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I feel rather self-conscious asking this but, here goes...

I am picking a selfie stick for a forthcoming European holiday considering their potential use as a weapon (I know several sword and stick kung fu forms).

Without buying a few and testing their relative joint strength, assuming nested, extending tubes, what are the characteristics of carbon fibre vs aluminium tubing?

Is carbon fibre prone to breaking on impact as a general characteristic? (I have heard of bike frames "shattering")? This answer suggests it is a bad idea.

Has anyone seen a serious evaluation of selfie sticks as weapons? (Yes I have seen the Russian videos, which seemed more about kubotan striking and joint-locking techniques).

Or, are they all such flimsy things that this is a completely silly idea?

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As Slugster mentioned, selfie sticks are not, inherently, designed for close quarter combat. However, if you really want your stick to be effective in self-defence situations, there are a few factors to consider when choosing your "weapon" : techniques (length), materials, transportability and legality.

Techniques (length) :

From your question, it seems that you are familiar with a good selection of weapons. Since you seem to be more familiar with swords and sticks, my suggestion for you would be to pick a selfie stick that's around 2-3 feet long when retracted. This allows you to use most escrima or short sword techniques that you already know (it would be my personal pick for similar reasons, having learned the okinawan tonbo in the past).

However, some people might be more familiar with self-defence weapons such as the kubotan. In this case, consider getting a small telescopic stick that about 6-7 inches long when retracted. At this point, it's basically a kubotan, and you should be able to use any appropriate techniques with it.

Some companies also make very long selfie sticks, going up to 12-18 feet when extended. Once retracted, these sticks are usually about 6 feet long, which means that you could probably wield one like a staff or bo until it breaks.

Materials :

From what I can see, there are three main materials used in the fabrication of selfie sticks : fibreglass, aluminium and carbon fibre. Carbon fibre would be the hardest, but might shatter if the impact is significant enough since most selfie sticks are hollow and quite thin (because they don't have to hold significant weight). Aluminium will bend the most, and is likely to stay bent after any strong impact. Fibreglass is somewhat in between, but is probably closer to carbon fibre than aluminium in terms of resistance (will flex more than carbon fibre, akin to aluminium, but is more likely to shatter).

Some companies, like Youngblood, make fibreglass coated aluminium selfie sticks. We're talking about ~200-250$ selfie sticks here, but that combo is actually pretty kick ass. Just like concrete reinforced with rebar, the aluminium core will help the stick flex more instead of shattering, and the fibreglass exterior should be hard enough that it would take many serious strikes to permanently bend your impromptu weapon.

In any case, you should aim for a telescopic selfie stick. A selfie stick that is made of a single tube is mostly empty inside, and is thus a lot less resistant. If you use a telescopic stick and leave it retracted, the 2-3 sections, when nested one within the others, will make a surprisingly resistant stick. To be fair, it's really likely to break if you use it as a weapon. But if its 2-3 layers thick, you should have time to finish your fight before having to change weapon.

Transportability :

Even if you actually want to use it as a selfie stick, only put your phone on it if you're taking pictures. The phone itself is a target for thieves and, while I'd say your life is worth more than your phone, why even risk your phone if you don't have to? That being said, you'll want something that's easily carried, and inconspicuous enough that people will let you carry it wherever it is that you're going.

This is why the 6 feet long stick isn't really interesting, despite doubling as a really great impromptu staff. A palm-sized stick can be carried on your belt with a strap/clip or even inside your pockets, making it the most portable option. If you want more reach, however, my personal choice would be a 2 feet long stick that can extend to 4 or 6 feet. While it can't be carried inside a pocket anymore, it can still easily be strapped to the side of any backpack (or even carried inside it, though it makes retrieving it a chore in an emergency situation), or just carried in your hand without generating much suspicion.

Legality :

Depending on where you're going, laws can vary greatly where weapons are concerned. I can't speak for Europe, but I can give some example for Canada, since I happen to be familiar with the local weapon laws. As Sardathrion mentioned in a comment, some places, like Canada, actually consider intent to determine if something is a weapon or not. For instance, I could carry pretty much any kind of knife, as long as it's for a utilitarian purposes (skinning game, utility knife, box-cutter, etc.). The instant that I say it's for my protection, even if I never intend to use it offensively, its possession becomes illegal.

