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Best Non-Lethal Weapons and Ammo To Use Instead of a Gun

Tasers or pepper spray or beanbag rounds? We cover the best non-lethal weapons and ammo to use instead of a gun...that might save your life one day.

The rain really starts coming down right as you and your loved ones are leaving the store.

With your focus on getting out of the rain, you aren’t looking for anything but your keys.  You’re almost to your car and someone pulls a gun on you.

Man In the Rain, Claudia Dee
Man In the Rain, Claudia Dee

You stop in shock as they tell you to give them your wallet, car keys, and phone.

What do you do?

In this scenario you are justified to unholster your gun and protect yourself.

But can you really pull the trigger?  Can you take a life to save your own?

You know your life (and the life of the lazy bastard standing in the rain trying to rob you) will change forever with the squeeze of the trigger.

Do you think you would be more apt to defend yourself if you knew you could get away safely and not kill the evil doer?

Let’s explore some of the less lethal options out there.

Table of Contents


Less Lethal Ammo

You probably already have a gun, so changing the ammo might be all that it takes.

Even though you carry a gun, using it and knowing the likely outcome can make you hesitate.  Trying some less lethal ammo might help.

Less lethal ammo is any type of ammunition designed to not put a hole in someone.

These can be anything from beanbag rounds to a paintball filled with tear gas.

The point of this type of ammunition is to deter or incapacitate the attacker so you can escape.

Rubber Bullets

When someone says “rubber bullet,” the first thing that pops into my head is a pencil eraser.

That’s not really what a rubber bullet is, though…these, and other kinetic impact munitions, are meant to disorient the target.

Rubber rounds are commonly used for riot control by police departments.

These bruise-makers are available in numerous calibers, although they are most common in 12 gauge shotgun shells.  Not sure what that means?  Here’s our handy-dandy Guide to Shotgun Terms.

Non-Lethal Shotgun Rounds
Non-Lethal Shotgun Rounds, 2nd Stryker Brigade

What you get with a 12 gauge rubber bullet round is a shell with several rubber coated pellets.

The number varies, but you can get many smaller pellets or a few larger pellets. They will work the same as a normal shotgun shell when it comes to the coverage of the pellet pattern. Think birdshot vs 00 buckshot.

Other Fun Rounds

Pretty self-explanatory.  You definitely want to check your local laws about these things…

  • Flash Thunder Grenade Rounds: Another 12 gauge round that you could have ready in the chamber is a Flash Thunder Grenade. It’s basically a flash bang that unleashes a bright flash (over 1.5 million candle power) and a really loud bang in the neighborhood of 182 dB.
  • Cayenne Pepper Rounds: There are types of less lethal rounds you can get for a shotgun that are like a bean bag round but have different ways of disorienting or incapacitating the attacker. For example, there are Pepper Blast shells that shoot cayenne pepper.
  • Bean Bag Rounds
Bean Bag Rounds
Bean Bag Rounds

Less Lethal Weapons

Bear in mind, some of these weapons may need a firearms or concealed carry permit in your state.  Some might not be legal, period, so you will need to look into the laws before you buy them.

Here is an example of Wisconsin’s law pertaining to electric weapons.

In a nutshell, if you have your concealed carry permit, you are ok to carry.

If you are curious about your state’s laws, you can search for it quickly using the your state followed by the term legislature electronic weapons (Example: Michigan legislature electronic weapons).

Or check out this infographic:

Non-Lethal Weapons Laws
Non-Lethal Weapons Laws, Brick House Security

You’ve seen your share of articles talking about the typical less lethal weapons, I’m sure.

I’m hoping some of what I’ll add in below are something a little different than the normal lists.

Don’t Tase Me Bro

The Taser Pulse ($400) is a civilian-use Taser that looks like a .380 handgun.

Tipped with yellow markings give away that it’s not a gun, though.

We’ve tested the Taser Pulse in-hand and have a complete review of it!

Taser Pulse
Taser Pulse

While 15 feet might not seem like a lot, it is ample room for you inject them with an incapacitating amount of electricity for up to 30 seconds.

That 15 feet of space is a good head start to help you get away while they gain their focus.  Plus, you can take out the cartridge and turn it into a touch-Taser.

Taser also has a cool program where if you use the Pulse and have to leave it (and file a police report), they’ll send you a replacement one for free.

What do you think about Taser?

Readers' Ratings

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Your Rating?

The Alternative

Using a Less Lethal First Round is an alternative you might have if you are home or possibly in your vehicle.

The Alternative (it’s real name) is an attachment that quickly slides over the business side of your pistol.

