Personal Defense Weapons for Apartment Dwellers

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Editor’s note: Today’s guest post provides a great overview of various types of weapons for personal defense. You can consider some or all depending on your family’s needs as well as individual preferences. Before making your weapon choices, check the laws in your state.)

Written by Travis Noonan

Apartment prepping means sharing at least part of your living space with other individuals. It’s great practice to be neighborly and to develop trust and friendship with your co-inhabitants. In times of civil unrest or outright disaster, they may be your greatest allies.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be so inclined to show good nature and morality. The likelihood that you may very well have to defend yourself, your family, and your property is probably a thought that has already crossed your mind.

Preparedness Means Being Ready for a Fight

That’s the simple truth: Resources may dwindle, individuals may get displaced from their homes, and infrastructure may crumble. Your well-prepped apartment, then, is a goldmine. Being prepared to protect your property means investing in the right weaponry.

That doesn’t mean you need to resort to stocking up an arsenal worthy of a militia. Apartment prepping means operating in a small space with a lot of collateral, both human and material. Discretion is key. With all these considerations in mind, let’s look at the top compact personal defense weapons that are best suited for your apartment prep.

Using a personal defense weapon that is poor quality could get you injured or killed. We’ll recommend some product options for each category based on user feedback and overall effectiveness.

Compact, Non-Lethal Weapons

Many preppers are tactically-minded. You may be very friendly with the Second Amendment.

Even still, it’s probably not a good idea to fire on a drifter who was getting curious with your mailbox. And in times of extensive unrest, martial law may be imposed. That means using firearms, even brandishing one, could land you in some hot water or behind bars.

Investing in some appropriately compact, non-lethal weapons is a sound insurance policy:

#1: Stun Gun (direct-contact or ranged)

Stun guns are amazing non-lethal defense weapons. They do a wonderful job of incapacitating an aggressive individual by interfering with the electrical signals in the brain and muscles. In fact, the typical stun gun will temporarily render any offender completely disoriented and unable to move for at least a few moments – long enough to call for help or perform a citizen’s arrest.


  • Pocket-sized, can be carried all day
  • Temporarily incapacitates offender
  • No risk of collateral damage
  • User has no risk of self-injury


  • Effects may be short-lived
  • Requires electrical charge
  • Discharges quickly when used
  • May require close engagement


Stun guns can be direct-contact or ranged. The Vipertek VTS-989 is a top pick for direct contact. It generates approximately 300 million volts, which is more than enough to incapacitate a fully-grown male for at least 2 to 3 minutes.

Direct contact can be risky. The Taser X26C is a popular ranged stun gun employed by many law enforcement agencies. Its price point is quite high, but it’s the only one we can recommend based on performance. It affords accuracy to 15 feet and can be reloaded in less than two seconds.

#2: Pepper Spray (not Mace)

First, we need to clear something up: Mace and pepper spray are not the same. They are two completely different chemicals. Mace is a brand name for tear gas (abbreviated CN).

Mace is a Bad Choice

Tear gas is effective for crowd control, but its effects can be short-lived unless the offender is exposed to large amounts of it. Tear gas also takes at least a few seconds (up to a minute) to take full effect, and once the offender is no longer exposed, the effects wear and cease quickly.

Mace will not temporarily blind or incapacitate someone like pepper spray will. Mace also may not work on individuals who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Prepper Spray is The Only Choice

Prepper spray, however, is an incredibly effective non-lethal weapon, and it’s the only chemical spray that works quickly enough to stop an attacker in his tracks. Officially called Oleoresin Capsicum spray, or “OC spray” (which is the active irritant), pepper spray works by immediately and dramatically irritating the eyes, nose, mouth, skin, lungs, and sinuses.

One two-second shot of pepper spray to the face will usually result in the offender being incapacitated (and probably screaming) for 15 minutes, up to one hour. The effects of pepper spray can, weirdly enough, also be effectively reduced by dousing oneself with, and drinking, a good ole’ glass of milk.


  • Lightweight and portable
  • Requires little use and accuracy
  • Instantly effective against any offender
  • Effects are long-lasting (15 minutes to 1 hour)
  • Can be recharged with cartridges, doesn’t require electricity


  • User risks collateral effects from spray
  • Spraying into headwind may backfire
  • Any collateral effects may harm user

Using pepper spray is kind of like aiming a bomb. Its effects are immediate and intense, but there is some risk to the user in close quarters. Pepper spray aerosolizes when fired (turns into a fine mist), and particles of spray will quickly spread through the air nearby.

Trust us when we say that even sniffing the slightest hint of spray could irritate you, too. This is from personal experience. Care should be taken employing pepper spray on an attacker who is in your immediate vicinity. We recommend sticking with a good, ranged canister.