That being said, if I get mugged and happen to have a knife or a selfie stick on me, which I am carrying for legitimate purposes, I would not hesitate to use it in self-defence. Justifying minimal appropriate use of force to the cops might be a little harder for the knife than for the selfie stick, but if I can prove that I'm carrying this item for purposes others than self-defence, it should be legal as long as the danger I was facing warranted it. From the link provided by Sardathrion, the UK seems to also take the appropriateness of the force used by the defender into account in cases of self-defence, and it is likely that similar laws are in effect throughout the European Union.

If anyone asks, you're carrying your selfie stick to take cool & touristy selfies. And if you happen to use it in self-defence, do not exaggerate in your use of it as a weapon and do your best to keep the fight from escalating. Stop fighting as soon as you believe it is safe to do so for you, your loved ones, but also for your aggressor.

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This is not quite a complete answer as I've never bought a selfie stick for that purpose...

While selfie sticks can be used for self defense, they are not made for self defense. I would suggest that if you use your stick you will need to replace it after each "situation" because at the very least it will be bent or the telescoping joints will be sufficiently misaligned to be useless. Basically, selfie sticks are not designed to withstand sideways stresses.

I would suggest that aluminium selfie sticks will be prone to bending and snapping (like an older car or transistor radio aerial can be snapped), carbon fibre ones should be more resilient with regards to bending, but they won't be made from high quality carbon fibre so could still snap.

If you've got the money I would suggest you purchase a walking stick or nordic walking pole instead - they are quite innocuous and helpful, but also have more reach and are stronger than a selfie stick.

A comment on carbon fibre bike frames shattering: bike frames are quite tough, but they are manufactured to take stresses and forces in certain directions. If a frame shatters it is usually due to an unseen crack in the frame, or a massive amount of force applied in the wrong direction. You are far more likely to get a shattered carbon fibre wheel than a frame because the wheel is already under a large amount of stress when the extra force (pothole, stone) is suddenly applied.

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  • Thanks. The attraction of a selfie stick is it collapses to a discreet, carryable item. You have prompted me to think more about locking mechanisms and that some twist-locks may lock solidly enough to withstand a thrusting action. – Andy Dent Jul 18 '16 at 4:54
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    Funny consequence - I happened to be in a sports store after this and ended up buying a Nordic walking pole because it gives me something portable but long enough & robust that I can use to practice a range of sets, although Spear looks pretty silly. The trigger was one of my fellow instructors saying how on on a Hong Kong trip he'd been given a short "middle pole" to demonstrate a spear set indoors. It feels weird and looks strange but you can practice a long-weapon set with something that just covers the range of your grip. – Andy Dent Jul 23 at 19:15
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I'm a peaceful guy in his 50's, not a troublemaker.

if that's the case i would suggest using a walking cane or an umbrella, more likely to be more resistant than the selfie stick, and totally legal to carry.

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    I think he meant that he actually wants a selfie stick for selfie-related activities, but that if he had to choose one, he'd like one that can double as an impromptu weapon if needed. – Dungarth Jul 18 '16 at 21:02
  • @Dungarth oh, my bad. – B.J. A.A. Jul 18 '16 at 21:12
  • This does not answer the question. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jul 19 '16 at 7:10
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I think I know what you are asking about. I recommend long range (10-feet plus) telescopic selfie stick. Aluminium, not fancy hi-tech materials. When folded down it amounts to 20-30 inches, and it feels sturdy enough for rough treatment.

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  • Can you explain why you feel this is best? :) You've got a decent start to an answer, but details help. – Macaco Branco Jul 23 at 13:25
  • I'd like to see a comparison between short vs long selfie sticks. If the concern is someone snatching your smartphone while you are filming yourself, they're reaching for the best point of contact, the end where the phone is. How do you prevent the stick from being ripped out of your hand? Letting the stick drop allows the owner to step in and (threaten to) strike the thief vs pulling the stick towards you which gives an advantage to the thief. Managing the stick places focus on the phone and not the opponent mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/… – thatgirlisfunny Jul 23 at 15:47
  • @thatgirlisfunny note that my original question was about something that can be turned into a weapon, not primarily about protecting my phone. So Vitaly's answer matches one of the earlier ones - a longer stick collapses into something tough. – Andy Dent Jul 23 at 19:17
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    @Andy Now I understand. You're in search of the perfect (umbrella) selfie stick. More like Sherlock Holmes than Bruce Lee. – thatgirlisfunny Jul 23 at 20:06

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