Pepper Spray FAQ
Pepper Spray FAQ
- What types of self defense sprays are there?
- What is the difference between Pepper Spray and tear gas?
- What is Mace?
- What are the benefits and limitations of pepper spray?
- How is pepper spray effectiveness measured?
- Does pepper spray have a shelf life? How often should I replace my pepper spray?
- Is the effect of pepper spray immediate, and how long will its effects last?
- How should I store & carry pepper spray?
- When can I use pepper spray?
- How do I use my pepper spray?
- Will pepper spray work on bears and dogs?
- Is pepper spray legal?
- Can I carry pepper spray on an airplane per FAA regulations?
- How do I decontaminate myself from pepper spray?
- Pepper Spray vs. Stun Gun for Self defense?
There are three major types of defense sprays. The first two are CS and CN. Both of these are chemical compounds, commonly used as riot control agents. CS has basically replaced CN over the years. These manmade chemicals are irritants to the membrane (eyes, nose, throat, and lung) tissues. In large quantities, they cause heavy flow of tears and produce mucus.
The third chemical is OC (Oleoresin Capsicum), commonly known as pepper spray. OC is an lachrymatory agent (a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain, and even temporary blindness) that is used in riot control, crowd control, and personal self-defense, including defense against dogs and bears. OC has become more popular over the years due to the fact that it has been proven more effective than its predecessors.
It is very important that you get some training and practice with the specific spray you are going to carry. Study the canister, the nozzle, and the dispenser. You can train yourself at home with a few simple tips.
How to practice with outdoor targets
- Print out a few copies of a person's face with your computer printer
- Tack the printed copy on a tree or fence, equivalent to a person about 6 feet tall
- Stand upwind, several feet away and practice firing at the target in one second bursts.
- Make sure to try and aim directly between the eyes. The pepper spray will affect all the mucous membranes
and even the exposed skin, but you want your attacker's eyes to immediately close.
You can also purchase an inert training spray that you can use on human targets. This gives you the practice of a live target, but without the extreme pain that comes with an OC spray model.
In an emergency situation, make sure you have distance between you and the attacker. Don't get within their grabbing distance. Don’t threaten an attacker with your spray. Fire 2 or 3 second bursts directly into the eyes of the attacker. If it is not working, give them another two seconds. The small pocket or purse size will give you between 5 and 10 seconds of continual fire. Once the threat is stopped, run immediately and call the police. If your spray contains UV dye, tell the police that. It can help the police to identify your attacker.
There is also a Pepper Spray Training book that has plenty of tips on effectively using pepper spray.
Normally the effects of pepper spray are almost immediate can last anywhere from 15 minutes to about 45 minutes depending on concentration, which will give you plenty of time to escape an attacker and call the police. It is often advised for a civilian to carry a pepper spray fogger model so that aiming into the eyes is not of importance. With the fogger model, you can simply point and shoot. The chemical will reach the eyes easily, at which point the attacker's eyes will slam shut, giving you time to get away.
UV Dye, a harmless additive used to assist authorities in catching the attacker, will generally wear off in about a week.
- The reaction to pepper spray is involuntary (not dependent on pain response), so pepper spray is effective on those who feel no pain, such as psychotics, drunks and drug abusers. Pepper spray also works to control wild animals. Tear gas is not effective in these situations.
- Tear gas vaporizes to some extent. It may have some effect on a person who is hit less accurately, due to the vapors being inhaled or drifting into the eyes. Pepper spray does not emit fumes, and it will not deteriorate with age, but it must be sprayed in the eyes or inhaled directly to be effective.
- Tear gas takes take longer to be effective, anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 seconds, while the effects of pepper spray are quicker. Tear gas also takes longer to wear off and the chemical residue can last for days.
Since each spray has different advantages, some formulations (e.g.Triple Action Sprays) are being manufactured which contain blends of OC (the chemical in pepper spray) and either CS or CN (the chemicals in tear gas).
Mace is a term used to describe one type of tear gas, but it is also a very common term to describe all types of self-defense sprays.
Mace is also a well-recognized trade name by Mace Security International. The company produces PepperGard pepper spray, and blended sprays( Pepper Foam, etc) under the name Mace. Mace sprays have some distinct features, such as the finger-grip dispenser, flip-top cap, and glow-in-the-dark firing buttons. It is one of the most reliable and advanced self-defense sprays available on the market.
Pepper spray is an excellent self-defense product. It is used by nearly every law enforcement agency throughout the country. It is non-lethal and extremely effective when sprayed in the facial area and eyes. It put a safe distance between your and an attacker and gives you plenty of time to escape and seek help.
Because pepper spray does not cause death to the attacker, people are more likely to use it instantly with out hesitation. Acting quickly can often avoid serious injuries and save lives. Pepper spray is very inexpensive, and is not typically restricted by law. A permit is not usually required to carry them.
Still, you should be aware of its limitations, so you do not rely on just one form of defense. Pepper spray may take a few second for it to be effective. An attacker may be able to take your canister away from you, before the effects kick in. It may be used against you. Wind and rain may reduce its range and effectiveness. You may get spray-back when sprayed against strong wind.
