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I watched a YouTube video where some martial arts guy compared "martial arts weapons" with modern self-defense weapons (possibly this one). The guy he did this with, apparently some "weapons enthusiast" (and if I remember correctly, he was a cop or something like that), had a surprising opinion:

He claimed that the self-defense flashlight was the best modern self-defense weapon.

He argued that it would temporarily blind the opponent, effectively giving the user some "free time", while not causing as much bodily harm as a gun, which would obviously also stop the opponent.

Excited about the seemingly underrated concept of a self-defense flashlight, I noticed the following arguments in favor of the concept:

  • You can have an optic about evenly scattering the light across a big cone, making aiming really easy, provided the light source is bright enough and the distance is not too large.
  • You can probably easily blind multiple opponents in front of you consecutively in about a second or so, and then run away in a random direction while they can't see, provided you are not encircled, but I think you usually won't be encircled without noticing if you're alert enough.

These oversimplified quick thoughts lead me to suspect that a self-defense flashlight bright enough with enough spread may just be enough to get out of most assailant-induced dangerous situations normal people regularly face, making martial arts obsolete for them.

However, I neither know martial arts nor self-defense well at all, so I do not know whether my opinion is practically accurate or not.

Thus, I would like to ask:

  • Assuming a reasonably alert subject,
  • exposed to an "average" assault,

Edit 3:

with the assault scenarios weighed by the risk they pose, (so if for example being slapped is 10 times more common than being stabbed, being stabbed actually is the "average" assault because, accounting for the damage, being stabbed poses the far greater risk)

  • in a European country where guns are "illegal",

how likely do they get away unscathed, if they have an optimal (maybe even home built) self-defense flashlight ready to hand?

Are there common assault scenarios (for the reasonably alert, otherwise average Joe in Europe) where the optimal self-defense flashlight is not gonna cut it, and martial arts is required?

Edit:

I did not consider the issue of domestic violence, because in my environment, this is no issue. In his answer, Huw Evans nicely pointed out that in the case of domestic violence (which sadly is quite common, even in Europe), martial arts is the better option. This technically solves the original question, but does not help me personally, because luckily in my environment this is not an issue, so I decided to edit the question to exclude this case, as opposed to creating a new one that's 90% duplicate.

So I now additionally restrict my question to the case that:

  • the subject lives in an environment where domestic violence is not an issue.

Edit 2:

Reading the comments, I'd like to clarify the following:

  • Obviously, avoiding conflict is best if it can be done safely.
  • This question only considers the cases where avoiding conflict is not possible or not safe. (Because the other cases are not an issue, as one can simply avoid the conflict to get away unscathed.)
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    exposed to an average assault you give them what they want, as long as it isn't get in this car. THEN you use any weapons available to you, improvised or otherwise, after you have fully exhausted the option to escape, with or without your valuables. - Be prepared to have any weapon you bring to a fight used against you. If you're not ready for that then it's time to go. Escape is always the number one option, and for people who are 'excited about the concept of self-defense' that is the first lesson.
    – Mazura
    Jan 14 at 15:34
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    I usually carry a black jack; y'all think a flashlight would be better? - that'd be a valid question. "I neither know martial arts nor self-defense well at all" - then your only weapon is cut and run.
    – Mazura
    Jan 14 at 15:42
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    This is a great experiment you can do. Just get one, two, three friends to join you at night. You have a flashlight, and you will use that to blind them and run away. See what happens. Try it first without the flashlight, then with. As soon as you begin, they will try to catch you and tag you with their hand. One tag (a light touch) means they won. Try starting at different distances. See what happens. It could work. But it needs to put to the test and compared against simply running without the flashlight. Jan 14 at 18:20
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    I think situational awareness and avoidance are better options.
    – copper.hat
    Jan 15 at 5:45
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    @MacacoBranco Now you're reminding me of some drunken parking lot martial arts sparring with weapons that my friends and I used to do growing up. Those were good times! Jan 22 at 15:22

3 Answers 3

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First a small disclaimer and apology: I didn’t feel my post rises to the level of an answer, but I couldn’t shorten it to fit as a comment.

Theory and speculation are fun, but does anyone have first hand experience? Mine may be relevant, though not quite a match:

Late one night I heard a curious sort of sound outside my house and went to investigate. I had my new million candlepower light in hand.

I am neither big nor confrontive, and certainly not a fighter, but I didn’t anticipate a confrontation with anything more fearsome than a raccoon raiding a trashcan. I hadn’t even thought to bring my phone, let alone call the police.

Sweeping the beam around the yard next door, I spotted a man laying face down in the grass. I trained the beam on him and asked if he was alright. To cut to the chase, it seemed he had broken into a car (making the strange sound), but then dropped to the ground when he saw my beam, and feigned illness. He kept his eyes closed and tried to shield them with his hand. I held him at bay with the blinding light until I went back inside my house to summon the police, and so he escaped.

