We’ve blogged about how pepper spray and other self defense weapons have been used against an attacker and how effective it can be as self defense tool. However one of the things that we haven’t mentioned, but just as important, is how to choose the right one.
Pepper Spray comes in many different sizes, shapes, strengths and dispersal patterns so, picking one can be a bit confusing. So, lets break down the various types of defensive sprays based on three characteristics;
- Chemical Composition
- Delivery Method
There are three types of defensive sprays on the market today. OC is the only one refered to as “Pepper Spray” because it’s actually made from hot chile peppers. CS and CN are considered “Tear Gas” and are made from chemicals.
- CS (Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile)
- CN (alphachloroacetaphenone)
- OC (Oleoresin Capsicum)
CS and CN (commonly called tear gas) are chemical irritants that affect the membrane tissues. Tear gas works by irritating mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and causes crying, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, pain in the eyes, temporary blindness.
It will also burn the skin where sweaty and or sunburned. In highly concentrated doses it can also induce severe coughing and vomiting. Almost all of the immediate effects wear off within an hour, although the feeling of burning and highly irritated skin may persist for hours.
Also, both CS and CN are man-made chemicals that are carcinogens and may lead to long-term health problems.
OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) generally referred to as Pepper Spray, is the most common and effective defensive spray. OC is an inflammatory agent, unlike CS and CN which are irritants. OC is not a man-made chemical, it is created from a variety of hot pepper plants and as a result, is natural, non-toxic and causes no permanent damage. OC begins working immediately, and typically takes about thirty to forty minutes for its effects to subside.
OC dilates the eye capillaries, which causes temporary blindness. Next, it enters the throat and inflames breathing tissue, resulting in severe coughing. Therefore, its effective on people under the influence of drugs who might not feel pain. The attacker is still able to breathe, so OC isn’t life threatening, but is extremely debilitating and uncomfortable.
FORMULATION – SHU’S
Pepper Sprays come in a range of concentrations from 1% to 18%. Most people believe that 18% is the best because it’s made up of the highest concentration of OC. However, the best method to determine a pepper spray’s effectiveness is to find out the heat rating. The heat rating of OC pepper spray is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU’s). The SHU for a standard bell pepper is 0, while Habanero peppers are approximately 200,000 to 300,000. Many OC Pepper Sprays have an SHU of between 1,000,00 to 3,000,000. So, purchasing OC pepper spray with a concentration of 18% is fine, but the most important thing to consider is the heat rating. Pepper Spray with a higher heat rating will incapacitate an attacker and make him more uncomfortable than a pepper spray with a lower heat rating.
The next thing to consider is the delivery method. This is just as significant as the formulation in determining which Pepper Spray is right for you. Each delivery method has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. The delivery methods are; the stream, fogger, foam, gel and combination.
The stream works in a way similar to a high pressure garden hose nozzle. A large amount of spray being forced through a small opening in a short amount of time.
The stream has the largest range, up to 20 feet, so you will be able to keep a safe distance between you and the attacker. It’s made up of heavy droplets so it’s not likely to be affected by strong winds and won’t blow back into your direction. The stream can be shot directly into an attackers face, making it particularly effective. The stream is the only model available in the popular key-chain version that many women like.
Although the stream has the best range, the user must be precise in their aim, which could prove to be difficult under the stress of the circumstances. If an attacker is within close range, it may be tough to get an accurate shot to the face. The stream doesn’t last as long as some of the other models. Shooting a large amount of spray means you will empty your canister quickly. The stream doesn’t create a mist-like barrier so a direct hit to the face is required for it to be effective.
The fogger, as its name implies, creates a fog-like spray pattern. It is made up of much finer droplets than the stream, so it lingers in the air much longer.
Foggers are under high pressure, so the range is nearly equivalent to the stream, about 15 feet. The fogger also creates a mist-like barrier, that hovers in the air for several minutes, which makes it effective against multiple assailants. The fogger is especially effective indoors. Spraying the fogger in a doorway or hallway will make it nearly impenetrable. This is ideal if you need to hold an off attacker for a few minutes to give yourself time to escape through a window or another door.
Because Foggers are under high pressure and they discharge a large amount of spray, you’ll empty your canister pretty quickly. Foggers could be affected by heavy winds and blow back in the users direction. Not available in the key-chain model.
The pepper foam looks like a foam-type shaving cream and can cover an attacker’s entire face, making it difficult to see.
The pepper foam sticks to the face and any attempt to wipe it off will cause deeper penetration into the skin. It includes a UV dye that marks the attacker for law enforcement to identify him. The range is good at 8 to 10 feet.
It doesn’t create a barrier like the cone mist or the fogger. The user must aim accurately to achieve a direct hit to the face. Not available in the key-chain model.
The pepper gel is a glue-like substance that reacts similar to the pepper foam and sticks to an attacker’s skin.
The pepper gel sticks to the face like glue. Like the Pepper Foam it marks the attacker’s face for law enforcement to identity easily. The pepper gel has an excellent 18 foot range. Any attempt to wipe it off, causes further penetration into the skin.
It doesn’t create a barrier like the cone mist or fogger. The user must aim accurately to achieve a direct hit to the face. Not available in the key-chain model.
A combo spray combines the the effects of OC Pepper Spray, CN Tear Gas, and UV dye to create a triple threat to an attacker.
The OC causes the eyes to burn and induces an uncontrollable coughing attack. The CN causes intense burning and disorientation. The UV dye marks the attackers face for law enforcement. The combo comes in a stream and fogger model.
Because it contains CN gas, it does have chemicals in it that can cause long term health risks. Not a big problem for you, just your attacker, unless you accidentally spray it on yourself or the wind blows it back in your face. Also, it’s not available in the smaller key-chain model that many women prefer.
There really is no right or wrong defensive spray, it’s really just a matter of preference. Do you want something with a longer range, or would you rather have a spray that doesn’t require perfect aim? Do you want a smaller key-chain model or a larger one to keep in your purse? These are questions that only you can answer, but hopefully you now know enough about the various options that your decision will be eaiser.
So now that you have a better idea of what type of defensive spray to buy, it’s also important to learn how to use it. It’s not as simple as point and shoot. Many women purchase pepper spray without being properly trained on how to use it.
So next time we’ll discuss techniques on how to shoot your pepper spray to maximize your chances off success.
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