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Does Pepper Spray Work?


When I’m discussing non-lethal defense options, such as stun guns, pepper sprays or Taser, the first question I get is usually something like , “does pepper spray work?” The next is usually some form of “which is better, pepper spray , stun guns or tasers?

The answer I give is often frustrating…….”well, it depends…….” As I’ve said before, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to your personal safety. It may very well be that a combination of tools is the best solution for you. 

police-pepper-sprayAs for the effectiveness of pepper spray, ask any police officer. They usually carry it.

Is Pepper Spray The Same As Mace?

In a word, No. Mace is a trademarked name, and is classified as an irritant, similar to tear gas. Pepper spray, or capsaicin, is extracted from oleoresin capsicum. It is interesting to note that modern Mace is actually pepper spray as well.

Pepper spray is generally considered to be superior to tear gas, Cn or CS spray, which is why it is more widely used today. When drugs such as PCP became widespread a couple of decades ago, police realized that their Mace was not stopping their drug crazed and often psychotic subjects.

Pepper spray, however, will IMMEDIATELY induce coughing, choking, nausea and will dilate the capillaries of the eyes causing temporary blindness; mucous membranes will swell to the point of cutting off all but life support breathing. pepper-spray-effects

The assailant will be incapacitated for 15 minutes to an hour. The best pepper sprays are oil-based and their effects tend to last longer. Also, look for police-strength sprays. There is a very wide variety available.

Finally, since an advantage of pepper sprays vs. stun guns is that you do not have to be in contact with your assailant,  look for a spray with a longer range.

 So, What Are The Disadvantages?

The first caution is a legal one; many states restrict or prohibit the use of pepper sprays . It is your responsibility to research your local laws. Some states actually make it a felony to possess pepper spray.

The second is a tactical one and is related to its advantage; since you do not have to be in physical contact with your assailant, be careful when using it in windy conditions, since it can blow back into your eyes and incapacitate YOU.

I hope you found this information useful. Please use it to stay safe!

And if you have questions or comment, as usual, I welcome them.


2 thoughts on “Does Pepper Spray Work?

  1. OK pepper spray is illegal in some states. But from an external country’s point of view people seem to be able to get guns easily enough! (I must admit though, that I wouldn’t like to face a gunman with pepper spray unless I could really sneak up on him/her.)

    As for Mace being trademarked, mace is actually the skin of the nutmeg spice. How in heck can anyone trademark that name.

    Nice article on the sprays. Will look around your site later.

    Cheers, Helen

    1. Hi Helen,

      Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your input. I think the reason some states make it illegal (without going into Constitutional law), is that there are at least some regulations governing the purchase of firearms, but there are none as regards pepper spray. Also, my opinion only, because there are rarely lethal implications in using pepper spray, some people may be more prone to abuse it, where pulling the trigger has serious consequences.

      As for the trademark for Mace, this according to a Google search , ” Mace is the genericized trademark of Chemical Mace, the brand name of an early type of aerosol self defense spray invented by Allan Lee Litman in 1965.”

      Again, thanks so much for your comment Helen. Upcoming posts will cover Tasers, and lastly, firearms. Stay tuned!


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