I doubt the man - who had broken into a car, making the sound that had intrigued me - would have obeyed or been the least bit intimidated by the likes of me, had he not been blinded by the light.

Upon their arrival, the police officers meant to search for the man with their own zillion candlepower tactical light - but it was dark because no one had remembered to charge it. Something to consider if you’re counting on it for your defense.

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In terms of actual self defence capabilities. Yes, it's not bad. It's a club if nothing else and blunt instruments are useful in a fight. Yes if it's already dark or if it's extremely powerful it could also be used to ruin people's night vision.

That said, are you going to carry this thing around with you 24/7? It's a odd thing to do considering how rare assault is in most parts of Europe.

The most common type of assault to my knowledge is Domestic Abuse related. Are you really going to use this in such a scenario? Most other violence is gang related. Being in a gang has it's own issues and dangers. If you were involved with this kind of thing though, you probably wouldn't have to ask this question.

Basically normal people in Europe and the UK don't really need self defence solutions for the streets. Even though many people, and women in particular, feel vulnerable a better solution is to simply not travel alone where possible and be polite to people.

Laws vary by jurisdiction. In the UK (not in European Union at present but I live there so I know the score) the word 'weapon' includes three types of object.

  1. Objects designed to be weapons.
  2. Objects not designed to be weapons but adapted to become used as weapons.
  3. Any other objects carried with the intent of being utilized as weapons... Including flashlights (also kitchen knives and baseball bats).

The way this works is that you can't carry anything with the intention of using it as a weapon. However if you happen to be carrying any object (including a knife or flashlight) for some other reason you can use it for self defence so long as the way you do so constitutes 'reasonable use of force'.

So carrying a flashlight to use as a weapon is not legal here. Carrying a high grade flashlight in particular will look very poor in the eyes of the judiciary unless you have some other good reason for carrying it. Say because you work in a mine.

Every functioning judiciary regardless of origin has an idea of premeditation. Carrying weapons may be legal, but usually getting into fights is frowned upon. Being in the position of pleading self defence as a legal defence is not something you want to have to do anywhere in the world. In most places outside the USA having a gun (or for that matter a 'self defence flashlight') to hand just looks like you wanted to fight.

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    @KGM I beg to differ. A tactical flashlight is designed to defend by causing harm to persons by blinding them. As such, it falls under general weapon laws in Germany, no matter whether some websites judge otherwise. Heck, even cut protection gloves with sand in them fall under weapon laws here despite expert assessments telling the judges that they are unable to increase harm and only protect the hands. Like pepper spray, those flashlights would count as weapons if carried with the intent of defending against persons (instead of, say, wild boars). Jan 14 at 15:29
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    "It's a odd thing to do considering how rare assault is in most parts of Europe." << I see you are not a woman!
    – Stef
    Jan 14 at 18:27
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    @Stef statista.com/statistics/1268544/assault-rate-europe-country Even if ALL of these are crimes against women these are still not high numbers. I acknowledge that this is only police data and wont' include every assault but the point stands.
    – Huw Evans
    Jan 14 at 18:48
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    @HuwEvans That's only reported assaults. For the record, I do not have a single woman friend above 20 who hasn't been a victim of attempted rape. I would call 100% a high number. They also tell me that it's impossible for them to walk through the city centre on foot at night without being verbally assaulted. So that's every woman being verbally assaulted every night that they're out in the city centre. Physical assaults have lower numbers than verbal assaults, so not every woman gets physically assaulted every night, but I still wouldn't call the numbers low.
    – Stef
    Jan 14 at 18:52
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    ... whereas carrying an apple, and a knife to cut it is perfectly reasonable and is not a weapon (at least while you carry it. once you start wielding it, then yes, of course)
    – njzk2
    Jan 14 at 19:24
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how likely do they get away unscathed, if they have an optimal (maybe even home built) self-defense flashlight ready to hand?

If it's daylight, it may not do much good. The darker it is, the more likely they will be to get away unscathed.

It also depends how easy the flashlight is to get to and use. I assume it is very easy to use, being designed for this purpose, but if it's hidden away in a purse or a backpack it may do little good. You may want to practice drawing it, which includes pointing it in the direction of the anticipated attacked, and finding the ON switch.

For self defense, the more effective your weapons, the more effective they will be. Martial artists are never without the self defense weapons they have trained to use, no matter the time of day, and I think they are never illegal to have, though may possibly be illegal to use.

Given reasonable conditions, it is very likely the defender in your situation will get away unscathed. The likelihood decreases the brighter it is and the less capable the defender is of getting the flashlight in hand and assuming and using properly.

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