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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anything larger is not practical for personal carry but could be a good option for defense in the home.
So, now that you know the features to pay attention to, let’s move on to the recommendations!
Best 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.
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 Sabre has an easy-to-disengage twist lock so it won’t accidentally go off in your purse or pocket.
Here is the business end of the Sabre…
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.
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.
What do you think about Sabre 3-in-1?
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.
Both larger sizes have a flip top safety and a large nozzle that allows the expulsion of three grams per burst.
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.
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.
How to Use Pepper Spray
Now for one last thing before I wrap up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While the Kimber Pepper Blaster II had my back that night, any of these sprays are strong defensive options.
But for most I’d suggest the Sabre 3-in-1 since it’s a spray that gives you distance and leeway with accuracy.
However, pepper sprays are not allowed in all places, so check your local laws before attempting to purchase one.