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Guardian Self Defense and Security Blog

Best Pepper Spray - OC Spray Buying Guide

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Pepper spray (aka OC Spray) is without a doubt the most common non-lethal self-defense product in the world. It is universally used across all police departments for combative subjects and riot control, as well as everyday self-defense for civilians. But what exactly is pepper spray? And more importantly how do you know which is the best pepper spray for you? With so many different brands claiming they have the strongest pepper spray, each offering unique formulations and heat concentration percentages with different type of triggers, spray patterns, and ranges it’s impossible to cut through all the noise. Well, we are here to help with our unbiased and thorough pepper spray reviews and buying guide.

Why listen to us? Well, we’ve been in the OC spray business since you were probably in diapers and we're committed to being a source of truth against all the B.S. advertising numbers that brands put out there and the misinformation a lot self-defense internet experts publish. We're not just referring you over to Amazon and getting a commission off your purchase. We stand behind our products we sell because the thing we're most proud of is our relationship with our customers.

We know you want to get right to the best pepper sprays; so, first up are the products reviews followed by general OC information. If you have any questions on the terminology used throughout the reviews, reference the information toward the bottom and that should clear things up. Or send our team a message and we’ll be happy to help.

Table of Contents:

  1. Best Pepper Spray Reviews
  2. Best Pepper Spray for Runners
  3. Best Keychain Pepper Spray
  4. Best Everyday Carry (EDC) Pepper Spray
  5. Best Pepper Gel
  6. Best Pepper Spray Gun
  7. Best Pepper Spray for Dogs
  8. Best Bear Spray
  9. Top Pepper Spray Brands
  10. Types of Spray Patterns
  11. Pepper Spray vs Mace
  12. Semantics, Ingredients, and Chemistry
  13. The Effects of Pepper Spray
  14. How Long Does Pepper Spray Last?
  15. How To Get Pepper Spray Out Of Your Eyes?
  16. Does Pepper Spray Expire?
  17. Is Pepper Spray Legal?
  18. Can You Bring Pepper Spray on an Airplane?
  19. Where to Buy?

 

Best Pepper Spray Reviews - Top 3

Fox Labs 5.3M SHU

Fox Labs 5.3 Stream OC Spray

Sabre Red Crossfire

Sabre Red Crossfire Pepper Spray

Mace Triple Action

Mace Triple Action Spray
Rating
4.9 / 5 
4.7 / 5
4.6 / 5 
Price
Starts $17.99
Starts at $16.99
$16.99
Volume
1.5oz | 2oz | 3oz
1.4oz | 1.5oz | 2oz | 3oz
.5 oz
Spray Pattern
Stream | Cone
Stream | Gel
Stream
Range
Up to 18 ft.
Up to 20 ft.
Up to 12 ft.
Full Review
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Fox Labs 5.3M SHU

Anyone that knows anything about pepper spray would acknowledge that Fox Labs International has been leading the industry with their FIVE POINT THREE line for the last 20 years. Comprised of their famous 2% OC solution with a 5.3 million Scoville Heat Unit resin; this is the strongest, most effective, and best pepper spray on the market today.

This is the reason why thousands of law enforcement professionals, government agencies, correction facilities, hospital security guards, and military organizations use Fox as their exclusive OC spray supplier. To put it in to perspective the world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, clocks in with 2.2 million SHU. But SHU does not tell the whole story as heat index is not solely based on this number. Let us break it down a bit further.

Fox FIVE POINT THREE Lineup

We’ll get into the chemistry later on how solvents, solutions, capsaicin (and more big “C” words) each play their unique role in the strength heat indices, but for now know that Fox Labs uses the purest form of OC resin to create a defense spray that no other manufacturer can match. While other companies focus on fluff ‘advertising’ figures that attempt to trick consumers into thinking their formula is stronger than it is, Fox doesn't do this because they don't need to. Look around and you will see competitors marketing 5-10% OC concentrations, but what they do not tell you is that most are using a less pure resin that have more fatty oil, sugar, and unwanted by-products. If Fox Labs were to use a 10% OC formula, they would have 3.5% major capsaicinoids making it illegal because it would cause permanent damage.

The FIVE POINT THREE collection comes in 1.5 oz, 2 oz, and 3 oz flip top canisters. Two different spray patterns are available and are delivered through either a stream or cone. The stream spray reaches up to 20 feet and is generally more accurate that the cone spray, reduces the risk of blowback and is less affected by adverse weather because of its tighter choke. The cone spray sacrifices distance for increased coverage only reaching 15 feet but allowing the user to target multiple assailants and not having to worry about missing their target during an intense and adrenaline-fueled encounter.

The spring-loaded flip top of the Fox Labs 5.3 helps prevent accidental discharge, but still allows for quick and easy access to dispense the spray quickly. We especially love the UV dye included in the spray as it makes for easy suspect identification if they somehow manage to get away. Law enforcement just needs to shine a blacklight over the perp and they will light up like a Christmas tree making for an easy arrest.

