Pepper spray is a great non lethal self-defense spray. In this article, I will show you a variety of sprays and gels you can use to defend yourself and your property. But first, we’ll review some safety information and factors to consider when using pepper spray products.
It is very important that you understand how to use pepper spray. Although pepper spray is simple to use, you need to know a few things to use it safely and effectively.
This may sound obvious, but in stressful circumstances, it is easy to make mistakes. If you are in a situation serious enough to use pepper spray, you need to react quickly and correctly.
Where pepper spray is applied has a lot to do with its effectiveness. At the same time, pepper spray may not completely stop someone. It is more likely to just buy you time to get to safety. Be ready to run. Do not stand around watching what happens or freeze up.
Pepper spray can make an already violent and angry person even more so. They may try to do something worse despite being in pain. You need to get away!
Pepper spray comes in a pressurized container that aerosolizes it into a fine mist. Wind or a breeze can direct some or all of the spray toward you. You must be very careful when using pepper spray.
Pepper gel comes in a similar container, but it shoots a stream of gel. There is no aerosolization, so it’s safer to use in windy conditions or inside a building. There’s less chance you’ll get any on yourself. However, gel doesn’t spread out, so you don’t get as much coverage.
Pepper spray comes in various sizes. A large pepper spray canister is typically for bears or home defense. Police use large containers for riot control. Civilians can purchase some very large containers with up to 150 sprays.
For most people, small containers that fit in a purse or on a key chain are the most practical. However, you might consider a larger container for your home, business, or car.
Some pepper sprays contain UV dye that allows law enforcement to identify a perpetrator. If pepper spray has dye, the product description or label will say so.
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Pepper spray comes in different strengths. The capsaicin content indicates how powerful the spray is. The higher the percentage, the more the spray will hurt a perpetrator.
A small pepper spray canister doesn’t generally shoot as far as a larger container. Know the range of a pepper spray weapon before purchasing it.
Pepper spray canisters do not last forever. Check the shelf life before you buy. Most canisters have a 4-year shelf life. Occasionally check the canister for signs of leakage or damage. Someone I know carried a canister in their pocket for a year. It began to leak around the top, and they got a nasty rash from slight contact with the spray.
This is a basic and easy to use keychain canister of name-brand Mace with UV Dye. It has an ergonomic handle to ensure you point it where it needs to go. The handle design makes it less likely to slip out of your hand than a smooth canister.
This large fire extinguisher style canister is made for defending a large area and protecting against multiple attackers. It’s too big to carry in a purse, but it could be kept in a vehicle. The canister is about 10″ tall, so you could put it in a get home bag. If you don’t carry a firearm or are in situations where they’re not allowed, a large canister of pepper spray with a 25-ft blast zone is a decent and legal alternative (laws vary, check before buying).
For those who want a less than lethal method of defense for their home, this maximum strength spray is an affordable and effective choice.
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If you want pepper spray for multiple family members, Vexor is a decent option. Or perhaps you want to stash a canister of pepper spray in your car, get home bag, or other location.
Each canister contains up to 20 bursts of pepper spray with a 20 ft range. That’s really good for something that clips to your belt. Vexor has been making pepper spray for over 35 years. Their sprays are used by many law enforcement and military agencies worldwide.
SABRE is one of the top pepper spray brands. It’s used by the New York and Chicago police departments and the US Marshalls. This small canister is made for rapid and safe deployment. It has a 4-year shelf life and features a belt clip for easy carry. If you prefer a belt holster, follow this link.
This convenient gel canister is made to offer easy access at your home or business. Since it’s a gel, it can be used indoors without harming bystanders. This is an excellent nonlethal alternative for home defense. I like that it contains enough gel to ward off multiple assailants. Home invasions are increasingly common and often involve two or more perpetrators.
This pepper gel spray is also a good choice for a vehicle. During uncertain times, the odds of running into trouble increase, especially for those who work or live in urban areas where unrest is more likely to occur.
This spray is unique because it comes in gun form. Some people may be more comfortable with this system.
In the heat of the moment, an attacker might assume you have a real gun. That could be good or bad. If a person thinks you have a gun, they could become more violent. They might pull out a real gun. On the other hand, they could be scared by the sight of anything shaped like a gun. Of course, after you deploy the spray it will be clear that it’s not a firearm.
I like that Mace includes a water cartridge so you can practice using the pepper spray gun. It’s best to be very familiar with any weapon you might use.
The PepperBall LifeLife Launcher is designed to offer an easy to use self-defense option. It accurately shoots balls full of pepper spray. I am impressed with the distance you can launch a ball. The maker claims that a ball can travel up to 40 feet. On impact, the pepper ball breaks open and creates a 12-foot diameter cloud of pepper spray. The impact of the ball itself is an additional deterrent.
