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Over the past 10 years I have spent about 90% of my time outside of the U.S. ether for work, traveling to a gig or just exploring. Most of the countries I visit or pass through are relatively safe outside of random crime or getting hit by a taxi.
But many times I am traveling in countries that have a small minority who dislikes westerners – dislikes as in: “hates my guts and would love to kidnap and kill me over the internet” dislike. In most of these countries I am passing through on my way to a gig so I am only carrying what is allowed in a carry-on bag so flying with any type of “weapon” is not even an option.
Even when I am staying somewhere long enough where I can grab my checked luggage I don’t like to pack knives, impact weapons or anything resembling military or police equipment because it can draw unwanted attention when going through customs (I once spent 2 hours in Kuwait arguing with customs over a Ka-Bar in my checked luggage).
Not to mention I don’t want an expensive knife or flashlight “borrowed” from my bag (ask anyone who has flown through Amman about missing knives, lights and GPS’s).
So my only other option is to locally source “defensive tools” from whatever semi-legitimate store, souk or even the grocery store.
Some of the main things I consider when looking for these items are:
- They are legal to purchase in the open, even if they may not be technically legal to own in that country but stores still sell them openly (sort of like brass knuckles at flea markets in the US).
So if I get caught carrying one the worst thing that would happen is the cop would just take it, shake me down for some bread or I would have to go downtown and pay a fine. Also if I bought it at a store or market I could show the receipt and play the dumb tourist.
- I do not have to buy the item from my taxi drivers’ cousin in an alley behind a shawarma stand. Basically anything that is straight-up illegal to own (like firearms) and if you got caught with one you would end up spending 4 years getting man-raped in a shitty 3rd world prison is not considered.
- It has to be cheap, like under 50 bucks cheap because I will have to toss it in a garbage can on the way back to the airport.
- These items would not fall under the category of “Improvised weapons” like bug spray or water bottle filled with sand. They would be actual weapons.
“Weapons” that I have easily found in just about every country I have been to:
Just head down to any outdoor market in the 3rd world and you will find stores and stands filled with folding tactical looking knives (many are copies of name brand knives) for under 30 bucks. You can also ask your taxi driver to take you to a store or area that sells folding knives. Another alternative is going to the grocery store and buying some steak or kitchen knives.
The last time I was in Turkey I wanted to walk around and see the local markets (the ones the tourists don’t go to) at night so I bought a big ass butcher knife and then just carried it around with me in the shopping bag from the store along with the receipt.
I have one friend that goes to Latin America on 2 day trips business trips where he only brings a carry-on bag who always buys a machete and keeps it in his hotel room (which is a clever idea or serial killer behavior, I haven’t decided yet).
Just like knives you can find cheap fake ASP style expanding batons and Kubotan key chains at local markets and stores, depending where you are you may find other impact weapons like brass knuckles.
One of the oddest impact weapons I keep seeing in grocery stores in the Middle East are Nunchucks, usually right beside the mops.
I have been able to buy pepper or SC spray in the Middle East, but not many times, if you are in Southeast Asia you can usually find chemical sprays easier.
Over the past 4 or so years I have been seeing a lot of tactical style lights (mostly cheap surefire knock-offs) in the 3rd world. Some are pretty cool and have strike bezels on the heads or tail-cap that seem tough enough to take a pounding without falling apart.
You can also get a cheap 3 or 4 D cell aluminum flashlight that makes for a great club (ask any old school cop).
You see these for sale in night markets in just about every city in Southeast Asia and occasionally in the Middle East (but rarely). I am not really convinced that handheld stun guns are worth a shit at all as a defensive or offensive weapon.
Back a number of years ago all of the guys on my team (contractors) bought 100K volt stun guns for the single purpose of zapping each other because it is funny. While being zapped you can’t move for the first second but after you can pull away and be pretty much fully recovered.
So after being zapped like 90 times I have to say they really don’t incapacitate people unless you can constantly hold the zap on them = Useless.
The weapons in this article are the most likely ones you will find in the 3rd and developing world outside of buying an AK-47 in a back alley. I have seen other things like slingshots, ninja swords, PR-24 batons, bows and arrows and spear-guns but they are not practical to carry around.
For any of you thinking about buying or carrying any of the above weapons in this article please think again and decide if the risk of getting shook down for every penny in your pocket or jailed is really worth it.
Unless you have a specific threat that you are concerned about due to your occupation or physical appearance then you are better off spending that 50 bucks on a local guide that will keep you out of trouble.
It also goes without saying that if you do not know how to effectively fight with a knife, impact device or whatever other weapon you choose – you should not carry it.
Founder – Editor in Chief
James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and stun-gunning Bubba M. while he is driving