While this next point might not apply to most civilians as they do not typically carry stun guns and pepper spray, the Fox Labs 5.3 formula is oil-based and non-flammable making it safe for use with Tasers and stun guns. There have been instances where law enforcement has had to use both, and perp’s have caught on fire after being sprayed with an alcohol-based OC and then Tasered. Although we hope you never find yourself in a situation where OC spray and a Taser are needed at the same time for your self-defense, its good to know it will not happen.

Overall, Fox 5.3 is without a doubt the best pepper spray for self-defense that anyone can purchase today.

Sabre Red Crossfire

The Sabre Red Crossfire collection edges out second place in our review of the top-rated pepper sprays. Sabre is a premium manufacturer and has consistently been one of the best OC brands in the world since 1975 thanks to their well-known commitment on product quality. Sabre developed their own in-house High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) lab which is a process that ensures and verifies heat specification quality. This 5-step process is conducted within their in-house laboratory with frequent independent testing to provide the most consistent level of capsaicin pungency. The result is a guaranteed heat consistency, something not many brands can claim.

The Red Crossfire collection is classified by Sabre as their Level 3 formula, which is the strongest OC spray that they manufacture. Sabre Red derives from a 10% OC solution of 2 million Scoville Heat Units, resulting in a Scoville content of 200,000. But the true kicker for the Sabre Red line is the major capsaicinoid percentage, clocking in at 1.33% MC. The major capsaicinoid percentage is the true measurement of heat that all pepper spray is judged on and is verified by their HPLC testing.

Sabre Red Crossfire Technology Diagram

Probably the most unique aspect of the Sabre Red Crossfire line and what makes it one of the best pepper sprays available is the Crossfire technology canister which uses 3rd generation canister technology. Crossfire canisters can be deployed from any angle, whereas the black Sabre canisters need to be upright. If you think about it like a clock, Crossfire can be sprayed at any hour hand between 1 and 12 o’clock. Most OC spray brands use 1st or 2nd generation canisters which can only be sprayed between the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. This is not ideal as subjects tend to duck and block the spray with their hands as virtually no attacker willingly allows a direct spray. Crossfire canisters allow maximum target acquisition as they can be sprayed upside down or sideways to outmaneuver the perp and get the OC where you want it, their face.

Sabre Crossfire Spray

The Sabre Red Crossfire line comes in canister sizes of 1.4 oz, 1.5 oz, 2 oz, and 3 oz, giving plenty of options for anyone looking for just the right size. The 1.4 oz offers 10 one-second bursts, and the 3 oz offers 16 one-second bursts. All other sizes fall in between those parameters. The small 1.4 oz makes it an excellent pepper spray for women to keep safely in their purse or handbag. Also great for storing in small center consoles or small driver-side door compartments.

The flip-top trigger mechanism is a high-quality plastic that will prevent accidental misfiring’s yet is still extremely easy to quickly flip open when needed. Sabre uses a nitrogen propellent which allows for operating temperatures between -20˚F to 120˚F, and there is also a UV dye within the OC formulation to quickly identify any perp that manages to get away after being sprayed.

Overall, the Sabre Red Crossfire collection is a reliably high-heat OC spray that is manufactured by one of the best pepper spray brands out there today. You cannot go wrong with Sabre Red.

Mace Triple Action Police Model

Let’s start by getting the semantics straight. The term Mace is not interchangeable with pepper spray. Mace is a brand that manufactures pepper spray, much like Kleenex is to tissues and Band-Aid is to bandages. Known as genericized trademarks, their popularity has led them to become the generic term within their respective product categories. Mace obtained this genericized trademark thanks to making the first defense spray that created a first-mover advantage that lasted nearly 30 years from the mid 1960’s to 1990’s, during which they virtually owned the entire defense spray market. The verb ‘being maced’ is still commonly used today regardless of the brand and spray composition used, despite the fact that there are many more pepper spray brands today.

The active ingredient of the early Mace chemical formula consisted largely of chloroacetophenone (CN tear gas) but has since been changed because of its potentially toxic nature and the exceptional incapacitating qualities of OC pepper resin. What makes Mace Triple Action one of the best pepper sprays and self-defense products is that it combines a safe and effective combination of 10% OC pepper, tear gas (CN), and a UV marking dye all-in-one formula with 2 million Scoville Heat Units. Let us take a closer look at how these 3-in-1 agents complement each other with respect to stopping power.

Mace Triple Action Diagram

Upon spraying an attacker, the inflammatory agents in the oleoresin capsicum take effect first. Almost instantaneously and completely involuntarily, the assailants eye clamp shut. The OC quickly and efficiently dilates the capillaries and causes temporary blindness. Seconds later, the OC causes inflammation of the breathing tissues and gives a sensation of restriction in the airway and general feeling of intense, searing pain around the face, nose, and throat. Then the effects of the CN tear gas kick in and begin to cause extreme irritation of the membrane tissues within the eyes, resulting in profuse tearing and stinging.

Should a subject somehow manage to get away from the scene of the crime with all this taking effect simultaneously, the UV marking dye marks the assailant and will aid in identification once they are apprehended by law enforcement.

