Does non-lethal force exist in a practical sense for law-abiding citizens?

The law itself tends to be written, and applied by judges and juries, in such a way that use of non-lethal means to defend yourself should be lawful, but are they really ever your safest option?

I understand that if you can survive a lethal force encounter using only pepper spray or a taser you have a much better chance to survive criminal prosecution and civil liability, but that risk is still greater than zero and there are serious tactical risks incurred as a result of escalating a non-lethal encounter by using these tools. There is also a tactical disadvantage to having a non-lethal option in your hand when your attackers escalate to lethal force.

Should we be presenting the use of “less lethal” alternatives as if using them lawfully can’t cause death or serious bodily harm anyway?

There is risk of being put in jail for the majority of your working lifetime due to an involuntary manslaughter conviction after using what on its face fits in the non-deadly force bucket. A taser can cause a life threatening arrhythmia and result in death. Pepper spray can cause temporary blindness causing someone to step in front of a moving vehicle or fall off a ledge.

Isn’t it more a danger to a defender to escalate a non-deadly force encounter by using them instead of running away?

There is risk that your assailant understands how pepper spray works and turns their head away while you defeat the safety and spray the back of their scalp only to have them turn around and attack you anyway.

There is risk that your assailant is wearing a mask and sunglasses and can just remove them after you spray their face.

There is risk that your assailant is close enough to block the majority of the spray with their open hand.

There is NO risk that you are in contact with your assailant when you taser them, tasering yourself also. This is an urban legend and it doesn’t have any basis in fact. I originally had this in here and want to leave it with the correction.

There is risk that your attacker’s friends saw you temporarily incapacitate one of their own and now you have multiple attackers who keep you there while their now very angry friend recovers.

By drawing your taser or pepper spray you are incurring risk that you don’t have time to go to the gun if the non-deadly force doesn’t work and the assailant escalates to deadly force in response.

If a person or persons intend on unlawfully restraining you, are capable of doing so, and they are taking an opportunity to do so, is it safe to treat this as anything except a deadly force encounter?

This is more force than you are capable of producing on your own because they are successfully preventing you from retreating. There is by definition a disparity of force.

They aren’t just asking you for your money, they are after you as a person, by staying there you are incurring a risk of serious bodily injury or death.

I am suggesting two points here for genuine law-abiding citizens:

  1. Your best option in any unlawful encounter involving non-deadly force is to run away from it.
  2. There is no such thing as a non-deadly force encounter where your retreat is being successfully physically prevented.

Please someone provide me an example of an encounter which proves either of these two points incorrect in practice tactically, to survive without incurring serious bodily injury or death.

I can’t think of one. I’m looking for a situation where a private citizen is not breaking any laws and their safest option would be pepper spray or a taser.





Non-lethal force would exist if you can run away, retreat or just buy yourself some time to get out of the situation safely. If the assailant/s is using just fists and you know you can be overpowered I would go to mace or taser.

As you mentioned in your quote these events can happen but are you willing to take a beating or getting killed because in the back of your mind this can happen? The old saying of I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6 comes into play. If you feel your life is in danger and cannot retreat you have to react, you are not just going to sit there while someone is trying to take your life.

I hope this helps and gives you a clear answer. Lets see how others respond.


A tiny bit of training and mental rehearsal with your pepper spray will prevent this.

There is also a risk that your attacker turns their head away when they see your pepper spray and now that they aren’t even looking at you, your escape is that much easier and you don’t even have to use any force at all because the pepper spray scared them so much.

Would you mind showing an example of pepper spray used in self defense killing somebody?

I have never heard of that.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of that before.

Would you mind showing a situation where that happened?

You haven’t been pepper sprayed, have you? Tip: Sunglasses wont’ make you immune. Tip #2: you don’t have to spray the entire contents all at once. You shouldn’t, in fact.

But yeah, sure, every option has risks. Every. Single. One.

NOTHING is 100% guaranteed. Nothing.

Turning and running from an attacker that is faster than you is pretty dangerous. Moving backwards where you can’t se what you are about to run into or trip over is dangerous. Getting into a fistfight is dangerous. Shooting an unarmed attacker because they pushed you is life-in-prison dangerous


Real world examples are a dime a dozen if you look


Use of pepper spray resulting in death ruled a homicide:

Use of pepper spray resulting in death with manslaughter charges:

Example of pepper spray not being effective:

The risk of tasering yourself is an urban myth apparently, sorry about that one. I’m removing it from my post. Thanks for questioning it!

