NOTE: This information is provided as general advice only and all local laws should be consulted for using these devices.
When picking pepper spray you will want to take several things into consideration. We have come up with 9 different things to consider.
There seems to be a never ending field of options when it comes to pepper spray. How do you know if you’re picking pepper spray that is right for you or getting something you don’t need or won’t work for your situation? Follow the guide below and you will be well on your way to getting the spray that will work for you.
Below are the things you will need to consider when picking pepper spray.
- SCU or Scoville Heat Units
- Spray Pattern
- Identify your attacker.
- Location & Laws
There are three different formulas of pepper spray available on the market today.
- CS or orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile
- OC or Oleoresin Capsicum
- CN or alphachloroacetaphenone
OC is most likely the most common and definitely one of the most effective formulas. OC is an inflammatory agent and comes from a variety of different peppers. An Inflammatory agent has some very powerful effects when anyone is sprayed by it. Probably the most useful effect for self defense purposes is that the eyes will clamp shut very tight which will make it nearly impossible to see or even open your eyes. When picking pepper spray I highly suggest an OC spray because it is so effective. The OC will also cause temporary blindness by dilating the capillaries of the eyes. The blindness is just temporary and will usually fade away in about an hour for most sprays used. OC will also inflame the lung tissue which will cause extreme coughing and limited breathing ability. Keep in mind that necessary Life supporting breathing will continue, it will just be much more difficult to breath.
CN and CS type sprays are not inflammatory agents. These chemicals are irritants and are totally man made. When you are sprayed by an irritant you will experience a lot of pain and the tear ducts will begin to produce excessive tears. The CN and CS type sprays are no longer as common as the OC because they are not considered as effective. Most of the time a when you hear the term tear gas it is made with either the CN or CS. One of the problems with these chemicals is that they take takes to take effect. They can take as long as 30 seconds to become effective. When I am picking pepper spray I want it to work immediately so the CS and CN sprays are not on my list when picking pepper spray. These sprays have also been known to cause several different types of medical problems.
2. SHU (Scoville Heat Units)
SHU is the measurement of heat a pepper produces. Because only the OC is derived from a pepper, it is the only one that will be rated in SHU’s. When picking pepper spray, choose a high SHU. SHU heat is set on a chart from mild to hot peppers. The lowest pepper on the SHU chart is the Bell pepper at 0 SHU. The highest on the chart is the Naga Jolokia pepper found in Bangladesh with an SHU of 1,050,000. Remember that just because the pepper is 1,050,000 SHU’s does not mean that the hottest pepper spray will be made with the Jolokia pepper. Pepper spray manufacturers have worked with these sprays and have found ways to concentrate the heat and produce pepper sprays of 5 million SHU and above. Pure Capsicum has an SHU of up to 16 Million. So the more SHU, the stronger the pepper spray. Remember that a pepper spray with a super high SHU can possibly cause extreme health risks and even tissue damage. For this reason you will not find many sprays above 3 million SHU’s and most max out around 2 million SHU. A spray with 2 million SHU is very effective. You don’t want to cause permanent damage to an assailant regardless of what they planned to do, you don’t want to end up in jail with them.
Concentration refers to the percentage of OC a spray contains. The percentage of OC will generally range from 5% to 25%. Using the concentration % to pick a pepper spray is not a good way to tell the how effective an OC spray is. It is possible that different peppers were used when calculating concentration %. A 25% OC spray made from a bell pepper will not be even close to as effective as a 5% concentration of a Naga Jolokia pepper. It is best when picking a pepper spray to use the SHU of a spray and ignore the concentration % unless you are comparing sprays made from the same type of pepper. In most cases you will not be able to find out what peppers where used.
Pepper sprays come in many sizes from tiny .5 ounce sprays to giant 1 pound super sprays. The .5 ounces sprays are great for carrying on a keychain in a pocket or even in a purse. The biggest downfall to small spray is that you will only get 4 or 5 one second sprays. When you use the larger sprays like the 1 pounds spray, you will get a lot of shots but it will be very difficult to carry with you. The larger sprays are usually intended for use in the home, business, car, motor home or boat. These large sprays will allow you to fend off a whole army of attackers giving you plenty of time for escape.
5. Spray Pattern
Pepper sprays come in 3 primary spray patterns fog, stream and mist. You will find that the stream is the most common of the patterns and is very easy to find. The stream is very effective and there are a few advantages of the stream spray. Stream type sprays will go further than the mist or fog in most situations. If it is windy the stream will not be carried easily by wind or air currents. If it’s windy out, your shot should hit its target. The biggest downfall to the stream is that it tends to trap the OC in the carrier agent. When the OC gets trapped it does not enter the lungs as quickly as it would as a mist or fog.
