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Shoulder Mounted OC

In 2014 I identified the ASP Defender series as the best pepper spray for my needs. I stand by this today, except that originally my preference was for the 4.5” Palm Defender. Over the years my preference has migrated to the 5.75” Key Defender. The Key Defender is in my pocket every day.

While I prefer pocket-carry for everyday, I’ve often thought about something that would allow for quicker access – especially on the bike. I’ve looked at a number of solutions for mounting a capsicum delivery mechanism to a bike, but never found one I liked. Instead, I ended up purchasing a second ASP Key Defender and mounting it to the shoulder strap of my backpack, which I wear frequently when in the saddle.

Shoulder Mounted OC

A small split ring connects the Defender to a magnetic clasp. This in turn is attached to a Lucky Line Flex-o-loc (the same thing I’ve been using on my keychain for seven years), which connects the whole setup to the webbing on my shoulder strap. To prevent the Defender from swinging around, I attach an IWB Soft Loop around the shoulder strap and shove the Defender through that.

The Soft Loop holds the Defender tight enough against the strap that it doesn’t spin around during daily carry. When mounting the Defender, I orientate it so that safety clasp (which I still cover with grip tape) is against the shoulder strap. This eliminates any chance of the safety somehow accidentally becoming released and the trigger actuating. It also keeps the safety in a known, consistent position when the Defender is drawn.

Shoulder Mounted OC

Enough of the shaft of the Defender is left below the Soft Loop that it can be easily gripped. It is deployed by simply ripping downward. The magnetic clasp breaks away and the top of the device slides through the Soft Loop. This is very quick and very easy to do, with either hand, even when wearing gloves.

Another neat benefit to the magnetic clasp is that it allows you to easily reattach the Defender, if you decide you quickly want both hands free. The magnet is strong enough that it will connect if you simply wave the top of the Defender within a couple inches of the half of the clasp still attached to the shoulder strap. This can be done without looking. Of course, the Defender will swing around as you move until you shove it back underneath the Soft Loop – a procedure which does take two hands and at least one eye.

Shoulder Mounted OC

I’m happy with this setup as a supplement to the OC carried in my pocket. It can move easily to different backpacks. It could probably be made to work with any pepper spray intended to be attached to a keychain, though it works especially well with the ASP Defender series thanks to the hammer grip used to deploy them.

The Dutch Reach

When opening the door of a vehicle with your closest arm – the left arm when exiting on the left side of the vehicle, for instance – your body is positioned straight ahead. A turn of the neck is required to see the side mirror, and a twist of the body is required to clear the blindspots of the mirror. Both of these movements require explicit motivation. With the dutch reach, you reach across your body with the opposite arm – your right arm when exiting on the left side of the vehicle. This forces your body to twist. You are automatically positioned to see the side mirror, and only a slight twist of the neck is required to clear the mirror’s blindspots.

The dutch reach is marketed as part of bicycle safety. As a biker I appreciate this, but I think this is only a small component of the method. It is about situational awareness. Sitting in a parked car is a vulnerable positionexiting more so. It is rational to want to know what you are about to step into when exiting.

Perhaps rebranding it as “tactical vehicle egress” would promote wider adoption.

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Everyday Carry OC

This past summer I attended Paul-E-Palooza. One of the courses I attended was Chuck Haggard’s Less-Lethals for the Concealed Carrier, which was all about OC (oleoresin capsicum) or pepper spray. Chuck is a Lieutenant in the Topeka, KS Police Department. He’s been training with OC for a long time and has a lot to say on the subject. I’ve been sprayed with OC before in training, but have not consistently carried it myself or incorporated it into any of my defensive training. After Chuck’s course I decided to rectify that.

OC

I’ve tried a handful of different cans from brands like Sabre Red, Fox Labs and Aerko. They’re all effective products, but I failed to find one that both came in a pocketable form-factor and had a safety design that I felt comfortable with – until I tried an ASP Defender.

