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Pepper spray is one of the most commonly carried non-lethal self-defense products used by professionals.
Police officers, military, security guards and even normal everyday people like you should carry pepper spray for an additional level of protection.
Self-defense sprays can be used to ward off an attacking animal such as a bear or protect you from a carjacker or mugger on a nightly stroll.
If you are in search of information on what pepper spray is, or if you are just looking for some information on how pepper spray works or how it should be handled, just keep scrolling and we will answer most your questions in the next few sections.
Check out the best pepper spray reviews below. We put a lot of time and effort into making sure we recommend the best products available, protect yourself today!
Top Pepper Spray Products 2020
Pepper Spray Keychains for Personal Outdoor Use
Sabre makes some of the best pepper spray products on the market and this one offers tons of bang for your buck. You get a whopping 25 shots of a heavy stream packed into a compact canister that is easy to conceal and carry.
This model also features a quick release pepper spray keychain for fast and effortless deployment allowing you to diffuse the situation very quickly.
The effective range is about 10 feet and the spray is deployed with a powerful stream to prevent blow-back from the wind. If you are looking for something cheap that can dish out plenty of self-defense power this is the pick for you.
Pepper Spray for Personal Indoor Use
SABRE products are used by many police departments in the United States and are proven to provide a very effective and trusted product. This model includes a free holster so you have immediate access to the spray, this is a great feature if you are taking this on a hike or on a camping trip.
The range is quite nice providing protection up to 18 feet and which is dispensed in a thick gel substance that will stick to your targets. This product is safe to use indoors and greatly reduces the risk of back-spray.
The mixture is a sticky substance that prevents the need for cleanup that the spray type dispensers require if deployed indoors. Overall this is a great product for your personal defense in indoor situations and ranks up in out top picks.
Best OC Spray for Home Defense and Business Protection
This OC spray has a four year shelf life plus a free how-to-use video. You can use this product for targets up to 30 feet away and you get an impressive 32 burst capacity.
The spray pattern is a gel type and includes a convenient wall-mounting bracket for tactical placement around your home or business.
This one made our top picks due to the high range and huge capacity this product features. Placing more distance between you and your attacker is a key thing to remember when diffusing a situation, and this product does just that.
Coolest Looking Pepper Spray Product
This product is the coolest-looking pepper spray device on the market and is also one of the most accurate defense sprays available. The gun features a trigger-activated LED light to further disorientate the attacker.
It has a net weight of only 28 grams and dispenses an OC Pepper / UV Dye mixture in a power stream pattern.
You will get seven shots out of this bad boy and it can hit targets up to 20 feet away. This made our top picks for a few reasons (some more obvious than others).
The cool construction of the device gives it a bit more of an eye-catching appeal than other products but also delivers an extra level of intimidation due to it looking like a gun. The Mace brand makes terrific products that have been used by thousands of happy customers for years.
Most Powerful Pepper Spray
Fox Labs knocks it out of the park when it comes to strength. We have talked to tons of police officers, military personnel, and security guards all have good things to say about the Fox Labs product line.
Most individuals who have field tested Fox Labs against other brands will tell you that it burns the worst and lasts the longest. With a 1 pound capacity, you will get over 50 1/2 second bursts at distances of around 20 feet.
This product offers a huge area of coverage and can take out multiple targets with ease making it another one of the best pepper spray products you can own. You cannot go wrong with Fox Labs, this product will not disappoint.
Best Pepper Spray 2020 – The Ultimate Self-Defense Spray Guide
This guide was designed to help inform and answer any and all questions you may have about pepper spray products. If you have any additional questions that were not answered in our guide please leave a comment below and we would me more than happy to help.
Table of Contents
What is Pepper Spray Made of?
Pepper spray is an aerosol-based skin and eye irritant used in self-dense situations. There are three active ingredients in pepper spray: CS (Chlorobenzylidene-malononitrile), CN (Phenacyl chloride), and OC (Oleoresin Capsicum), which is the same chemical that gives peppers a spicy taste.
Mace, OC spray, CS spray, tear gas and self-defense spray are some other terms you may hear individuals use when referring to pepper spray. Most commonly associated with police officers who carry pepper spray for incapacitating a suspect, protecting themselves from an attacker or dismissing a riot situation all with non-lethal force.
