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How to Choose Pepper Spray

Posted by on in Pepper Spray
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FoxOC 2 inchPepper spray is also known as OC, short for its chemical name Oleoresin Capsicum. One of the best general-purpose self-defense tools ever developed, most police in the US carry it.  Decades of street-use by law enforcement have proven it safe and effective.

What does pepper spray do to someone?  It inflames the skin and mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth and throat.  It causes intense pain.  It makes the person sprayed in the face close their eyes, cry cough as if chocking, and be unable to speak.  It makes them feel that they can’t breathe, though they really can.  The effects can last from about 15 minutes for breathlessness to over an hour for the skin sensation of burning.

There are dozens of different sprays on the market.  To find the right one for you, consider: OC concentration, Schoville rating, canister size, and spray delivery system.  Oh, yeah, and price.

Police pepper spray is usually in the 5-10% range. Higher percentage of OC might actually not be quite as good as the lower ones, because it is harder for the larger quantity of pepper to atomize in the spray.  Also, above about 10%, having more OC in the can doesn't make it work faster, and doesn't hurt the attacker more; it just makes the effects last longer than an hour.  Since you won't need nearly that much time to get away and call for help, a product in the 5-10% range is most appropriate, and less expensive.

Next consider the hotness rating, which is measured in SHUs (Schoville Heat Units).  Many brands don't make this measurement obvious, but you can find out by calling the company. The most desirable range is around 2 million or more.  Again, a lot higher is not better; sprays in the range of 15 million SHUs have been known to cause eye damage when sprayed at close range.

Another important consideration is the can size.  If you have a small one, designed to fit on a keychain (bottom diameter about dime size), it might not have enough oomph to adequately take care of your problem, especially if you are attacked by 2 or 3 people.  A 2 oz can (bottom about quarter size) is better.  It still fits easily in your hand and in most pockets, but it isn't so likely to fizzle out when you need it most.

Yet another OC choice is the nozzle spray pattern.  Most produce a fairly wide cone-shaped spray, like hair spray.  Some are foggers, which make even wider dispersion of the material - that might be less appropriate for use in a building.  Other options are a stream (which must be aimed more carefully than a spray, but doesn't contaminate the surrounding area as much) and foam (which sticks to the person it is sprayed on, and also minimizes contamination of the surroundings).

Be wary of products that mix OC with some other defensive chemical; those may cause eye damage.

Buy pepper spray at police supply stores, gun shops, and stores that specialize in safety products.  There are also a great many Internet sources. Cost is around $20, low enough to consider getting two or more, one to have in your coat pocket or purse, another to keep at home. 

Some of the major brands are American Defense, BodyGuard, Cap Stun, Fox, Guardian, Punch, Sabre Defense, Def-Tec, Pepper Gard.

Local laws vary, so ask a reliable source what laws you must obey.  For example, Massachusetts used to require a license, but as of January 2015, a license is no longer needed. Some states impose limits on the OC concentration, or age minimums on purchase.

Now that you have it, check out our blog on how to use it.


  • Rammy Tuesday, 19 December 2017

    Informative blog.
    You put good blog regards - how to choose best pepper spray?

    Thank you for sharing.

    DMA Inc.

  • Rammy Thursday, 28 December 2017

    You put good blog about pepper spray and its uses.

    Thank you for sharing this useful information.

    DMA Inc.

  • Ed Friday, 29 December 2017

    This is great advice! I would strongly recommend a minimum of 1.5-2.0 ounces of OC solution or the MK 3 size flip top canister. You want what cops use not the stuff sold at the same place you buy your milk and eggs. The lipstick size twist top units do not have the distance, output and spray duration needed for use on one or multiple threats. The keychain units are treated as an accessory instead of a personal defense weapon. For keychain defense I highly recommend the Monadnock Persuader Kubotan keychain for an intermediate option. I prefer a 10% OC solution with 1.33% Major Capsaicinoids rated at 2,000,000 SHU from either Sabre Red or Defense Technology. Always buy a couple of Inert training units annually. Have a friend wear some protective eyewear and practice spraying and stepping to the side out of the direct line of attack. OC is a formidable less lethal option and even as a concealed permit holder I carry both a Kubotan keychain and MK 3 OC Spray with me at all times. I prefer to use intermediate force when appropriate.

  • caese Wednesday, 17 January 2018

    whoever wrote this is either behind in his information or misleading , im talking about the measure of how hot the oc spray will be too the person being sprayed you dont go by (shu) what you want to look for is the MC % thats major capsicum % anything %1 or over is good you usually can find some at %1.3 if the brand doesnt say what their mc% is its because its low and they rather use shu measurements that is outdated and not a measure of how hot the spray will be also when they say police or military grade thats all marketing , there is no such thing , contrary police have to deal with the decomp a civilian using pepper spray doesnt so sometimes police dont use the strongest out there , udap brand worlds hottest line has %3 mc and i used it super hot also def tech %1.3 mc is great as well

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