The Defender series come in a variety of sizes, but are all long and skinny. This roughly pen-like form factor makes them easy to carry and also usable as a lightweight Kubotan. They feature a safety that inspires confidence in its ability to prevent an accidental discharge, while still being easy to actuate when needed. The capsules are replaceable, and ASP sells inert capsules for training in addition to the live “heat” capsules. They discharge a solution of 10% of 2,000,000 SHU oleoreson capsicum.

ASP Palm and Key Defenders

  • ASP Palm Defender: Inert and Live Cartridges
  • ASP Palm Defender: Disassembled

I purchased both the Key Defender and Palm Defender models. Both are 0.6” inches in diameter. The Key Defender is 5.75” long, while the smaller Palm Defender is 4.5” in length. The Key Defender capsule contains 4 grams of solution. The Palm Defender capsule contains 3 grams.

The stated range for the Key and Palm Defenders are 5 feet and 3 feet, respectively. In my trials I found that the difference in range between the two models was negligible: I achieved 4-5 feet with the Palm Defender, and about 5 feet with the Key Defender. This was outdoors, with the heat cartridges and a small amount of wind. The primary difference was in the number of shots. While the Palm Defender offered 4 cone-shaped bursts of about 1/2-second each, the Key Defender gave me 7.

Given the small differences between the Key and Palm Defender, I personally opt for the smaller form-factor of the Palm Defender for my EDC. My only complaint about this model is that, given the length, I find that I need to grip the body slightly lower so that my fingers do not interfere with the outward swing of the safety. This puts the opposite end of the Defender into my palm. Because of this, once I have disengaged the safety I need to readjust my grip slightly, so that the business end of the Defender is just beyond the edge of my hand – where it needs to be for both striking and discharging the OC. Ideally I would like to see a model in between the Key and Palm Defenders in length. As it is, this is a minor complaint, which I can train around and which does not dampen my enthusiasm for the Palm Defender.

ASP Key Defender: Business End

While the aluminium body of the Defenders is knurled for grip, the safeties are smooth. I addressed this by placing a small strip of grip tape over them, making it easier for me to disengage the safety with my thumb.

  • ASP Palm Defender: Actuating Safety
  • ASP Palm Defender: Safety Disengaged

I have been EDCing the Palm Defender in the front, support-side welt pocket of my pants. My preference would be to find a pocket clip for it – which I imagine is doable, since the Defender is roughly the size of a large pen or marker – so that I could have the option of moving it to other pockets or onto a belt. I’ve also experimented with carrying it on one of Chris Fry‘s Pocket Shields (via a tactical hair tie), but as of yet I have not integrated the Pocket Shield into my daily carry.

Fight Club

For the past two months, I’ve been attending Unbridled Martial Arts – or, as I refer to it, Fight Club. It’s a mixed martial arts club, mixed gender and of various skill levels. There is no belt-system, or ranking of any kind. Tuesday and Thursday nights are stand-up fighting, which draw from the likes of muay-thai, kickboxing, judo, American boxing, and karate. Wednesday nights are weapons and grappling. The weapons training is escrima, with the weapons themselves being escrima sticks and knives. Grappling draws from wrestling, Jujutsu, judo, Shamrok submission fighting, and Israeli self-defense.

There are no contracts, so class sizes vary. Usually attendance at the stand-up fighting class is around 16, and weapons/grappling about half of that.

Rob is the only instructor (though he sometimes draws on other students to assist). He’s a great teacher, and somehow manages to split his attention throughout the class’s various skill levels. During my first few sessions, I always felt that he gave full attention to us noobs, and now, I feel like he gives his attention to those of us slightly more experienced, even when we have a batch of beginners joining the class.

All the instruction is focused on real-world street self-defense. There are very few flashy moves. I believe one could become a more effective fighter by studying a classic art, such as Aikido, for an extended period of time, but what’s taught in Fight Club is skill enough to make one sufficient in a short period of time.