What Is Pepper Spray, How Does It Work And How Do I Use It

by Susan Eaton - Date: 2007-05-22 - Word Count: 868 Share This!

The popularity of pepper sprays has grown tremendously over the last few years due to the increase in violent crimes. Law abiding citizens are realizing that they have to depend on devices like this to protect themselves and their families. It is estimated that at least 15,000,000 Americans now carry personal defense sprays, the majority of which are OC (oleoresin capsicum) sprays. OC is the active ingredient in pepper spray, which is derived from Cayenne peppers, the hottest peppers in the world. OC is a reddish-orange, oily liquid, insoluble in water. There are around 40 manufacturers of this type of spray, who offer various sizes, formulations and spray types.

Pepper sprays normally come in aerosol type containers, some as small as a tube of lipstick. Some are even small enough to attach to a key chain. Most of these non-lethal devices can be fired several times and have a range between 8 and 20 feet, depending on the model and size. The size of the unit generally determines its capacity. The OC agent is dispersed by the aerosol in a number of spray patterns depending on the model.

Four popular models include:

Forced Cone - best for most situations. The fine mist sprays at a distance of 8-12 feet with minimum blowback on to you. Blowback however, can be a problem in a mild breeze and uncontrollable in a strong wind.

Broken Stream - very effective for hitting multiple targets and used in the dark. It can be fanned for covering wider areas and provides the heaviest blast of pepper, but the can will empty quicker. The range is normally 15-20 feet and not affected by breezes and winds as much as fog and cone sprays are.

Fogger - very good against multiple attackers and home use, due to the barrier effect of the fog. There can however be some blowback of pepper, which would contaminate you, especially if used outside in a strong wind. This would still be minimal compared to the amount the attacker would receive. Most foggers have a range of 15-20 feet.

Foam - very good blowback protection with immediate saturation, even in windy conditions. This thick, sticky foam works instantly on the attacker.

One of the misconceptions about pepper sprays is, that the higher the percentage, the hotter and better it works. In most cases this is not true, most of the best, fastest incapacitating sprays in the world are from 2-10%. The lighter the fluid, the faster it penetrates the membrane.


When pepper spray is sprayed into someone's eyes and face, it irritates the skin, eyes and mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract or throat. Coughing and choking may be experienced. It is very uncomfortable and there is pain associated with it.

The end result is temporary incapacitation, mostly due to not being able to see. People are too preoccupied with the blinding and painful experience to even attempt to do anything violent to you. If properly contaminated with pepper spray, an attacker will not be able to open their eyes for 10 minutes to an hour, allowing you plenty of time to escape safely.

Body size and weight, asthma and smoking make little or no difference to the effectiveness of the spray. There may however be a small increase in blood pressure, heart rate and ventilation. Because OC is an inflammatory agent and not an irritant, it is still effective on those who feel no pain such as psychotics and those under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

All OC plants, of which there are many different types contain a very powerful substance, an alkaloid called capsaicin. Humans can detect capsaicin even when diluted to one part in ten million.

If you can imagine a really bad case of sunburn on your face, a burning sensation in the back of your mouth and very hot and sore eyes - you will have some idea of the effects that pepper spray will have on your attacker.


Pepper spray is used by many law enforcement agencies because it is more effective than tear gas and Mace™ and because it does not cause direct permanent harm.

However, there are still many areas and countries where its use by the general public is restricted. It is also a crime to carry pepper spray on a commercial aircraft. Check for restrictions in your locality before purchasing pepper spray.


If you have to use your pepper spray in self-defense, make sure that you have some distance between you and your attacker if possible (you don't want the spray to affect you). Aim the spray at the eyes and face, then release a 1 to 2 second burst of spray. After you have done this move away, but continue to watch the attacker carefully. By watching the reactions of your attacker you will be able to tell if a further burst of spray is required. REMEMBER spray and move, spray and move. Once the attacker has been incapacitated seek help and call 911.


Most pepper sprays have a shelf life of 3-4 years although some expire after two years. The expiry date should be marked on the canister. Any use of the spray beyond the expiry date is HIGHLY unadvisable.

Related Tags: women, protection, self-defense, pepper sprays, mace, personal alarms, attacker, non-lethal, stun devices

http://WomenOnGuard.com was designed by two women who deeply believe in combating violent crimes against women before they happen by empowerment and prevention.

WomenOnGuard.com sells non-lethal, self-defense products such as Mace, pepper sprays, personal alarms and stun devices such as stun guns. Protect yourself or a loved one and visit http://womenonguard.com and purchase a safety product. These products make great gifts that show you care.

Susan Eaton

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