10 Stealthy Self-Defense Tools Under $20

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Dangerous situations can arise at the most unexpected moments. Whether you're out late at night or walking unfamiliar streets, a small personal safety tool can go a long way toward peace of mind when you might otherwise feel vulnerable. These 10 self-defense tools costing less than $20 are easily concealed or disguised and highly rated in online reviews. Of course, before buying anything that could be considered a weapon, make sure to research local and state laws to make sure it's legal where you live. And when traveling, remember to check TSA requirements to avoid confiscation.

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A cat-shaped keychain that's adorable at first glance can inflict painful punctures with its sharp, pointed ears. The metal keychain is available in black, silver, and gold and attaches easily to a key ring, handbag, or bookbag. It's costs about $6 on Amazon, where it has earned an average of 4.6 stars from more than 250 reviewers. Many say they gave the keychain to a girlfriend or female family member, noting that it may be too small for male hands.

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Pepper spray use is restricted in many states, and for good reason. Pepper spray can incapacitate a person once it reaches the eyes and nose, causing severe inflammatory reactions and extreme discomfort for hours after exposure. But for consumers who live where pepper spray is legal, Sabre Red Pepper Spray ($8 on Rakuten) comes from a highly rated brand. It has a 10-foot range and claims a strong stream designed to minimize the chance that the sprayer will be affected too.

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When facing an attacker, a moment of surprise may allow time to get away. Personal alarm keychains are small and inconspicuous but can emit loud sounds to startle attackers and alert people nearby for help. A personal alarm keychain with a delicate floral print is available for $9.50 on Amazon, where about 75 percent of reviews award it 5 stars. Attach it to a handbag, duffel bag, or keys for easy access.

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For a discreet personal safety weapon, check out the SOG Key Knife ($8 on Amazon). The stainless steel blade measures 1.5 inches and is typically locked back in its holder, which looks just like any other key and weighs only 0.3 of an ounce. It comes with a lifetime warranty against defective materials or manufacturing. Of more than 1,200 customer reviews, more than three-quarters give it the highest rating.

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A small red creature with a flower on top of its head may not look intimidating, but the alarm volume can stop attackers in their tracks. This personal alarm is lightweight and especially suitable for young children as a ride-along on their backpacks. (Some adults use it too.) A strong tug separates the flower's metal pull pin, activating the 120-decibel alarm. The price is $10 on Amazon, where more than a dozen reviewers have given it an average of 4.6 stars. They say it's cute enough to be unobtrusive while making them feel safer.

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Most pens aren't capable of breaking glass, but that's not all the Uzi Defender Tactical Pen ($13 on Amazon) can do. Its heavy-duty build makes it an impact weapon when the user is threatened, and it can help free a trapped person. It's made of aircraft-grade aluminum and weighs only 1.5 ounces, with a pocket clip that allows for easy carrying. And, yes, it writes just fine -- it even takes standard pen refills. More than 250 reviews have averaged out to a 4-star rating.

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This keychain ($11 on Amazon) is made of an unbreakable plastic that's as tough as metal and can inflict serious damage to an attacker's face, hands, neck, or head. Two fingers fit through holes made to look like the dog's eyes, while the ears are sharp enough to hurt or puncture. Shoppers can choose between keychains in black, blue, and red, and more than 70 percent of customer reviews rate the product 5 stars.

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The idea of using a stun gun may be intimidating, but a few electric pulses in the air with this compact, powerful tool, with its bright current and threatening noise, are likely to stop aggressors before they get close. Upon connecting with a person, the Vipertek VTS-880 mini stun gun ($18 on Amazon) delivers a high-voltage shock, stunning and slowing down an attacker. With nearly 800 customer reviews, this model gets 4.4 stars overall and has a built-in LED flashlight. Keep in mind that stun guns are restricted in several states, so check state laws before ordering online.

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With any luck there won't be a need to use a Tac Force tactical folding knife (starting at $6.50 on Amazon) against another person or to break glass -- but at least the built-in bottle opener is likely to come in handy. When it's closed and the stainless steel blade is locked firmly in place, the tool measures less than 5 inches. A spring assist allows for instant, single-handed deployment. The knife has more than 4,800 customer reviews, averaging 4.5 stars out of 5.

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Personal safety apps set off alarms and contact police, friends, or family if something goes wrong. The free bSafe app lets selected contacts watch your progress between point A and point B on an online map. An SOS button triggers a siren and alerts friends with a map of your location as well as records video. (There's even a Fake Call function to get users out of bad dates.) The app, available for iOS and Android, averages 4.1 stars in nearly 7,000 reviews on Google Play.