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The Best Pepper Sprays for Self-Defense

With escalating crime rates, and more and more reports of home invasions during the day and people attacked in populated and well-lit surroundings, it seems you can never let your guard down when it comes to personal safety.  They say showing confidence is a good deterrent to attackers. One of the best confidence boosters you can have is knowing that you are protected, and having the means to protect yourself.

It may not always be feasible to carry a firearm, such as at work or on school property. One effective self-defense item that is legal in every state and many European countries, and that is easy to carry on your person is pepper spray.

What is pepper spray?

Pepper spray is a defense spray. Almost every law enforcement agency in the country uses it to some degree. It is used by police enforcement, corrections officers, riot control, and in crowd control situations to assist in subduing and arresting individuals whose behavior is considered violent or with those who will not cooperate. It is also used in self-defense, against human attackers, or with animal attackers (such as bears or dogs).

Why choose pepper spray for personal carry self-defense?

Pepper spray is a good choice due to price and effectiveness. It is non-lethal and will temporarily stop an attacker, allowing for the victim to escape.

Why is pepper spray effective?

Pepper spray is considered a lachrymatory agent. That’s a chemical that affects the eyes by causing tearing, a temporary loss of sight, and extreme pain. It inflames the eyes so badly they close, allowing for officer to gain control or in a self-dense situation, time to flee for the victim.

How long do the effects last?

The effects of the spray last from 15 to 45 minutes. It is suggested civilians use the “fogger” type so aim is not needed, the fog will do the job. Some sprays have a UV dye added to them, staining the attackers face, that can last for a week to help authorities with identification.

What compounds are in pepper spray?

Aerosol sprays that consist of, or contain, oleoresin capsicum are considered pepper sprays. The active ingredient is capsaicin which is derived from capsicum, which is extracted from chilis and hot peppers like serrano, jalapenos and cayenne.

Is pepper spray the same as tear gas?

Tear gas relies on the victim to feel pain. So in situations where the person may not (like drugged or psychotic persons), the chemical compounds in pepper spray will be more effective as it relies on an involuntary response. Tear gas takes longer to wear off with a longer lasting residue. Tear gas is not effective for wild animals, so pepper spray is better for animal attacks.

What are the other benefits of pepper spray?

Pepper spray is very cost effective and non-lethal. This makes it a very effective self-defense product. It is quick acting, and you do not need a permit to carry it.

Are there any limitations when using pepper spray?

The biggest limitation is that it does take a few seconds to work. This can be dangerous as an attacker can still reach you, take your spray (use it on you), or worse. Wind and rain can affect the spray when its aimed, by limiting the range and its effectiveness. You may get blowback or spray-back in windy conditions. Pepper spray has a shelf life of 3-4 years, and for the smaller key chains, it is recommended that they be replaced every 6 months.

What are the types of pepper sprays?

Pepper spray can be manufactured in many types, spray patterns, and point of aims.

  • Gel– this product is the newest. It minimizes cross contamination as it is sticky and stays on the target up to 15 feet. It has little chance of blowback and is ideal with indoor use.
  • Stream– this is best used outdoors as it works like a water gun. It works up to 10 feet and is not greatly affected by wind or rain. Blowback is low as it is a stream, but you need accurate aim and it isn’t good with multiple attackers.
  • Fog– this is more effective with animal sprays as it works up to 25 feet and no aim is needed. The drawback is that a lot is released in the air, so it has a chance of blowback. This type works well with multiple attackers.
  • Cone– This works at 2 to 8 feet and is delivered in a fine mist, affecting respiration. As it sprays it a cone shape, aim does not need to be as accurate as a fine stream.
  • Foam– foam is great indoors as it has very little chance of cross contamination. It is an easy clean up, much like shaving foam. The drawback to foam is you only have 4-6 feet of effectiveness.

How do I know how hot the spray is?

As there are no regulations for manufacturing pepper spray, you can only determine the strength by looking at a few distinctions of the product.

  • OC %- this is a little confusing as the higher the percentage, does not necessarily mean the hotter the product. Normal ranges are from 2-18%, but the heat is from the peppers not the (OC) Oleoresin Capsaicin or concentration.
  • SHU rating- SHU (Scoville Heat Units) measures the capsaicin, which is the heat of the chemical in the peppers for the spray. You need to watch for a product that is diluted with lower quality resins, and look at the net SHU strength.
  • CRC Rating- this tells you how much actual pepper is in there. This one is more reliable and is regulated by the EPA. 1% is a good rating, or above.
  • MC Rating- this is the best way to choose your heat, the MC % should be from 0.18% to 1.34% and it measures the concentration of the major capsaicinoid chemicals.

How do I shop for the best pepper sprays?

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for your personal defense spray, as you want the one that will work the best for you.

  • The type of spray delivered- we went over this above, but you need to considered where you will be using this form of self-defense spray.
  • Distance of the spray- 10 foot is the best for self-defense, as the farther away from your attacker you are, the more likely you have time to escape.
  • Size- almost all sprays come in canisters, but there are more compact versions. Key rings, armbands, lipsticks, purse sized or the basic cologne sized sprays need to fit where its dry and safe. You do not want it to be noticed.
  • Safety features- many laws require safety measures and features to be installed when carrying or for storage of your pepper spray. The features prevent accidental discharge.

Top 5 Picks for Best Pepper Sprays

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SABRE Red Pepper Gel – Police Strength – Tactical Series with 18-Foot (5.5M) Range, 18 Bursts & Belt Holster

This is Amazon’s #1 seller in self-defense sprays. It offers 20% more stopping range by having a span of 18 foot and includes a marking dye.

It contains 18 bursts and has a 4 year shelf life. It has no blowback as it is a gel and only affects what it is directly aimed at. It comes with a free training video and has a flip top safety feature that helps prevent accidental discharges.

SABRE 3-IN-1 Pepper Spray – Advanced Police Strength – Compact Size with Clip, Contains 35 Bursts (5x Other Brands) & 10-Foot (3M) Range

This one is a 3-in-1 spray includes tear gas and the UV marling dye in 25 bursts. I only picked the other as the range was a bit more, but this one is 10 foot so it’s plenty good. This is in a compact case, plus it’s a stream delivery so a very little chance of any blowback. Also, the stream is good for multiple attackers. This version has a locking top, so it’s safe in your purse or other places where children or pets may be.

Guard Dog AccuFire Pepper Spray with Laser Sight Top

I picked this one as its effective at 18% and up to 16 feet. It also has a laser target for accurate aiming and a non-leaking case. It is great protection from attacking animals, so camping or hiking protection.

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