Pepper spray is rated in two ways: OC% and SHU rating. The % you see listed on the package (10%, 15%, etc.) explains how much OC is in the container relative to the other ingredients (propellant, dyes, etc.). However, this percentage cannot always be used to compare the "hotness" of different pepper sprays. The hotness of OC is directly related to the amount of capsaicin in OC, which varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. The amount of capsaicin in OC is rated in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). To compare the hotness of two different pepper sprays, SHU rating is more important. The more capsaicin content the OC has, the hotter & more effective the spray will be. Two million SHU will be sufficient.
All pepper sprays have a shelf life. The average shelf life of a pepper spray is 3-4 years. Many defensive sprays have an expiration date stamped on the canister. OC will not degrade over time, but the unit may not spray as far as expected, if at all, if it is used past its shelf life. The aerosol propellant may leak out, rendering the spray less effective. This is especially true with the smaller sprays like the key chain.
The nature of the product suggests that effectiveness is of utmost importance. We recommend replacing your spray long before its expiration date to ensure you have a new, fresh canister of spray when you need it most.
It is advisable to test your canister of spray periodically, even once every 6 months. A test requires only a one second burst, sprayed outdoors. Be sure you are standing upwind when you test the spray. Once you decide to replace your pepper spray, you can then use your old canister as a training spray. Set up a target outdoors and practice spraying the old spray until the canister is empty. This will give you more confidence using your pepper spray in a real life situation.
Use pepper spray if you are threatened or if you feel your life is in danger. Pepper spray is used to allow you to get out of a bad situation. You do not necessarily want to wait until the situation has become dangerous to use pepper spray. Keep in mind, pepper spray is not a lethal weapon.
You can also get more information in a local self defense training class on how and when to use pepper sprays. Or read a pepper spray training book, like The Facts About Defense Sprays And How To Use Them To Bring Criminals To Their Knees.
Store your defensive spray in a safe place at room temperature. Keep it away from children. Do not leave it in your car during summer because high temperatures may cause the seals to leak.
Think in advance how you want to carry your pepper spray. In a typical assault, you get no warnings and you will get attacked when you least expect it. Carry your pepper spray with you whenever possible, and keep it in the same place. You can put it in a loose outer pocket of a jacket or inside a pants pocket, or in a purse with an open pocket. Try a few different carrying methods and find good accessible locations for you. Practice and make sure you can draw it quickly in an emergency situation.
The keychain pepper sprays (ASP Key defender, Spitfire pepper Spray, etc) are very convenient, and you are more likely to carry them with you all the time because of their smaller size.
Pepper spray is effective on dogs and other wild animals. To protect you from bear /dog attacks, purchase bear spray and dog spray that is specifically formulated and clearly labeled for deterring attacks by bears or dogs.
Keep in mind that dogs do not have the same tear ducts as humans, and some dogs cannot flush pepper spray out of their eyes. Because of this, Mace has manufactured a patented Canine Repellent with a lower strength (less than 2% OC) that is EPA approved.
Pepper spray is LEGAL in all fifty states. However, some states and cities have specific regulations pertaining to the purchase, possession and use of defense sprays. Please check with your local law enforcement agency for any regulations your state may have.
New York: the sellers must be local licensed firearm dealers or local pharmacies.
Massachusetts: the buyer is required to obtain a Firearms Identification Card (FID); the sellers must be local licensed firearm dealers.
Michigan: OC Pepper Spray can be no stronger than a 2% concentrate. CS is the only Tear Gas accepted. Both must be no larger than 35 grams per can. No combination sprays allowed.
Wisconsin: Pepper spray only. No Tear Gas, UV Dye or combination sprays. OC Pepper Spray can be no stronger than a 10% concentrate. The can must be between 15-60 grams only. Must have safety feature.
We carry Michigan/Wisconsin approved pepper sprays.
California: Canisters cannot be more than 2.5 ounces.
Animal Repellers like bear spray and dog spray are legal and can be shipped to New York, Wisconsin and Michigan.
According to current FAA regulations posted on the TSA website, one container of 4 ounce or less pepper spray is allowed in checked baggage. The specific regulation is below:
"Mace/Pepper Spray - One 118 ml or 4 Fl. oz. container of mace or pepper spray is permitted in checked baggage provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge."
If you get pepper spray on yourself, don’t panic. Water, soap and time are all that is needed to decontaminate you. Exposure to fresh air should help, too.
Remove all contaminated clothing. Flush the affected area with cool water. Warm water may intensify the burning and inflammation. Do not rub your face!
Wash the affected area with non-oil or cold cream based soap. Don't apply oily lotions--they will trap OC resin onto your skin.
Have a physician examine the exposed area if any irritation or pain persists after the decontamination procedures.
Many people purchase and carry stun guns, when allowed by their state's laws. Stun Guns have been proven effective in many situations of self defense. They are a reasonable self defense weapon to carry.
The only problems that have occured with stun guns is that, with any electronic device, batteries tend to fail. If the battery fails, your stun gun is useless. In addition, some brands of stun guns are lower quality and the electronics fail altogether. Again, this is of no help to you in an emergency situation. Because of this, it is advised that you test your stun gun frequently and always make sure you have a good battery.
Pepper spray has no electronic parts, no battery and no need for charging. The contents do not settle in pepper spray canisters. So your pepper spray is ready when you need it, without worry of it not working. If you want to carry a stun gun, then it is advised that you carry a pepper spray as a backup, just in case.