What is Pepper Spray?
Pepper Spray is a concentrated form of Capsaicin, the same chemical that makes chili peppers spicy. Capsaicin is found in most plants within the genus Capsicum and serves as an insecticide for the plants, keeping them free of pests. The oil extracted from chili peppers is called Oleoresin capsicum or “OC” for short. It is then put into a canister ranging in concentration from 2% to 15%.
Pepper Spray is a fantastic self-defense weapon that causes a strong burning sensation when it contacts the skin, eyes, mucous membranes, or lungs. It is almost always non-lethal, and the few deaths attributed to it have been a result of rare complicating factors like asthma.
At Novice Defense we recommend Pepper Spray as the #1 self defense weapon. It is great for women, men, teens, and the elderly (with no respiratory conditions). Pepper Spray has multiple advantages over other defense weapons including tasers, pepper balls, impact weapons and stun guns. We even recommend as a less lethal option for those who carry firearms.
Legal in all 50 States: Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states unlike firearms, pepper spray and batons. Each state has its own restrictions however, and some have size limits, registration requirements, or formula requirements. Always check your local laws.
- Arkansas: No pepper spray larger than 5 ounces.
- California: No pepper spray larger than 2.5 ounces.
- Florida: No pepper spray larger than 2 ounces.
- Hawaii: No pepper spray larger than .5 ounce.
- Massachusetts: Not legal to ship to New York. Must be purchased in state at a dealer.
- Michigan: No pepper spray larger than 1.2 ounces and no stronger than 18% OC or 1.4% major capsaicinoids (MC).
- New Jersey: No pepper spray larger than .75 ounce.
- New York: Not legal to ship to New York. Must be purchased in state at a dealer.
- North Carolina: No human pepper spray larger than 5 ounces. No restrictions on animal sprays.
- Washington, DC: Pepper Spray must be registered with a Police station when received.
- Wisconsin: No pepper spray larger than 2 ounces. It must have a safety feature, cannot be higher than 10% OC, no tear gas or UV dyes, and cannot be disguised as any other item (Lipstick, pen etc.)
Low Cost: Pepper spray is one of the lowest cost defense tools. A good quality pepper spray can be purchased for less than $10.
Safer and Non-Permanent effects: A few deaths have been attributed to pepper spray but they are extremely rare and usually due to complicating factors such as asthma. The effects of pepper spray wear off after 30-45 mins and there is usually no permanent damage.
No Training Required: Pepper spray is very simple to use and requires almost no training. Training with inert canisters is always a good idea, however. Firearms, tasers, and impact devices require lots of practice to be effective.
Small and Concealable: Pepper spray can be easily concealed anywhere and is very small. The Sabre Red Mighty Discreet is extremely small and fits on a keychain so you will never forget it. The best self defense weapon is one you always have on you.
Non-Threatening: Unlike most other defense tools (firearms, batons, tasers etc.) pepper spray is not threatening or scary. It is socially acceptable to carry one on your keychain and will not get you odd looks.
Multiple Shots: Pepper spray has multiple shots, letting you address multiple attackers and have follow up shots if you miss on the first. Even the smallest pepper spray, the Mighty Discreet, has 16 bursts. Compare this to one shot with a taser, If you miss, you are in trouble.
Fast Acting: The effects of pepper spray are almost immediate.
Completely Debilitating: When an assailant is hit in the eyes with pepper spray, they are completely out of the fight for the next 15 – 30 minutes, giving you time to get to safety. As opposed to a stun gun or baton which an assailant acting on adrenaline or under the influence of drugs may not even notice.
“Back Spray”: When paper spray is used, it can have a mild “back spray” effect where the aerosolized formula can be blown back onto the user. This effect is usually minimal compared to a direct spray and is mitigated by gel and stream formulations.
Limited Range: Pepper spray has a limited range compared to a firearm but is superior compared to other defense tools. Some gel and stream formulations have effective distances of up to 20 feet, more than enough for any defense situation.
Best Types of Pepper Spray
Size and Strength: Pepper Sprays come in a variety of sizes and formulations. There are formulations designed for humans, dogs, and bears. They range in size from .3 oz to 16 oz and come in a variety of concentrations. Don’t worry too much about the concentration, as all good quality brands are going to be effective. The best canister size is whatever size you will be able to carry with you. A larger canister is good for home defense, but you wont likely need more than 2 or 3 bursts.
Brand: The most popular brands are Sabre Red and Mace. For animals, there are many reliable brands including Counter Assault and Frontiersman. The shelf life for most of these is 3 to 4 years. Don’t buy the cheaper brands. You won’t save much money, they are unreliable, and they often have a shelf life of less than 2 years.
Spray Patterns: There are three different spray patterns; Cone, fog, and stream. Fog has little, to no use in the civilian market. Cone spray has severely limited range, and higher back spray compared to stream, but it makes it easier to hit your target. Stream is the best for most people and has a good combination of accuracy and range.
Formulations and Pepper Gel: Pepper Sprays have many additives that produce various effects. Tear gas is added to some pepper sprays but is not recommended as it makes it illegal in many places. Tear gas will also affect the user. Most pepper sprays have a UV marker dye which the police can use to identify a suspect.
Pepper Gel has been gaining popularity lately and is a gel form of pepper spray. It has a few disadvantages, however. It takes longer to take effect and requires greater accuracy. It does have increased range, and less blowback making it ideal for joggers. However, regular pepper spray is best for most purposes.