Safety and Training

You May Like it Hot, But Not Pepper Spray Spicy: An Alternative Form of Self Defense

Do you have a backup plan for when you cannot carry your gun? What about your friend not quite sold on a gun for self-defense, or your 16-year-old daughter who by law cannot carry yet? Having an alternative method for self-defense, one that can be carried virtually anywhere, is better than a good idea. It is a must.

My backup self-defense is pepper spray. Experts will agree that pepper spray is a better choice than a stun gun. Pepper spray is legal in every state, you can carry it into a place that sells alcohol, and on college campuses, and it is immediately effective on attackers, even highly intoxicated people. Pepper spray will shoot up to 13 feet; some powerful units will work as far as 20 feet. A stun gun is only effective at point-blank range. That is way too close for my comfort.

The active ingredient in pepper spray is Oleoresin Capsicum (OC). Capsaicin comes from hot chili peppers. These capsaicinoids in pepper sprays are a group of compounds added to the OC to create the inflammatory effect of the pepper spray. They make pepper spray using the oil from capsaicinoids, glycol, and a propellant. Pepper spray has two units of measurement, the OC percentage, which is the amount of pepper oil in it, and the Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Named after pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville, the SHU is a way to measure the heat contained in a chili pepper. Pure capsaicin measures 16,000,000 SHU. As a reference point, a bell pepper has a zero SHU and a jalapeno measures 5,000 SHU. To work, pepper spray needs to measure 2 million SHU. Fox Labs makes pepper spray that measures 5.3 million SHU. How much the pepper spray unit measures in SHU is more important than it is percentage of OC.

Effects are usually immediate from a blast of pepper spray. It causes an involuntary closing of the eyes, a burning sensation of the eyelids, uncontrollable coughing, difficulty breathing, and a runny nose. The effects can last up to 45 minutes with temporary blindness lasting up to 30 minutes. Those hit with pepper spray say there is immediately extreme pain. Breathing in causes you to ingest more and can make you feel like you are choking. Pepper spray, however, causes no permanent damage.

Professor James H. Jenkins and Dr. Frank Hayes at the University of Georgia developed it in 1960. The United States Postal Service has been issuing pepper spray to workers since the 1980s. After years of rigorous testing from the FBI, the agency approved pepper spray in 1989 as an alternative to deadly force and good as a crowd control device.

Pepper spray comes in a variety of packaging, volume, and delivery methods. When shopping for pepper spray you will want to take into account how and where you will be carrying it. Some states restrict the amount you may own. Check your local laws before purchasing. Some pepper spray delivery methods are more prone to blowback. Meaning the stream of pepper spray is likely to blow back into your own face. Depending on how much wind and how much distance you shoot from, blowback may or may not be an issue. To avoid possible blowback, buy a stream, gel, or foam. A stream pepper spray can be accurate from further distances and foam has little to no blowback. Gel pepper spray sticks to the face better than other methods; it travels further and has less chance for blowback. They also come in a fogger unit that sprays a fine mist from 15 to 20 feet. A fogger unit is good for multiple attackers and bears.

Some pepper sprays also contain marking dye and tear gas, or a combination. The marking dye, which can stain the face for up to a week, can help police in catching the perp. Many companies that make pepper spray make a wide variety of ways to carry it—on key chains, holsters, attached to an iPhone case, with a Velcro strap, an integral flashlight, disguised as lipstick, and Mace even has a unit inside a working writing pen.

To be effective, pepper spray must hit the eyes, so experts suggest buying two units, one for defensive use, and one for target practice. Pepper spray does have an expiration date, so change out your units as necessary, as an old one may not work. Law enforcement suggests that the minimum distance you should discharge pepper spray is 3 feet, while the maximum is 10 to 12 feet. Pepper spray works best when you shoot it in quick rapid bursts and then move out of the way as soon as you spray. If you are hiker or camper in bear country, make sure to purchase a bear-specific pepper spray. Animal pepper spray and human pepper spray are different. Pepper spray for animals must be EPA-approved.

Pepper spray is an extremely affordable alternative form of self-defense for when you can’t carry your gun. From one half-ounce keychain units to 28-gram pepper spray guns, there is a size to fit everyone’s needs.

What is your preferred method of alternative defense? Do you carry pepper spray? Let us know in the comments below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

1 Comment;

  1. Quote” …..CTD Suzanne , Pepper spray will shoot up to 13 feet; some powerful units will work as far as 20 feet. A stun gun is only effective at point blank range. That is way too close for my comfort.

    May not” be very good if the wind is blowing and little in the wrong dirction… I prefere my 380″ , Just the sight of it has stoped TWO” diff. perp`s in the last 10 years for me. They Both turned and ran like scared cat`s , and That” was Good enough for me ! No one got hurt”, Thank you Dear Lord” , and Maybe both of those perp`s will Always” remember That” experance for the rest of there life`s ” , and never a tempt to harm any one else in there life time , cause ya just never Know” , If” that victim , is carrying something that can STOP” , an atack Real QUICK” , and Could be fatal .

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