The second form of pepper spray is the fog. Foggers also have its advantages. When picking pepper spray you will find that the fog’s droplets of OC are very tiny allowing them to enter the lungs very quickly. When it enters the lungs quickly it takes effect quickly. This is a good thing. The biggest downfall of the fogger is that it is effected by wind, but not as much as the mist style of spray. You will also get fewer sprays with a fog type spray so use it wisely. The force that is used to push the fog the required distance also causes the spray to empty much quicker than the stream.
The last of the 3 is the mist. Mist pepper spray is not nearly as common as the stream and fog. You will find it available from some manufacturers. A mist spray will cover a wider area. The mist generally will not shoot very far and is carried by the wind and air currents very easily.
When I am in the process of picking pepper spray I usually go with the fogger or stream style spray. The fog I like because it has good distance, works quickly and does not get carried as easily by wind. The fogger does have one huge advantage over the stream type spray. When spraying the fog, you can spray a wall of hell between you and a group of attackers and have a chance to get away. The aggressors will need to find their way through the fog wall in order to get to you. If they force their way through, it will be very difficult to continue an attack. When sprayed the fog will hang in the air for a period of time before it finally reaches the ground.
Pepper sprays come in a whole lot of different designs. From Lipstick Pepper Spray to Ring Pepper Spray there is one that will meet your needs. The most common is likely the keychain pepper spray. When picking pepper spray, most people go with the keychain because it always with you and ready to be used nearly all the time. The 2 ounce belt clip spray is also very common. You need to decide what type would work best for your situation and decide if one of the covert sprays would be better for you. Remember, the larger the spray the more times you can spray an attacker or attackers.
7. Identify Your Assailant?
Pepper spray can come with dye mixed into the formula so when an attacker is sprayed, the police can identify them by the dye they were sprayed with. Some of these dyes can show up in a visible color like red or blue while others only show up under UV light. I think anyone picking pepper spray should consider one with a dye in the formula.
In most cases the price of pepper spray is low no matter which you choose. A good .5 ounce spray can be as cheap as $5.00. Most times, the larger the size like the top rated Wildfire 1 Pound Pistol Grip, the higher the price. You can be looking at spending up to $50 for this type of spray. Regardless of how much you have to spend, picking pepper spray of any cost is well worth the effectiveness and protection it provides.
9. Location and Laws
The laws of pepper sprays are very important to consider when picking pepper spray. Pepper spray is not legal everywhere. We have located some laws for pepper spray to help you. Pepper spray is legal in most states in some form. If it is not legal in your state, consider a bear spray or dog spray. Animal spray work well on human’s also.
Pepper Spray Laws and Restrictions
These are laws we are aware of. However, we do not guarantee that they are up to date.
New York: New York residents may only purchase defense sprays from licensed Firearms Dealers or licensed Pharmacists in that state. Canine and Bear Pepper Spray is legal in this state.
Massachusetts: Massachusetts residents may only purchase defense sprays from licensed Firearms Dealers in that state.
States Where Pepper Sprays Have Some Restrictions
Michigan: OC Pepper spray can be no stronger then a 2% concentrate (Different companies can sell different concentrations.) CS is the only Tear Gas accepted and can be no larger than 35 grams per can. No combination spray allowed. Canine and Bear Pepper Spray is legal in this state.
View Michigan Approved Pepper Spray
Wisconsin: Pepper only. No Tear gas. OC can be no stronger then a 10% solution. The can must have a total weight of not less than 15 grams (approximately a half ounce) and not more than 60 grams (which is approximately two ounces). The can must look like an aerosol can and not disguised as another product (no lipstick, pen, pager, Hotwalker or stunning ring pepper spray to WI). Must have safety feature. Canine and Bear Pepper Spray is legal in this state.
NOTE: Pepper Spray is legal in all 50 states, however a number of cities and states have restrictions on sizes, strengths, etc.. If you have a question when picking pepper spray, it is wise to check with your local city or state attorney’s office.
Some Final Notes
You also may want to consider either Mace Pepper Gel or Mace Pepper Foam. These self defense sprays are very effective and act like a glue when sprayed. These two mace products are very difficult to remove and they let you know you hit your target. With these sprays you will have plenty of time to get away as long as you hit your mark.
If I were picking pepper spray for personal self defense, I would pick a portable spray so I always have it ready. My choice would be the 1/2 ounce Wildfire keychain pepper spray. It is very hot at 2,000,000 SHU’s and an 18% spray. I like the black one, but they are also available in blue or red.