Selco’s Principles of Successful Makeshift Weapons When You Don’t (or Can’t) Have a Gun

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Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp

Writing an article about “what makeshift weapons can you use when you do not have weapons” sounds completely out of the prepper realm. Because when the SHTF and you find yourself in your home without any real weapons, that usually means you are not a prepper or survivalist in the first place. But there are situations when people don’t have or cannot have guns.

Given my experience writing about this topic might help you in a way that you understand what people did in those cases. It may help you to know how human psychology works when something bad happens and you are not prepared.

I am not talking here about a situation when suddenly the SHTF and you do not have a weapon but you have a really cool bow and arrows for example because obviously, you have a weapon then. There are other reliable weapons that are not guns.

It is more an article about the transition from not having a weapon at all, in a situation where you needed it to defend yourself in your home or to attack someone, to the time when you acquire some weapon and learn how to use it.

The principles to remember for makeshift weapons.

Most of the stuff around you in your home can be used as a weapon, of course, a knife works better than a pillow for example, but the point here is to think a bit outside the box, to be creative, and also to understand few principles:

  • how that weapon looks in your opponent’s eyes
  • how effective it really is
  • how “mobile” (easy to carry or conceal) it is
  • is it multipurpose (very connected to “how that weapon look in opponent eyes”)

Now all this sounds maybe not important, but it is easiest to show it by real-life experience examples.

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Here’s an example of a successful makeshift weapon.

I witnessed it when three guys came to a neighbor’s door in order to rob him.

The neighbor showed up at the door with a chainsaw, and he started it.  He yelled at the guys and demonstrated that the chainsaw worked by sawing down a small tree in the yard.

Then he started to move toward the guys.

Of course, those guys disappeared in a split second, even though two of them had a knife in their hands.

Now, is chainsaw really a cool SHTF weapon?

Maybe it is, in case of a zombie apocalypse, and if zombies are slow ones.

In the case of my neighbor, that chainsaw really covered “how that weapon looked to his opponent’s eyes” principle, because it looked really scary, loud, and it did a very good job.

But to be honest, it is not really a perfect SHTF weapon. It is big, loud, and not concealable… it might be good for acquiring firewood (covers multipurpose) but even for that, in an urban environment, it is still big and loud.

The most obvious weapon in your home.

Now let’s go back to the most obvious weapon (when you do not have a weapon in your home). It is a kitchen knife since every home probably has it.

And it was one of my first weapons when SHTF- I took a simple kitchen knife and make sheaths for it (from book covers), it did not look nice, but it worked until I got better stuff.

Again, a knife is the most obvious choice, but what does a knife cover from the above principles?

I would say it covers most of that. I have been attacked by guys holding knives, and it is one of the most intense feelings when someone wants to put that thing in your belly. There is simply something more personal in that cold weapon – and I mean more personal in a bad way.

How effective is it?

It depends on many things, I’ll use an example later to explain it.

It is definitely multipurpose, and it is easy to conceal.

Now to go back to the example of my neighbor with a chainsaw and the three guys.

How the situation would look if those guys had attached knives on some sticks?

Or in other words how that all would have looked if they had spears?

I am sure chainsaw guy would end up dead. You can throw a spear or simply use it with more distance between you and attacker.

Because with simple adding stick (or pipe) you are getting different weapon, but you still have knife (multipurpose and easy to conceal weapon/tool) and maybe walking stick cane, which also may or may not look threatening, which is good, because never forget that SHTF is a fluid situation, and sometimes it helps to pose a threat, but sometimes it does not.

Think about these principles when deciding what to use as a weapon.

The spear/knife here is just one (real-life) example. The more important thing here is to adopt a philosophy what that weapon CAN do, how it LOOKS in different situations to people around you (is it threatening to people all the time or when you want it to be?) and of course how QUICK and EASY is to make it.

I am not gonna write here an article about what stuff you can use from your home as a weapon because it would be a list like hammers, pipes, garden tools, glasses, axes, baseball bats, chair parts, etc.

The list would go on and on.

Anything that can hit, stab, poison, or burn can be a weapon, but there must be some common sense behind it.

For example, if you are living for a prolonged time in an SHTF situation, you will learn that combining tools with weapons is a very cool thing because you are minimizing stuff to carry. If you have an ax, you simply have one item that is good for collecting wood, scavenging (taking things apart) or smashing someone head.