Tasers can cause cardiac arrest:

I also understand that sunglasses are not going to make you immune to pepper spray, but they will lessen the contact with your eyes, and some sunglasses provide more coverage than others.

I’m not suggesting that these are not options that should be considered and even employed where it is safe and necessary to do so.

I’m suggesting that we should analyze and treat them with the same seriousness that we do any other use of force. If someone is generally pushing you around or punching you, pepper spraying or tasering them is an escalation of force. If someone is putting you in fear of serious bodily harm or death and physically preventing your escape, then that is lethal force. The window in which a taser or pepper spray is effective and necessary is very narrow and ambiguous in my opinion.


I have been pepper sprayed as part of security training and I was pissed I didn’t like the feeling. I have been tasered and didn’t like it at all and it was effective. But I came out smelling like roses. A trick I learned after the fact is don’t use water to wash off the pepper spray use milk.


Still not seeing somebody charged with manslaughter (let alone convicted) for lawfully using pepper spray in self defense. Ever.

If an unarmed person is standing there talking to you and they pull an inhaler out of their pocket, you are not acting in lawful self defense if you pepper spray them.

But we do have one case where pepper spray may have directly contributed to a persons death. 10 years ago. Which is to say that pepper spray being directly related to a death is extremely rare

Which is why pepper spray is not considered lethal force.

Pepper spray, should you choose to carry it, is to be used when force is justified by lethal force is not.

At this level of force, any force you use could potentially result in serious harm or death, even a push (fall and hit head). But, that’s not how lethal force is defined.

I guarantee you that your state defines lethal force and that pepper spray is NOT considered lethal force.

And I also guarantee you that any other force you use instead of pepper spray will carry and equal if not greater chance of killing, even if that other force is a simple push


I don’t think it is, I don’t think the law considers it as such, and defense attorney Tom Grieve has stated that it would not be.

If somebody is going hands on attacking you, pepper spray is NOT escalation

But yes you are also completely correct, it should be analyzed and treated seriously, as with ANY use of ANY force. Absolutely. It’s not a freebie where you can just be like “hey it’s only pepper spray no need to explain myself (or have my attorney explain for me)”. No, no, you’re still probably going to have to get your actions explained and justified


Hard work to research all your information here and thank you. I do not desire to mislead or do I claim
to even know everything about using, “less lethal” alternatives. It will need help to study harder to
gain better understanding, whether it’s from real life, classes, books, videos, much needed education is needed.

You probably can use plain old hot water to throw into a Threat’s Face and get sued. Did you hurt them, or did you stop the Threat? Maybe not and you got injured in the mess and you got charged with a
crime. Your complete Protector Academy at USCCA, everyone there has worked very hard to give us all the necessary information to stay safe and alive without LETHAL FORCE of any type. But there are some nice people around that refuses to take FULL Responsibility and use deadly force over a Jay Walking Crime
or a Handicap Parking Spot. For real.

We must bite our egos and pride and walk away. Thank You !


Good video.

The given civilian use of force continuum is maybe not to be taken maybe not literally though, “check your local listings”. For example, it puts expandable baton as “less-lethal” in the same category as pepper spray, but, pretty sure that in reality as a private citizen, using a baton is going to be a much higher level of force than pure pepper spray or using your empty hands/feet…depending on your training, your use, and the jurisdiction you are in, a baton might very well qualify as lethal force (probably will, I reckon). Even for LE with documented training in baton use, baton strikes to certain areas (head, neck, spine, commonly) are considered lethal force as far as I am aware


Nope. That presents a “false dichotomy.” First, you have to have some place that you can run too. You can’t run through walls.

Second, you have to be ABLE to run. I’m 68 years old - I CAN’T run anywhere.

Third - “running away” implies turning your back on a threat. Am I somehow better off to be shot in the back? I think not.

Thank you for your suggestions. Rejected.


There is risk in literally every situation. You simply have to research the options and find which risks you are willing to tolerate.

