How to use Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is a popular and effective self-defense tool for many people.  A small hand-held container of pepper spray propels a non-toxic liquid at an attacker to incapacitate them. It can be what saves a person from becoming a victim.  Pepper spray is available in a wide variety of sizes and types and can be purchased in many stores and even over the internet.

The active ingredient in pepper spray is an oil derived from plants in the Capsicum genus, including the chili pepper.  This ingredient is added to a propellant, and concentrated into a spray canister.  When pepper spray reaches its target, it is extremely irritating to mucus membranes and affects a person’s eyes, nose, mouth, and throat.  The eyes immediately close against the pain in what is called the “bluffer effect.”  The attacker’s skin feels like it is burning, their throat constricts, their nose runs in streams of mucus, and most people will drop in an attempt to defend themselves.  For this same reason pepper spray is very useful against animals.  It was first used in the United States as a defense tool for postal employees to stop attacking dogs, in fact.  Pepper spray works on all animals except reptiles, because they don’t have mucus membranes.

To effectively deploy pepper spray against an attacker, aim for their face.  Use a three to five second burst of spray.  This is all it will take.  Loading more on will not increase its effect.  Once the person is affected by the spray you can get away, call the police, or if necessary take steps to further incapacitate your attacker.

There are different types of sprays available.  Here are a few, with their method of use.

Spray:  Pepper defense sprays are just what they sound like, a spray.  Not unlike spraying hairspray.  They have a short range, which means they are best used when your attacker is very close to you.

Streamers:  These release s stream of pepper spray.  This type has a longer reach than ordinary sprays.  When using a streamer, aim for the face in a circular pattern.  This will increase the chance of getting the eyes, nose, and/or mouth.

Spiral:  This is a streamer type that comes out of the canister in a spiral pattern.  This helps coat a wider area faster.  The drawback to these types is that they are almost impossible to use without getting some on your own hand.

Foam:  This type of pepper spray releases in a stream but then foams not unlike shaving cream when it makes contact with a person.  It has the benefit of coating and clinging to a person’s skin.  You can also easily see where your spray has struck the person.  And, your attacker wont be able to easily remove pepper foam.  They’ll have to suffer the effects until it can be washed off.

The distance you are able to deploy your pepper spray from will vary with each product.  So when you have purchased a self-defense spray, find an open area outdoors and do a test firing.  This will give you some idea of the “safe” distance you have when using your spray.  Always remember to shoot pepper spray away from you, into the wind.  Never spray it into the wind when the wind is blowing towards you.

There are several things to keep in mind when using pepper spray.  Remember that pepper spray is only effective if it reaches its target.  A raised arm, or a mask, or even a pair of glasses, will lessen the spray’s effects by blocking some or all of the stream.  Also remember that even when careful you may get some of the spray on you, on your hands or clothing or other areas.  Wash your hands thoroughly after using pepper spray and before you have a chance to accidentally touch your face or mouth.   Pepper spray affects a person’s breathing, so be careful using it if you have asthma or allergies.  Your attacker might have these same issues, but at that point, is your attacker’s health your main concern?  No.  Your health and safety are your main concern. 

One other thing to remember.   Always find out if pepper spray is legal to carry in your jurisdiction before doing so.  Some places have banned it, some limit its use.  Most areas and municipalities do recognize the need for people to protect themselves, and pepper spray is a great personal protective device.