Does pepper spray work? What does it do? Do I know what I am talking about? Hopefully this Pepper Spray Demonstration will answer your questions.
Pepper spray is one of the best less lethal protection options a prepper can buy. It is instantaneous, cheap, and relatively safe. In my experience working in the prison system, as well as a security trainer, I wholeheartedly recommend this as a addition to your personal protection toolbox.
Contrary to somewhat popular belief pepper spray, mace, chemical spray, cs/cn gas are not the same things – Without getting overly complicated Chemical sprays like CS or CN tear gas, Mace, or blends like Freeze +p work as irritants. They are microcrystalline compounds that cause microscopic cuts in the sensitive mucus membranes of a subject.
Pepper spray works as an inflammatory – it causes mucus membranes to become inflamed and swollen.
They both hurt – but there are differences in how long they take to work, how long they take to stop hurting, how much they spread, and if hurting is their only way to work.
I have had personal experience using (and having them used on me) all of the major types. In the Marine Corps, I went to the gas chamber several times and have been in training where tear gas grenades were used to simulated chemical attack. In the prison system I had had to use the freeze +p blend of OC pepper spray and CS gas – I have also had this stuff sprayed on me in circumstances that I don’t want to detail as the bored correctional officer is still employed by the state…
I have had the most experience with pepper sprays, and I believe that for the armed citizen pepper sprays are the best choice.
Since the oleoresin capsicum that is the active ingredient of pepper spray is an irritant – it works in ways beyond pain compliance. Sure it hurts, but it also makes you unable to open your eyes. If you breathe in OC spray you will not be able to take deep breaths, and will have to work to breathe enough to fight. Personally, if I am in a fight I care more that I can incapacitate my attacker and end the fight more than I simply want to cause pain. OC spray does that.
Pepper spray also works faster than chemical sprays. It works immediately upon exposure, while chemical sprays take several seconds to make enough cuts to cause pain. In my experience and training it’s about 10-15 seconds.
I know some people like blends like Freeze+P because they combine both CS and the OC, but the CS particulate does not stay with the stream of spray – as a “powder” it tends to cloud up and cover an area. This is great in a prison system where you can spray a fight and clear a space, but for us citizens it tends (in my opinion) to ensure that you will also sniffle and tear up from cross contamination.
As a young marine, I liked the persistence of the CS – I would take an open pack of cigarettes in the gas chamber with me, and then for weeks afterwards would pass out a “loaded” smoke when someone wanted to bum a cigarette (mean, I know). Now I like being able to clean up and recover quickly. OC spray is much easier to decontaminate because it is an oily resin. After being sprayed, simply wash with baby shampoo and wait 15 minutes and you will be back to normal.
When buying pepper sprays you need to know about the percentage of the oily resin the spray contains, as well as the strength of the active ingredient. Sprays come in percentages of OC from 2% up to 20% It seems that a higher percentage is better, but that is not always the case. Strength also matters. The perceived heat of the OC is measured in SHU (Scoville heat units) Many cheaper sprays boast high percentages of OC, but do not even bother to give SHU units. The most effective sprays have a low percentage of a high SHU spray. My favorite spray is a 2% mix that is rated at 5.3 million shu – which means it is very strong, but since it is very little oil, it is easy to clean up and once it is washed off you can quickly get back to work.
To put it in perspective – which is worse – having a 50 gallon drum of 90 degree water poured on your head, or a half gallon of 220 degree boiling water?
Your mileage may vary, and if you have other opinions on sprays – then by all means go with what you know, but I have been sprayed in training, on accident, on purpose, and in anger on two continents over a 20 year period, and I have been a certified chemical spray instructor for the past decade – I don’t know everything knowable about OC and Chemical sprays, but I know what has worked for me in the past.