The Alternative
The Alternative

The attachment catches the round you fire inside an alloy ball that uses the power of the bullet to travel and impact your attacker.

They will feel it and it might crack a bone or two, but they shouldn’t die.

The attachment should fly off as the slide moves to chamber a new round.  If a second (and more persuasive) shot is required, there is nothing you need to do other than pull the trigger again.

This may not be ideal for all situations because you can’t holster your weapon with The Alternative attached, but it is an option to look into for home defense.

If you miss with The Alternative, there are no do-overs.

You won’t likely have the time to grab another one and slide it on.

They will be scared or pissed off.  Either way, your next round will be lethal.

Rubber Shooting Revolver

Over in Europe where they have no real ability to protect themselves with a firearm, a company called Humbert decided to make the Safegom Rubber Bullet Revolver.

Safegom Revolver
Safegom Revolver

Being that it’s a .38, you can bet these 6 rubber rounds will sting when they hit your target.

The rubber bullet from a handgun is definitely an option if you can find one in the States, but it might be hard to come by.

Another thing to consider is a handgun with a rubber bullet may just piss off the bad guy, not deter him.

More Than a Paintball Gun

This next one might seem cheesy to some, but hear me out before you start rolling your eyes and scroll past.

SWAT teams employ these as needed, so they aren’t for fun at bachelor parties.

The Salt Pepper Spray Gun ($350) looks more like a handgun than most paintball pistols.

Pepper Spray Gun
Pepper Spray Gun

Aside from looking pretty badass, it is made to shoot pepper spray/tear gas balls up to 150 ft.  Your normal pepper spray canister might get you 15 feet at best, so you quickly see the advantage.

The ammo is not a cheap date, though.  You can pick up 10 rounds for around $50.  There are other accessories you can get like a holster, an extra 7 round magazine, and even rubber practice rounds.

If you decide to go this route, you can look around for different ammo types.  There are pepper balls that are like pepper spray and others that are like metal marbles.

Because the pepper balls work like a paintball, you need to hit a harder surface for the ball to break.

Once open, the powder will get into their lungs and eyes.  If you hit the target in the chest, head, or anywhere in their upper body you should be good.  If you were to hit a wall or doorway near them, it would also be a great deterrent.

While you never want to spray and pray, it would be best to hit them a couple times so you are sure to have maximum effect and you are sure they are disoriented.

Along the same idea as the Salt Pepper Spray gun is the PepperBall LifeLite, if you’re interested we have a review of it along with some awesome video!

PepperBall LifeLite with CO2 and Projectiles
PepperBall LifeLite with CO2 and Projectiles
at Home Security Superstore

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

A Knife, A Pen, Or Something Else Pokey

While a knife can be lethal, it can also get you out of an attack without killing the attacker.  Again, check your local laws on this kind of stuff.

Leaving a mark on them might help you identify them later and give you a DNA/blood sample to turn into the police.  A knife that’s small and easy to hold onto is ideal.

Kabar Sheath Knife
Kabar Sheath Knife

Something pointy works well in a situation where the attacker is grabbing you.

Different options are available for you to attach to your keychain.  You can get a something that looks like a keychain charm with finger holes ($10), or something that looks like a pen ($8). The pen style is more for hitting a pressure point than stabbing.

Cat Keychain
Cat Keychain

If you want something with a dual function that actually IS a pen, those are out there too.  Smith and Wesson ($26) makes one that’s pretty nice.

Pepper Spray

If you are looking for something a bit more traditional, you can get a smaller spray canister on a keychain ($7). These are ideal to use if you are running or to attach it to something you are always carrying.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

(Editor Eric): It’s what I give to my wife and friends.  I like that it has the capacity for multiple shots so you can practice to see how exactly it shoots.  My advice is not to shoot a wall if you’re close to it…it will spray back onto you.

We also now have a full review of the Best Pepper Sprays.

Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray Size Comparison
Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray Size Comparison

Stun Guns

One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is a traditional stun gun.  The reason being is these need to be used up close.

They are not a deterrent, they are last resort.

That being said, a new defense tool has come about in the last year or so…super bright flashlights.

Ruger Stun Gun Light
Ruger Stun Gun Light

While I’m not sold on the idea of fending off a bad guy with a beam of light (unless there was a real lightsaber involved), Ruger went a step further and combined a stun gun and a bright flashlight light ($25).

Taser makes the Strikelight that’s an average flashlight brightness, but has a stun gun too.  The Ruger is about 300 lumens and the Taser is about 80.

Check out the rest of our picks in Best Stun Guns.

Vipertek VTS-989
Vipertek VTS-989

Is Less Lethal a Realistic Option?

