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Byrna Self-Defense


Growing up, I watched the original Star Trek series on television. I remember being impressed with their weapons. A common statement before exchanging fire was, “Set phasers to stun.” That seemed like a futuristic means of self-defense.

Having been exposed early in life to Quaker teachings, the idea of a non-lethal weapon for self-defense appealed to me.

As a young teenager, we had guns and also black powder for using in a canon. We used the guns for target shooting. I’d also been skeet shooting a few times. Fortunately we were never harmed or injured by firearms, but we did have a sense that they were a potentially dangerous consumer product.

I did lose some friends in high school, but not to guns. Two brothers were driving while drunk. Their car went airborne and when it landed in someone’s home the impact killed them. So, as a young person, alcohol combined with driving seemed more dangerous than guns.

I think I was age 14 or 15 when my interest in guns diminished, only because I became interested in other hobbies. Later in life, I became more concerned about gun safety, and the couple of times I was invited to a firing range, by then the noise bothered me.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered why a non-lethal gun had never been developed. In February of 2016, I wrote an article describing a gun-like weapon that could have blanks or rubber bullets instead of real bullets as a deterrent tool used in self-defense. [View]

My proposal for a non-lethal gun was met with resistance. Gun enthusiasts saw it as an unacceptable alternative, and people concerned about gun safety generally don’t like any type of weapon, or even toys that look like weapons. I didn’t realize that such a weapon already existed and had been in use for about 50 years by law enforcement and military personnel.

Byrna Self-Defense

A video showed up in my YouTube feed from a company called Byrna that provides self-defense products ranging from personal alarm systems and pepper spray to pepper ball launchers. [Byrna Website]

Self-defense products aren’t related to any recent Google searches I’ve done, but maybe the video was suggested as related to my interest in backup power systems which could be considered in the category of survivalist gear.

I watched the video. Byrna spokesperson Josh Schirard explained the importance of having non-lethal (or less likely to be lethal) alternatives to firearms. He states:

  • “The chance of you having to use deadly force is 1/100th of 1 percent. … Your response to someone’s use of force has to be reasonable, and if your response is deemed excessive you will likely end up in jail.”

As someone with a background in law enforcement, Schirard knows what he’s talking about.

Schirard personally is not anti-gun. He believes there are situations where a gun may be necessary. Schirard’s message was one of the most persuasive presentations I’ve ever seen about the benefits of non-lethal self-defense. The video is below.

I watched another Byrna video that featured Bren Brown, the co-founder of Frontier Justice, a conservative midwest faith-based firearms business and indoor firing range. Bren describes herself as 1,000 percent behind the second amendment.

In the video, Bren talks about legitimate concerns that people (and friends) have regarding firearms:

  • “Maybe they don’t feel comfortable with storage in their home because of a small child or depressed teenager. … Or they just don’t feel comfortable with the lethality in combination with the kind of practice and responsibility that takes as far as decision making, accuracy, those sort of things.”

The video is below.

Concerns on Both Sides

There are numerous videos on YouTube from gun owners talking about the benefits of having a non-lethal method of self-defense. They make some of the same points made by those wanting increased regulation of firearms.

It seems like the Byrna launcher is possibly a common-ground product that people on both sides of the gun debate could agree on — the importance of effective self-defense.

However, some gun enthusiasts may feel the Byrna weakens their arguments for the need to own a gun. If a person rarely needs a weapon, and it’s even more rare that the weapon would need to be lethal, why have so many guns? The strong practical defense of non-lethal or less-lethal weapons could be seen as a threat to the second amendment. It’s not the case, but people may perceive it this way.

For those concerned about gun safety and regulation, the Byrna launcher may seem problematic. To support non-lethal self-defense would acknowledge that we live in a dangerous world where people may need to defend themselves.

Someone introduced to the Byrna launcher, a device very similar to a gun, may become more comfortable with the idea of a firearm, and the need for self-defense. They may end up becoming a gun owner. This could be a concern of those opposed to firearms.

So, people on both sides of the gun debate may feel the Byrna product weakens their position and may lure their followers away. It’s not much different than the politics in our country right now. People who are “moderates” can be seen as a threat by extremists on either side.


Pepper launchers are marketed as “less lethal” instead of “non-lethal” defense. This may be partly for legal liability reasons, as well as an effort to properly inform consumers about the potential danger in using the launchers.

When protests turn violent and become riots, police will sometimes use rubber bullets, pepper ball launchers, or tear gas canisters. People hit by these projectiles will sometimes show photos of bruises and injuries to their face and body.

So, while these products are usually not lethal, they are not non-harmful, and so they need to be handled with care. They could cause permanent injury, blindness, or death.

This could be a concern of people who are pacifist purists who would reject any form of self-defense that could harm someone.

Years ago, a new shoe design was introduced to the fitness shoe market. I bought several pairs. They were the best shoes I’d ever owned. Before long, all of the major running shoe companies offered at least one shoe model using the design. Despite the really innovative and effective design approach, I could tell if someone wasn’t careful, they could become unbalanced and fall, perhaps resulting in injury. I created a video expressing concern that the design may be at risk of being taken off the market because somebody somewhere would trip and fall and there would be a lawsuit causing manufacturers to be scared off. Eventually the shoe design was taken off the market because some people were getting injured. So, then nobody was able to use the shoes. It’s important for consumers to help support and promote innovative products to insure they remain available to responsible careful people.

