Let’s face it! Although we try, there are times when you just can’t carry your gun. Whether it’s because you’re traveling to a state that doesn’t have reciprocity with your carry permit or you’re going someplace where carrying is forbidden, you still need to be safe and protect yourself. 

I’ve taken a look at some common tools you can have on your person for those times when you simply can’t carry your gun. As with carrying a firearm, it’s important to know your state and local laws before putting anything on your person and walking out the door. 

EDC self-defense items
Even when you take the gun out of the equation, you can still go anywhere prepared. (Photo: Annette Doerr/Guns.com)

Some of the items listed below could land you in hot water depending on which part of the country you find yourself in at any given moment. So, be smart about how and what you carry, it’s one of the characteristics that helps define us as responsible gun owners to begin with anyway.


I’m rarely without a knife on my person. Regardless of whether I am a carrying a gun or not, I have my knife. With so many uses, it’s the perfect everyday carry tool to keep on your body, always. Although I wouldn’t want to have to use a knife in a defensive situation, having it readily available to use for that purpose just makes sense. 

I guarantee you’ll use it more for opening boxes, cutting fabric, popping bottles, and about 11 billion other uses before ever having to use it to defend yourself, but it is there. 


Tactical Pen in a box
EDC tactical pens offer practical defense in an almost unnoticeable package. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Why carry a regular pen when you could be carrying a pen that not only writes but could help save your life? Tactical pens are made from metal and have a “pointier-than-normal” tip designed to be used to defend yourself. 

Tactical pens vary by design, but our favorite is made by Cobra and also contains a small blade. It tucks seamlessly into your pocket or purse, and it’s ready to go whether you need it to write down some notes or fend off an attacker. 


Streamlight flashlight
A simple flashlight can offer you a host of uses, including self-defense. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

A good flashlight is worth its weight in gold. One that you can keep tucked in your jeans is even better. Besides using it for the obvious purpose of illuminating the dark, you can also use it to temporarily disrupt the sight of a would-be attacker. That may just give you the split-second advantage you need to get away unharmed.


Cold Steel Honey Comb
Even a simple hairbrush might hide an effective self-defense tool. (Photo: Cold Steel)

When my daughters left for college, I picked up a few tactical hairbrushes at my local gun store. At first sight, they look like generic black, plastic round hairbrushes that you’d use every day. In fact, you can use it like a regular hairbrush. But looks can also be deceiving! When the round brush section is pulled off the handle, it reveals a very hard plastic dagger. 

Is it the most effective tool you can carry? Probably not, but it is a sharp dagger-like hand-held deterrent that could very effectively be used in close-quarters combat with an attacker. The best part is that it’s hidden in plain sight and perfect to take when you leave home because it serves more than one purpose. Be mindful, however, because items like this are not meant to go through security checkpoints like at airports.



Sabre Running Pepper Spray
Pepper spray is an effective self-defense tool and can come in many shapes and sizes. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

If you’re carrying pepper spray, know how to use it because it can be a great deterrent when used properly. You can get pepper spray in many shapes and forms. You can even get discrete packages that appear to be everyday items like pens, flashlights, and even a lipstick.

You can get pepper spray that secures to a keychain, dog leash, etc., so you’re always prepared no matter where you are. I keep them in each car, my purse, and even my tack box at my stable. When a stranger shows up, you never know if they intend to cause you harm or if they really are lost and looking for directions. 


A taser is a great alternative when you can’t carry a handgun. Tasers now come in all shapes and sizes. They’re sometimes disguised as everyday items so they’re inconspicuous to the naked eye. 

Combination flashlight/tasers, knuckle-grip tasers, or just a plain-old, taser-shaped taser are all shockingly effective when used properly.


Want to get the attention of anyone around you really quickly? Blow a whistle! Whistles are small, portable, and LOUD! You can wear one around your neck so it’s always close by when you need to summon help. 



Keys by a sword
While hardly swords in the hand, keys can pack a nasty punch in a self-defense pinch. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Although not ideal, keys in the hand can be used as a weapon in a pinch. Striking an attacker with keys will leave a mark, and they may even be enough to stop them. 


It’s simple and true. Situational awareness is the most important tool of all. It’s always with us, and it’s really our No. 1 defense. Knowing what’s going on in your proximity can help you stay out of harm’s way before something bad happens. 

It’s always best to remove yourself from a situation if possible and, if not, paying attention to your surroundings gives you the time to prepare. Keep your eyes up and scanning the area, make direct eye contact with people walking towards you. 

Don’t be distracted by texting or reading emails after you leave the supermarket and walk to your car. Situational awareness makes you a hard target and will help you avoid trouble whether you have a gun on your hip or not. 


Regardless of what you choose to carry when you can’t carry your gun, you’ll need to train and know exactly how to use it. Defending yourself with a gun is a very different skill set from defending yourself with a tactical pen, knife, or even a taser, and the muscle memory is different for each of these tools. 

A gun is usually used at a distance – relatively speaking – but most of what I’ve listed above is for close-quarters defense. Knowing the proper techniques, practicing, and mastering them will give you the best chance should you need to defend yourself when you’re not carrying your firearm. 

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