Less lethal is a deterrent, not a solution.

This list has a wide variety of options to cover very different situations. You’re not likely to carry a 12 gauge around with you every day. But as a home defense solution, it’s a good option.

The same goes for the pepper spray paintballs.

An electric shock weapon that shoots a projectile or pepper spray is good when you are out and about.  You will have some range between you and the attacker when you use your self-defense weapon.

If you are unlucky enough that they are right next to you or grabbing you…a stun gun, knife, or tactical keychain or pen will help you defend yourself.

Burglar with Crowbar
Burglar with Crowbar

I mentioned earlier that some of these are illegal in some states.  Before you go spending a couple hundred dollars on a less lethal weapon, make sure you won’t get arrested for having it.

You might also want to look into self-defense insurance.  It not only covers gun use at home and concealed carry, but other manners in which you protect yourself.  One of those things that you’ll really wish you had even if you were in the clear.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think less lethal weapons are even an option to consider? Give us your thoughts in the comments! For more great stuff, don’t forget to look at our Editor’s Picks! Also, check out more gun alternatives in our round-up of the Best Gun Alternatives.

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22 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Cheryl Lewis

    So glad I found this site. I love everything about this sensitively written article. I'm a Senior in an affordable apartment building that became Section 8 low barrier housing for felons and active drug users in Portland, OR. We had no say, and we were never told. By the time I figured it out by talking to one of our Security Officers, I had already suffered a hostile takeover of my apartment by a homeless man who had been so successful at taking over seniors apartments that he had been in the building for 8 years totally unchecked by property management, and I thought he was a resident who passed a background check like I did. I reported him to police, including the scope of his criminal network in our neighborhood, home to many dozens of homeless, but their petty crimes against seniors and disabled in our building as well as property theft throughout the wider neighborhood was deemed "too small" for them to even take a report. I pamphleted the building of almost 400 apartments to inform our population and I have been on a hit list , threatened with murder, and retaliated against by the gang's "flying monkeys" including being sprayed in the eyes with bleach. I have purchased stun guns and always carry. I never checked to see if they are legal in my state, Oregon. I am interested in purchasing projectile non lethal that I can carry in a holster. I am going to research this more deeply, and distribute another pamphlet. We need to be able to protect ourselves, we are often without Security Officers. I am also interested in self defense insurance and offering that to our Seniors. I know the prospect of being wrongly charged for defending ourselves in an unsafe environment that property management wants to keep quiet about and avoid liability for is a big deterrent to our ability to defend ourselves. Pepper spray isn't enough. One resident tried to pepper spray the homeless man who tried to take over my apartment and he grabbed it from him and emptied the entire canister in the residential hallway affecting all the inhabitants of that hall. This article does a very good job if differentiating different levels of defense. Education around this topic and the products available seems essential for my demographic. Thank you

    March 12, 2023 10:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    gun!=death. u could just shoot them in the knees

    February 5, 2023 2:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark Watts

    If your worried a rubber 3 gram round wont hit hard enough then don't use them! Use a 8 or 10 gram HP 0.68 cal copper or steel Z round @ 400fps...=(Depending on ur paintball gun)

    December 31, 2021 7:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark Watts

    Some paintball guns shoot a VERY hard heavy .68cal ball @ 400ft per sec = 65 Joules or 44ft lbs. At that power it may break bones but because its not a pointed shaped projectile but a fat ball it should not penetrate unless you hit the eye!! Only hit the head if you really have to.

    December 31, 2021 7:31 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    João Silva

    I know a Ranger in Switzerland that uses special ammo on his shotgun to deal with wild animals that are causing havok in small villages or towns. Those shells have some kind of dust filled plastic or resin pellets that will break if they hit a hard surface - a rock or a wall - so that there's no danger of ricochet. I've searched endlessly for ammo like that but he did say not even the police had them. Although not technically LTL ammo, they would be better for home defense exactly because they wouldnt go through walls nor ricochet... Anyone knows anything of the sort?

    October 20, 2021 1:10 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I once had a situation when I was awoken by about a dozen kids brawling in my yard. I went out with my Mossberg 590 to break things up. They were all underage and drunk. (Some were 12-13 y/o!). Fortunately, my arrival cause them all to flee, but I was able to round up a few and hold them for the police. Afterwards, as I was reflecting on the incident, I realized that in that situation, my only option would have been to shoot a 13 year old kid cause he was drunk. The next day, I went out and got some less-than lethal ammo to widen my options. Now, the 590 always has two LtL rounds first. If the situation dictates, I can quickly shuck them, leaving me six more for serious business. Always have options!

