Even though I have a handgun carry permit and legally carry a handgun almost everywhere that I go, I also carry a can of pepper spray. I know some of you are probably thinking… why would anyone need to carry defensive spray if they are already carrying a handgun…
Well, the fact is that the majority of the time most situations can be defused without using deadly force.
For example, you’re approached by some unarmed but intoxicated man on the street who thinks you’re someone else who he says stole his last ten bucks or whatever and he refuses to believe otherwise and starts following you around when you try to walk away and is becoming more vocal and threatening with each passing minute…
You can tell by his increasingly aggressive actions and the tone of his voice that this incident is most likely going to escalate into a physical altercation so you have to make a choice as to what’s the safest and best response in this situation…
Do you grapple and fight with him, do you pull out your gun and shoot him, or do you spray him with pepper spray and then walk away?
To me spraying him makes a lot more sense and is far less likely to have legal complications, like being you charged with murder, and or having civil lawsuits filed against you and let’s not forget the post-traumatic stress that most normal people have to deal with after having to defend themselves with deadly force.
Now that we have established that it’s a good idea to have a non-lethal option available (some will disagree with this but that’s another article) the next question that you’ll need to answer is “do I need a concealed carry permit for pepper spray”?
In most areas in the U.S., you DO NOT need any type of permit, license, or training to buy, own, and carry pepper spray – that is if you’re 18 years or older and aren’t a felon… with the exception being Hawaii and Massachusetts that require license or permit. However, in some states, there ARE some restrictions such as the size of the canister (amount of liquid spray in the can) also there are a few cities like such as Chicago where it is illegal. Oh yeah, and it cannot be carried on a commercial airline in a manner where it is accessible.
To be on the safe side of legality and because I’m not your lawyer, heck, I’m not even a lawyer, it is wise to do further research and to contact your local police or sheriffs department if you have any questions regarding the legality of carrying pepper spray in your area.
Okay, with the legal stuff out of the way let’s take a look at what pepper spray is, its effects, and how to use it effectively to stop an aggressor…
The active ingredient in pepper spray is chili peppers aka capsicum – however, it is super concentrated for maximum effectiveness.
When someone is sprayed in the face with pepper spray there is an almost immediate inflammatory reaction in the airways that disrupts breathing and there is a forced closing and inability to keep the eyes open. If the attacker is having trouble breathing and can’t keep their eyes open then they can’t continue to effectively assault you.
Of, course, there are a few exceptions where an aggressor has continued their attack despite having been sprayed, however, this isn’t the norm. Most people who are sprayed across the eyes and face with an effective pepper spray formula will immediately stop their attack while trying to find relief for their discomfort (screaming, cursing, coughing, and rubbing their eyes) allowing you time to exit to safety by leaving the area.
Tip: As soon as you have left the area call the police and report to them what happened and where. Why? Because there is a good probability that as soon as the attacker can call the police themselves, they will and play the victim. Calling the police first is important because they often believe whoever calls first leaving you open for arrest and having to prove your innocence in a court of law. This goes double if the attacker is someone that you know and they know you because then they can and will name you and give other details to the police while playing the innocent victim.
How to Use Pepper Spray
When it comes to learning how to effectively using pepper spray getting training from a qualified instructor is great and recommended if possible, however, there isn’t any reason that you can’t learn how to use it effectively on your own by reading the rest of this article, watching some YouTube videos, and practice.
The most important thing is to buy more than one can of your chosen pepper spray so that you can practice and know how it works, and what to expect when you spray it at a target, you’ll also get a feel for the effective range of your brand and type of spray.
Getting A Propper Grip
I’ve noticed in training that most people who have never used pepper spray will often try to use their index finger when spraying. Sure, you can get it to work that way but it’s not the correct way or the most effective. The correct way is to use your thumb to press and spray while having your four fingers wrapped firmly around the can.
Taking this grip with give you better control, make it more difficult for an attacker to take the spray away from you and when held this way your hand is already made into a fist so you can strike the aggressor if needed while still holding the can of pepper spray.
How to Spray Pepper Spray
There are several different spray patterns available and you need to be aware of your chosen canisters spray pattern.
The most common patterns are stream and gell – with both of these you want to spray ear to ear back and forth across the eyes saturating the ocular area and face.
With fogger spray patterns it’s best to spray up and down the center of the face and with foam, spray patterns spray in a circular motion to the aggressor’s face.
When spraying an aggressor, you don’t want to just stand there in the same place. An aggressor by nature is likely coming forward and towards you and if you spray and then just stand there in the same location the attacker may continue forward and take hold of you despite being sprayed which is what you don’t want.
Practice spraying and sidestepping out of the way of the attackers’ momentum so that if they keep coming forward after being sprayed you will not be there in the same place for them to take hold of. Spray and move. Practice it. Perfect it. Own it.
What’s the Best Pepper Spray
There are many different makers, formulas, and brands of pepper spray on the market and it can be difficult to choose the best because of all of the marketing hype. With that said the two that I recommend are the Fox Labs 5.3 formula (check availability and the current price on Amazon.com) and the SABRE Red formulation (click here to check the current price on Amazon.com).
Now you’re probably asking “well which of those two are pepper sprays are the best” and to be honest both are good and one is just as good as the other, however, I’ve carried and used both (on aggressive dogs) and I now carry SABRE Red exclusively, but that’s more of a personal choice rather than a vote for the effectiveness of one or the other.
How effective is pepper spray? During my research, I couldn’t find any research papers or documented studies that gave a definitive answer via percentage, so I talked to a couple of local friends of mine who are also police officers with years of experience and they told me that with a good formula like SABRE Red that they have seen an effective rate of over 90%. Effectiveness meaning that once sprayed the perpetrator immediately stopped and was rendered unable to offer further resistance other than cursing while gasping for breath and trying to get the burning to stop.
What’s the best pepper spray treatment? Unfortunately, if you are forced to use pepper spray there could be some spray blowback that could potentially affect you. Or if you don’t effectively sidestep when spraying a charging attacker, they might be able to take hold of you and spread the spray via skin to skin contact while grappling. The best treatment is repeatedly flushing the eyes with fresh water and if available wash affected skin with soap and water, rinse and repeat as much as needed.
Pepper spray vs mace what’s the difference? When Mace first came out the company used a formula containing phenacyl chloride or CN tear gas, however, they currently use OC spray (pepper spray) and there isn’t any real difference between pepper spray and mace, with Mace essentially being just a brand name for another pepper spray company. The only difference that I’m aware of is with their “triple action” that uses a formula of OC Pepper, Tear Gas, and UV Dye.