Apex Self Defense

Protecting the world from miscreants and scum

How To Properly Shoot Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray

OK, so yesterday we discussed the different types of pepper spray and how to choose the right one for you. However, once you’ve made a decision on which type of spray to choose, your work is not done. It’s just as important to put some thought into how you’ll carry it and how to use it.

Using your new pepper spray is not as simple as pointing and shooting. There’s a certain technique to using it that will increase your odds of success. Timing, shooting accurately, when and how to retreat and practice drills are all important things to factor in, when learning how to use pepper spray.

How To Carry Pepper Spray

There are three basic ways to carry a defensive spray and which one is best for you will be determined by the type of spray, size and whether you are male or female.

1. Purse Carry – Many women prefer this method, especially if they carry a large canister like 4oz or larger. The downside is that most women tend to throw it into their purse and forget about it, making it difficult to find on a moments notice when they need it. If you choose this option, keep your spray canister in its own pouch in your purse where it’s quickly and easily accessible. Many canisters come with a clip so that it can be attached to an inside pocket or flap of the purse for easy access. It should be in a spot where you can reach in and grab it without looking.

Key-Chain Pepper Spray

2. Key-Chain Carry – This method is the most common and popular way to carry pepper spray. Most people already have their keys in their hand when approaching or leaving their vehicle, so it’s easily deployed at a moments notice. The downside is, at a ½ oz in size, most key-chain pepper sprays are smaller than the purse carry models. One way that women rectify this is to carry a key-chain spray for quick deployment and an additional 4oz or larger model in their purse in the event they empty the key-chain canister.

Pepper Spray Belt Clip

3. Belt Carry – Belt carry is how the police carry their department issue spray. It’s also the preferred carry method for security guards. Larger model sprays usually come with some type of leather belt strap. It’s within reach quickly and easily. Many people attach the belt clip so that it faces down toward the ground. You’ll find that it’s easier to draw the spray quickly this way, rather than having to draw upward, which is an un-natural motion. Also make sure to arrange it so that when it’s retrieved, the trigger is already in the proper position in your hand. This way you don’t have to waste valuable time rearranging it in your hand.

Don’t ever carry pepper spray in your pocket, you won’t be able to retrieve it quickly enough to deploy. Most assaults occur quickly and without warning, so a quick deployment is vital to achieve the desired result. Carrying pepper spray in your pocket is akin to giving an attacker a one or two second head start. Remember, for a defensive spray to be effective, it should be readily available.

When To Use Your Spray

Your timing, deciding exactly when to use your spray, is essential to effectively stop an attacker in his tracks. The objective is to surprise the attacker. Pull out your pepper spray only when you’re prepared to use it. Don’t show it and threaten him with it, hoping you can frighten him off.

Don’t give the attacker any time to think and react to it. This makes it more difficult to achieve a direct hit if he can duck or avoid the spray. Also, many attackers carry a weapon but don’t often show it. They often feel they can overpower someone without a weapon but carry one just in case they need it. Raising your pepper spray prematurely without shooting it just gives him time to retrieve his weapon and use it against you.

Shooting The Pepper Spray

Aim, Shoot and Readjust Your Aim If Necessary

Most women who carry pepper spray are completely unprepared to use it because they have never been trained. They mistakenly believe that all they have to do is point and shoot. They underestimate how quickly things happen and don’t realize how difficult it can be to shoot and aim accurately under stressful conditions.

Once you’ve pulled out your spray and are ready to shoot, it’s important to get into a good athletic position in preparation to shoot. Go into a slight crouch with your feet about shoulder width apart, evenly balanced, shoulders squared and facing directly toward the assailant.

Hold your non-shooting hand out and yell “stop”, as you shoot. This will focus your energy on the task at hand and draw the attacker’s attention toward your hand and away from the pepper spray. It also gives you time to raise and aim the spray before you shoot. However, be aware that many people under the stress of the situation, may not be able to keep their shooting hand steady enough to achieve accurate aim.
If you feel this might be the case with you, then use your non-shooting hand to steady the shooting hand.

As you shoot, never thrust your hand forward as it will affect your aim. Instead, raise your arm gently but in a quick and smooth motion. Don’t turn your back on the attacker! As you fire, step backward slightly in a slow, steady and deliberate manner. Try to limit upper body movement as much as possible. Limiting upper body, and hip movement, will keep your aim steady and prevent you from having to constantly readjust your aim.

Stepping back will give you more time, create more distance between you and the attacker and draw the attacker into the spray. Don’t shut your eyes while spraying and don’t wave the spray like a fire hose, this does nothing but waste the spray. Remember to aim, shoot and look where you are hitting and correct if necessary.
Aim for the head and shoulders. Shooting for about 1 – 2 seconds is usually adequate. At this point, an attacker will normally pause for a moment while he tries to gather himself as the pain and uncontrollable coughing spasms set in. Once he’s disabled, stop spraying, and escape.


The whole point of having pepper spray is to use it to escape! So once, he’s been neutralized, get out of there. Don’t wait around for police or try to detain him for the cops. Don’t move toward the attacker or you may be affected by the spray. While making your escape, back away but don’t turn your back on him! Obviously, you need to see were you’re going but don’t turn your back on him until you are a good distance away. He may get up and attempt to follow you, so you may need to spray him again. Once you are a safe distance away (about 100 feet or so), and you see that he isn’t getting up, turn around, run and and make your escape as quickly as possible.

So, remember to stay calm, aim, spray, adjust and continue spraying, while backing up. Also if you want to be able to use the spray effectively it’s important to practice all the steps. If you don’t practice, when you find yourself in a threatening situation, you’ll probably panic and freeze up. Practice until you feel confidant and then when something happens, you won’t panic because you’ll be prepared. If you don’t want to practice with real pepper spray, you can purchase an water-based inert spray.

Be prepared, stay alert, and practice. Good luck!

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