    June 14, 2020 7:17 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Jesus Christ or maybe just mind your own god damn business for a second while they get their dumb kid energy out. What is wrong with you? I hope they come back to rob you of it.

      March 6, 2023 12:05 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Eric Lautz

    So I do ÷think there is a place for these, especially for some one who is uncomfortablr carrying a gun. I dont think home defense is one of them. If the person is in your home you have to assume they are their to kill you or the ones you love. And LETHAL force must be taken. Although for places where firearms are not allowed or where it would be inappropriate to use leathal force pepper spray and tasers can be HIGHLY effective tools. But I would caution anyone against thinking they dont need a gun because they have pepper spray. Just like a good carpenter, multiple TOOLS need to be in your TOOL BOX. For the multiple situations life presents us all. Not evry confrontation needs to end with some one dying. I think some ccw holders feel that if they are attacked that gives them a moral right to kill someone. And wether you agree or not. What we are seeing more and more often in court roos after a shooting is jurys finding a duty to retreat by the victim. Especially in states that do not have stand your ground laws. I dont agree with that thunking myself, better to be judged by 12 then carried by 6. But its the reality of the world we live in.

    January 28, 2019 2:26 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      The thing is, it's much more likely that someone is stealing something, rather than intent to harm. Non-lethal force might be enough to gtfo and never come back. I like The Alternative as an idea, since the first shot it a warning, and the rest are lethal if needed.

      May 13, 2019 9:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jonathan C. Goff

      Those that quote police stats don’t have the backing of such institutions when they are in a life or death situation. Lethal force is the first and often only level of self protection. YOU are your own cavalry. Tell yourself anything else and you are being pedantic and dangerous to yourself and those you love. Self defense is set on level 1 or level 11. There is no thing else assuming you have done all you should have in avoiding the situation to begin with.

      July 28, 2020 6:54 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    The Man

    This article is a joke. You make it sound like less-than-lethal is an effective deterrent, and it is not. If people are worried about hesitation when protecting themselves because they are worried about taking a life, then they have already fucked up. That firearm is a liability for someone like them.

    Playing to that is deceptive. If these were true effective deterrents, police would use them instead of guns, but they don't. There is always a gun for when it is necessary. Quit kidding yourself, and bullshitting your readers.

    December 20, 2018 12:00 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Just Logic

      This just shows you are either uneducated or you have some kind of obsession with killing. There are weapons out there that can completely incapacitate and have someone shitting themselves lying on the ground, throwing up, blinded, with skin burns, and more. There is a lot to be said about situational awareness and tactical techniques. Now obviously if someone is wielding an automatic weapon, then you need to match their firepower, but that's not what these devices are for. There are cases where you want to disable someone but not kill them. Next time you are in a bar fight though, feel free to put a bullet in the guy and let's see what happens...

      January 3, 2019 12:57 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        I haven't been to a bar since the 70s. Have I missed anything?

        March 8, 2019 3:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Police uses less than lethal weapons all the time

      February 20, 2019 8:45 am
    • Commenter Avatar


      July 27, 2020 8:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Tex Jester

      Then there are those of us that are interstate travelers (I'm a long-haul truck driver; the owner doesn't allow firearms in his trucks for liability reasons) who have a problem with the wide variety of firearm laws across the country. For example, get caught in New Jersey with hollowpoints, and you're not seeing the light of day for years.

      I need a self-defense weapon that is not a firearm. This article gives me many ideas, and is most certainly NOT junk.

      August 30, 2020 11:54 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      In the midst of protecting a store from rioting crowds, rubber slugs in a semi-auto shotgun can rapidly and easily take down (without killing) seven SOBs - if that doesn't disburse the (generally pack of punks) crowd, you can always transition to a handgun with 20+ high velocity hollow-points or shove buckshot into the shotgun because THEN it's life or death

      September 25, 2020 11:16 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ryan Newby

      I worked in a prison for years. Tell yourself rubber bullets are a joke until you get hit with one. All they use in prisons are LTL means of self defense. The police are now moving more and more towards LTL means. As well as the military. There are LTL weapons that can make you shit your pants and puke at the same time. Make you wish you had been shot.

      December 30, 2021 3:55 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Julian Mabry

    I can make one out of natural material

    May 1, 2018 8:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    john monforto

    Im a bail enfourcementagent you dont have to kill

    September 1, 2017 3:19 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jamie Farrant

      Outside of physical hand to hand techniques what other ranged devices would you recommend to bring someone down?

      September 5, 2018 3:06 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        Join the discussion...Pepper spray this stuff works.

        September 9, 2018 5:04 am
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