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Pepper Spray FAQ

What are the common types of self-defense sprays?
What is the difference between Pepper Spray and tear gas?
What is Mace?
What are the benefits and limitations of pepper spray?
How do I measure the effectiveness of pepper spray?
Will pepper spray expire? How often should I replace my pepper spray?
When will pepper spray start to work and how long will its effects last?
How should I store & carry pepper spray?
When should I use pepper spray?
How do I use my pepper spray?
Will pepper spray work on bears and dogs?
Is pepper spray legal?
Is there anyplace where I cannot carry pepper spray?
How do I remove pepper spray from myself?


What are the common types of self-defense sprays?


There are three major chemicals used in defensive sprays. The first two are CS and CN, commonly known as tear gas. These manmade chemicals are irritants to the membrane (eyes, nose, throat, and lung) tissues. In large quantities, they cause heavy flow of tears and produce mucus. Tear gas has been used by law enforcement in crowd control for years.

The third chemical is OC (Oleoresin Capsicum), commonly known as pepper spray. OC is an inflammatory agent made from hot cayenne and other peppers. Upon contact, it causes an intense burning sensation, temporary blindness, restricted breathing and disorientation. Pepper spray is a hot selling product on the market now.

What is the difference between pepper spray and tear gas?


  • The reaction to pepper spray is involuntary (not dependent on pain response), so pepper spray is effective on those who feel no pain, such as psychotics, drunks and drug abusers. Pepper spray also works to control wild animals. Tear gas is not effective in these situations.
  • Tear gas vaporizes to some extent. It may have some effect on a person who is hit less accurately, due to the vapors being inhaled or drifting into the eyes. Pepper spray does not emit fumes, and it will not deteriorate with age, but it must be sprayed in the eyes or inhaled directly to be effective.
  • Tear gas takes take longer to be effective, anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 seconds, while the effects of pepper spray are quicker. Tear gas also takes longer to wear off and the chemical residue can last for days.

Since each spray has different advantages, some formulations (e.g. Triple Action Sprays) are being manufactured which contain blends of OC (the chemical in pepper spray) and either CS or CN (the chemicals in tear gas).

What is Mace?


Mace is a term used to describe one type of tear gas, but it is also a very common term to describe all types of self-defense sprays.

Mace is also a well-recognized trade name by Mace Security International. The company produces PepperGard pepper spray, and blended sprays( Pepper Foam, etc) under the name Mace. Mace sprays have some distinct features, such as the finger-grip dispenser, flip-top cap, and glow-in-the-dark firing buttons. It is one of the most reliable and advanced self-defense sprays available on the market.

What are the benefits and limitations of pepper spray?


Pepper spray is an excellent self-defense product. It is used by nearly every law enforcement agency throughout the country. It is non-lethal and extremely effective when sprayed in the facial area and eyes. It put a safe distance between your and an attacker and gives you plenty of time to escape and seek help.

Because pepper spray does not cause death to the attacker, people are more likely to use it instantly without hesitation. Acting quickly can often avoid serious injuries and save lives. Pepper spray is very inexpensive, and is not typically restricted by law. A permit is not usually required to carry them.

Still, you should be aware of its limitations, so you do not rely on just one form of defense. Pepper spray may take a few second for it to be effective. An attacker may be able to take your canister away from you, before the effects kick in. It may be used against you. Wind and rain may reduce its range and effectiveness. You may get spray-back when sprayed against strong wind.

How do I measure the effectiveness of pepper spray?


Pepper spray is rated in two ways: OC% and SHU rating. The % you see listed on the package (10%, 15%, etc.) explains how much OC is in the container relative to the other ingredients (propellant, dyes, etc.). However, this percentage cannot always be used to compare the "hotness" of different pepper sprays. The hotness of OC is directly related to the amount of capsaicin in OC, which varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. The amount of capsaicin in OC is rated in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). To compare the hotness of two different pepper sprays, SHU rating is more important. The more capsaicin content the OC has, the hotter & more effective the spray will be. Two million SHU will be sufficient.

Will pepper spray expire? How often should I replace my pepper spray?


Most defensive sprays have an expiration date stamped on the canister. OC will not degrade over time, but the unit may not spray as far as expected, if at all. The aerosol propellant may leak out, rendering the spray less effective. This is especially true with the smaller sprays like the key chain.

The nature of the product suggests that effectiveness is of utmost importance. We recommend replacing your spray after the expiration date.

To make sure that propellant does not go bad, you should test your spray every 90 days. Every time you perform a test, you reduce the contents of the canister. If you are using a key chain model and you test regularly you may need to replace the unit every 9 to 12 months.

