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How to Use Defensive Sprays for Personal Protection

September 14th, 2007

While many of us might prefer firearms as the ultimate self-defense solution, many states and governments around the world are enacting increasingly restrictive “gun control” laws that severely limit our right to keep and bear arms. Some cities like Chicago are even setting up gun buyback programs in an attempt to fool us into thinking that we really don’t need any kind of weapons for defense and that we should just trust the police or the military to protect us from criminal attacks.

Of course, we Libertarians realize that this is a bunch of statist claptrap and that self-defense is our most basic (and perhaps the most important) natural right. Still, the myriad laws imposed by various levels of government can make it difficult to figure out exactly how we can properly defend ourselves without becoming victims of both criminals and the State. In such cases, the use of various defensive sprays can provide a reasonable non-lethal alternative to firearms for basic personal protection.

This article by Aaron Turpen of aaronzwebworkz.com provides a good overview of defensive sprays, covering the varieties available, spray patterns, carrying suggestions, and other bits of useful information.


In today’s world of crime and violence, being unprepared to stave off an assault is tantamount to putting a “kick me” sign on your back and hoping no one laughs at you.

One of the most common choices made for everyday personal protection is a defensive spray. There are several varieties of these sprays available, from tear gas to pepper sprays to mixtures of the two. They come in a variety of sizes, potencies, and spray patterns. Choosing a spray is your first step in becoming prepared.

Choosing A Defensive Spray

While you’d think that buying a “pepper spray” would be easy and a no-brainer, it’s actually a little bit complicated. There are several types of defensive sprays out there. The most common is OC (Oleoresin Capsicum), which has in most cases proven to be very effective. CS (Orthoclorobenzalmalonitrile - try saying that one two or three times in a row!) is what is commonly called “mace” (not to be confused with the company Mace, which manufactures all types of defensive sprays) or “tear gas”.

CS and CN (Alphachloroacetaphenone) are similar, though CS is far more common. Both gases affect the membranes of the nose, eyes and mouth/throat. They cause stinging pain and tearing effects, but can take up to thirty seconds to be truly effective. On top of that, those under the influence of alcohol or drugs may not notice the effects at all.

OC, however, is nearly instantaneous and immediately affects the bronchial tubes, throat, and eyes. Just a couple of drops of most formulations are enough to stop even the largest of assailants. This same trait, however, makes OC somewhat dangerous to use as it can affect the victim using it to defend themselves just as easily as it can the assailant. In addition, OC does not tend to have the long-term effects of CS.

OC is, despite these drawbacks, the best choice for the average person to use for defense. It’s the easiest to use, fastest-acting, and least restricted (legally) in the nation. Many will tout the effectiveness of combining OC with CS in a spray. There is nothing wrong with that provided that the use of CS is legal where you live.

Always make sure to check out your local, county, and state laws before deciding what kind of (if any) defensive spray to carry and use.

In addition to the chemicals in the sprays, you’ll be confronted with differing types of spray patterns. These are usually referred to as stream or spray, mist or fog, foam, and the latest gels.

For personal defense in outdoor settings or for regular carry on your person, sprays and gels are your best choice. They have a longer range (most are 12 or more feet) and are easier to control.

For defense inside the home or office, a fogger is your best choice. These spray in a “mist” or “arc” pattern, creating a large barrier of defense best utilized in enclosed spaces. These mists are very susceptible to air currents, so are useless except at close range when outdoors.

How To Carry Your Spray

Once you’ve decided what to carry or have on hand, you’ll want to make sure you always have it. Guaranteed that the one time you leave it behind is the one time you’ll really need it, so get in the habit of always having it with you!

First, carry the largest size of spray you can practically and legally have. 2-ounce bottles are the most common for everyday carry on your person while larger bottles are commonly kept in the home or office. If the 2-ounce container is too large for you to carry in an easily concealed manner, a keychain spray may be your best choice.

Defense sprays are best carried on the belt or attached to clothing in an inconspicuous manner. Carrying in your pocket is usually a bad idea, since they cannot always be easily retrieved, oriented, and used.

Most women carry their defensive spray in their purse. This is fine if it is done properly. Carried in the purse jangling around with everything else in there will surely make it impossible to get to the spray, orient it, and use it effectively when the emergency arises. Plus if the assailant were to snatch the woman’s purse, the spray goes with it.

So the best choice when carrying in a purse is to attach the spray to the strap, just inside the pocket/opening. When done correctly, the spray can be held in the hand (inside the purse) as you walk, thereby making it immediately available and ready.

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to carry your spray, you should put some time into practicing how to “draw” and use the spray itself. You don’t have to actually fire the spray to do this, though at least one test-firing in a safe location is not a bad idea. But drawing and making ready the spray will give you some muscle memory and an idea of whether how you’re carrying is effective or not.

Regular practice with your spray will keep you tuned to using it correctly and will make that moment of panic easier to get through, since the motor skills and your response to the threat are already “programmed” and will happen almost automatically for you.



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