Self defense sprays like mace and pepper spray are one of the most common self defense weapons carried by the average person. Unfortunately very few people who actually carry a self defense spray know much of anything about their weapon.
Using a self defense spray is not a simple as point and shoot. Although these products can provide you with great protection there are 5 basic things you must know before you buy and use a self defense spray.
1. What is the potency of your self defense spray?
To answer this question you usually look at the packaging of the product you want to buy or the description if you are buying online.
There are two ways that self defense sprays like mace and pepper spray are rated. The first is a measure of the percentage of oleoresin capsicum (OC) in the product. Oleoresin capsicum is the stuff that makes pepper spray burn. A high percentage does not necessarily mean a more effective product.
The second way it is measured is by measuring the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) of the product. This measurement is much more important because this is what the attacker will feel. The problem with high OC% products is that they tend to be thick and difficult to disperse. You want to choose a product with a minimum of 2,000,000 SHU.
If the product you are looking at has no rating don’t buy it, even if it looks like a good deal. The last thing you want is to spray an attacker with something that just pisses him off.
2. How long will it last?
Self defense sprays have an expiration date. They lose their potency over time. This means that you will have to replace your product regularly. If you have been carrying around the same can of pepper spray for years throw it out. It will be of little use.
When you buy pepper spray look for an expiration date. You don’t want to buy a product that has been sitting on the shelf for years.
3. What is the spray pattern?
There are a number of different spray patterns that are used in self defense sprays. These include stream, foam, fog, and cone. Each has its place and advantages. The stream sprays can be used at distances of up to 20 ft. This however requires great accuracy and has a lower success rate.
For most people I would recommend the fog or cone spray pattern. They are more likely to affect others with overspray, but because of how well they are dispersed they tend to be highly effective. They are only effective if your attacker is up close to you, but this is the most common self defense scenario anyways.
Self defense sprays with the fog or cone spray pattern tend to get into the attackers eyes nose and mouth making them highly effective at incapacitating the attacker with little chance of permanent damage.
4. How large is the canister?
When it comes to self defense sprays larger is not always better. Unless you are in law enforcement or security you probably won’t want to carry a large canister on your hip every day.
For this reason I highly recommend using a small discrete self defense spray. Many manufactures make a version that looks like a pen and can be carried every day. Pepper spray won’t do you much good if you leave it at home or in your glove box because it is too bulky.
Also unless you are in law enforcement a large canister is simply a waste. You will likely never have to use your self defense spray multiple times before it expires. So save some money and get a small single use canister.
5. Is it legal?
Many states have restrictions on self defense sprays; these restrictions control who can buy these products, and the size and concentration of the product. These states include New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington D.C., and California.
For the exact details of the restrictions contact your local police or sheriff’s department.
Lastly some people see self defense sprays as something that should only be used by women and the elderly. This is a foolish macho idea that is promoted by people who aren’t dealing with serious threats on a regular basis.
Over the past twenty years in the self defense industry I have worked with many U.S. and foreign Special Forces soldiers including Navy SEALs, Delta Force Operators, Department of Defense Contractors, Israeli Special Forces soldiers, and more. Many of them consider pepper spray their self defense weapon of choice (when they aren’t on the battle field) because of its effectiveness and ease of use.