As far as non-lethal force options go, I don’t trust them. I have contemplated getting pepper spray, but I can’t get away from the fact that I don’t trust it. Maybe it’s because I live where people eat peppers preferentially (my brother ate the Buffalo Wild Wings hot wing challenge in less than half the time and said they weren’t remotely hot), but I’m sure the stories I’ve heard about criminals getting themselves used to it have something to do with it.

Currently, my plan for situations that require less than lethal force is to leave. I do acknowledge that this is often more easily envisioned than executed.


Eating hot wings is not in any way whatsoever comparable to taking some Sabre in the eyes.

Dare your brother to do a pepper spray challenge for the social media likes and record it. Get him in the forehead/eyes. Then have him perform a physical task, like attacking a person would be. Moving target, even if the target is just moving at walking speed.


I trust the tools well enough to think they can work, and my mechanical aptitude well enough to operate them. And I feel reasonably confident with the legal concepts involved.

What I don’t trust in the less-lethal business is the analyst — me. I don’t, and don’t expect to, have enough training and experience to sort through a multi-part continuum of force analysis during the time available when a physical assault becomes inescapable.

It is a tactical failure to get stuck between options in a time-critical decision, so my decision ahead of time is to simplify my options. If I face a lethal threat, I have a tool for that — GO! If I don’t face a lethal threat, I’m on brains and brawn until something changes. Either/or — just one simple decision driven without hesitation by the appearance of the threat. If I’m not up to it, or do it wrong, then I lose — but I don’t get stuck in the decision.

If I won’t carry the gun into some situation, I will have an alternative tool available. But I don’t carry pockets full of options. Again, just a single simple A/B decision. Play from there.


Upon contemplating your responses I can’t help but wonder if innocent people use such defenses more and more if the liberals that be won’t eventually outlaw these,too… as they have done in Australia!!!

Just a ponder that I probably can’t afford to waste.

Your comments (and other’s) also prove the necessity of having self defense insurance that covers all forms of self defense-- such as the USCCA offers. There are many that only cover firearms.


I’m not really sure where to start with this post but feel like I want to comment on a few things…First of all this discussion about using the force continuum as a civilian is crazy… I would suggest that any civilian walking around with a taser, pepper spray, an ASP, and a handgun on the belt holding up their jeans is just out looking for trouble and if I was sitting on a jury I’d think you were walking around trying to play neighborhood cop. The next thing and in my opinion, the most important thing I can add to this discussion is the greatest weapon you have sits on your shoulders, not in your waistline or stuffed in some pouch around your waist. Most people know where the bad areas are and if you don’t know where they are one can get a pretty good idea assessing their surroundings… Carrying a concealed firearm should not give you the courage to walk through all the bad areas of town or to walk to the 7-11 at 0300 because you want a candy bar and think your gun makes you invincible… In other words use your head, avoid bad areas and let the police do the policing… If you are serious about your ability to defend yourself if attacked, which does happen because criminals come into nice areas of town too, you should have some self-defense training because chances are unless you know when and where you’re going to be attacked and have your gun, pepper spray, taser or club you carry on your belt in your hand you’re at a minimum going to have to be able to put enough distance between you and your attacker or know how to deploy your weapons when engaged in a fight with your attacker. As for not wanting to use deadly force because your attacker is not armed, I suggest you do some googling and watch the news. The old days of two people getting in a fistfight and walking away after one or the other says you win are over. The attackers being seen these days are stoping people’s heads repeatedly into the pavement or beating them to death… If someone attacks you it is safe to assume that they mean to cause serious bodily harm or death, therefore, justifying the use of deadly force, and if you hesitate to use your gun or try to fight it out with them and they get your gun chances are they will not hesitate to use it on you… If you are afraid of using deadly force and the idea that you might have to makes you uncomfortable in the least… DO NOT CARRY A FIREARM! Seriously, that firearm could become the death of you if you are afraid to use it because the bad guys are not afraid to use them and if your attacker is unarmed you would be better off taking your chances with a beating than getting shot with your own gun. Other than what I have said I would suggest if you are going to carry a gun get as much training as possible from a professional and practice and train frequently because when someone jumps out of nowhere or pulls a gun on you you’re not going to have time to think things over, you will have nothing but muscle memory on your side and little time to react. Best of luck to you and I hope you stay safe… Oh and as someone else said, having an insurance policy like USCCA offers is a no brainer for anyone that carries a gun these days…