When will pepper spray start to work, and how long will the effect last?


It can take 3-5 seconds for pepper spray to take effect, and the effects can last anywhere from 15 minutes to about 60 minutes depending on concentration, which will give you plenty of time to escape an attacker and call the police.

UV Dye, a harmless additive used to assist authorities in catching the attacker, will generally wear off in about a week.

When should I use pepper spray?


Use pepper spray if you are threatened or your life is in danger. And use it ONLY in defense of people, not property. It is a crime to use self-defense sprays in an offensive manner.

How should I store & carry pepper spray?


Store your defensive spray in a safe place at room temperature. Keep it away from children. Do not leave it in your car during summer because high temperatures may cause the seals to leak.

Think in advance how you want to carry your pepper spray. In a typical assault, you get no warnings and you will get attacked when you least expect it. Carry your pepper spray with you whenever possible, and keep it in the same place. You can put it in a loose outer pocket of a jacket or inside a pants pocket, or in a purse with an open pocket. Try a few different carrying methods and find good accessible locations for you. Practice and make sure you can draw it quickly in an emergency situation.

The keychain pepper sprays (ASP Key defender, Streetwise Lab Certified pepper Spray, etc) are very convenient, and you are more likely to carry them with you all the time because of their smaller size.

How do I use pepper spray?


It is very important that you get some training and practice with the specific spray you are going to carry. Study the canister, the nozzle, and the dispenser. Take your canister to an open field, make sure the wind, if any, is at your back, and fire it for about two seconds. How far will it spray? Is the spray a stream or a foggy mist? How did it react to the wind? Can you spray it into the eyes of an attacker? In an emergency situation, make sure you have distance between you and the attacker. Don't get within their grabbing distance. Donít threaten an attacker with your spray. Fire 2 or 3 second bursts directly into the eyes of the attacker. If it is not working, give them another two seconds. The small pocket or purse size will give you between 5 and 10 seconds of continual fire. Once the threat is stopped, run immediately and call the police. If your spray contains UV dye, tell the police that. It can help the police to identify your attacker.

You may wish to get a Tactical Use of Defense Spray Manual. It is loaded with useful tips on using defense sprays.

Will pepper spray work on bears and dogs?


Pepper spray is effective on dogs and other wild animals. To protect you from bear /dog attacks, purchase bear spray and dog spray that is specifically formulated and clearly labeled for deterring attacks by bears or dogs.

Is pepper spray legal?


Pepper spray is LEGAL in all fifty states. However, some states and cities have specific regulations pertaining to the purchase, possession and use of defense sprays. Please check with your local law enforcement agency for any regulations your state may have.

New York: the sellers must be local licensed firearm dealers or local pharmacies.

Massachusetts: the buyer is required to obtain a Firearms Identification Card (FID); the sellers must be local licensed firearm dealers.

Michigan: OC Pepper Spray can be no stronger than a 2% concentrate. CS is the only Tear Gas accepted. Both must be no larger than 35 grams per can. No combination sprays allowed.

Wisconsin: Pepper spray only. No Tear Gas, UV Dye or combination sprays. OC Pepper Spray can be no stronger than a 10% concentrate. The can must be between 15-60 grams only. Must have safety feature.

We carry Michigan/Wisconsin approved pepper sprays.

California: Canisters cannot be more than 2.5 ounces.

Bear spray and dog spray can be sent to every state except MA as they require FOID card to purchase those sprays.

Is there anyplace where I cannot carry pepper spray?


Yes. You cannot carry any pepper spray on an airplane or in carry-on luggage or in the passenger area. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) allows one Pepper Spray (up to 4 oz) per traveler in your checked luggage only.

How do I remove pepper spray from myself?



If you get pepper spray on yourself, donít panic. Avoid rubbing the exposed area. Open up the windows, and move to a well ventilated area.

If you wear contacts, you must remove the lenses immediately and throw them away. Flush your eyes with cool water.

Remove all contaminated clothing.

Milk has some neutralizing effect, it will help taking the burn away and it works quickly. Apply whole milk to the the affected area.

After the burn starts to subside, wash the affected area with dishwashing liquid and water to remove oils. Flush the affected area with cool water at least 8-10 times. Don't apply oily lotions, they will trap OC resin onto your skin.

Have a physician examine the exposed area if any irritation or pain persists after the decontamination procedures. Sometimes cardiac or breathing problems can occur so while removing the pepper spray you might need to call for emergency medical assistance.



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