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Buying guide for Best self-defense keychains

Whether you’re a student crossing a dark quad late at night, a worker on the midnight shift, or a jogger who likes to run after dark when it’s cooler, you need to protect yourself from the occasional threat, and one easy and effective way to do this is by carrying a self-defense keychain.

These keychains are compact and discreet. They can also include a variety of elements, from pepper spray to an alarm or whistle and even a stun gun, that can increase your peace of mind and enhance your ability to fight back and call for help if the need arises.

There are plenty of features to consider when looking for a self-defense keychain that will help keep you safe, including size and weight, powered or not, and price, as well as considerations about legality, why you need it, and how you plan to use it.

self-defense keychains
The primary goal of a self-defense keychain is to buy yourself time to escape, scare off an assailant, or attract the attention of help.

Key considerations

Types of self-defense keychains

When you talk about self-defense keychains, you’re actually talking about a variety of keychain types that employ various methods that all fall under the “self-defense” umbrella. Most include one or more of the following:

Pepper spray: One of the more common self-defense elements found in a keychain is pepper spray. Unlike many other types of self-defense, pepper spray can be used from a distance.

Impact: Those keychains that fall into this category either feature a dull end to strike an assailant with or a pointed end to poke or stab an assailant.

Knife: Some self-defense keychains include a hidden knife or zip blade.

Whip or chain: This type of keychain includes a length of rope or chain, sometimes with a weighted end, to use to strike an assailant.

Alarm or whistle: You can use an alarm or whistle to scare off an assailant and call for help.

Stun gun: While this is less common, some self-defense keychains are fitted with a compact stun gun that gives off a charge to disable an attacker long enough for you to flee.

Size and weight

The size and weight of a self-defense keychain are less affected by the self-defense method it uses but by the number of methods it includes. A simple keychain with a canister of pepper spray is fairly unobtrusive and lightweight, while one that incorporates an impact element plus an alarm or other device is bigger and heavier.

The size and weight of the keychain you choose are matters of personal preference. A larger, heavier model might offer you more reassurance and be easier to hold and use, but you might not want to carry the added weight and bulk. On the other hand, a keychain that’s too small and lightweight can be more difficult to hold, might not pack much of a punch, and won’t provide you with much peace of mind.

Design

Just because you can use a keychain to protect yourself doesn’t mean it can’t be fashionable too. Self-defense keychains are available in a range of colors and styles. Also note that you might prefer something less conspicuous, and many of these devices do not look like weapons.

Power

Self-defense keychains that include impact elements, knife blade, chain, and even those that rely primarily on pepper spray are usually not powered in any way.

Those keychains that use an alarm or stun gun as a deterrent are a different matter. These items use batteries, sometimes rechargeable, so you’ll need to keep them charged so they’re ready for use. While some keychain alarms include a backup whistle, other powered keychains could leave you unprotected if the batteries are low or dead. Be sure to regularly check the keychain’s batteries and either swap them out or recharge them if they’re low.

A self-defense keychain is a great gift idea, particularly for a student heading off to college.

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Self-defense keychain features

Pepper spray

If the self-defense keychain you’re interested in includes pepper spray, there are some specifications you should note.

Range: The farther the spray can reach, the farther away you can be from your attacker when you deploy it. The average range for pepper spray of this size is around 10 feet.

Number of uses: Also note the number of times you can use the spray. This usually ranges from 3 to more than 20. Also, note whether you can find replacement cartridges after the spray runs out.

Shelf life: Pepper spray loses its potency over time, making it far less effective.

Alarm or whistle

If your self-defense keychain has an alarm, be sure it’s loud enough to attract attention from a considerable distance. Keychain alarms typically range from 120 to 140 decibels, which can be heard over 600 feet away.

Whistles aren’t as loud as alarms, but one can still be effective, and you don’t need to worry about the batteries running out.

Both alarms and whistles can be particularly effective when dealing with a dog or wild animal threat.

