The movies portray pepper spray as something that instantly drops any attacker, but that's not what really happens. Pepper spray is derived from Capsiacin, a chemical found in hot peppers. (This is why it's also called OC Spray - OC for Oleoresin Capsicum, a resinous form of capsiacin. Also note the term "Mace" in our products, which isn't a specific chemical but a reliable self defense brand. That's why you can buy Mace Pepper Spray, for example.)
Capsiacin makes food spicy because it's a chemical irritant, but it's only present in very small doses in even the hottest chilies, compared to the industrial concentrate found in pepper spray. In a spray, it's an intense inflammatory and irritant that effects the eyes, nose and mouth. Reactions include blindness, severe coughing, a runny nose, a burning sensation on exposed skin and in many cases, general incapacitation. This lasts for 30-45 minutes (lingering effects last for several hours), though individuals have different levels of tolerance.
What does this mean in practical terms? Pay attention to these 10 guidelines:
- Only use pepper spray if you feel legitimately threatened - not just annoyed. It has severe effects on virtually anyone you hit with it. It might have the same chemical as something you eat, but there's just no comparison between the intensity. Pepper spray hurts!
- Aim for the attacker's face, where it will deliver key incapacitating effects such as blindness. Experts suggest a tight fanning motion as if using air freshener. Never spray indiscriminately, since the spray can hit bystanders or even drift back to your own face.
- If you or any other unintended target comes into contact with pepper spray, be advised that it's not water soluble - you can't just rinse it off. Use soap and shampoo to wash exposed skin and blink rapidly to promote tears. Use eye wash solutions when they're available. Do not use creams and oils, as they can trap the spray on the skin and cause more severe, prolonged effects. Don't touch uncontaminated people with contaminated clothes or body parts either - these can spread the irritant.
- Just like the effects of a spicy meal, contact with pepper spray takes several seconds to take effect, and not everyone reacts the same. You must combine pepper spray use with other self-defense tactics. The assailant will not drop like a lead balloon.
- Yell "STOP!" to make it clear you're defending yourself, escape to a safe place and contact the police. Pepper spray is no substitute for common sense. Get away!
- One of pepper spray's best uses is as a way to buy you time to escape. It will slow most people down, but doesn't knock them out. It's not a weapon to help you stand your ground.
- Keep the can or other spray delivery system a safe distance away from your face, but don't stretch your hand all the way out, because the pepper spray can't shield you from attack. An attacker can still move, do if you hold your arm out, he might be able to not only wrestle it away, but grab your arm.
- Keep your pepper spray in easy reach. Many of our Pepper Spray Products come with a special holster our pouch for this reason.
- Consider taking a course in the proper use of pepper spray. As pepper spray is legal in all 50 states you should be able to find a course in your area. We also offer a Pepper Spray Instruction Manual for personal study.
- Always obey municipal ordinances and state laws! Check out our page on Pepper Spray Laws for some basic information.