by David Armstrong





There are many books, videos and DVD’s out there showing you the best tool to use as an improvised weapon, there are even more products out there that you can take with you as part of your every day carry (EDC) and use as an improvised weapon – some have practical applications and are actually useful, whilst some are gimmicky and should be thrown out with the trash at once!!!


I would like to offer you our combative take on the use of improvised weaponry, gained from various security situations and personal protection experiences.

Firstly we have to take note and stress that the use of any weapon is LETHAL force by its very nature – and as such should only be used in extreme circumstances when all the indicators point to a violent attack upon your person by larger, armed or multiple assailants.


Many people misconstrue the phrase “improvised” weapon and use it as a catch-all term.  There are numerous examples of instructors showing all kinds of fancy moves and tricks with a range of everyday items that can be used as weapons in a variety of locks, traps and pain techniques.  Pretty to look at I’m sure – but is it really effective against a determined aggressor whose only objective is to tear your head off?


There are many EDC options – pens, keys, kubotans, stingers, etc – and just as many environmental weapons on the street such as sticks, house bricks, bottles, lumps of metal, etc, and given enough time I can turn ANY item into an “improvised” weapon. Unfortunately THAT is the problem – TIME - or more precisely the lack of time to access the hardware and bring it into play effectively.


The term the modern combatives group prefers is “Expedient” (XPD) weapons.  In other words, in order to use your weapon you first have to GET to it quickly.  I can have the best personal weapon in the World, but if I am unable to reach it due to it being at the bottom of my briefcase then it is neither expedient nor improvised.  It is nothing more than an expensive (and useless) accessory.


To be able to expediently access your “just in case” weapon it needs to be worked into your overall tactical self protection planning that gels with your lifestyle or environment.  Think about what you carry on a day to day basis?  Do you work in an office and have ready access to pens (stabbing weapon)?  Are you a security guard with a sturdy flashlight (impact device) as part of your jobs equipment?  How do you carry these items normally?  Are they concealable?  Are they easily accessible or do you need to re-orientate them for a more covert access?


All are questions which should be thought through as part of an individuals XPD covert carry strategy.


Naysayer’s will tell you that XPD weapons are a waste of time, a distraction that get in the way of using unarmed skills to deal with a “problem” (this is usually said by someone who is built like a door and with hands the size of shovels).  In certain cases this is true, and it can be that your “expedient” weapon is actually your hands, feet, elbows and knee strikes, but not every scenario is going to run the same way and we have to be adaptable to the situation at hand. 






But what about the slightly built man or woman who finds themselves in a violent encounter – their unarmed skills may be minimal, so for them surely every advantage should be utilised if they feel the need to up the force level to protect themselves.  This is termed the “moderately trained man” syndrome – where the individual has limited training and experience, but also recognises that they need some combative skills in order to survive a lethal street attack.  For these people an XPD weapon may make the difference between life and death!


To put the whole scenario into context the quote from American security operator, Kelly McCann says it all, “Why are you doing combatives – you are only doing combatives to GET to a weapon – knife, stick, gun, etc.”  We don’t want to fight him fair, we just want to be able to physically STOP him and make our escape.


At the other end of the spectrum the risk of over-relying on your chosen improvised weapon or EDC can become a disadvantage.  It does not automatically equate that;


A)    Just because you have the ability to PURCHASE an EDC device – you have the skills to use it!


B)    You can quite easily develop the “bullet-proof” vest syndrome – in other words you are more likely to think you can handle a situation that is way out of your control, merely because you have the latest gadget or gizmo at your disposal.



On our XPD weapons training programs we teach the 4 “S” methods, which some readers who have trained with us will be familiar with.  The 4 “S” methods comprise;


  • STAB


Regardless of the XPD weapon in use it will be deployed in one of the above ways.  Rather than teach multiple ways for each individual item, we use a generic template with which to use the hardware combatively. For instance I can STAB with a mobile phones Ariel section, but can also SMASH with the base of the phone.  The same applies for a stick; I can STRIKE with the shaft of the weapon and also SLASH with the tip!


From a tactical point of view, say approaching your vehicle late at night in deserted car park, pre-access and deployment in high-risk environments is recommended.  If you’ve made the evaluation that the area or situation is a potentially threatening one then having the key ready in your hand as you near the car is a sound strategy.  After all, the fastest draw is no draw at all!


Another basic principle is to use the weapon AS a weapon and NOT as a threat or compliance tool – it is the same basic principle as a firearm deployment - don’t draw unless you are going to use it.  As mentioned above this is not the time to “test” out fine motor skills and complicated C&R drills – you strategy should be to go “combative” with the said tool and start smashing, stabbing, striking and slashing in a sustained attack!


However, as with any tool – from knife, to pistol, to motor vehicle – it is no good if you don’t practise deployment and train how to use the hardware effectively.  Being approached by a street gang in a dark alleyway is not the time to wonder how your folding fighting knife opens up and works!!!  It IS the time for instinctive reactions and gross motor skills.


Regardless of what your expedient weapon happens to be – in extreme circumstances - it MUST be applied with the maximum level of force. You are in a life threatening situation and in fear for your own personal safety – so you must honestly apply the necessary level of force to win through.

This is where mental combative attitude truly comes into its own – the “tool” that you use – hand, boot, stick, pen, key, house brick, - is largely irrelevant as it’s the application of sustained violence that is essential.  


That forward aggressive drive that powers into the attacker, hurting him and causes him to fear for his own life – as in any combative scenario it is the WILL to win through that is paramount, followed by the skills to apply that will and finally culminating in the expedient weapon at hand to do the job.  If a “monster” is on his way to hurt my family – then believe me I’ll make that blunt potato-peeler WORK for me, whatever the cost!!!


In conclusion the use of expedient weapons as a self protection tool is one option but not the ONLY option.  But for civilian personal protection it should be borne in mind that the only way to stop the thug with the Stanley knife may be by ANY means necessary, or as the legendary close combat instructor W.E. Fairbairn stated, “Unarmed combat is only for those FOOLISH enough to be caught without a weapon.”


Covet that statement – it says it all.


Stay safe





David Armstrong has been involved in close combat training for over 20 years.  A professional security consultant and operator , he runs the Modern Combatives Group which regularly trains both civilian and specialist security personnel in self protection, close quarter combatives and personal weapons skills.


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