4 Best Pepper Spray for Self-Defense [Tested + Video]

Pepper spray is probably the most popular self-defense item available.

This makes sense.  

While guns are absolutely a more reliable form of self-defense…pepper spray does have its advantages.

Pepper Spray is commonly carried by college students.
Pepper Spray is commonly carried by college students.

Of course, I’m not telling you to carry pepper spray instead of a gun.  However, there are situations in which carrying a firearm just isn’t viable, and carrying pepper spray is better than nothing.

Sabre 3-in-1 and Inert Training Spray
Sabre 3-in-1 and Inert Training Spray

We’ve tried out some of the best (and even used one in a life-threatening situation).  And have some videos of them in action.

By the end you’ll know the pros/cons of pepper spray and the best one for you.

Pros of Pepper Spray

For one, pepper spray is far more affordable than a firearm.  A gun can’t do anything to protect you if you can’t afford it in the first place.

It’s also less regulated than firearms are, making it an alternative for those who live in or are visiting places where they can’t have a gun.  Pepper spray is also often allowed in places where firearms may not be, like private campsites and college campuses.

Pepper spray is easier to carry while engaged in physical activities like running, especially if you prefer to carry concealed.

Running with Pepper Spray
Running with Pepper Spray

And finally, pepper spray is a non-lethal self-defense option with a lower chance of injuring a bystander.

What to Consider When Buying Pepper Spray

When choosing pepper spray, there are a few factors you’ll need to be sure to consider.

Formula

First, you’ll want to look at the formula.  

There are three different major formulas on the market when it comes to self-defense sprays, CN, CS, and OC.

CN and CS are military produced irritants which work by causing pain.  

OC, or pepper spray, is an inflammatory that not only causes pain but also causes inflammation of the mucous membranes around the face, making it difficult and painful to breathe or open the eyes.

Since your attacker may be under the influence or simply have a high pain tolerance, OC is best.

Spray Pattern and Range

Once you’ve made sure you’re looking at the right formula, you’ll want to check the spray pattern.

Some pepper sprays shoot streams, which provide a longer range and allow you to target your attacker.  However, streams aren’t generally inhaled, which takes away a large part of the spray’s defensive capabilities.

Stream Pepper Spray
Stream Pepper Spray

A spray or mist is more easily inhaled, but it has a shorter range than other patterns.  

It also doesn’t allow targeting, which means there is some risk of hitting people other than your attacker, including yourself and those coming to your aid.

Mist Pepper Spray
Mist Pepper Spray

The last spray pattern is foam.  

Foam is the least likely to hit an unintended target, but it has a shorter range than streams and has the same issue in regards in inhalation.  It also is slow to take effect.

In general, the foam is the least recommended spray pattern.  For most people, the spray or mist is the most practical, but those with respiratory issues may want to go with a spray to avoid the risk of inhalation.

Mace Foam Pepper Spray
Mace Foam Pepper Spray

Size

No matter what pattern you choose, you’ll need enough pepper spray to get the job done.

The keychain pepper sprays commonly seen only hold about a half ounce of pepper spray.  This is only enough for a few seconds of spray, and they typically only have a range of a few feet..  

One to two-ounce canisters is the most commonly recommended size.  They can spray for about 30 seconds and usually have a range of around 15 feet.

Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray Size Comparison
Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray Size Comparison

Anything larger is not practical for personal carry but could be a good option for defense in the home.

Pepper Spray for Home Defense
Sabre Red Pepper Spray for Home Defense, 13 fl oz

So, now that you know the features to pay attention to, let’s move on to the recommendations!

Best Pepper Spray

1. Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray

Sabre Red is one of the best-known manufacturers of pepper spray, and their 3-in-1 Spray is one of their best products.  It’s trusted by multiple police departments (NYPD and Chicago PD) plus the US Marshals.

Sabre 3-in-1 and Inert Training Spray
Sabre 3-in-1 and Inert Training Spray

It has a stream spray pattern with a range of about 10 feet. 

Plus it’s formulated with CS tear gas. 

Lastly, the formula also contains UV dye which shows up under black light and makes it easier for law enforcement to identify your attacker.

The Effect of UV Dye in Pepper Spray
The Effect of UV Dye in Pepper Spray

The Sabre has an easy-to-disengage twist lock so it won’t accidentally go off in your purse or pocket. 

Sabre Twist Lock
Sabre Twist Lock

Here is the business end of the Sabre…

Sabre Business End
Sabre Business End

And the four-year shelf life minimizes the need to repurchase pepper spray to stay safe, even if you haven’t had to use it.

