What is Pepper Spray?
Pepper Spray is an aerosol or gel-based weapon containing pepper oils that are irritating to the eyes and respiratory system and inflame sensitive tissue. It can disable or incapacitate an attacker from a distance, providing you with additional opportunity to escape.
What Does It Do?
Pepper Spray inflames the mucus membranes (eyes, nose, throat and lungs), causing temporary blindness, shortness of breath, uncontrollable tears and mucus flow. The reaction to pepper spray is involuntary—not dependent on pain response—so it is effective even on those highly resistant to pain or under the influence of drugs. Reaction is usually delayed from several seconds to over one minute. Effects can last from fifteen minutes to over an hour. Ultra-violet dyes for identification can remain in the skin for up to one week.
The effectiveness of Pepper Spray can be measured two ways: Scoville Heat Units (SHU) or Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) percentage.
Scoville Heat Units determine the level of “heat” in the pepper. While a fresh-picked jalapeño pepper is rated at approximately 5000 SHU, the average pepper spray is rated at 2 million SHU—more than 400 times hotter. This is the most important rating of a pepper spray, and between 1 and 3 million SHU is average for personal protection sprays.
The OC percentage determines how much pepper is in the spray, relative to propellant, dyes and other chemicals. Higher OC percentage does not guarantee a more effective spray—too high an OC percentage ratio can cause the spray to have less penetrative power and become less effective. An OC percentage should ideally be under 10% and never above 15% for maximum efficacy.
How Does It Work?
Sprays can be effective (based on type) anywhere from 6-15 feet or more, giving you plenty of distance and additional safety. Eyes are the best target, but nose and mouth are also effective areas to aim for when deploying your spray. When firing, move to a defensive stance, with your head turned away to reduce the chance of blowback. Offer distractions with other body parts—kick, yell, wave your free hand, etc.—anything to reduce the likelihood that the spray may be taken from you.