Pepper Spray Selection and Use

pepper-spray-useIn a world that has many dangers; personal safety can be a big concern for people. In some parts of the world it is not legal to carry self-defence weapons such as guns, knives etc. This can leave people vulnerable to an attack.

Before we go any further with this – I want to stress that the main priority of personal safety is awareness of your environment. Whether you are allowed to carry a gun or any other form of weapon or not, you are able to increase your chances of safety and survival by simply being aware of what is going on around you and avoiding dangerous situations in the first place.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to first check with your state and local municipality regarding the type and size of pepper spray you can use. A key consideration is that the defensive spray must be only used in self-defense. Most states usually have age limitations on usage as well, so be sure to know the legal situation in your area first.

Types of Spray and Canisters

The three basic chemical components used in making defensive sprays are CS (Orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile), CN (Chloroacetophenone) and OC (Oleoresin Capsicum)

CS and CN cause stinging and tearing. They can take from 5 – 30 seconds to be effective. These chemicals are used in Mace. Mace is a brand name of defensive spray but it is not the same thing. It is commonly known as tear gas and lots of police forces use it for crowd control. It is not 100% reliable as some people can have a tolerance to Mace. The main difference is that these chemicals are irritants to tissue membrane. Mace is used to cause irritation (pain) to the attacker.

OC is an inflammatory agent. It is actually made from an extract of the Cayenne pepper, hence its name. When someone is sprayed with OC pepper spray, their eyes slam shut. It dilates the capillaries and causes temporary blindness. The attacker experiences an involuntary physical reaction to the chemicals. OC spray is the preferred defensive spray choice.

Mace causes pain – Pepper spray inflames.

The four types of canisters are Stream, Cone, Fogger and Foam.

Stream canisters deliver a big hit of spray. These canisters have a longer range than the others but use up spray quicker. One key advantage is you are less likely to be hit yourself with the spray due to longer range and better aim.

Cone Spray canisters are the most common. The spray gets realized in a circle shape around the width of a human head. Range is about 6 – 12 feet. When hit – eyes will shut tightly and if any amount of spray is inhaled, it will cause instant choking and uncontrollable coughing.

Fogger canisters disperse spray wider. Aim is less important with these and it is perfect for dealing with multiple attackers. Bear in mind if you use this type in an enclosed area – you are going to get a good hit too!

Foam canisters deliver the spray in the form of foam. The wind has the least effect on this type of spray. With this foam, if the attacker tries to rub the foam off, they are actually making the pain worse as they will be rubbing it more into their skin as it stays on the attacker.  This is the least desirable type, as the attacker must be too close for the foam to reach them.

I am going to assume that you have done all you can to avoid a confrontation but a bad guy has you in his sights and he wants to hurt you. You are in a part of the world mentioned above where you cannot legally carry a self-defense weapon other than pepper spray.

In this situation you need to make sure you know how, when and why you use pepper spray to ensure you do all you can to get out of there in one piece.  With all defensive sprays, they must make contact with the face of the attacker to be effective.

How to Use Pepper Spray

  1. Have your pepper spray in an easy to reach location on your body and practice drawing until it is a smooth and quick movement. You may need to experiment with a few locations before finding one you are most comfortable with. Remember, in an attack you will need to get to the pepper spray out and ready to use as quickly as possible without a panic.
  2. Release the safety mechanism on your canister. When practicing drawing the spray from your chosen body location, make a mental note of which point in the movement you would use to release the safety mechanism. Again this needs to be a smooth action so the spray is ready to be released as quickly as possible.
  3. Aim and get into a suitable posture. The main thing to consider when aiming is that pepper spray is an irritant to the face. That is where you want the spray to land so make sure the canister is held in a position that when pressed will allow as much spray as possible to hit your attacker in the face. When aiming, consider your body posture – it is highly unlikely your attacker will be standing still and directly in front of you so get yourself into a “fighting stance” so you can dodge any punches or grab attempts whilst preparing to spray. Also you need to create some distance between you and your attacker (both to avoid taking a hit but also to get out of the way of the pepper spray) so take a step back to create this distance.
  4. Spray! Do not extend your arm straight out in front of you to spray – by doing this you could leave yourself very vulnerable to your attacker grabbing you or your spray. Instead, as you use the spray, continue to move backwards or side-to-side away from your attacker (this helps keep you out of the way of the spray). Another consideration is fanning – rather than simply pointing and “shooting” if you fan your arm (move side to side) you have more chance of hitting your attacker in the face. They are likely to try and dodge the spray or your aim might be slightly out, so by fanning slightly you can increase your chance of hitting the face.
  5. Run! Once you have unloaded your canister it is time to get out of there as fast as you can. Pepper spray is for getting out of a situation, it is not for “catching” an attacker.

One extra thing to do is make as much noise as possible throughout this process. You want people to know you are being attacked so police can be called and the attacker caught. Shouting things like “stop it” “get back” “leave me alone” tend to be suitable.

If you happen to get hit with spray accidentally as blow-back or while practicing, never use oil-based cleaners to wash your face and eyes.  The oil traps the pepper spray in your pores!  Use a detergent soap on your skin (Dawn brand dish soap works great) and flush your eyes with cool water.

If you are carrying pepper spray for self-defense, make sure you know the type of spray and canister you have and also how to use it effectively. Practice regularly (be sure the wind is at your back when practicing!) and always keep it with you. It is also worth remembering that there may be certain restrictions or rules relating to carrying pepper spray in your area.


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