It’s 4:50 p.m. on a Friday. You’re rushing through your TPS reports so you can start your weekend when your coworkers start crowding around a computer screen.
“There’s a riot breaking out,” a buddy shouts.
Suddenly, the office manager looks out the window and shouts, “Holy sh!t!” You bound over to her and see what she sees: a wave of looters burning cars and smashing storefronts and windows … and the mob is headed your way.
With your handgun and folding knife at home, what are you gonna do to protect yourself? What improvised weapon can you find at work?
That’s a question this author gets asked all the time, and the answer is twofold:
Pick Practical Weapons of Opportunity: Despite what the movies portray, you can’t just grab a random object and become John Wick. Some items are more effective than others. Picking up a computer monitor to smash over a thug’s head might work in theory, but how many times will he shoot, stab, or club you before you accurately launch it? And even if he doesn’t hit you, is he really gonna stand still long enough for the monitor to crash into him?
Develop Software Over Hardware: It’s less about the hardware (the weapon) and more about the software (your mindset and combative skills). If you have the training, a stapler could be a deadly tool (especially if you’ve trained in an art like Kali, which adapts edged-weapon techniques to both blunt and empty-hand weapons).
The following are six objects you should look for if violence breaks out in or near your workplace. Keep in mind two things: 1) because no two work environments are the same, your impromptu weapons may differ; and 2) these are not weapons or tactics to use in the case of a mass shooting (which would require a whole separate article to cover).
Whether you’re a fast-food cashier fighting a would-be robber or a store owner fending off an angry mob, distance will always be your friend. Distance gives you time — to preemptively strike, to counterstrike, or to flee.
And the best way to gain distance is to have a long-range weapon. If you don’t have access to a firearm, don’t carry pepper spray, and don’t work in a sporting goods store that sells archery equipment, the next best projectile would be the one every workplace should have.
Fire Extinguisher: A blaze isn’t the only threat this life-saving device can stop. Shoot a thick cloud of fire retardant to temporarily blind and stifle an attacker, then smack the dude’s head with the extinguisher’s metal canister. Repeat until the threat(s) has stopped.
Get to know your company’s human resources department and its emergency response plan so you know where all the extinguishers and exits are. If your company doesn’t have a plan, volunteer to create one and have an extinguisher placed near your desk or office.
OK, let’s pretend your H.R. department is incompetent and it never had a fire extinguisher installed. Next thing you know, an undead horde has already broken through the front door. What then?
Move to the second line of improvised workplace weapons.
Broom: A broom is essentially a staff with bristles on the end. And staffs have been used as weapons for millennia because of its ability to keep predators from getting too close while also delivering powerful swings, blocks and thrusts.
Ideally, the broom should be an inch in diameter and made of sturdy wood or metal tubing. Grab one end with your supporting hand and place your dominant hand at the middle of the shaft, similar to a hockey player’s grip. This will give you the leverage to jab at faces and groins but still make circular strikes. And you can quickly slide your dominant hand down to your support hand to fire a baseball-style swing if needed.
(Note: If you have a little bit of prep time before SHTF, you can break or saw the broom just above the bristles to form a spear.)
Chair: Is there trouble brewing? Get off your ass — and pick up your chair. Though not as long and precise as a broom, a chair is the office version of a sword and buckler. It can be thrusted and swung at evildoers but also shield you against clubs, knives and takedowns.
But there are a couple of caveats here.
The large executive chairs won’t suffice. Unless your job title is V.P. of Chair Hoisting, you’ll find that these swanky seats are just too heavy. Plus, the five legs with casters sprouting from a swiveling column don’t give you a stable or sharp point of impact.
Instead, grab a solid wooden chair with separate vertical legs — or better yet a folding chair made of metal tubing. Why? The metal tubes are ridiculously strong yet hollow so they’re lightweight. It’s both a mobile weapon (if you need to fight on the run) and a maneuverable weapon (if you’re fighting multiple attackers). And the best part for penny-pinching preppers is that a metal folding chair usually costs only $10 bucks a pop at big box stores.
Buy one, fold it up, and tuck it beside your desk or file cabinet. If H.R. asks why you need it, just say you like to switch it up from time to time due to lumbar pain.
Now, the other caveat about using a chair as a weapon is how you wield it.
Despite what the circus or TV shows depict, don’t hold a chair by the backing. Hold it by the legs and use the backing as the striking surface. This will provide not only more control and leverage but also a more concentrated point of impact (think the knuckle of a fist as opposed to a slap). Besides, holding the legs toward the bad guy is like offering him four handles to grab should he try to disarm you.
In close-quarters combat, an edged weapon is a nearly unbeatable weapon. But what if you don’t have one? Grab one of these items off your desk.
Scissors: There’s a reason why your teacher told you never to run with scissors. For most desk jockeys, the closest thing to a knife at work is this type of shear. Hopefully, during your first day on the job you grabbed a quality pair with metal blades and solid grips, as opposed to children’s scissors with rounded tips.
Wrap your fingers on the outside of the handles in a reverse, or icepick, grip. Then go Norman Bates on anyone who attempts to do you harm. (Those who train in a bladed art like Kali or Silat could opt to hold it in forward grip, for additional angles of attack.)
But don’t place your fingers inside the loops. You might accidentally open the scissors, which will limit their stabbing abilities but you could also possibly cut yourself in the chaos of a fight. And if an assailant manages to get a hold of your scissors, he could twist — breaking or dislocating your digits.
Pen/Pencil: These writing instruments make great impromptu weapons. Not only are they ubiquitous in almost any workplace, they’re made to fit our hands. And they always end in a point, which can easily break skin and pierce eyeballs.
Much like the scissors, grip the pen or pencil in an icepick grip, with the tip pointed out the bottom of your fist. You can also place your thumb at the top to ensure the pen doesn’t slide out of your grip upon contact.
Stapler: As mentioned at the beginning of this story, a stapler can be a deadly weapon in the hands of a trained martial artist or determined survivor. Don’t believe us? Picture the Swingline 747 Classic with its metal cap and die-cast base. A skull will dent before it does.
As for how to use a stapler, no surprise here. Wrap your fingers around the entire body and use a reverse grip to pound your message of peace across a rioter’s face, neck, collar bone and hands if he gets too close. (Again, if you’ve trained in a bladed system, a forward grip is an option, especially with longer staplers.)
Regardless if it’s a violent store robbery, a physical dispute between two coworkers, or civil unrest that rips apart your workplace, getting caught in a confrontation without a dedicated weapon can be a scary situation. But that doesn’t mean you have to remain unarmed.
No doubt there are self-defense tools lying all around your job site if you know what to look for. Just remember that it’s not necessarily about the hardware, but rather the software. Like computer updates, it’s important to upgrade your combatives skills to boost your security, maintain your safety and reduce your dependency on others.
So, if you haven’t started training in combatives, why not? It could be the difference between being able to turn an everyday object into a life-saving weapon and finding out there are far deadlier things on a Friday afternoon than TPS reports.