I highly recommend getting the Practice Spray combo which is only a few dollars more.  You’ll get used to the twist lock and where you need to press to get everything flowing.

And the overall size?  Very easy to conceal in your hand, purse, or pockets.

Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray Size Comparison
Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray Size Comparison

Let’s see the practice spray in action first…

It’s a smaller container so the spray is less.  But it gives a very good approximation to the spray pattern.

Let’s check out the real deal…

It goes for quite a while…and after practicing with the inert spray I really got the hang of disengaging the lock and spraying when needed.

I had to stop before it ran out since I was feeling it a little in my throat.

It’s my top pick for most people since it’s affordable, has a good distance, concentrated spray pattern combined with both pepper spray and OC tear gas, and a little big of safety.

Best Pepper Spray
8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What do you think about Sabre 3-in-1?

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2. Fox Labs Mean Green

Fox Labs Mean Green has a dye like Sabre Red Pepper Gel, but it’s less subtle.  Instead of UV dye which just shows up under black light, Mean Green contains a highly concentrated green dye which colors the skin.

Mean Green is available in three sizes, 15g, 1.5 oz, and 3 oz.  The 15g size can only deliver a splatter of pepper and isn’t large enough to bother with.  The 1.5 oz and 3 oz are both available in both stream and spray patterns.

Fox Labs Mean Green
Depending on the size and formula, Mean Green has a range of 12 to 15 feet.

Both larger sizes have a flip top safety and a large nozzle that allows the expulsion of three grams per burst.

Best UV Dyed Pepper Spray
24
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

3. Kimber Pepper Blaster II

I know what you’re thinking and yes, this is the same Kimber that makes firearms.

The Kimber Pepper Blaster II is my personal pepper spray of choice.  This is the one I carry when I’m not able to carry a firearm.

Instead of working like traditional sprays, the Pepper Blaster II shoots a capsule of fluid, ensuring that more fluid hits your target. 

The Pepper Blaster II has impressive speed and range, able to spray 13 feet in just 1/10 of a second.  The gun shape of the sprayer makes it easier to aim, and the trigger safety prevents accidental discharges.

The formula has a five-year shelf life and, because it’s not aerosolized, there is no risk of losing pressure over time.

The primary disadvantage of the Pepper Blaster II is that you can only fire two capsules with no way of reloading.  

However, Kimber advertises that the formula should incapacitate an attacker for about 45 minutes, so it is unlikely you’ll need to make a follow-up shot.

The Pepper Blaster II doesn’t come with a holster, but Kimber makes a pouch style holster, and plenty of other manufacturers make holsters and clips for the Pepper Blaster II.

My personal favorite pick but make sure that you trust your aim.  Otherwise I’d suggest going with a spray.

Author's Choice
40
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. The Wrist Saver

The Wrist Saver was designed to give runners and bikers a convenient, accessible method of self-defense that they wouldn’t have to hold in their hand while hitting the pavement or trail.

The spray fits in a bracelet style holster that also has space for your ID and has a built-in LED light to illuminate your way and make you more visible to motorists when you’re doing your workout after dark.

Unfortunately, the Wrist Saver is low capacity, only a half ounce, in order to make it more convenient to carry.

Despite this, it has a strong 10-foot range and can fire 10 to 20 blasts before emptying, so you should still be able to subdue your attacker and make an escape.

15
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

How to Use Pepper Spray

Now for one last thing before I wrap up.

That's going to hurt in the morning...
That’s going to hurt in the morning…

Your pepper spray is useless or even dangerous if you don’t know how to use it, so let’s go over the basics.

Obviously, the first things you’ll need to do are draw the pepper spray and disarm the safety mechanism.

In movies you often see someone use pepper spray by sticking their arm out, turning their head away, and spraying, but this is just about the worst possible posture.  Instead, you’ll want to use a defensive posture.

She may look cool, but this is not the posture that will keep you safe.
She may look cool, but this is not the posture that will keep you safe.

Take a step back to increase the distance between you and the attacker and to narrow your profile.  Bend your knees to lower your center of gravity and make it harder to fall or be knocked to the ground.  

Keep both hands up to protect your face and body, and keep your elbows at least slightly bent.

With one hand, aim the pepper spray towards your attacker’s face.  As you continue to spray, fan the spray back and forth in case you missed initially due to wind, movement, or aim.

You’ll want to keep your arms positioned more like this.
You’ll want to keep your arms positioned more like this.

Resist the temptation to close your eyes.  It won’t protect you from any blowback, and will only prevent you from seeing your attacker.  

Pepper spray can sometimes take a moment to take effect, even when properly used, so you’ll want to be alert in case you need to fight.

