The problem with pepper spray is that a lot of the options on the market are basically junk.
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And to be fair, a lot of that is due to issues that have to be overcome with the very nature of pepper spray.
For example, if you have to spray against the wind, you’ll become a victim of your own spray. Most sprays have very specific effective ranges. If your attacker happens to be wearing sunglasses, that goes a long way in protecting them. Many pepper sprays are finicky to operate and not very ergonomic.
With all that said, it is better than nothing, and many companies have done their best to address as many of these issues as they can. If you can’t carry a firearm for whatever reason but still want protection, a well-designed pepper spray may be a solution.
Just be sure to check the relevant laws, because, in many areas, pepper spray is just as regulated in basically the same way as firearms.
So let’s talk about how to choose a good pepper spray, then go into a few recommendations for our favorite pepper sprays currently on the market.
CHOOSING A PEPPER SPRAY
Since we’ve already mentioned that there are a lot of bad pepper sprays out there, let’s kick things off by talking about how to choose a good pepper spray.
There are a few different formulas that pepper spray can fall into.
First, there’s a stream. These provide a more targeted spray and a longer range. However, they usually only have topical effects.
The most popular alternative to a stream is a mist. Mists are easily inhaled, which really enhances their effect on an attacker. However, the range is very short, and the spray is not targeted, making it easy to hurt yourself or others at the same time.
There are also capsules. Think of these like paintballs. They have an outer casing that breaks upon hitting the target, releasing liquid pepper spray. Some also release a spray simultaneously to provide a contingency in case your shot misses.
Finally, there are also foam sprays, which I don’t recommend. Like a stream spray, it allows for target use, but it has a shorter range and doesn’t allow for inhalation, just like stream sprays. And, to top it off, it’s slower to take effect than other formula types too.
Most of the pepper sprays you see in stores are teeny tiny, holding only about half an ounce of spray. That’s enough for just a few seconds of spray, usually with a range of just a few feet. It’s also only half the size of my minimum recommended size.
You should look for a pepper spray with a capacity of about one to two ounces, which will give you about 15 feet of range and 30 seconds of spray time. At the same time, it’s small enough for easy, convenient carry.
Bear spray canisters tend to be larger, so I’d reserve those for your car or home.
MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR PEPPER SPRAY
Get a pepper spray that has a training version that either comes with the pepper spray or is sold separately. This allows you to actually train with your pepper spray, so you know exactly what to do and build up muscle memory for when you need it.
Now to make sure you know how to train correctly, let’s go over how to properly use pepper spray. First things first: forget everything you’ve ever seen in movies and on TV about pepper spray and how it works.
Next, adopt a defensive posture.
Keep your body low by bending your knees. That way, you’re harder to push over. Try to keep as much space between you and your assailant as possible. If you haven’t already, remove the safety on your pepper spray.
Keep your eyes open. It’s important to make sure that you can always see your attacker so you can properly respond. Closing your eyes won’t protect you from any blowback from the pepper spray anyway.
Keep your elbows bent and your hands up to protect your face and body. Use one of those hands to spray at your attacker, aiming towards the face and fanning the spray side to side. This helps ensure you don’t miss.
Now brace yourself for a fight while also attracting as much attention as possible. While many pepper sprays take effect immediately, it takes a few minutes for them to take full effect. During those few minutes, you might have an especially pissed-off attacker to deal with.
So scream bloody murder to attract any help (and potential witnesses) you can get while doing your best to fend off your attacker.
Fortunately, at this point, it should be a waiting game. You just have to hold on until the pepper spray takes full effect, someone arrives to assist you, or there are enough witnesses to cause your attacker to flee.
BEST PEPPER SPRAY FOR SELF DEFENSE
Kimber Pepper Blaster II
The Kimber Pepper Blaster II is my absolute favorite pepper spray option. It’s what I carry when I feel the need for some personal defense but can’t bring a firearm.
When my mother wanted something to protect herself with when she went hiking on some pretty remote trails but didn’t feel comfortable carrying a firearm, I hooked her up with a Kimber Pepper Blaster.
When anyone I know asks for a pepper spray recommendation, the Pepper Blaster is the first, and only, thing that comes out of my mouth.
That’s because I know it works. Without going into too many details, the Pepper Blaster II got my husband out of a close call, and I’ll always be happy he had it with him when it mattered.
But anyway, let’s talk about the actual features of the Kimber Pepper Blaster II.
Unlike most other pepper sprays, the Pepper Blaster doesn’t use an aerosolized spray, which gives it a long shelf life of four years since there’s no lost pressure over time.
Instead, the Pepper Blaster has two charges, each with a highly concentrated solution that will incapacitate an attacker for 45 minutes. With a range of 13 feet, you don’t have to wait until your attacker is right on top of you either.
The gun-shaped design is also a huge plus. It makes the Pepper Blaster ergonomic compared to other pepper sprays and much easier to aim. The trigger safety is very easy to operate.
There are also a ton of different holsters available for the Pepper Blaster II that make carrying it much more convenient.
Kimber also makes a training version filled with blue dye for practice.
PepperBall TCP Launcher and Projectiles
The Pepper Blaster is gun-like relative to most pepper sprays, but for something that feels even more like a true firearm, you need the PepperBall TCP Launcher.
The PepperBall TCP Launcher is, essentially, a semi-auto paintball pistol, but instead of paint, those balls contain pepper irritant. When they hit your target, they burst, releasing that irritant around the attacker.
Since they release a burst of irritants, you don’t need a perfect headshot. In fact, just hitting a surface near the head can be effective. The six-round capacity gives you several chances, too, and the launcher comes with a backup magazine as well.
The TCP Launcher can be used with original projectiles or with PepperBall’s VXR projectiles, which are designed for a longer range, up to 150 feet. For training, you can get inert projectiles that contain a scented powder to show what the area of effect would be with an active projectile.
It even has a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories.
Mace Pepper Gun
Mace is one of the most popular pepper spray manufacturers, to the point where the brand name has become synonymous with the product, like Kleenex or Band-Aid.
The Mace Pepper Gun is my favorite of their pepper spray offerings. It’s another pepper spray that’s in a gun-like dispenser. Unlike the Pepper Blaster and TCP Launcher, however, the Pepper Gun uses a pressurized can that provides you with seven bursts, each with a range of up to 20 feet.
In addition to OC pepper spray, the spray includes long-lasting UV dye, which helps law enforcement identify your attacker later.
The cartridges are easy to load, and the Pepper Gun comes with two, plus a water canister for training.
As an additional protective measure, the Pepper Gun also has a dual-mode LED strobe light that you can use to distract or stun your attacker, for whatever that’s worth.
Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray
Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray looks more like the pepper spray you can pick up at your local Walmart. Don’t be fooled, though. This pepper spray is used by NYPD, Chicago PD, and the US Marshal Service.
3-in-1 refers to the three components of the spray: OC pepper spray, CS military tear gas, and UV marking dye. This combination makes the formula especially effective and leaves evidence for the authorities. It provides 35 bursts with a 10-foot range. It also has a four-year shelf life.
The attached clip makes it easy to attach to your waistband or pocket without needing a holster, and the canister has a twist lock for safety. However, neither the lock nor the canister, in general, is particularly ergonomic, so you’ll definitely want to train with it. Sabre makes a training version specifically for that purpose and even sells it in a bundle with the active spray.
Pepper spray is an imperfect defense tool. While it’s better than nothing and is a step in the order of escalation, it isn’t always the right tool for every situation.
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