Frequently Asked Questions - Pepper Spray
Is Mace the same as Pepper Spray?
No, Mace is not the same as pepper spray. People often tend to get both of these confused. Mace is simply a trademarked brand of security defense sprays manufactured by Mace Security International.
Is Pepper Spray safe?
It used to be that pepper spray utilized only CS (orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile) and CN (alphachloroacetaphenone), man-made chemical agents that have been replaced by the more effective OC (Oleoresin Capsicum). CS and CN have been considered to be possible carcinogens. Long-term effects in the form of skin problems and toxic reactions have been documented as well. Both CS and CN are used in tear gas.
Unlike CS and CN, OC is not toxic (only in extremely high doses). It is a natural chemical, a derivative of a variety of hot pepper plants. It does not cause permanent damage. There have been cases of people who have died in which pepper spray was used, but they typically had preexisting conditions like asthma and heart problems. In general, pepper spray is safe. People with respiratory complications will be more susceptible and those who are allergic to it can have severe problems.
What does Pepper Spray do and how does it work?
While tear gas (CS and CN) is an irritant, pepper spray works as an inflammatory agent. Upon contact with the eyes and nasal cavities, the assailant’s eyes immediately clamp shut, he/she is overcome with uncontrollable coughing, temporary blindness sets in, breathing becomes restricted (leaving only enough breathing for life support), and the attacker is left in pain for at least 30 minutes on up to an hour.
Pepper spray works by attacking the respiratory system, causing the lining of the throat to swell and restrict airflow, leaving only minimal breathing for life support. When hitting the eyes, the capillaries dilate and the eyes slam shut. The capsaicin from the peppers inflame the mucous membranes, which leads to tearing, coughing and a burning sensation on exposed skin. Dilation of the pupils makes the eyes bloodshot, causing temporary blindness. The pain in the eyes usually results in the target rubbing their eyes, which worsens the condition. Because capsaicin is oil-based, the tear ducts are unable to get rid of it (only another oil-based substance, like milk or baby oil, helps to neutralize the effects of pepper spray).
How do I measure the effectiveness of Pepper Spray?
How good a pepper spray is usually depends on three factors: heat rating of the spray, type of carrier agent, and spray density.
The intensity of pepper spray is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU’s). The average bell pepper starts at 0, to 5,000 for Jalapeno peppers and between 250,000 to 300,000 SHUs for Habaneros peppers. Pure OC (oleoresin capsicum) has a heat rating at around 15 million. Pepper spray for civilians is between 2-3 million SHUs, while police-grade spray is 5.3 million. The higher the SHU, the more intense the pain is.
The carrier agent is simply how the spray itself is contained within the canister and is released. Some common agents are alcohol, ketone, and other solvents and oils. You want to have an agent that breaks down the OC to the smallest possible micro-sized droplets, for easier distribution towards the target.
Spray density, coupled with the spray pattern, helps determine how small the droplet size is sprayed at the attacker. This is very important, as the smaller the droplets are the easier the spray will be inhaled regardless of the conditions (e.g. weather), allowing for the effects to work quicker on the body.
How do I know which Pepper Spray to get?
When looking for a pepper spray it is very important to consider the type of dispersal pattern. Pepper spray comes in five different spray patterns: a thin stream, cone-shaped mist, fogger, foam and gel. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to figure out which works best for your circumstances.
The stream is the most common spray pattern among law enforcement and civilians. It shoots straight out like a water gun. Stream sprays are great at reducing cross-contamination and have some resistant against blowback in windy conditions. A few disadvantages however is that they are not very good for dealing with multiple assailants, require good aim (aim straight for the eyes!) and the solution gets used up pretty quickly (limited one-second bursts). They typically have an effective range of 8-15 feet, giving you plenty of distance between you and your attacker.
Cone-mist sprays disperse much like a hair spray bottle. They can be sprayed without much respect to aim and the formulation breaks up into fine droplets, capable of remaining in the air for longer periods of time than the stream pattern. This makes it easy to great a wall of spray between you and your assailiant. The fine density of the droplets will cause the mucuous membranes of your assailiant to be affected quicker. A couple disadvantages is that cone-mist sprays fare poorly in windy conditions and normally have an effective range of 6-10 feet, limiting the distance between you and your attacker.
If you want something that gives you great range and plenty of coverage, get a fogger pepper spray. The droplets from the spray are much finer than the cone-mist, providing a faster reaction time to the effects of the pepper. Because the fogger covers a large area, you do not have to worry much about aiming it; just shoot and spray. You can easily create a barrier of spray for home defense or in enclosed areas. Fogger pepper sprays give you excellent range, usually
Foam sprays are very beneficial in reducing cross-contamination, making them perfect for enclosed areas such as the home. They spray like shaving cream and are easier to clean up than other kinds of pepper spray. Because there is no vapor or droplets that stay in the air, foam sprays require good aim at the facial area. They are very resistant towards rain or wind. Foam is effective in that piles on top of the target rather than running off and becomes especially painful if the target tries to wipe it off (as the residue digs deeper into the skin). The disadvantages are that the foam can be wiped off and thrown back at the victim. Range is limited as well, usually 6-8 feet.
This formulation literally sticks like glue. Gel pepper sprays are similiar to foam in that they help in limiting cross-contamination and are very resistant to blowback. Gel, however, is more effective than foam in that the solution cannot be thrown back at the victim. It also goes deeper into the skin than foam when trying to wipe it off. Effective range is 15+feet.
What is more effective, Pepper Spray or a Stun Gun?
Here at Stun & Run Self Defense, we personally recommend pepper spray over the stun gun. Unlike a stun gun, pepper spray does not rely on pain compliance to be effective. It works on anyone regardless of their condition (e.g. intoxicated, psychotic, and/or drugged), does not require direct contact, and only takes one spray to bring down an assailant. It certainly never hurts to combine the two, in addition to self-defense combat techniques, however. Unleashing a flurry of pepper spray, immobilizing the attacker with a stun gun, and then following up with a proper kick, punch or grapple to keep them down allows for the greatest efficiency. We always recommend using at least a combination of self-defense tactics and a stun gun or pepper spray to get the best results (do not always rely on just the product itself to protect you, as this can backfire).
Is pepper spray illegal in my state?
Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, though there are restrictions (size and strength of solution) on the type of pepper spray you can have in some areas. In Massachusetts and New York you may only purchase from authorized firearms dealers or licensed pharmacists in those states. In Michigan you can have no more than 10% pepper spray. In Wisconsin, tear gas is not permitted; pepper spray must be a maximum of 10% OC concentration and weight range between 15-60 grams (1/2 to 2 ounces). Pepper spray cannot be camouflaged, must have a safety feature to prevent accidental discharge, and most have a range of at least six feet but no more than 20 feet. Check the Laws & Restrictions to learn more. Always check with your local and state laws for the most up-to-date information.
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