routine law enforcement becomes less of a priority. The result is that crime and violence becomes the new normal. Local law enforcement is overwhelmed and often over-ruled as the military patrols the streets with a focus on general peace keeping rather than making sure someone’s home is safe in the night.
And It Gets More Complicated
A common fear is that personal ownership of firearms will be banned and there will be routine roundups of any weapons owned by citizens. The idea is to prevent the spread of criminal activities but as always, the criminals will find a way to get the weapons while the general population is disarmed.
The result is a defenseless population who may find their only recourse for their safety and the safety of their families is to improvise. How well any improvised weapon works is a good question, but in desperate times the only solution available may be the best solution.
Threats in a collapsed society come from a variety of directions as even the most basic goods and services become scarce, too expensive or simply unavailable.
- One is the threat of confrontation on the street where the stress of events leads to impatient confrontations and misunderstandings. Road rage will become more common as people use their vehicles as weapons to exact revenge for the merest slight or confrontation.
- Another threat comes from desperation as basic goods and supplies like food, money, and everyday basics become a target for anyone starving, broke or homeless. Homes and yards become an easy target and even something as simple as a vegetable garden becomes a target for someone without food.
- Armed robbery and car-jacking are becoming more common in cities across the country. Imagine what the streets will be like when a couple of soldiers standing on a few corners across the city become the only law enforcement.
- Even something as basic as walking the kids to school will become a new cause for alarm as any group standing on a sidewalk becomes a reason to pause or pass with a mix of caution and fear.
A societal collapse is a time when improvising at least some level of self-defense becomes a common sense preparation. A baseball bat doesn’t stand a chance against a gun but could be a life-saver against an assailant with a knife.
It all becomes a question of what can you find, what can you improvise and what can you carry with you to defend yourself without attracting attention or inviting confrontation? Stealth on the streets is important particularly when passing those two National Guardsman standing on the corner.
Then again, while defending a home there’s less of a reason to mask the appearance of a weapon. In fact, any home invader, thief or attacker may quickly retreat at the sight of an obvious and dangerous weapon in hand.
The ultimate question becomes what can you find or make to defend yourself and your family. Here are some possibilities to consider.
Weapons of Opportunity
An object as a weapon has a lot to do with perception. We all have large knives in a drawer in the kitchen. In fact, the kitchen is a surprising source for weapons of opportunity. And here again, it’s the appearance of a weapon in hand that will hopefully be the only deterrent you need, but you may need to be prepared to use it.
Here are the kitchen possibilities:
The larger the better.
Maybe not the best weapon because of its blunt end, but certainly imposing as a weapon of self-defense
If you’ve ever had salt in your eyes you can imagine how quickly it will distract if not deter an attacker or home invader.
4. Rolling pins
It sounds like a cliché but it’s the closest thing to a club in the kitchen.
5. Cast iron pans
Think of them as both a shield and weapon due to the weight and sturdiness.
6. Even a pencil from the junk drawer
A sharpened pencil is a wooden stiletto. When all else fails it’s better than nothing.
The Garage or Shed
How many tools have we collected over the years? Many of them can serve as weapons of opportunity and once again can at least intimidate someone with violent or criminal intent.
Another cliché when you think about all of the movies with roving bands of villages carrying torches and pitchforks.
8. Axe or hatchet
Another imposing weapon and genuinely deadly.
Think of it as a short handled club but there are some recommendations that you hold the hammer head in hand so someone can’t easily rip it away from you and use it.
More than a few horror films have used a chainsaw as a weapon and a running chainsaw is not a welcome sight to an attacker.
11. An old cane
If grandpa’s old cane is still propped in the corner of the garage or shed it can make for an effective weapon that won’t be seen as threatening until needed.
12. Broom Handles
The broom won’t do much but if the handle is unscrewed or removed from the broom head it has the force of a long club.
Think in terms of tools that are heavy, sharp or pointed: screwdrivers, chisels, files are all options for self-defense.
14. Car or Truck
A vehicle itself can be an improvised weapon or at least a good way to protect yourself to some degree and escape the scene. But if for any reason the vehicle is not running there are other weapons of opportunity.
15. Lug wrench
It’s heavy metal and again, better than nothing. More advice out there says hold it by the bent, wrench end to get a better grip so it can’t be yanked away and then used by an attacker.
16. Starting Fluid
A match or lighter in front of the spray from a can of starter fluid makes for a terrifying flame thrower. Not terribly effective because it is so dependent on a steady flame but imposing nonetheless. Hair spray and other aerosols work the same way. Read the label and see if it says “flammable.” Then put in the trunk or glove box.
17. Anything else you put in the car or trunk
You can store any improvised weapon you make in your vehicle and probably should. This gets into the next section on improvised weapons you make.