Finally, make lots of noise during the encounter and as you make your escape.  Yell anything that will get people’s attention, whether that’s “fire!” or your most creative combination of swear words.  

Getting people’s attention will deter your attacker and ensure more witnesses for law enforcement to rely on.

Most companies make practice versions of their pepper sprays that are completely inert.  Use these to practice so that the first time you use your spray isn’t in an emergency.

Final Thoughts

Even for gun owners, a pepper spray is a valuable tool for self-defense, something I know from personal experience.  

I used to live in the somewhat secluded back end of an apartment complex and therefore liked to carry something to defend myself when taking my dog, Ginger, out.  One night she had to go out, so rather than changing out of the athletic shorts I was wearing and into something sturdy enough to support a holstered handgun, I just clipped my Kimber Pepper Blaster II to my waistband.

It was fortunate that I did, rather than skipping the defense altogether, because within a few moments of exiting the back of the building we were charged by an angry, off-leash dog belonging to a neighbor.

Thankfully I was able to spray the attacking dog, distracting it from the attack and protecting myself and Ginger.

Ginger safe and sound and able to explore in the snow last winter thanks to my Kimber Pepper Blaster II.
Ginger safe and sound and able to explore in the snow last winter thanks to my Kimber Pepper Blaster II.

While the Kimber Pepper Blaster II had my back that night, any of these sprays are strong defensive options.  

Author's Choice
40
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

But for most I’d suggest the Sabre 3-in-1 since it’s a spray that gives you distance and leeway with accuracy.

Best Pepper Spray
8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

However, pepper sprays are not allowed in all places, so check your local laws before attempting to purchase one.

Now let’s hear from you!  Do you carry a pepper spray? We also have a hands-on guide on Best Tasers and Best Stun Guns if that’s your thing.

Vipertek VTS-989 Light
Vipertek VTS-989 Light

12 Leave a Reply

  • B .

    ah man, gimme the hose... LOL! that one video had me cracking up.... and remember kids, dont try this at home we're professionals. I have always wondered about the effectiveness of those 12 gauge pepper blast rounds. anyone have any firsthand experience and/or recipes for hand loads if they are any good? my purpose is for stray dogs tearing up my trash... dont really want to shoot a dog with real bullets just for being a dog.

    9 months ago
  • John Castle

    You should have mentioned the Kimber Pepper blaster is illegal in California and many other states

    9 months ago
    • Kit Carson

      We need to do some things for ourselves. A Quote from the article, "However, pepper sprays are not allowed in all places, so check your local laws before attempting to purchase one."

      3 months ago
  • Connor H

    Great write up for those unfortunate enough to live in non-permissive carry states, and times the rest of us need to go unarmed.. I know very little about pepper spray, this was informative. How do self defense/assault laws vary between handguns and pepper spray? Is there a lower required standard for use? I’m pretty sure in my state, if one were to shoot a charging dog, it might be non-legit self defense, until it had actually bitten a human. Is pepper spray different since it’s not a deadly weapon? (Asking in relation to the incident you described; glad you and your dog are okay.)

    9 months ago
  • Joel

    It is quite obvious that you have no real world experience with these defensive sprays. With over 20 years of law enforcement experience I have very often used all three types of sprays, i.e. CN, CS and OC.. In your article you said after spraying someone give it a moment to work. Sprays do not work "in a moment". You article is very misleading as to just how effective OC sprays are. You didn't even mention what to look for when considering which spray to buy., i.e. active ingredients, what type of irritant is being employed, etc. The basics of using OC defensive products is not to spray someone and merely stand there waiting for it to take effect. It often takes several minutes for the effects of the spray to take effect on your target. Many, many times I have employed OC spray which had no debilitating effect to the subject. And yes, the spray used was top of the line brands, and a sufficient quantity of irritant was delivered to the proper target (the subjects face). In your article what instructions, other then wait a moment after spraying, did you provide? None. Start making as much noise as you can, spray, break contact by moving off line and run.