Chemical Breakdown of Active Ingredients
CS and CN: These ingredients provide the irritant that affects the membrane tissues, and causes the involuntary tearing and stinging of the skin. These symptoms can take up to 30 seconds to be effective, and may be less effective if the target is drunk or impaired in some other manner.
OC: Oleoresin Capsicum is the primary component in pepper spray that provides the inflammatory agent, which does not act as an irritant. When hit with OC spray, the targets’ eyelids will immediately be forced shut, causing temporary blindness. This chemical will still affect individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol making it the preferred choice over CS or CN gas.
A combination of these 3 substances makes up the high-quality military and police grade pepper spray products.
Effects of Pepper Spray on the Body
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of mucous membranes
- Irritated eyes, throat, and nose
- Uncontrollable coughing
- Painful burning of skin
- Constant nasal and sinus discharge
- Temporary blindness
Although these symptoms are temporary, they can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to subside.
What to Look for When Purchasing Pepper Spray
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a self-defense spray. Make sure you do your research on each of these points to ensure you purchase the most effective pepper spray for your needs.
Distance, strength, the number of shots, size and spray pattern type, as well as, additional features like pepper spray keychains or holsters are all crucial elements to review before you make your purchase.
Another thing to consider is the location you expect to use the spray in. Patterns such as foam or gel are better for indoor use, while a fog or stream pattern is better in an outdoor setting.
Doing the proper research and getting the right type of spray for your specific need could greatly improve your chances of survival.
One of the main features you need to look for is the distance the product can cover. Depending on your individual situation, this may vary.
For instance, if you are looking to purchase a product that is good for defense against bears or other large animals, you will need to be able to hit your target safely with satisfactory distance.
Bear spray is specifically designed to cover distances of around 30′, giving you plenty of space between you and the attacking animal. This will be a different type of pepper spray than one used in close proximity situations.
The strength of the product is another important thing to consider when shopping for pepper spray.
Buying products from known names such as Sabre and Mace Security will ensure you get a high-powered extremely strong pepper spray formula.
There are a few methods of measuring the strength or heat of the spray: Scovill Heat Units, CRC Rating and the MC Rating. We’ll get more in-depth on how to measure a spray’s strength down below.
Number of Shots
This describes how many times the spray can be shot before the canister is empty. Depending on the expected situation additional shots may be required for the spray to be effective.
In most cases the more shots the better, but if you are looking for a smaller canister that is easier to conceal, you may be limited to fewer shots.
Size and Type
There are many different options when it comes to pepper spray or mace. You may want to conceal the spray easily and look for a smaller pepper spray keychain model or if you are looking for protection against animals a bigger can with a solid distance would be a better fit.
Again, the spray pattern is probably the most important factor to consider before you make your purchase, but make sure to take all aspects into consideration before making a purchase.
Be sure to explore the additional features of the products before making any purchases. Safety features and locking mechanisms may be required if you have children.
Features such as a keychain, runner straps, holsters, decontamination wash and other accessories are also available. Check out our list of must-have pepper spray accessories below.
Make note that defense sprays do have a shelf life and will expire after a certain amount of time.
The spray will still deploy after expiration but it loses potency over time; it will become less and less effective in the event of an emergency.
Set a reminder for yourself to replace devices upon expiration in your home and business.
Types of Pepper Spray Patterns
There are several different spray patterns to choose from when purchasing pepper spray. Each pattern can be beneficial depending on the scenario and setting in which it will be used.
The stream is the most common type of spray pattern, similar to that of a water pistol or cleaning spray. This spray has an average distance of 10 to 25 feet, depending on the specifications of the device.
It is very effective outdoors, even in the wind, due to the high pressure and high-velocity discharge. You should be careful using this type of product indoors, though, as the overspray could blow back into your direction.
Sometimes called forced, cone spray is effective when in a six to 12-foot range. The spray pattern is a circular stream with a two-foot diameter.
If the target inhales even the smallest amount of this spray, they will experience instant choking and involuntary coughing. With a wide coverage, this spray is ideal for indoor or close-range situations.