SABRE Spray is a handheld canister employed by law enforcement. It offers 35 bursts with a 10-foot range. The company also sells a practice spray for the wise preppers who want to become proficient before a “live-fire” situation.
It’s small enough to be carried on the belt or in a pocket, but it’s large enough to offer easy control and aiming. Smaller keychain sprays may be difficult to manipulate and aim when every second counts.

For those who want even more range and control, we recommend the Kimber PepperBlaster II. This “pocket pepper pistol” offers a 13-foot range with a high-speed (112 MPH), highly accurate spray.

Compact Less-Lethal Weapons

Temporarily incapacitating an attacker so the law can do its job is a “best-case” scenario, a first line of defense. Unfortunately, non-lethal weaponry may simply not do the trick. An attacker may recover before he can be removed or handled appropriately.
Escalation of force is a concept every prepper must know.

If an attack or confrontation becomes an emergency, if the risk of injury or death is high, it may be time to instead employ less-lethal means of defense:

#1: Defense or Combat Knife

Nothing puts a stop to a fight like drawing a little blood. A knife is perhaps the oldest personal defense weapon in history, and it easily takes spot #1 for less-lethal choices. Not all knives are created equal, however. Picking the wrong knife could land you in trouble. You need a good combat-oriented defense knife with certain features that give you an advantage.

What to Look for In a Defense Knife

Avoid flip-up knives or small pocket knives. They don’t have a handguard or fixed blade, they’re small and difficult to control in a fight, and they can easily cut you during an attack. A good defense knife needs a large, fixed blade. The best defense knife uses a double-edged blade.

Without his own weapon, your attacker will find it almost impossible to block any attack from this type of blade. Your defense knife should also come with a full handguard. This will ensure your blade stays in your hand without slipping. It’ll also allow you to block attacks with your own knife more readily.


  • Potentially lethal deterrent
  • All it takes is one good strike
  • Capable of permanently dispatching an attacker
  • Functions as useful multi-tool


  • Up close and personal approach


Smith & Wesson developed a great defense and multi-purpose knife, the SWHRT9B. It features a 4.7” double-edged stainless blade, full tang and rubberized handle, and it ships in a fixed configuration with a leather carrying sheath. The rubber handle does a get job of providing grip, and it absorbs hard strikes and impacts. The high-carbon stainless blade will retain an edge for a long period of time, and it’ll resist rust and corrosion, requiring little maintenance.

#2: Collapsible Baton

The baton is a highly effective less-lethal weapon. If blades aren’t your thing, rest assured the right baton can do serious, permanent damage. The right strike can even cause a quick death. Gone are the days of the classic nightstick, though. Nowadays, most LEOs and the defensive-minded carry a collapsible baton. A collapsible unit provides a perfect balance of leverage and power in a compact tool.

These batons can be stowed away, measuring just a few inches when collapsed. When opened, they usually measure 16” to 26”. These batons are made from dense steel and forged aluminum, providing plenty of weight and force.


  • Gives some distance between you and your attacker
  • Compact design is perfect for use in close-quarter spaces
  • Can be collapsed and stored inconspicuously
  • Can be used to block hard impacts and strikes
  • Concentrated strike point easily breaks skin and bones


  • Baton must be extended before use, delaying response
  • Some states have made traveling with a baton illegal


If you opt for a baton, stick with what most police officers use: the ASP Baton. This is the baton employed by most law enforcement agencies and private security.

#3: Personal Defense Bat

Dad may have kept an old Louisville Slugger by the nightstand, but wood bats can crack or splinter. They provide leverage designed for sport, not for inflicting as much injury as possible on an attacker. Today, there are numerous polypropylene (also see: “indestructible”) baseball bats designed for personal defense. Using a long bat as a defense weapon yields plenty of advantages:


  • Long leverage can break bones and cause injury with little effort
  • Extended reach keeps some distance from attacker
  • Can be used to deflect strikes and hard impacts
  • Polypropylene bats are virtually indestructible


  • Still requires “up close and personal” approach
  • May not immediately incapacitate attacker
  • May not be well-suited for cramped spaces


The best part about brandishing a good ole’ bat is the deterrent factor. And using a 29” long bat designed for personal defense (like the Cold Steel Brooklyn Crusher) is going to at least send a warning before you have to take a swing.

Compact Lethal Weapons

For the prepper who wants to commit to the ultimate deterrent and defensive tool, a firearm is the only real choice. In some cases, reacting to a threat with pepper spray and dialing 911 may not be enough. The harsh truth is that in times of extended civil unrest or disaster, there will be violent individuals who are willing to harm and kill to get what they want. If you’re in the middle of a modern disaster and hear glass shatter at 3:00 AM, you need to assume the worst.