It takes time and some tools to improvise a weapon but there are numerous options. One of the variables is location. There are essentially two locations to consider: at home and on the road.
Improvising Weapons on the Road
A common bug out scenario is evacuating on foot. It’s not always the best choice but when the highways turn into parking lots during a mass evacuation it’s the only choice.
The biggest limitation when traveling on foot is a lack of resources and tools. The result is that improvised weapons on the road are fairly basic. Here are some possibilities:
18. A club
This may be the oldest weapon going back to Paleolithic days but it will always be effective. A club can be fashioned from a variety of materials. The obvious choice is a branch that has been broken or cut to fit in the hand with enough reach and heft to make an effective weapon. Other possibilities are a piece of rebar or even a 2×4 from a scrap pile. If you can hold it effectively and swing it, you have a club.
19. A spear
A walking stick sharpened to a point can provide a certain amount of stealth. Someone walking with a large staff or walking stick won’t be perceived as carrying a weapon until it’s held in an offensive position with the sharp end pointed towards a threat.
20. A dagger
A stout branch sharpened to a point can make for an effective dagger. A standard piece of advice is to insert the point into a fire to harden the wood and make it easier to hone to a sharp and penetrating point. Here’s a link to an article about fashioning daggers, spears and clubs from found materials.
21. Blades made from stone or metal
A piece of flint knapped to a point has tipped spears, knives and arrows for thousands of years. If you lack the skills to chip flint to a sharp edge you can substitute a shred of metal from a tin can or scrap sheet metal. How well you can cut metal without tin snips or metal shears is a challenge but even a knife can cut through an aluminum can to fashion a sharp point or edge.
22. Sand and dust
This goes back to the salt idea. A handful or sand or dust thrown into an attacker’s eyes can buy you enough time to get away or disorient them in a confrontation, or possibly encourage them to retreat.
23. Bricks and stones
They’re everywhere. Especially in and around the ruins of buildings and always scattered across roads and fields. Don’t throw them. You’ll just be providing an attacker with ammunition. As a blunt weapon in hand it can deliver a knockout blow or once again, disorient an attacker long enough to get away or cause them to retreat.
Think of it as a club on fire. A torch will attract a lot of attention but that may be exactly what you need if you are defending yourself for any reason. Most people and animals will back away from a large flame on a club. Here’s a link to an article about variations on a torch from natural materials.
Improvising Weapons at Home
The benefit of improvising a weapon at home is access to better tools, materials and time. Then again, there’s little reason to improvise a knife when you have a drawer full of them in the kitchen. Here are some of the more robust weapons that can be improvised for self-defense:
25. Bow and Arrow
The bow and arrow is another weapon that has been around for thousands of years. Its effectiveness has a lot to do with the draw weight of the bow, the quality of the arrows and the skill of the archer. It’s a bit of a complicated build but if you have the time and the resources it can be done.
Think of it as a spear on steroids. You could fashion this on the road but it’s easier to do with a good selection of tools. Here’s a link with more information about the history and construction of the Atlatl.
It’s a lot easier to buy one and store it in the shed but here’s a link to how to make one.
Another ancient weapon that will certainly get someone’s attention. If you have blacksmithing equipment you can fashion an exceptional sword. If you don’t have all of that blacksmithing stuff you can still fashion one out of scrap metal with a vise and file. Here’s how.
A cross bow is more powerful than a bow and arrow; easier to fire accurately without a lot of practice, and delivers an arrow with significantly more velocity and inertia. The construction is a bit complex, but this video and this article take you through the steps of making both a crossbow and the bolts that you fire.
30. Molotov Cocktail
It’s unfortunate that this may be a weapon used against your home but if that’s the case you may need to fight fire with fire. They’re nothing more than a flammable liquid in a glass bottle with a rag stuck in the top. They’re very dangerous but can be a deterrent to someone with ill-intent.
There’s plenty of information out there about how to fashion a shotgun from a pipe, an assortment of weapons made using a 3-D printer, and too many articles about how to make booby-traps. Most of these activities are illegal and quite dangerous.
In a desperate situation everything is dangerous, but pursue these other possibilities with great caution and know that they often harm the people putting them together more than anyone else.
There are No Simple Solutions
It’s a bit un-nerving to think about improvising weapons to defend yourself and your family. It’s worse when you actually need to use them. One thought is to take a martial arts or self-defense course. It will at least help you adopt the necessary mindset to stay focused if you need to defend yourself.
Another thought is to engage in some good home-defense measures to keep people away and out. The best defense may be to do everything you can to avoid violent situations.
That’s not the easiest thing to do but a low profile in desperate times is always a good idea. And if it happens that you need to take some action for self-defense – at least you’ll have some degree of knowledge about how to improvise a weapon of last resort.
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