Pepper spray is the best non-lethal self-defense tool you can carry. I prefer to never, ever, go anywhere without my gun, but sometimes those illogical “gun-free zones” simply cannot be avoided. For your pepper spray 101, read on to know more about this handy self-defense weapon.
Pepper Spray for Personal Protection and Survival
In This Article:
What Is Pepper Spray?
Practice aiming and getting familiar with the canister of pepper spray. You should be able to use the non-lethal weapon by feel and in the dark without looking at the spray canister. Do not use your index finger to press the spray button, even though it may feel like the most natural way to hold the canister. Use your thumb and keep all the fingers wrapped firmly around the canister to avoid the spray from being easily grabbed out of the hand by an attacker.
Pepper spray is comprised of three basic chemicals – Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile – CS, Alphachloroacetaphenone – CN, and oleoresin capsicum – OC. The CN and CS chemicals cause extreme irritation in membrane tissues and cause the stinging sensation on the skin, and especially in the eyes. This stinging typically lasts about five to 30 seconds. When the target is high on drugs, drunk, or has an extremely high pain tolerance, they will be impacted far less severely – if at all– by pepper spray.
The OC chemical component of pepper spray causes an inflammatory and involuntary reaction to the eyes. It extremely and immediately dilates the capillaries and causes a temporary lack of vision.
Pepper spray laws vary widely by state. In some states, anyone with a felony conviction on their record cannot legally carry more than 4 ounces of pepper spray – but felons are not supposed to have guns either. In most states, anyone over the age of 18 or older can carry pepper spray.
Types of Pepper Spray
1. Forced Cone Spray
This is one of the most commonly carried forms of pepper spray and typically comes in a 1-ounce or ½-ounce canister. It has a circular spray pattern that is about 2-feet wide, the average size of a human or large dog head. It is known to have a viable spray from about six to 12 feet.
This type of pepper spray has a wider dispersal area and has a fine droplet spray stream. Because of the manner in which it sprays, the accuracy of the aim is slightly less critical. It may be the best type of pepper spray to use when faced with multiple attackers or during a riot. A significant amount of forced spray comes out of the canister with every squeeze and it is inhaled a bit more quickly than a cone spray – causing more intense and rapid coughing and choking.
3. Stream Sprays
The steam or broken stream version of pepper sprays act in the same type of fashion as a squirt gun. They deliver a more liquid version of pepper spray at the target. More of the spray is used up quickly with each squirt than when using a forced cone or fogger spray, but the risk of blowback due to wind direction is far lower and the powerful stream has a longer range of effective action.
4. Foam Sprays
The wind has the least effect on this type of thick pepper spray. It sticks to the face, eyes, and skin more deftly and is very difficult to wipe away. The more the target rubs it to get it off the skin, the more active its effect.
Pepper Spray Basics
A small canister of pepper spray with a keychain attachment can be clipped easily onto a belt loop, backpack, or purse zipper, or tucked away inside the pocket of a hoodie or sweater.
Unlike using a gun or knife on a potential attacker, pepper spray will not incapacitate the individual. But, it will sting the heck out of his or her eyes long enough to give you a chance to escape. Once the chemical gas is released from its canister, a burning sensation typically happens almost immediately on the skin of its intended target. Next, the target’s eyelids slam closed and they begin to cough or choke.
These results are typical, but cannot be counted upon to always happen. A quick search on YouTube will quickly reveal how drug-crazed individuals refuse to go down after not only having had pepper spray used on them by police officers but being the target of a Tazer gun zap as well. The best chance at escaping an attacker when armed with only a non-lethal weapon is to aim as accurately and rapidly as possible then run away screaming to draw attention to the incident as quickly as humanly possible.
When in a panicked state, you might not take the time to gauge, or even consider, wind direction. This could be a fatal mistake. Using pepper spray when the wind could blow the chemical gas back at you instead of its intended target, would leave you completely vulnerable to the attacker.
Shake the pepper spray canister at least once a week. This helps ensure the chemical gas mixture remains active and effective. Store away from either extreme heat or cold. Leaving a can of pepper spray in the car during hot summers and chilly winters might render them ineffective. Unfortunately, you would not know until you had to use it – and then it is too late.
How To Use Pepper Spray
1. Become familiar with the pepper spray and how it works.
Get comfortable holding the canister. Grip it firmly just as you would a gun or a knife. The spray will not help save you if the attacker can swiftly grab it out of your hand or you hesitate to use it. This allows them to get to close to aim properly before they, not you, are in control of the situation. Use your thumb and not your index finger to hit the spray button. This allows all of your fingers and the palm of your hand to wrap firmly around the entire canister. When you do this it also keeps your hand shaped into a fist. This allows you to punch the attacker with the extra weight of the can inside if a close contact physical confrontation situation occurs.
2. Again, just like with a handgun, know how many shots (or sprays) the pepper canister holds.
Keep a running tally in your head when using the non-lethal weapon against an attacker.
3. Do not allow the attacker to get any closer than 10 feet.
Most pepper sprays are effective and accurate at this range. If you panic and spray too soon, the spray will not even temporarily halt the attacker. If you let them get too close, you have lost the only edge you have in the potentially deadly encounter.
4. When spraying, keep your arm slightly bent.
This prevents the canister from coming closer to the attacker and increasing the chances of the spray being ripped out of your hand. Aim for the eyes – always. I have participated in pepper spray and Tazer training sessions for law enforcement officers. Even the biggest and toughest law enforcement officers immediately become both stopped and stunned when pepper spray hits their eyes.
5. As noted above, make sure the pepper spray can is easily accessible.
Fumbling in a purse or backpack will take up valuable self-defense time you most likely will not have when faced with either an armed or unarmed attacker – or gang of attackers.
Why buy pepper spray when you can make your own homemade pepper spray? Learn how to in this video from FPS Weapons:
Pepper spray accompanies every gift card I have ever given to a loved one who was old enough to carry it but was not yet at the legal age to get a concealed carry permit. When my daughter began taking college classes while still in high school, she had a can of pepper spray attached to her backpack, in her purse, and a pepper spray keychain clipped onto her jeans at all times when she was on the campus. Consider pepper spray for your self-defense and always keep one at hand at all times!
Do you buy mace or pepper spray? Which do you prefer? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!
Up Next: Crossbow: Its Advantages Over Guns
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 13, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
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