Like a Paintball Gun

Functionally, the Byrna launcher is like a paintball airgun that sends a small round projectile. Instead of being filled with paint, the projectile is filled with powder similar to pepper spray, with an option for a pepper and teargas powder mixture that has more stopping power. Other self-defense products like tasers and pepper spray are used at close range. Pepper ball launchers help people avoid close contact with would be attackers.

Not Like a Paintball Gun

It’s important to point out that the Byrna products are not toys designed for recreational use. They are built to handle the demands of daily carry use by people in law enforcement. They are built to be safe and reliable for average consumers.

Understanding the Cost

If you’re building a toy, you can send the specifications to a manufacturer in some other country and have the product made cheaply, then shipped to a distribution center to be sold and shipped to consumers. You would not need employees. Your “company” could be located in a rented postal box. That operation would cost less, and the resulting product could cost less.

For a product like the Byrna launcher, to offer the level of reliability and customer service required, it’s necessary to have an actual company, with employees, and some engagement with the public and agencies using the product. This costs money to do properly. If part of the company’s purpose is to help create local jobs that pay well, then that will also influence the overall cost.

Long-Term Support

Computer manufacturers will sometimes have a line of products designed for business or professional use. Dell does this with their Latitude products. They are built more rugged, and the company has a plan for long-term support of the products. The products focus on core essential features. Many of the main parts from one year to the next stay the same. This allows the manufacturer to have inventory of spare parts that serve multiple production years. Power cords, fans, batteries, and other parts might stay the same for years. Companies can buy these products and know that support will be there in the future.

When government agencies are planning to purchase products like pepper ball launchers, they look for an established U.S.-based company to work with. They want reliable products with long-term support. A company like Byrna meets those requirements. For this reason, consumers also benefit from working with a company like Byrna.

Like the Original iPhone

Although pepper ball launchers have been around for many years, a rugged economical high-quality design available for consumer use is something fairly new.

Instead of just selling 100 units to the Los Angeles Police Department, Byrna and their dealers also sell to individual consumers. There’s an additional layer of customer service that accompanies this business model.

Consumer products are generally accompanied by additional public education and awareness for use and safety. Testing and research for real-world home and personal use is needed. So, that’s what Byrna offers.

Byrna also reviews feedback from customers to evaluate how future products can be improved.

The original version of the Byrna launcher was the HD (home defense) model. The current revised version of the product is the SD (self-defense) model. It is smaller and has improvements in operation.

The Byrna launcher is like the original model of the iPhone. It works. it’s consumer friendly. It’s well designed. A lot of research and testing has gone into it. Yet one can imagine that there is much more innovation to come from the company and their products. Those who buy a Byrna launcher are similar to early adopters of the original iPhone models. They recognize that their support of the product will result in future improvements.

Byrna Advocacy

In addition to creating and selling products, Byrna also engages with the gun enthusiast community. Their efforts to get gun owners to consider using less-lethal defense will undoubtedly result in saving lives.

Byrna representatives seem to be willing to listen to those who have concerns about gun safety. Rather than dismissing those concerns, they acknowledge them. The Byrna products prompt conversation about the challenges we currently face in society.

So, the purchase of a Byrna launcher provides the purchaser with a useful product, and also a sense of having contributed to an organization involved in raising awareness about more appropriate forms of self-defense.

Based in the United States

A lot of self-defense products are entirely manufactured and assembled overseas with no U.S.-based company providing support, customer service, or accountability. This raises safety and reliability concerns.

With Byrna launchers, the devices are designed, assembled, and quality-checked in the United States. Some of the parts and materials are from other countries, but the majority of their operations are in the United States. This creates jobs and ensures better product quality oversight.

Finding Agreement

There are undoubtedly couples and families with differing views about firearms for self-defense. The Byrna launcher is a middle-ground option between having no self-defense tools at all or being lethally armed. It’s likely for some couples and families, a Byrna launcher will settle some arguments about what to do for home self defense.

Variable Severity of Rounds

In the 2016 article I wrote on non-lethal self-defense, I suggested that a self-defense weapon could have a clip that would hold rounds that have increasing severity. I’d never heard of this being done, but it seemed like a logical consideration. I was told by gun enthusiasts that it was a stupid idea.

This past week as I watched some videos on YouTube of people reviewing the Byrna launcher, a common theme was people talking about how helpful it is to have the option of variable severity projectiles. That caught my attention since it was something that seemed logical to me many years ago. If the Byrna user community is thinking this way, to me that’s a good sign.

Increasing Public Safety

You hear about these altercations in public places that quickly escalate to gunfire and people getting injured or killed. Often these incidents begin with some stupid argument or disagreement. Then tempers flare. If society is going to continue to be on edge and easily enraged, people need something to reach for other than a lethal weapon.

