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Former CIA officer Jason Hanson has a conceal and carry permit and other weapons like knives in his arsenal for self-defense, but those items didn’t make it into his luggage when he travelled to Texas to speak at CrimeCon 2021, sponsored by Oxygen. Instead, he brought a tactical pen.
The tool can double as a regular pen, but this "pen on steroids" has one end that is pointed, grooved, or sharp edged and intended for self-defense. The sharper side can sometimes be covered by a removable cap.
"It's almost idiot proof," Hanson said. "When the stress hits the fan, you don't want to remember 57 ninja moves. You want to grab a pen and go for the eyes or go for the throat."
Hanson, who is also the founder of Spy, Escape, and Evasion, a company that teaches individuals, groups and companies how to spot threats and stay safe, teamed up with threat management expert Spencer Coursen at the CrimeCon for an interactive panel breaking down assessing threats and safety planning.
Although some tactical pens might pass as a writing utensil, the official TSA guidelines say the item is allowed only in checked baggage and the final decision rests with a TSA officer if it can pass through a check point.
Coursen, who is also the author of “The Safety Trap,” recommended the pen as a possible tool for female joggers looking for an item to bring with them on runs. He also highlighted pressure points to target with tactical pens during an attack, if necessary.
“Going for the throat is great,” Coursen said at the session, explaining where people should aim. “The eyes are great, but anywhere is fine.”
To avoid someone taking the tool away and using it against you, Hanson told Oxygen.com after the session in a phone interview, once you take the pen out, use it quickly.
“So it’s going to be harder to take it away because it’s not like you’re walking down the street and holding it up in the air before you use it,” Hanson said. “It would be incredibly difficult for somebody to take it because you can have your hand in your pocket with the pen in your pocket and then when you feel the danger ... you just come in and jab it right there.”
Tactical pens can range in color, length, and price. Although there are pens for sale in the $5–10 dollar range online, Hanson recommends not skimping on price when it comes to picking out quality safety tools.
“Spend the money, meaning buy the more expensive one,” Hanson said.
Age and fitness level wouldn’t preclude Hanson from training someone on how to use a tactical pen, he said.
“I literally trained kids with a tactical pen and I think the oldest I think was an 83-year-old gentlemen who trained on this,” Hanson said. “I mean as long as you can use your hands and arms to strike out at somebody ... we’ve trained some people in wheelchairs who’ve used this. It has nothing to do with age or strength as long as you can hold something in your hand and as long as you can jab out with it.”
Jennifer Cassetta started her own company, Stilettos and Self Defense, after she successfully scared off an attacker, according to her website. She teaches self-defense and safety classes predominantly to women.
“There’s going to be small percentage of women, like myself, that want to go and get trained in this hardcore stuff like ten years of learning Hapkido, I’ve learned all kinds of weapon training,” Cassetta told Oxygen.com in a phone interview. “I’m in the minority and I know that. So, when I teach and talk about personal safety and self-defense, I want to teach things that women can grab onto that they’re not gonna be afraid of. I’m gonna empower them as much as I can to use their body and sometimes that intimidating…”
Cassetta cautions using tools like tactical pens requires a comfort level that not everyone will feel ready for.
Safety items requiring a low comfort level could include personal alarms or apps that call for help, according to Cassetta. The next level could be an item like pepper spray, which can still allow for distance between someone and an attacker.
“So many people have told me over the years they have pepper spray and they don’t even know how to use it or it just sits at the bottom of their bag,” Cassetta said. “Then, next level up are things like tasers, where again, now you have to be within an arm’s reach of your attacker and they’re even frightening and intimidating to use.”
Using a tactical pen or other sharp object in an emergency situation is an additional level that can be intimidating for someone who isn’t prepared, Cassetta said.
“Now you need to be comfortable with driving a steel weapon into somebody’s flesh and delivering that blow hard enough with a strike that it’s going do some damage, enough for you to get away,” Cassetta said. “That’s always the goal. Can you do that?”
When it comes to choosing what tools and items are part of your safety plan, Cassetta encourages getting comfortable with any chosen items and practice with them in a safe manner.
A good way to start to test if you have the skills and stomach for it?
Head to the supermarket and pick up a cantaloupe.
"If you can stab through that melon, you can stab through a person," Coursen told the crowd at CrimeCon.
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