The Best Self-Defense Keychains, According to Experts

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Self-defense for an everyday consumer can be confusing and intimidating. Many options, like a knife or a gun, can be hard to justify carrying — or just hard to carry — in many situations. But few people leave their house without their keys, which is why there’s a flourishing market of pocket-sized devices that can give you a full-size advantage in a fight for your life. 

Many of these devices are simple — they’re small lengths of metal that allow you to apply force to a small area, jabbing and stabbing an attacker in a way that neutralizes their ability to hurt you. But figuring out the right one for you isn’t a no-brainer: you have to consider what situations you might be in and what you’re comfortable using. 

What the Experts Say

We asked Sifu Anthony Fontana — a self-defense expert and instructor in Jeet Kun Do, boxing, Muay Thai, and several other fighting systems — to break down everything you need to know about concealable self-defense tools that will blend right in with your keys. 

Fontana, who has plenty of recommendations for full-size self-defense weapons, always tells his clients — including members of the military and law enforcement — to look for tools that resemble or function like items that they already walk around with. Having things you “know how to use and know how to move with” can give you a jump start on training with these items, particularly when it’s something as small as a keychain. 

Still, the key word here is training. Fontana says that if you’re going to be carrying a weapon on your person, you need to know how to use it. But first, he says, you need to “practice deploying the weapon,” which means carrying it how you would in real life, and then repeatedly drawing and readying it for combat with either hand. Fontana recommends training with any weapon you purchase at home and doing drills that are so simple you can do them while watching TV. Reps are also important here: when you have down time, he recommends sets of 10 draw-and-deploy repetitions with either hand, until that weapon becomes an extension of your own body.

You have options for what that weapon will be, however. Fontana recommends a Kubotan, or a short, pen-like piece of metal or wood that can be used to strike, puncture, or pulverize an enemy. There are more lethal attachments out there, but Fontana says a Kubotan or even small tactical flashlight are great starting options, as they’re super low-profile. “You want things to travel with that won’t draw attention or be confiscated,” Fontana says.

Hinderer LK 1 Little Kubaton Brass against black paneled tabletop


Hinderer Knives LK-1 Little Kubotan

The Kubotan is a polarizing self-defense weapon. Because of its small size and limited use, it requires some real training and intent to deploy in an effective way. However, if you go into it with a clear idea of what to look for, it’s not a bad option. A good Kubotan will function as a pressure device, maximizing the damage you do when striking a certain area, as well as adding weight to your fist for punches and other strikes. Think of it as an extension of a finger — anywhere you’d try to jab or poke an assailant, that’s where a Kubotan should be deployed (soft areas, pressure points, eyes, between ribs, et cetera). That’s where the Hinderer comes in: unlike the cheaper dime-a-dozen (literally) Kubaton keychains that are out there, the Hinderer is worth the bump in price, as you’re getting more weight from its solid brass construction in a device designed to punch and puncture. However, as with all Kubatons, beware its limited uses — you might be better off with a good tactical pen. 

the Prometheus Lights Beta QR2 flashlight against white background


Prometheus Lights Beta QR2

The Prometheus has the essentials for a self-defense flashlight: rugged aluminum construction that makes it a makeshift Kubaton (or fist weight in a pinch), and a bright beam to disorient attackers or just light your way home — and it’s in a small enough package to fit on a keychain. There are better flashlights at that size, but few that combine the lumens of a good light with the shape of a last-ditch weapon. 

The Best Self-Defense Keychains, According To Experts


Kershaw Shuffle

The Kershaw Shuffle has what everyone should be looking for in a self-defense device: multiple uses. Its multi-tool function combines a blade, a screwdriver-capable protrusion, and a bottle-opening hook. The 2.5-inch blade is small enough to hook onto a set of keys, though you’d want to keep your keys minimal so as not to interfere with the opening of the knife. It’s not the same as a full-sized concealable pocket knife, but it could be worth its weight in gold in a pinch. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Defense Keychains

Can I use my keys themselves as a weapon?

In short, no. Fontana invites anyone who’s seen someone use a fistful of keys in a movie to lace their knuckles through their keys and try punching a surface lightly. It’s a great way to mangle your hand without increasing your ability to do damage. Save your keys for doors, and use an actual weapon for combat work. 

How do I get it off my keys?

Many keychain weapons come with quick-release attachments, meaning they’ll break away from your keys when you need them most. But it’s always a good idea to keep your keyring as minimal as possible so things don’t interfere with your tools. 

How should I train for self-defense?

Fontana says at a very basic level, getting used to moving and using your body in stressful situations is key. Even a basic boxing or martial arts class will increase your comfort in moving around other people, teaching you basic steps and footwork for how to hold your balance and strike out if needed. If you want to take your training further, it’s all about finding a system that works for you and adapting the skills you learn there to real situations on the street. 

Is carrying a separate tool worth it?

If you’ve got the pocket space, almost certainly. But for men who will be in situations where having a pocket or waistband full of metal, a smaller and more subtle tool might be the right thing to use.