Pepper Spray

From Sportsman's News Magazine
July 2008
Vol. IV, Iss. 7
By Dan Kidder

Building your Personal Protection Kit
Part 4

When it comes to personal protection, anything that keeps an attacker from getting his hands on you is a definite plus. These “stand-off” weapons allow you the ability to run away or move to maintain your tactical advantage.

Other than a firearm, the most effective non-lethal alternative is a high dose of oleoresin capsicum (OC) or pepper spray liberally applied to an attacker.

A study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of over 2,000 use-of-force reports from the Tallahassee, Florida Police Department filed between May 1, 1993, and December 31, 1995 found that pepper spray was 72 percent effective in neutralizing an attacker.

Pepper spray (OC Pepper) work differently than traditional non-lethal chemical sprays (CN and CS) because it effects multiple physiological functions simultaneously. While CN and CS sprays constrict breathing and inflict pain to the eyes and mucous membrane, OC pepper over-stimulates the nervous system, inflames breathing passages and induces blepharospam.

Blepharospasm is a condition in which there is sustained, forced, involuntary closing of the eyelids. In other words, if an attacker has a high pain threshold, or his pain tolerance is increased through the use of narcotics, he still will close his eyes because the OC induced blepharospam causes an involuntary constriction of blood vessels, forcing the eyes shut. Without the ability to see, the attacker is placed at a distinct disadvantage.

An additional advantage is that the sprays are equally effective against animals, including dogs, cougars, and bears.

There are many misconceptions about measuring the strength of pepper sprays. Canisters typically will list their percentage of OC content. While common sense would seem to tell you that a higher concentration of OC is more effective, the reality is that the concentration is only a ratio of OC to other ingredients, typically a carrier agent, a propellant, and sometimes dyes for marking the subject to make later apprehension easier for police.

When it comes to measuring the “hottness” of OC, the only effective measure is through the use of High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). This technique accurately measures the concentration of OC in a batch of pepper spray down to the molecule.

Sabre Red, a leading manufacturer of pepper spray products carried by the New York City Police Department, submits every batch of their pepper spray to HPLC to achieve consistent results with each and every canister manufactured by their company.

Aimee Johnson, National Sales Manager for Security Equipment Corporation, which manufacturers Sabre Red said that their product consistently rates a HPCL measurement of 1.33, the highest concentration on the market. Additionally, Johnson said that many manufacturers of OC pepper sprays have inconstant concentrations from canister to canister because they do not use the expensive HPCL method to test their products.

These pepper spray containers from Sabre Red are some of the most effective on the market. Left is the Defender canister and Right is the Jogger.

Sabre Red makes a variety of dispersal units, including The Jogger, with a wrap around hook and loop band that keeps the canister in the ready position in a jogger’s hand. Additionally, most of their consumer products use a positive locking top system to prevent accidental discharge.

Another plus of the Sabre products is that they typically contain more pepper spray than their competitors. While many pepper spray canisters of the same size have between 8 and 10 one-second bursts, the Sabre products contain between approximately 25 and 35 one-second bursts, depending on the model.

The advantage of this is that the user can frequently fire a test shot to learn to use the spray and insure that it has not lost functionality over time, and that in an attack the victim can spray the attacker with a continuous stream following their movements with the spray and also have a follow up in case of multiple attackers.

Sabre’s products are small enough to attach to a key chain, yet pack enough wallop to provide optimal defense in an attack.

Some disadvantages of pepper sprays are the tendency of the spray to blow back on the defender in high winds or to incapacitate those other than the intended target.

The Life Act from Kimber is no larger than a cell phone, but shoots pepper goo at 90 miles per hour, embedding it in an attacker's skin.

To overcome these shortcomings, Kimber, maker of fine firearms, has partnered with Swiss manufacturer Piexon to make the LifeAct Guradian.

This small unit, about the size of a typical cell phone, delivers two powerful shots of OC pepper “goo” at high speed with precise placement. Using an explosive charge to drive a piston, the pepper solution is forced through a jet nozzle, actually driving the pepper solution into the pores of the skin.

In testing for this article with a training unit, the goo wrapped around safety glasses and covered the eyes, mouth, and face completely. (Visit to see video of the Life Act Guardian in action.)

While most states allow civilians to carry pepper spray for defense, some require completion of a training course and a permit. A few states have outlawed pepper spray completely. Check with your local police department to see if pepper spray is legal in your locality.

Sabre’s pepper spray products generally retail from between $10 and $20, while Kimber’s LifeAct Guardian retails for $39.99. Either product is a must-have for a personal protection kit as they provide the user a significant advantage in an attack.  Remember the old adage, “if you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck. The only fair fight is the one you win.”

SIDEBAR: About the author: In addition to his job as managing editor of Sportsman’s News, Dan Kidder is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor, a former range safety officer for the National Rifle Association Headquarters Range in Fairfax, VA, and a former Marine. He has worked with hundreds of students, including members of local and federal law enforcement, as well as civilians.

Sportsman’s News in no way endorses the use of violence and is not advocating for or encouraging anyone to carry a weapon or use a weapon upon another person. The information provided in this article is general in nature and does not cover any and all circumstances or situations. Sportsman’s News encourages anyone choosing to carry a weapon for personal protection to seek out the services of a qualified professional instructor and to comply with all local and federal laws.

The cost of ignorance is far higher than the price of our training.

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Dan Kidder • BCI/ NRA Certified Instructors • (435) 868-89193 • Cedar City, UT

Self Defense, training, firearms, guns, knives, fighting, tactics, Utah, Cedar City, St. George, Southern Utah, Marine Corps, Special Operations, weapon, pepper spray, Defensive Training