After some time during my SHTF, I realized the best item for all that is a combination of axe, crowbar, and pickax. (Here’s a round-up of the best axes and hatchets for SHTF.)

Understand the context of the situation.

Often you have to put your weapon (when there is no weapon) in the context of SHTF.

For example, how serious is the situation outside? How serious is a particular situation in the moment when you need a weapon? What kind of opponents you have? Ask yourself these and similar questions.

I knew a guy who went through a good part of the SHTF owning a not-usable machine gun taken from WW2 museum. He posed a big threat in situations with that thing in his hands, because nobody knew that thing was not working.

In another situation, I witnessed a junkie pulling out a syringe full of blood, threatening that he was HIV-infected and it was his blood, and he would spray it on people.

However this all sounds ridiculous, it did work in some situation if you use it in the right context and moment.

How many ordinary people know the ways of transmitting HIV disease, or how many ordinary people knew what a non-working) museum machine gun looks like?

It is important to understand the context of the situation.

About Selco:

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. He is currently accepting students for his next physical course here.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

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Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Read more of Selco's articles here. Buy his PDF books here. Take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge by signing up for his unrivaled online course. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

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  • I would suggest that we all are carrying weapons on our persons right now. Consider the belt buckle – especially if you live in Texas and have a twelve pound brass one. Those things swinging around on the end of a belt can do a lot of damage. Also, consider the ball point pen. Similar to a knife, it can do a lot of damage.

    But, the most important weapon that you have is your mind. You may be loaded with weapons such as these, but they will not do you ANY good unless you are COMPLETELY willing to use them to their fullest extent. If you poke a guy with a ball point pen, you might break the skin, but that will just make him rage at you. You have to come to terms with this! If you are going to fight, you have to do it for keeps and you have to keep using those weapons until your attacker is no longer able to attack or you can escape.

    Truth be told, most people don’t have it in them to do great bodily harm or kill. It’s a very foreign thing to the average person.

  • Thanks Selco for the article.
    (yea, yet, another post from me.)

    On a minor point, attitude can matter even without a weapon.

    A friend who was a go-between, a person who retrieves someone’s stolen property for a fee, traveled to some iffy neighborhoods. One time while going through an older horizontal subway turnstile he was blocked by one person in front of him and two behind, each with a single-edged razor blade. The lead guy demanded his money to which he calmly replied “O.k., but only one of you will enjoy it.”, meaning he was capable of taking two down. They backed off.

    While a razor is used to cut through clothing to get to the wallet (no big deal if skin and muscle are cut), another reason was in some cultures people are afraid of a razor since it was also used to quarter someone, a horizontal and a vertical incision to the abdomen allowing the intestines to fall out. So, they figured if they are afraid of razors, you must be also. They paused when it had no oblivious effect to the above person.

    As a kid going through an enclosed park with a continuous twelve-foot-high chain link fence around the perimeter except for only for two entrances, my bad, I was stopped by three ‘dudes’, again, one in front, two behind. It was summer and they had overcoats on to conceal their weapons, bats whatever. One asked for my money. I replied I didn’t have anything to which he countered “Anything (he) finds, he’ll keep.”. As the water began to fall and literally my life passed before my eyes I looked up at him and said “Er, cut the sh*t.” lightly hitting his forearm. To this day I don’t know why I said that. The two behind me started to laugh. The front guy told them to “F**k off”. They left.

    I guess it was bad luck to mug a crazy person. The point being is in that situation if you act like a wimp, which I am, you will get the stuff kicked out of you. It’s a natural reaction of people.

    Postscript, a few days later, out of eleven mugs shots in a local newspaper I recognized my interviewer by his cocaine scars under his eyes. His gang would kill the people they mugged rather than have a witness. It didn’t matter if you had five cents or fifty dollars. I believe G*d gives a guardian angel to certain idiots.

    Optional background music,

  • I believe a spear and a shield are perfect weapons (if nobody has a gun). They are very good at defending against animals (4 legged kinds) for one thing. And I even keep a metal garbage can cover for that very purpose.

    Indians and Africans used both a spear and a shield for hundreds of years. Bow and arrows are also effective weapons.

  • Since my wife and I are old(er) folks, nobody would pay any attention to a cane.
    There are some very well made units that are virtually unbreakable, but look like normal canes.
    No legal issues.