These launchers are marketed to those who walk or jog a lot. Elderly individuals find that the PepperBall launcher provides peace of mind when walking their dog, getting some exercise, or running errands.
PepperBall includes blank rounds so you can practice using the laser sight and get used to operating the launcher.
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This version of the PepperBall launcher costs 50% more but shoots twice as far, and it holds an extra two pepper balls.
I think this is a great multipurpose item for your key chain. Sometimes things that claim to do too much are a gimmick, but this tool is made by one of the most trusted names in the pepper spray industry.
The canister design is discreet. You don’t look at it and immediately know it’s pepper spray. I like the textured grip. This is so important for an emergency escape and self-defense device.
Location tracking is not for everyone, but the fact is that if you have your cell phone on and with you, it is happening. This pepper spray system is unique because it’s linked to an app and messaging system. If you use the spray, the pepper spray connects to your phone and sends a text message to your chosen emergency contacts stating that you’ve used your spray and giving your location. They also receive a phone call telling them that they are being texted a location.
This spray made the list because it’s discreet and easy to hide. This compact pen has a lot of stopping power from a trusted company. It can fit comfortably in a shirt pocket. The pen cap style lid secures it to your pocket, so it doesn’t slip out. The lid prevents accidental discharges. To use simply take off the cap, aim, and spray.
SABRE does a good job of offering discreet pepper spray options for regular folks. This looks like a tube of high end lipstick. The cap prevents accidental spraying. This is a very affordable pepper spray option. The spray also contains UV dye for identification.
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This pepper spray comes in an aircraft grade aluminum container with a knurled finish for an outstanding grip. I like that it doesn’t look like pepper spray at all. In fact, it looks more like a small Maglite from a bit of a distance.
This is strong pepper spray. It is a 10% oleoresin capsicum formulation for maximum stopping power.
This is a pretty neat all-in-one safety device from Guard Dog Security. The flashlight can illuminate up to 50 feet away so you can identify threats faster. I think a stun gun for backup is not a bad idea. Pepper spray is great, but having more than one defense option improves your odds.
I was pleased to see that the pepper spray cartridge is replaceable. That means that if the cartridge gets old or is used, you can pop in another rather than buying a whole new unit.
This tool is an excellent choice for an EDC or get home bag. The discreet design means no one will know that you’re carrying a formidable self-defense tool.
You might assume that bear pepper spray is stronger than human pepper spray.
But that’s not true. Bears have a sense of smell 7x better than a bloodhound! The spray doesn’t have to be as strong to be effective. Or at least that’s the theory. Many bear pepper sprays are around 2% active pepper compounds, whereas human pepper spray is up to 18%.
Here’s an informative video about the difference between bear and human pepper sprays. It’s definitely worth watching.
Warning! Making your own pepper spray could result in a spray stronger than what is commercially available. This means greater damage to anyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with it. The strength depends on the process used and the heat units of the peppers. For example, habañero pepper spray will be more painful than jalapeño.
Here is a video on making your own pepper spray.
Pepper spray is a good choice for non lethal defense. It is affordable and easy for anyone to use. Pepper spray gel is better than aerosolized sprays in most cases because it can be used inside and is less likely to drift due to wind.
Pepper spray has a limited shelf life. Over time, it can lose pressure or become damaged from being carried. Periodically check your container for damage or leaks. Pepper spray should be replaced every 2-4 years on average. Pepper spray makes an excellent addition to a bug out or get home bag.
Pepper spray is considered a non lethal weapon. That doesn't mean that it can't contribute to death.
Pepper spray causes temporary blindness. What a person does during that time could be dangerous. Pepper spray means losing the ability to see what is going on. Stumbling around blindly, especially with a weapon in hand, could result in serious injury or death.
There's also the possibility of an allergic reaction or an underlying condition that's exacerbated by pepper spray. Such occurrences are extremely rare but not unheard of.
The bottom line, don't forget that pepper spray is a chemical weapon and make wise choices on when you really need to use it.
Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states. Some states restrict the types of spray, canister size, and strength. Those with a felony on their record may be prohibited from carrying pepper spray. Check with local law enforcement for specifics on any self-defense spray.
Pepper spraying someone without a good reason could result in assault charges, medical bill restitution, and more. It should only be used when you really think you are in danger.
In the US, pepper spray can only be purchased by those over the age of 18 but it is not illegal for those under 18 to carry.
You can make your own pepper spray. However, you probably can't put it in a reasonably sized container with enough pressure to spray a good distance.
For home defense, you could mix some up and put it in a small half gallon or gallon sized agricultural sprayer and get more distance.
Samantha is Ready To Go Survival's lead editor, a life-long outdoorswoman with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies. She learned the foundation of preparedness from her father who saw heavy combat in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. An avid outdoors woman and survivalist, her articles have appeared in various homesteading magazines such as GRIT, Back Home, Backwoods Home, and Countryside.