Mace, tear gas, CS gas and other lachrymatory agents (chemical compounds that cause the eyes to sting and water) have recently been lumped into this category. These crowd control agents developed for Police and Military use are now no longer widely used due to inconsistent effectiveness in various field conditions, product degradation when stored for long periods of time and various legal concerns.
What Is Pepper Spray
OC spray (Oleoresin Capsicum) is another name for pepper spray. The chemical compound capsaicin, the active ingredient, is derived from hot peppers. The “hotness” of capsaicin is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), and typical ratings are from two to five million units.
The Scoville test, originally developed in 1912, involved dilution of the pepper extract by percentage in sugar water and was “taste-tested” by a panel of volunteers. The degree of dilution, when the testers could no longer detect heat, yielded the rating. Habanero peppers have a SHU rating of 300,000 or more. Thus their extract is diluted 300,000 times before it becomes undetectable. Modern quality control methods laboratory-verify the SHU via high-pressure liquid chromatography, known as the “Gillette Method”, to directly measure the capsaicin rather than subjective sensory methods.
Advanced purification and refinement process ensure uniform product quality. When aerosolized, the extreme effectiveness of this respiratory irritant has caused it to become the primary riot control agent used by law enforcement, the military, and for personal self-defense by civilians.
This self-defense spray causes instant and intense pain. It swells the body’s mucous membranes reducing the airway size, and induces intense coughing making breathing difficult but not impossible. The assailant has difficulty getting enough air to continue to fight or run. The extreme dilation of the veins in the eyes and profuse watering force the eyes to close causing disorientation and loss of balance.
Eyeglasses or contact lenses will not reduce the impact. The effects last between 30 and 45 minutes and cause no product-induced permanent damage. However, your attacker will have become more concerned with his own survival rather than pressing an attack upon you. Due to the multiple physiological effects, this powerful spray has proven itself the best deterrent against violent attacks even by persons with high pain tolerance, alcohol or drug impairment, and the mentally ill.
Pepper Spray is non-lethal. With more than two decades of civilian and law enforcement use, there has not been any substantiated deaths or permanent health damage from pepper spray. Good to know should you misidentify a threat or accidentally spray yourself or a loved one.
What Pepper Spray Is Not
Pepper Spray is not a toy. Never allow young children access, and treat your self-defense spray as you would any dangerous weapon. Check your local laws regarding the minimum age to carry a defense spray. Even if allowed by law assess developmental maturity before arming your children with such a powerful weapon. Discuss the effects and ramifications of use and misuse. While effective against animals, including bears, it is not for use on the neighbor’s cat.
Mace Pepper Spray is not a magic bullet. Never threaten to use it. A lack of surprise will give your attacker a chance to shield against a direct shot and may charge you to take it from you. When threatened, keep your spray in hand and out of sight until the assailant closes into range, about 8 to 10 feet. Raise and spray with intense verbiage, NO! or HELP! etc., while backing away. Get away from your attacker as quickly as possible, and he may still try and grab you. After you have safely escaped, call Police to help apprehend the assailant and hopefully prevent future attacks.
How Is Pepper Spray Used
After capsaicin is extracted and refined, it is processed into an aerosol solution to be an effective respiratory irritant. Packaging typically consists of one half ounce pepper spray key chain models, two and four ounce canister models and even larger bear spray models. Specialized packaging includes pepper pens, pepper pagers, sprays inside walking weights, and even men’s and women’s rings, ideal for date-rape protection.
This method propels the spray in a tight pattern that expands to approximately two feet with a typical effective range of six to twenty feet, depending upon the unit size. This is the type most used by law enforcement as it allows more precise application without unintended overspray. More attention is needed to aim it properly. A side-to-side motion will cover a greater area.
This type disperses a pattern of dense pepper fog, creating a wide barrier between you and your attacker. Especially ideal when there may be multiple attackers. Easier to aim but with a slight increase in blowback potential (nothing like what the assailant is receiving). Good if you do not intend to practice often.
Mixed with a foaming agent, this type provides the least potential blowback. The thick foam more quickly blocks vision and when the assailant attempts to wipe it away, he is actually grinding it into his eyes and skin and intensifying the effect.
Additives and Specialized Formulas
Some formulations include tear gas and/or ultra-violet dyes that add to the effect and aid law enforcement in later suspect identification with a black light. Michigan requires a distinct formulation and can be found online. A lot has been claimed about special or secret formulas and percentages. The truth is all of the top brands, Pepper Shot, Mace, Wildfire, Sabre civilian, Sabre LE, ASP, and Fox Labs, use extremely fine ground pepper in man-stopping concentrations. Proper civilian self-defense use involves surprise, rapid deployment and escape from the threat. Any brand name formula with a two to five million SHU will incapacitate your attacker.
Considering a (minimal but possible) mistaken threat identification or accidental discharge, you may not want the absolute hottest of the hot. Law enforcement officers are trained in proper decontamination procedures they are required to employ after use. Your (civilian) concern should only be for your personal self-defense and escape. The two best features of pepper spray are immediate effectiveness and lack of permanent damage.