Pepper spray gel is the preferred method for indoors or in close proximity situations. When the substance is deployed, the gel sticks to the target with no overspray.
These products can cover up to a 30 foot distance on average. The gel is usually very sticky and will cause the target a great deal of discomfort.
If you are looking for the safest pepper spray to use indoors you cannot go wrong with the gel types.
Foam pepper spray is similar to gel, but has a sticky heavy foam instead of a gel-like consistency. When dispensed at a target, the foam will stick to its face or skin, and cause instant burning and discomfort to the exposed area.
Another advantage is that the foam is very difficult to remove from the skin, which causes additional pain when the target tries to remove it. To remove, the target will have to rub the chemicals deeper into the skin.
The fog sprays, or foggers, have the finest droplets. They are great for covering a larger area and for hitting multiple targets at a time.
This can also be used to block off areas or hallways in a short amount of time, making them temporarily impassable. The fogger-type spray is deployed very quickly and with great force; it has the quickest bulk coverage of the spray patterns.
We recommend using the fogger type sprays in open outdoor areas, use of a fog spray indoors could result in major blowback causing you to experience the same painful effects as the attacker.
This pattern is specific to pepper spray guns. You can think of this pattern as a shotgun type pattern that is extremely accurate.
You will get a 2-foot wide coverage with this type of spray pattern and the distance can vary by device so make sure to read the specs for each one. We have seen pepper spray guns that can hit targets up to 150 feet away!
Consider the target shot when long distance and pinpoint accuracy are both of concern.
How is Pepper Spray Strength Measured?
Be cautious when purchasing pepper spray from non-credible companies, as they may use deceiving numbers or statistics to fool you into thinking the product is stronger than it actually is.
Do not be fooled by OC Percentage or Scoville Heat Units (SHU) – they are inaccurate measures of the pepper spray’s true strength. The OC percentage only measures the amount of pepper within the spray, and does not measure the heat or strength of the compound.
Companies can also base the SHU measurement off the raw pepper before it is mixed with the chemical compounds, which form the spray. This causes the true measure to be much lower, as it has been watered down by the additional ingredients.
What you do want to look for is the MC Rating (Major Capsaicinoids). These tests are performed by high-performance liquid chromatography or HPLC testing and are the truest measure of pepper spray strength. SABRE RED is one of the only companies that perform these tests and standards on their products.
Is Pepper Spray Legal in my State?
For the most current information on pepper spray laws, check with your state, county or federal authorities in regard to use and possession of personal defense sprays.
Only use pepper spray if you are being attacked or are encountered by a real threat. Improper use of pepper spray can result in legal repercussions, including fines and jail time, depending on your local laws.
Safety and Decontamination
Pepper spray can be extremely intense if you are the one being sprayed. Knowing the proper way to treat a pepper spray incident could be the matter of life or death.
The illustration below will offer a simple step by step process to provide an antidote for pepper spray symptoms.
- Put on a pair of protective gloves before handling a contaminated individual
- Move the subject out of the contaminated area
- Inspect the individual for any potential medical concerns
- Remind the individual that the effects are only temporary and you are there to help
- Make sure you remove any clothing that has been contaminated and place in a sealed plastic bag
- Wipe down the subject’s skin with a cool damp cloth, making sure to avoid their eyes
- Flush their eyes and skin with cool running water
- Instruct the subject to blink rapidly to trigger their natural tear response
- The effects should fully wear off within an hour
- Restrict access to the contamination area until all surfaces have been wiped down with soap and water
Remember the effects are only temporary and should fully subside within an hour.
After cleaning or assisting with cleanup of any defensive spray product, always wash your hands with soap and water.
Make sure to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any signs of injury.
If you are looking for products on the market that are specifically designed to neutralize the active ingredients in these sprays. Check out – Pepper Spray Treatment Products
Most Common Pepper Spray Questions – FAQ Section
How do I use pepper spray?
Make sure you are familiar with your device and are prepared to use it if the situation arises. Familiarize yourself with all aspects of the device, the holster, locking mechanism, and firing button. Hold the device firmly in one hand with the safety off and press the firing button down for 2–3 second bursts.
You can practice this outdoors (make sure you are not spraying into the wind) or you can buy an inert practice canister that will simulate the distance and amount of spray that can be deployed.