Warning and Considerations:

With apartment prepping and firearms ownership, the compact and collateral considerations become more important than ever. The right caliber will provide plenty of stopping power and capacity, while eliminating the threat of over-penetrating walls and harming others.

The right handgun or rifle will allow you to navigate tight spaces and react quickly to a threat to life with confidence and good shot place. Conversely, picking the wrong caliber and gun will result in collateral damage, a failure to react and eliminate the threat, and potential injury or death to yourself.

The Rules of Close-Quarters Firearms:

  1. Avoid over-penetration. This is always rule #1. This rule builds on one of the four cardinal rules of shooting: Always know what’s behind your target.
  2. Buy frangible ammo. Rule #1 is so important that rule #2 complements it. You should buy frangible ammo if you want to eliminate the risk of over-penetration. Frangible ammo uses soft-tipped bullets that will shatter when striking drywall, brick, or wood. Frangible ammo will still effectively eliminate a threat. Hollow-points reduce the same risk, but they’ve been proven to occasionally fail to expand when striking a surface, instead going through drywall and wood.
  3. Invest in a high-capacity pistol or rifle. Since you’re in a defensive posture in your home, the need for a concealable or subcompact gun goes out the window. Sure, you still want a relatively small gun to make navigating confined spaces easy, but you don’t need to sacrifice magazine capacity. If you stick with a handgun, go for a model that uses a double-stacked magazine.

A tactical rifle like an AR-15 or other 5.56/.223-chambered rifle is also a top choice. Contrary to popular belief, these high-speed rifle rounds actually reduce the chance of over-penetration. They usually tumble or shatter when striking hard surfaces, reducing collateral damage. Many SWAT teams and law enforcement agencies use AR-15s with a suitable scope and tactical rifles for this exact reason: They work well in close-quarters and reduce collateral risks.

4. Forget the shotgun. Yes, the shotgun has always been portrayed as the classic home-defense weapon. We’d all love to scare off an intruder by making that classic noise, racking a round in the tube. But shotguns are usually long, heavy, and unwieldy.

They’re also inaccurate. At close range, shotgun rounds don’t have time to spread out unless the choke is modified or removed, compensating for that loss of accuracy. Unless you get a direct hit, most shotgun rounds (especially buckshot) will over-penetrate multiple layers of drywall and structure, causing collateral damage.

So, Which Firearms Are Best for Apartment Home Defense?

We want to stress these are simply recommendations based on the requirements and considerations listed above. You should take time, do your own research, and find a weapon platform you’re comfortable with. We recommend visiting a gun store or range and testing out handling some pieces.

These are some of the weapons we’d recommend. They provide high capacity, plenty of stopping power, they’re easy to operate, they’re reliable, and they reduce or eliminate collateral damage concerns:

Handgun recommendations

We recommend a double-stacked, full-sized handgun chambered in 9mm Parabellum. 9mm is a popular round with plenty of frangible options available. The Smith & Wesson M&P9 and Glock 19 are wonderful choices. Either one is incredibly reliable and easy to use. Each comes with a double-stacked configuration, a relatively long barrel and comfortable grip, and plenty of accuracy and stopping power.

Rifle recommendations

It’s a controversial weapon, but the AR-15 is one of the best home-defense rifles you can buy. There’s a reason it’s employed by most police and SWAT teams. The typical AR-15 is incredibly accurate up to 300 meters, it provides extreme stopping power in close quarters with little risk of over-penetration, it can carry up to 30 rounds with a standard magazine, and it’s lightweight and maneuverable in confined spaces.
An alternative to the AR-15 is the Ruger Mini-14, offering many of the same features and functionality in a more traditional, wood-stock hunting rifle platform.


We hit a lot of topics and covered many weapons and ideologies. Here’s a quick short-n-sweet, and some best practices to take away from this article:

  • The best non-lethal defense weapon is a good canister of pepper spray. Avoid mace.
  • Alternatively, a stun gun provides instant incapacitation of an aggressive attacker.
  • We recommend a fixed-, double-edged bladed weapon or ASP baton as a less-lethal solution.
  • If opting for a firearm as a lethal defense weapon, stick with a 9mm, double-stacked handgun or rifle chambered in 5.56 or .223. Avoid a shotgun. It over-penetrates and doesn’t work well in close quarters unless modified.

About the Author:

Travis Noonan is a retired military veteran, gunsmith, prepper, and writer. He spends his days helping shooters build tactical rifles through his website, He also writes and contributes to survivalist, prepper, and firearm publications. In his spare time, he strategizes his own prep kit and gear in his Philadelphia-suburb apartment.