Grip

Whether you have a self-defense keychain with an impact element or one with pepper spray, the grip should be textured or contoured so you can hold it firmly when responding to a threat.

Key ring vs. lanyard

Some self-defense keychains are indeed key rings, with a ring to hold your keys. Other less common models are lanyards that attach to an existing key ring. Check to be sure which type you’re getting.

Extras

The trend seems to be to include more and more devices in one keychain, like multi-tools. You can find a variety of self-defense keychains that include the following:

LED light: A flashlight is a big plus to have in any situation.

Tools: Some of these keychains include a blade, screwdriver, bottle opener, compass, magnifier, and/or thermometer.

Holder: Some include a small holder for a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer or a tube of lip balm.

Quantity

While the majority of these ship individually, some come in multipacks of two, three, or more. This is an excellent way to equip several loved ones with these potentially life-saving devices.

self-defense keychains
DID YOU KNOW?
One of the earliest self-defense keychains was the Kubaton, introduced in the 1960s, a small, hard baton that could be used as an impact weapon to target sensitive body parts.
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Pricing

Inexpensive: While you can occasionally find self-defense keychains that cost less than $5, the least expensive are usually in the $5 to $10 range. These options are typically simple keychains with a single impact element or compact pepper spray canister.

Mid-range: In the $10 to $15 range, you can find self-defense keychains with multiple elements, including less powerful alarms. Impact element multipacks can also be found here.

Expensive: To maximize your self-defense capabilities, target the $15 to $20 range. Keychains in this range have a wide array of tools and self-defense items, with more powerful alarms and even simple stun guns. You can also find multipacks of pepper spray and alarm keychains at this price.

If you have small hands, note the size of the keychain when ordering. “Too large” is a common complaint with these items. One that’s too big could be hard to use effectively.

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Tips

  • Choose a strobe or flashing light. While some keychains include an LED flashlight, a better self-defense mechanism is one that strobes or flashes. This can help to draw added attention in the event of an attack.
  • Choose pepper spray or an alarm if you don’t have much upper body strength. One of these would be better than an impact-type self-defense keychain. Some pepper sprays also include a dye that shows up in ultraviolet light, so assailants can be more easily identified after the attack.
  • Look for a safety feature to prevent accidental discharge. If your self-defense keychain includes pepper spray, taser, or alarm, be sure it also includes a safety feature to keep it from going off accidentally. Also, one downside to pepper spray is that deploying the spray can result in blowback, affecting the user as well. Know which way the breeze is blowing before using pepper spray.
  • Choose a keychain with instructions. Those completely new to self-defense should concentrate on keychains that include ebook or video instructions to walk you through the best way to use the keychain and provide valuable pointers on a range of personal safety issues.
self-defense keychains
One big plus with nonlethal self-defense items like keychains is that you’re less likely to experience legal issues either using or carrying one.

FAQ

Q. Are self-defense keychains TSA approved?

A. That depends on the type of keychain. Impact keychains, such as Kubaton-style models, are not allowed in carry-on luggage but can be carried in checked baggage. The same rules apply to knives or any type of stun gun. Keychains with an alarm can be stored in checked or carry-on luggage.

The rules governing pepper spray are a bit more complicated. While no pepper spray keychains are allowed in carry-on luggage, you can put them in checked luggage provided they meet the necessary requirements, including a safety mechanism on the canister to prevent accidental discharge, and they meet both size and concentration requirements. For further information, check the TSA website.

Q. Are self-defense keychains legal?

A. Once again, this largely depends on what type of keychain you’re considering and the state you live in. Brass knuckle-type impact keychains could run afoul of state laws. While most states allow their use, they’re illegal to carry in California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, and Vermont.

Pepper spray is also a special case. While it’s legal in all 50 states, some states impose restrictions based on the container size and spray concentration. Some states also set an age requirement for those who can legally carry pepper spray.

If you have any concerns about the legality of a particular type of self-defense keychain in your state, contact local law enforcement.

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