Moving to Safe Communities

People are moving away from communities where drought is resulting in no availability of drinking water. Some areas are no longer livable due to rising waters, mood slides, wild fires and other factors. Many people have become migratory due to natural factors and problems in society. Similarly, when people are able to do so economically, they will move to safe communities to escape threats of violence and crime.

Moving away from dangerous communities or neighborhoods isn’t an option for many people if jobs, family, or economics makes it impossible to move. However, people spending thousands of dollars to create an arsenal of weapons and ammunition may want to consider moving to a community where such

Eco-Friendly Option

Byrna offers an “eco-kinetic” projectile that is 100% biodegradable and water-soluble. In the future, the launcher could probably be made from ocean plastics, recyclable materials, hardwoods, or plant-based materials. The challenge would be to ensure durability, dependability, consistency, and safety with these alternative materials.

For those interested in something safer than a gun for target practice, the Byrna is a good choice because of the water-soluble rounds. It’s also relatively inexpensive to operate.

Limitations of the Byrna Launcher

The Byrna launcher used with pepper and tear gas powder is probably an excellent tool for self-defense in certain scenarios. Yet, in some situations the Byrna may not be helpful.

Here are some limitations of the Byrna launcher:

  • In close quarters like a stairway, entryway, or elevator the powdery irritant would be airborne and could immobilize you as well as the assailant. This could also be a problem if you are a short distance away and downwind from the assailant.
  • If using a kinetic projectile in an enclosed area, instead of pepper, the projectile could ricochet at injure you.
  • Like using a gun or knife for self-defense, a launcher could be taken away and used against you.

In addition to these limitations, if the Byrna launcher is used against an attacker who is wearing a thick down jacket, the projectile may not encounter sufficient resistance to break open for the release of the pepper powder. Thick jackets, thick gloves, and headgear could make the Byrna launcher less effective.

One should NOT conclude that the Byrna pepper launcher is useless based on the above list of limitations. These limitations point to the need for an array of safety and self-defense options. Every situation is different, and thus an effective response will be unique for each situation.

Risk of Injury

It is possible to excessively injure someone with a Byrna pepper launcher.

  • Anyone shot with the Byrna pepper who has asthma could be unable to breathe if the powder enters their lungs.
  • If you’re a poor aim, you could end up blinding the person.
  • If the person you shoot is at the top of a flight of stairs they could fall and be injured or killed.

If the person injured is well-known to be unarmed and non-violent, perhaps a homeless person who you mistakenly attacked, you could be found responsible for having used excessive force.

Bottom-Line Net Outcomes

A trend of people using less-lethal defense will undoubtedly result in saving lives. More discussions about scaleable self-defense will hopefully result in more rational proportionate actions.


Considering the cost of gun ownership, the Byrna seems like a very inexpensive accessory for any gun owner as something to grab in a self-defense scenario to avoid possible jail time.

Despite the limitations and possible risks of using a Byrna launcher, it seems that less-lethal self-defense is something that should be supported by everyone.

Further Reading

When thinking about self-defense, for perspective and context it helps to reference military strategy and tools.

UPSTREAM — A famous military General once said, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.” [Source] The message was that diplomacy and promoting peace is an economical form of national defense by reducing conflict. We can go upstream to determine the causes of violence, and look for ways to prevent it in our communities. Guns may sometimes stop violence, but they don’t prevent the conditions that cause it.

POVERTY — Jake Harriman served over seven years as a platoon commander in both the Infantry and an elite unit of Marines called Force Recon. He had opportunities to use the many weapons in fighting terrorism. After serving in the military, Harriman continued fighting terrorism using the most powerful weapon he knew of — eradicating poverty. He established Nuru International. His story is below. [Source]

SOUTHCOM — The U.S. Southern Command operates in one of the most dangerous regions in the world, where heavily armed drug cartels, gangs, and crime syndicates engage in ongoing turf wars.

Members of SouthCOM use some of the most powerful military “weapons” available. They provide education, resources, and social services to communities. Below is a collection of photos from their military operations in the region. [Source]

You may be asking, “What does this have to do with me safely walking to my car at night after working a late shift?”

The point is this: We should support everyone’s need for self defense, but also do everything we can to make self-defense unnecessary in our world.

Supplement #1

If you enjoyed the “responses to mean posts” video shared in the article above, here’s a second installment in the series featuring Josh Schirard. This video illustrates how a person can respond to trolls and critics with some basic facts and a little bit of humor.

Supplement #2

In this video, Josh Schirard talks about the Byrna Law Enforcement Division motto, “Live Safe, to Save Lives.”


At the time of originally writing this article, on 6 Aug 2022, I had no personal interest in Byrna. As of 5:10 PM CT on 8 Aug 2022, I’ve purchased $100 in Byrna stock using the Stockpile app. This obviously isn’t an investment large enough to sway my opinions about the company, but it’s a gesture of appreciation and support for the company from someone concerned about gun safety. The above article continues to be a non-paid post with no commission or affiliate links. I’ve not used my Amazon affiliate links, partly to remain impartial, but also because I think the best buying experience would be directly from the company.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com