Initially I thought the Byrna HD was a dumb idea. A handgun that wasn’t? A big, deadly-looking handgun that could invite retaliation without being capable of delivery sufficient punch-back?
I was leery, to say the least. But I got a test sample, examined it, loaded it, fired it, reloaded and refired it… And now I’m thinking you might want to consider a Byrna, too. Especially if you can’t carry a real self-defense firearm. But you need to understand it and consider some limitations and potential complications.
Here’s the thing: the Byrna HD (Home Defense) “handgun” isn’t a firearm at all. It’s an airgun that launches frangible plastic balls filled with potent capsaicin and tear gas powder. “Chemical irritants,” the manufacturer calls them. Based on the sniff test, irritant is an understatement.
I watched some videos of these “irritants” striking test subjects and realized several things:
1: The volunteer “targets” are either dedicated researchers or idiots.
2. These 68-caliber projectiles raise a serious welt!
3. Byrna’s chemical irritants seriously incapacitate anyone who inhales the powder.
4. I’d rather be the launcher than the target.
5. The Byrna looks like fun. From the shooter’s perspective.
6. This can be an effective practice/training substitute for handgun shooting.
Watch the Byrna HD Video but…
Rather than provide a blow-by-blow description of how to operate the Byrna, I refer you to the video above. Just click and watch. I will, however, pontificate on the safety and self-defense issues that come to mind. And I’ll provide some behind the scenes thoughts on the testing of this device.
First, the Byrna launcher was about as basic, simple, and easy to use as any other CO2 airgun. Second, it launches 68-caliber projectiles at 300 fps, not 60-caliber ones at the 600 fps I reported in my video. Third, the 5-shot semi-auto makes it easy to send self defense rounds down range quickly. Fourth, the Byrna HD is surprisingly accurate. At least the one I tested is. I was hitting a human-sized head target consistently from 60 feet.
But I Have Byrna Concerns, Too
As for my concerns… What if brandishing this tool incites a potential assailant to shoot you first, thinking you have a real handgun? This is no issue when confronting a mad dog, rabid coyote, stalking cougar, or aggressive skunk, but some 2-legged skunks? Possibly. Of course, you don’t have to pull the device until you’re pretty sure it’s necessary. At which time I’d shoot first rather than just threaten.
Second there’s the temperature concern. At roughly 40-degrees F. and colder, CO2 cartridges become ineffective. I’m wondering if Byrna is working on a pre-charged pneumatic version of this tool for winter defense? Of course, inside a heated car the Byrna HD would remain effective regardless the outdoor temperature. It should remain functional for a typical walk from parking lot to office/home/store.
Third, might police or other authorities mistake someone holding a Byrna for a dangerous perp instead of someone defending against a threat? As I mentioned in the video, just seeing the Byrna could freak out some folks. Who knows how they’d respond. I’d be prepared for verbal, if not physical, assault. But then again, if you feel yourself in imminent danger of physical harm, who worries about subsequent complaints? I suspect Byrna has anticipated some of this because they offer the launcher in a variety of bright, non-traditional handgun colors such as pink, yellow, and orange.
Legal in Non-Firearms Jurisdictions?
Fourth, the Byrna would seem a good tool for self-defense in state and national parks where animals are often too habituated to humans. But will you suffer undue harassment from park officials who assume you’re carrying a real firearm? I’d check park regulations and/or regulators first. However, if I anticipated denial, I’d carry the Byrna discretely and endure the aftereffects if it came to that. Better to be judged by one than carried by six.
In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to prepare to defend ourselves. In a fair world we could always choose a firearm to defend ourselves. In our current world, we need options like the Byrna HD. Give this launcher serious consideration for your home, car, hip, husband, wife, kids…
Ron Spomer once felt confident launching self-defense missiles he picked up off the ground, but he’s discovered the Byrna HD is more accurate. And accessible.