Once you spray the attacker, make sure to run and call the police. Try to be as descriptive as possible to assist the authorities in the capture of the suspect.
If your pepper spray features UV dye, make sure to inform the officers that the pepper spray contains UV dye, as this can greatly improve positively identifying your attacker.
What is the range of pepper spray?
The smaller hand-held canisters that are most commonly carried average between 8 to 15 feet. Some of the larger units can spray up to 30 feet.
Which Pepper Spray Brands Can I Trust?
There are many companies that manufacture pepper spray but only a few are considered professional grade. We only review products that are used by police and military personnel to ensure you are getting the most powerful and trustworthy sprays available.
If you are looking for the best pepper spray brand make sure to check out products from the three companies listed below.
SABREred is one of the most popular brands and is considered to be one of the leaders in the self-defense spray industry.
Mace Security is another big name brand that is well-known and trusted by professionals.
The last big name that you may see around is Fox Labs, they are very well trusted and make some of the most powerful concentrated pepper spray products on the market.
Be careful when purchasing sprays from unknown sources as they may not be as effective as the brands mentioned above.
Where can I buy pepper spray?
Depending on where you live you can even purchase pepper spray online and have it shipped to your home or business. Pepper spray is readily available so do not let this be your excuse to go unprotected.
What is Oleoresin Capsicum (OC)?
Oleoresin Capsicum is the oil extracted from peppers and is one of the active ingredients in pepper spray.
Although it is one of the most potent components of pepper spray, it is not a good indication of the product’s strength, so beware of shady advertising and unknown brands.
Does pepper spray work on animals?
Pepper spray is effective against animals both big and small. There are special devices designed for defense against bears that offer coverage up to 40 feet away. If you are in danger from a pesky dog in the neighborhood, look for EPA-approved spray. These sprays are tested and only contain a certain amount of active ingredients that are safe for dogs.
For more detailed information, read our bear spray article here: Bear Spray – Self-Defense Against Bear Attacks.
How do you get pepper spray out of your eyes?
Time is the ultimate cure, but there are a few things you can do to speed up the process. Keep in mind that the contents of these sprays are oil-based, so water will not mix. You will want to start by taking a cold, damp cloth and wiping the spray from your eye area, making sure not to rub any into your skin.
Next, flush your eyes with cool, running water to remove the remaining spray. Blink your eyes rapidly to activate your natural tear response. This will further flush your eyes from the irritant. Using these tips can greatly reduce the time it takes for the effects to wear off.
What is in capsicum spray?
Capsicum spray is just an alternative name for pepper spray. Some other names you may hear are OC spray, CS spray, CS gas, mace, and pepper gun.
What is the difference between mace and pepper spray?
These products are basically the same thing. There is a company named Mace Security and they refer to their products as “mace”. Mace Security sprays are comprised of the same active ingredients as other major self-defense spray manufacturers.
How long do pepper spray effects last?
The average duration of the effects is usually between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on the strength and formula of the pepper spray. This will allow ample time for you to escape while the attacker is battling the intense effects. Some sprays that offer a UV compound will stain the target’s skin for up to seven days.
These dyes pose no health risks and offer assistance to the police when trying to identify the suspect.
Are the effects permanent?
No, the effects are temporary. The effects are felt immediately after exposure and can last up to an hour.
Is it legal?
YES, pepper spray is legal in all 50 states. However, some states and local jurisdictions have regulations relating to possession, purchase, and use of self-defense or chemical sprays. Make sure to check with your local authorities to ensure you are able to carry and use these products in your area. We have put together a list with links to help point in the right direction here: Pepper Spray Laws by State.
Can I carry pepper spray when I travel?
As mentioned above, check with local authorities to ensure you are allowed to carry or use pepper spray. You can bring a 4 oz container on an airplane as long as it is in a checked bag and has a locking safety feature.
What is the shelf life of pepper spray?
The shelf life will vary depending on the individual manufacturing specifications. Usually, a canister will last between 2–4 years, but make sure to read the product information carefully and notate when to replenish your supplies.
Do you have any tips or advice that has worked for you, but don’t see it on our list? Send us an email and we’ll get it added!