Low-Profile/Low-Visibility Defensive Weapons: What’s Old is New Again!

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By Toby Melville

March 6, 2022

Defense is a state of being. We can orient ourselves mentally or physically, or a combination of both. This concept is massive and all-encompassing when contemplating defense, so let’s consider something more specific pertaining to physical self-defense. Having tools to protect your physical safety is essential, and dates to man’s earliest recorded history. The riots and rising violence over the last year and a half-plus have provided a vivid example of having tools to provide deterrence or to preserve life, limb, or eyesight.

We will examine several tools that can be effective defensive weapons. This review is melee-based, so addressing the use of firearms will be negated from this article. So too will the use of knives, tomahawks, and other edged weapons. Not all the tools mentioned look innocuous, but the idea is to provide something that appears less threatening, or is very easy to conceal until utilized. This shortlist is not all-encompassing; there are an infinite array of items that can be utilized. Even a rubber chicken can cause harm, not that I would know.
The parameters of this article should be examined to establish what we are considering and why:

1. One-handed operation.
2. They should not draw any significant attention from a short distance (this may be
challenging for some items).
3. Ease of use is vital, given the lack of training some may possess.
4. We will explore accessibility to the tools and their effectiveness when adequately employed.

By this point, you may be wondering what my choices are. Again, this is not an all-encompassing list, and I’m sure there’ll be something you thought was better suited. I wanted to offer different options based on size, use, and effectiveness with single or multiple opponents.

The first tool on my list is the roofing hammer. The hammer has a profuse, compelling history of use. According to Warfare History Network, war hammers first began appearing on the battlefield in the 14th century due to fitted armor, and were exceptionally practical. Now, there is no one running amuck in plate armor or chainmail. Still, the ability to crush composite armor or deliver devastating blows to limbs or the thoracic cavity cannot be overstated. With the ease of access to hammers virtually anywhere globally and their regular appearance, a hammer will not draw unneeded attention. Helmets can be directly impacted with a hammer’s decisive blow and have an overwhelming effect on armor. Composite and polymer armors can be rendered ineffective or compromised with a powerful strike from a hammer. Hammers are easily concealed, can be effective with one hand, and require little to no training to use. They also have the utility of smashing through glass, and can be used to remove locks or handles.


The baton is another ancient weapon dating back throughout history. Essentially a thick hardened stick, the baton has been developed in a multitude of designs. The wooden baton is still utilized by law enforcement and militaries the world over. The evolution of collapsible batons has increased user interaction and effect, making the baton one of the more practical and user-friendly self-defense weapons globally. The baton can be homemade, is easily wielded with one hand, is excellent at striking both limbs or the body, and can still have the flexibility of being upgraded from simple wood to various alloys. Depending on size, a baton can be easily concealed until needed and fit an ambiguous image depending on how they are carried. On a final note, the baton can, in many cases, cost the individual nothing to acquire.


The next tool was an evolutionary step forward of the baton; the trench mace is a baton with metal added to the end and, in some cases utilizing gears, spikes, or other protrusions to add to its lethality. We will examine a few menacing options encompassing either a simple steel end cap or the hex or gear-shaped end. In World War One, the trench mace debuted out of the necessity for close combat weapons and offered improved mobility in trenches than using a rifle with a bayonet. The trench mace provides a significant upgrade in defense due to the steel endcap, and angled protrusions ensure a more substantial impact focused on the end of the protrusions. Much like the hammer, the focused impact can and does cause severe damage to armor and other objects. Like the previous tools, the trench mace’s one-handed use offers easy employment with little training needed. There is a notable difference with the trench mace. The omnidirectional endcap allows for limitless angles of defense and attack; even if the trench mace rotates in hand, its focused striking points are still positioned to impact the intended target.


The next couple of smaller tools offer greater concealability, but this comes at a sacrifice in range and momentum. One should also research if carrying and using one of the following tools is legal in your state before deciding to carry in public. A slapjack is an old tool commonly seen in cinematics featuring its use by early 20th-century police. This simple amalgamation of leather and steel provides a lightweight, concealable, and profoundly effective tool in self-defense. Slapjacks typically have a small loop for retention and are bidirectional in use; the slapjack is a flat leather pouch with a bulbous end. Inside the slapjack is a steel or brass core to provide some rigidity and flexibility and a bulbous end for striking. This tool should be carefully considered before purchasing or carrying. If misused, the slapjack can be genuinely effective. The slapjack can provide the close-in defensive application with some training, while inflicting focused and powerful harm on limbs. Its lightweight and small size do not make it advantageous against armor or other hardened objects. The effect on bone and nerves is incredible. The slapjack is illegal in some states or counties, so it’s essential to know your local and state laws regarding such items.


Self-defense pens and kubatons are specialized tools that can provide a significant defensive edge in close quarters. Their small size can offer an innocuous appearance while providing the well-trained individual varied use levels, from simple pressure points to lethal strikes. Kubatons come in various sizes, but are typically small enough to be entirely or almost wholly encompassed in one hand, and often have one or more pointed ends. Usually, the kubaton is attached to a user’s key chain. The defensive pen offers a different approach by providing a functioning pen capped by hardened metal, and typically the body is either checkered or grooved for grip retention. The kubaton does require more substantial training if the user wants to be effective with the tool. The kubaton is very affordable, lightweight, and easy to conceal.

The final tool covered is the Kelly Worden Travel Wrench. The Travel Wrench is a harmless-looking tool and could be misconstrued for a litany of items but least of all, a defensive weapon. The Travel Wrench derives from a combination of two ancient south pacific fighting weapons; the karambit knife and the kali fighting stick. The Travel Wrench provides a high-impact, glass-filled, right-angled polymer device with a finger loop at one end. The design allows the user to strike, hook, impart pressure, or block attacks from larger weapons, focusing on hand-to-hand attacks. The Travel Wrench is exceptionally lightweight, offers an optional belt or pocket clip, and even under scrutiny, appears non-threatening. The Travel Wrench provides a well-trained user a significant advantage against an opponent. The downside for this tool is that the individual will need to be trained to utilize various applications effectively.

The need for non-kinetic defensive weapons is still as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago. Selecting or being capable of utilizing self-defense tools is a vital part of the prepared individual. Effectively employing a defensive tool can give a much smaller or weaker individual the edge, leveling the field. Again, the tools listed here are only a small menu of options available to everyone, and are limited only by your imagination and level of proficiency. Having options for defense provides you with greater flexibility and your choice of physical impact. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to train and become familiar with the tool’s uses, limitations, and best mode of carry and employment.
© Copyright 2020 DefenseReview.com (DR) and Toby Melville. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without receiving permission and providing proper credit and appropriate links. If you are reading this article anywhere other than DefenseReview.com, please email us the website address/URL (where the unauthorized DR article reprint is located) at defrev (at) gmail (dot) com. Thank you.

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About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.

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