    9 months ago
    • Joel

      Join the discussion...OC is classified by both its strength and its concentration. The strength (heat) of the peppers used to make OC is graded using Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). The hottest peppers cause the most dramatic effects on the people being sprayed. SHUs range in numbers from 500,000 to 5.3 million. In general you will want a rating of at least one million SHUs for optimal effects. OC concentration is also listed on many products. The concentration of the product determines how long the effects will last, with the higher concentrations yielding effects over a longer time period. Commercial concentrations normally vary from 1% to 20%. Purchase a spray that has at least a 5% concentration. That will insure that the chemical will affect your attacker for at least 30 minutes. Some manufacturers also label their products by “Total Capsaicinoids”. That is a mathematical expression of the Scoville Heat Units multiplied by the percentage of OC in the can. The highest numbers commonly seen in this measurement are around 1.25%. A good general guideline is to make sure your spray is at least .5% total capsaicinoids if it is a pure OC product (there are some effective products available with lower concentrations, but most mix the OC with another chemical irritant or dye). If the chemical irritant you are considering for purchase does not list either the concentration, heat rating, or total capsaicinoid concentration you should not purchase it. The product may be very good, but unless you plan on spraying yourself before carrying it, you will never be sure how effective it is. If you have any doubt about your spray’s strength, spray a small amount onto a cloth and wipe it on your skin. You should feel a burning sensation within about 10 seconds. I personally recommend Fox, Aerko, Bodyguard, Sabre Red, and Counter Assault brand OC sprays. I’ve been exposed to each of these brands and can attest to their effectiveness. Even more important than all of the other items previously discussed is the proper use of the chemical you are carrying. The best chemical and spray pattern in the world will not help you if your attacker takes it away or even worse, uses it against you. Be able to get to your spray quickly! Too many people keep their sprays in their purse or on their key rings where they are virtually inaccessible. Try a little test right now. Grab your spray, disengage the safety if it has one, and prepare it for use. How long did it take you to perform those operations? If it took longer than two seconds, your spray is likely to be of little use to you in an actual attack. If you are able to get to your spray in an attack situation, do not announce to the attacker that you are going to spray him. He should not know you have the spray until his eyes slam shut and he can no longer breathe. . Target your attacker’s face with short bursts of spray lasting one to two seconds. Once your attacker’s face is covered, stop spraying! More spray is not more effective. In fact, more spray only washes away the active ingredients from the face, increasing the amount of time it takes for the spray to take effect. Holding your canister like this will lead to better accuracy and retention After spraying don’t stand around and admire your handiwork! Use the spray as a distraction in order to make your escape. Get away as soon as it is safe to do so. Have a backup plan. While chemical sprays are effective most of the time, sometimes they just don’t work. Sometimes they take a considerable time to put your attacker down. Be prepared for the spray to be ineffective. Consider other weapons options or be ready to fight with your hands and feet. If the spray is not working after a reasonable time period (five seconds or so) throw the can far away so that the attacker cannot gain control of it and use it against you.

      9 months ago
      • Stacey

        Thank you for sharing, very informative and helpful information, thanks so much!

        1 second ago
      • Jim

        Thank you -greatly appreciated

        9 months ago
      • RALPHIEBOY

        THANK YOU! GREAT INFORMATION...LOOKS LIKE YOU KNOW MORE THAN THE PERSON WHO WROTE THIS ARTICLE! I LEARNED MORE FROM YOU THAN FROM THE ARTICLE IT SELF! GOOD WORK

        9 months ago
    • Connor H

      Would you mind giving instructive information regarding what you feel was left out (e.g. what to look for in a spray and defensive tactics for before, during, and after its use?)? I’m honestly curious, as I found the article interesting but also have little experience with pepper sprays.

      9 months ago
  • Frank Di Martino

    Thank you for your pepper spray information..I have some extensive experience with OC spray among others as a retired State Law Enforcement Officer. I have also provided all my girls with a personal supply for their protection. Let me share a funny story. One day we were sent out on a complaint to a nuclear power plant and when we arrived we found that a raccoon had parked itself on a stairway and wouldn't let the workers approach. We caught the raccoon on a catch pole and proceeded to relocate it some miles down the road. After picking the location I released the raccoon on the ground from standing in the cargo bed however my partner exiting the vehicle left the drivers door open and once released the raccoon headed right for the open door. It was quick but I knew if the raccoon got into the truck we would have a hard time getting him out. We carried a large canister of OC spary so I gave him a good spray and after rubbing his eyes he took off. Pepper spray is a good non lethal form of defense and it also works humanely on animals when needed. Thanks.

    9 months ago
    • Connor H

      That seems like a great use of pepper spray. Aggressive animals seems ideal, because they are acting on instinct. Not sure where one would apply it in daily civilian contacts with a human aggressor though. I carry essentially all the time, and if someone behaves in a threatening manner to the point I feel the need to employ a weapon, I’d go for my sidearm in 99% of cases. I’m curious if there’s a lower legal standard for justified pepper spray (and taser) use than for firearm/knife self defense. I know with the latter it’s “imminent threat of death or severe bodily injury” (in most states that I’m aware of).

      9 months ago
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