In discussing self-defense, there are 2 basic ways to stop an attack. I call them a “hard stop” and a “soft stop” but other people call them “voluntary” and “involuntary” stops.
A “soft stop” is any time when the attacker is capable of attacking, but chooses to stop. Maybe he’s scared, maybe he’s in pain.
A “hard stop” is any time when the attacker is physically disabled. Maybe he’s unconscious, paralyzed, or even dead.
Soft stops are good because they have a minimal amount of violence. Pepper spray and stun guns* are a perfect examples of self-defense tools that are designed to get a soft stop. However, even lethal weapons are capable of causing a soft stop. A minor wound may cause enough pain & fear to cause a soft stop. Even holding a weapon might scare an attacker away. But that’s the trick with soft stops, isn’t it? Soft stops are all about what might happen. There are many cases where criminals have continued fighting through pepper spray. In fact, most State Police officers are required to learn to keep fighting with a full dose of pepper spray. Stun Guns? They hurt like hell, but that’s all. Hollywood grossly misrepresents the actual effects of stun guns. Get on youtube, you’ll find plenty idiot “Jackass” wannabes zapping each other with stun guns. Stun guns do NOT disable people. They do not leave people on the ground twitching & paralyzed. They just cause pain.
Pain is scary. Many criminals will just decide to leave you alone and go mug someone else instead. However, a determined criminal can fight through the pain. Worse, many self-defense tools are short-range. A stun gun is only a few inches long. To hit someone with a stun gun, you have to get really, really close. Close enough for him to grab you. Some people say that women shouldn’t carry a knife or gun because criminals will just take it and use it against her. A stun gun is worse. It can be taken away just as easily as a knife, but gives less protection.
Pepper spray has some advantages. It usually has a 15 foot range, so you don’t have to get too close. However, it isn’t very accurate, and it can be blown by the wind. At short range, it can splash and hit you. Also, you only get a few shots. It does, however, hurt like hell. Pepper spray is more than just painful, though. A good shot actually causes swelling in the eyes and throat. Most people will not be able to open their eyes and will have trouble breathing. However, some people are still tough enough to fight through it.
However, all of these things can fail. A tough guy (or experienced criminal) can deal with the pain. The only guaranteed way to stop an attacker is with a hard stop. In a best-case scenario, criminals will be scared away or wounded enough to retreat/surrender. In a really bad situation, a lethal weapon still gives you the option of hurting the attacker until he collapses.
Knives are affordable, lightweight, useful for daily life, and generally legal for anyone to own. However, they are short-range weapons. Frankly, there is a very high chance that a knife would be taken away from me. Knives still require a lot of muscle and skill to use well. It is possible (but difficult) to get a hard stop with a knife. A deep stab or many small cuts will cause an attacker to bleed. Eventually, he will lose enough blood to pass out. Unfortunately, it may take several minutes, which is long enough for him to hurt or kill you. I’ve read about knife fights where the “winner” died a few minutes after the “loser”. For this reason, I consider knives to be borderline on the hard/soft subject. They’re capable of getting a hard stop, but they’re mainly a soft-stop weapon.
This is one of the reasons I prefer firearms. In some cases, just seeing a firearm is enough to scare a criminal away. Further, most gun shot wounds are actually not fatal! According to one surgeon, an average of 6 out of 7 handgun wounds are not fatal. In one case, a woman shot her attacker 5 times in the head and neck. He walked downstairs, got in his car, and drove away. In another case, a man survived after being shot 19 times by police. These are extraordinary cases, but they proved that guns are not the magical instant death rays we see on TV. Even a person who is shot through the heart does not drop dead instantly. Any deer hunter can tell you that a deer can run a hundred yards after being shot through the heart. You can see it on youtube if you don’t believe me.
While a firearm is capable of a soft stop, we can never expect or guarantee a soft stop with any weapon. The ability to make a hard stop, if necessary, is a great advantage. Simply keep shooting until the attacker stops attacking. It doesn’t matter if he’s a macho badass mofo. A bullet to the spine will stop him.
*Side note: Stun guns are NOT the same thing as a TASER. TASER is a brand name (and acronym) that represents a specific product. There are no generic versions of a TASER. They’re protected by copyrights.