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  1. There several things I will point out – 1) check you state law about double edged knives(they are illegal in Michigan for sure). 2) this article over looks a 5cell Maglite as a defense weapon. 3) check you state and local laws about pepper sprays these can be illegal as well. I like wasp/hornet spray this has a long reach and a spray of this in someone face will stop most of them. 4) entrenching tool/small shovel is also a handy thing to have. If you can find a 1950’s style US GI one. sharpen the edges of the shovel.

    1. Hi Ben, These are all good points, definitely check state laws prior to choosing a defense weapon. Wasp spray and shovel that can be sharpened are worthwhile additions to be considered. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I live in the country and I found a Mack 11 side cocker 32r in the mag just as affictive as been spray, but also I carry a 22mag kel tec with 30 r of 50gr bullets it’s very light and easy in the belt or the pocket and the rounds go out 1600fps it is very accurate and still hits like a 223. But the most important thing is that you have it when you need it!!!.ps I spent 6 years in Alasken bush and if you can find it bear spray in a can is a very good deterrent to bad guys and you won’t run out in ten sprays eather.

    1. Hi Paul, That is definitely something we all need to remember, you need to have the weapon on hand when you need it. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I would add a golf club to the list of impact weapons. The golfers I know tell me an iron would be best as they have a stiffer shaft. You can buy one cheep at a Good will store.

  4. Following 42 years of service and most of that in the counter terrorist business (and training folks when not deployed) – If one has never been in a serious fight, never make your first serious efforts at self defense using striking weapons or non/less then lethal weapons. -Pepper Sprays indoors usually result in incapacitating everyone in the room – making the way clear for an attacker’s gang, who will be dedicated to getting even with the pepper spraying defender – it will not be pretty. -Striking weapons and hand held stun weapons require an aggressiveness that (very) few unvetted defenders will have and shooting type stun guns (Tasers) only have the two shots – good luck against multiple attackers (in a crisis situation expect attackers to travel in gangs). -Even police officers have been known to miss when firing their pistols at point blank range (poor training plus adrenaline overdrive) and long guns are difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. That said – a long gun (AR, 9MM Carbine, Shotgun are the best chance an untrained or minimally trained person has to survive a home invasion – especially in a civil crisis situation). As for shotguns – drop the close range ammo type to #1 or #2 shot – maximum spread possible and the smaller shot (while devastating at close range) minimizes collateral damage after penetrating a wall). Face it – a single round of #1 shot is like emptying the magazine of one’s Kel-Tec .22Mag pistol – WITH EVERY SHOT. And consider putting a shot through the door at the first sign of forced entry – the attackers will most likely move along to find someone that can not defend themselves – even the dumbest bad person does not willingly walk into a gunfight against an unknown number of defenders that are armed. BUT ENOUGH OF ALL THAT – EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT WEAPONS BUT FEW TALK OF DEFENSIVE CONCEPTS AND TACTICAL DEFENSE TACTICS. The discussion of weapons only takes in half the lessons to be learned. One has to think defensively and know how to make their home (whether house OR apartment) into a defensible habitat. Moving furniture to become obstacles and cover. Blocking free movement and fields of view, blocking access that can not be observed, pre-planning fields of fire and an alternate fighting position (redoubt) to retreat to if one needs to fall back. And do not forget about defensive lighting that would blind a group of attackers while providing (near) perfect illumination for defense. Weapons – heck – a person with training, experience and motivation can kill an intruder with a potato peeler if necessary. But that would not be necessary as that same person WILL be prepared. BTW – during a crisis that involves civil breakdown and general, violent unrest, never worry about what is legal and illegal. Save yourself and those you are responsible for and if ever questioned about it, say nothing without a lawyer at your side. AND – get this – no one HAS to make a statement until that lawyer is present and a written account of the event is made to your satisfaction. Then NEVER answer questions without consulting, and sticking to, that statement. There is more to this then weapons – if it is a concern that one takes seriously, get training, to include the type of training one ought to have to get a concealed carry permit, which includes legal advice to consider ahead of time. One last thing – determine ahead of time IF you can actually kill a person to protect yourself and those that depend on you for protection. If not – just pile up your food and belongings outside your door and
    H O P E that the roaming bands of desperate deviants just take your stuff and leave you alone. Good luck!

    1. Hi Dave, You’ve brought up a lot of important issues to think about, much more than just owning certain weapons for protection. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. This also gives me a lot of ideas for future articles. Thank you!

    1. Hi Charles, These fall under everyday items that can be used as weapons-good to keep in mind. Thanks for the additions.

  5. Small nitpick, I’m seeing a Glock 43 mentioned here as a double-stack 9mm handgun, but it’s actually single-stack, so less capacity. You’re probably referring to the Glock 17 or 19.

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