  • A small FIXED E-tool (i.e. shovel) like the Cold Steel Spetsnatz shovel would be a good melee tool that doesn’t stand out in public. Small enough to be put inside a pack, it can be hidden up the sleeve of an oversized windbreaker, ready to be dropped down for instant use. When the outside edges are sharpened, they make a pretty good DIY hatchet.

    Another product from Cold Steel, the Assengi has same possibilities. Short enough to be used in small spaces, yet allows use of both hands to hold on to for thrusts and slashes. This one is harder to conceal though

  • Although too large to conceal there are good reviews on You Tube for the Tops Prather War Bowie: Tactical Fixed Blade Knife for bush crafting and fighting. I have been told a Scottish dirk, dagger (Sgian Dubh) is effective for a small knife, say in a bar fight. Gerber makes boot or neck daggers. Some are similar the classic Mark I/II knife. Karambit knifes are interesting. Even an eight-inch Ka-bar knife can be concealed behind the forearm with two or three fingers by someone approaching you on the street. Granted not very concealable fixed blades as opposed to folders are more dependable and require less time to engage. Nano-seconds count. A grinded down to a point screwdriver, awl, is made for puncturing a small hole that doesn’t close amongst other uses. Gerber’s diamond cross-section blade has the same purpose along with the serrated edge for twisting and pulling out. Sorry, this is getting macabre.

    Lindybeige has YouTube videos on the history and development of weapons and much more. Why reinvent the wheel? (Imagine a very British Niles Crane, aka, David Hyde Pierce, the character from the old tv sit-com “Frazier” illustrating the advantage of a pike over a sword.) I would be interested to see an axe/pick/crowbar tool in the SHTF aisle at Harbor Freight.

    Honorable mention for home-made weapons: the sand-filled sock. The slingshot.

    Ps. Can’t remember the video but a person who studied about 1,500 police reports for the stopping power of handguns concluded they are not that effective, regardless of the caliber. An eighteen-inch barrel shot gun in close range, up to fifty-yards, works.

    Consider Krav Maga or Mixed Martial Arts fighting coupled with homemade weapons. MMA teaches how to fight once on the ground.

    • Cops kill an AWFUL LOT of people with handguns, so I wouldn’t discount them as being ineffective. You need to be able to hit the target–center mass in humans, and multiple hits increase the probability of your survival, and not the other guy’s. A sufficiently powerful handgun can be used for hunting as well as defense–elephants have been killed with a model 29 S&W .44 magnum, and thousands of whitetail deer have been killed across the country every season with .357 magnum revolvers.

      One non-firearm that could serve multiple purposes is a kukri or khukuri knife. Gurka soldiers have used them for centuries as weapons of war, as well as for every cutting job you can think of. Larger ones (16″) are front-heavy enough to use to baton wet firewood, kept sharp, can cut brush or pine boughs for a bed, cutting up game animals as well as amputating limbs and/or heads of assailants. Nepalese blades are high in carbon and they’re easily kept sharpened with a whetstone–I use Arkansas stones on mine, and have used it for butchering as well as a machete to cut vegetation. You can buy them on eBay for $50-60 most of the time. They come with scabbards that fall a little short in my opinion as the straps you would attach to your belt are flimsy. You can replace them with straps of your own making, or make a sheath for yours with leather purchased from a store in your area.

  • Keep in mind that once thrown, any weapon (spear,knife,axe, etc.) will be turned against you. I suspect too many people will be thinking of throwing spears. However, a spear with a broader/longer blade is an excellent thrusting/slashing weapon. Axes, crowbars, hatchets etc. are also good options. A heavy length of chain with a sizeable lock is also viable.

    Also think in terms of chemical agents. Lye, bleach/chlorine, certain acids, lime in bags that burst on impact work as well.

  • A smart article. Thank-you. I am in Canada not the US and gun laws are much different here. Gun ownership is less common and concealed carry is generally illegal but the need for safety remains.

    Honestly guns aren’t best in all situations.

    Something we should all think about…

  • I have a metal bat, stun guns, bear pepper spray, knives, and other things I won’t mention on here. Also have a flash light with a strobe light that can blind you. I have what appears to be a pen, but is really a weapon. Going to be working on a long sock with rocks in it. That will hurt when I swing it at some deserving person and I won’t be afraid to use anything I have as a weapon. But I also have to take into account that I am not as young as I used to be. I am up in age now and have arthritic hands. But I will defend myself and my family if need be. I just hope and pray it never gets to that point.

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