We especially love the canister of the Mace Triple Action Police Model. The unit is an 18-gram (.6 oz) canister that comes housed in a durable plastic case with a keychain attachment. The case is exceptionally well made and provides a very sturdy fit in the hand thanks to the well-placed finger grooves. The finger grooves allow for quick reassurance that the Mace is facing in the right direction before engaging the assailant. The keychain attachment makes it perfect for virtually anyone to take with them on-the-go. The durable case comes with a flip top actuator making it easy to deploy while also preventing misfires.

This model comes with a stream spray pattern, reaching up to 12 feet which is quite remarkable given the small size of the unit. It contains up 20 half-second bursts but is recommended, like all brands, to assume end-of-life if the unit is used. This ensures that the Mace properly functions should you need to use it in the future.

Overall, this Mace pepper spray with 3-in-1 triple action OC, CN, and UV dye is a top-rated option for those looking for a trusted brand.

 

Best Pepper Spray for Runners

 Sabre Red 3-in-1 Runner

Sabre Red 3-in-1 Jogger Spray

Mace Sport Jogger

Mace Sport Jogger Spray

Sabre Red w/ Arm Band

Sabre Red Jogger Spray with Fluorescent Arm Band
Rating
4.8 / 5 Sabre Red 3-in-1 Rating for Athletes
4.6 / 5 Mace Sport Jogger Rating
4.6 / 5 Mace Sport Jogger Rating
Price
$14.99
$16.99
$19.99
Volume
.75 oz
.5 oz
1.8 oz
Spray Pattern
Stream
Stream
Stream
Range
Up to 10 ft.
Up to 12 ft.
Up to 15 ft.
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When it comes to finding the best pepper spray for runners, we’re looking at three main criteria. The first of course is heat strength. You want to be able to incapacitate the attacker and get away safely, and the only way to do that is with a formulation that an has ample percentage of major capsaicinoids. A lot of internet experts will urge runners or walkers to carry dog pepper spray if they have aggressive dogs in the neighborhood, but quite honestly these OC sprays aren’t ideal in situations that involve a human subject attacking or robbing you. This is because the amount of pepper resin in dog repellent is typically half of that in the industry standard human pepper spray. It is our suggestion that it’s better to have full strength protection.

The second set of criteria is a combination of size, weight, and portability. It’s especially important for women runners to not feel burdened to be carrying a self-defense product during their daily exercise. If a spray is too big or too heavy, they simply will be less motivated to bring it with them because it gets in their way. Most pepper sprays for joggers typically come in canisters less than 1 oz, but even more importantly come with an adjustable elastic Velcro strap to easily hold during a run or exercise.

And lastly an underrated criterion for runners is that their OC should be a stream spray pattern. Running or jogging at a fast pace and needing to quickly spray an attacker will undoubtedly result in blowback. Having a tight stream pattern will decrease this potential as it’s a tighter aerosol dispersion and will help to keep it out of your face as well.

Overall, we highly recommend the Sabre Red 3-in-1 Runner Pepper Spray because surpasses all our critical specifications for jogger personal defense. Sabre Red is one of the top brands, and their 3-in-1 collection is comprised of OC, CS tear gas, and UV marking dye. It is the gold standard for people on-the-go.

A close second is the Mace Sport Jogger. This ½ oz Mace is lightweight, compact, and hot! We found their 10% OC is not quite as hot as the Sabre Red 3-in-1 formulation, but it will certainly put any perp on their knees crying and begging for it to stop. The elastic Velcro strap is of high-quality and will allow you to jog and forget it’s even there (unless of course you need it). Both Mace and Sabre come with pink color options, perfect for women joggers that want to stay fashionable.

 

Best Keychain Pepper Spray

  Wildfire Keychain Defense Spray

Wildfire OC Keychain

Sabre Red 3-in-1 Hardcase Keychain

Sabre Red 3-in-1 Hardcase Keychain

Mace Keyguard Mini Spray

Mace Keyguard Spray

Rating
4.9 / 5 Wildfire OC Keychain Rating
4.7 / 5 Sabre 3-in-1 Keychain Rating
4.4 / 5 Mace Sport Jogger Rating
Price
$14.00
$12.99
$16.99
Volume
.5 oz
.5 oz
.1 oz
Spray Pattern
Stream
Stream
Cone
Range
Up to 8 ft.
Up to 10 ft.
Up to 5 ft.
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One of the most popular places to keep our personal pepper spray is on our keychains because it allows us to carry it everyday, yet is still somewhat out of the way. It’s also a natural place to tote a very small personal defense item and gives us peace of mind when we’re constantly on-the-go. In our experience here at Guardian Self Defense, the best keychain pepper spray will have a keyring breakaway mechanism, have greater than 1.1% MC, and be .5 ounces or less. Let us explain.

Keychain OC

The most imperative thing when looking to purchase keychain pepper spray is to make sure the unit has a breakaway mechanism from your keyring. This is critical to personal protection because attacks often happen in a split second, and the victim fumbles with keys while trying to find and use the spray. With a breakaway piece, the spray can quickly become detached from the keys and within seconds can the victim acquire the target and disperse the spray.

We also want to share a pro tip that no one else will tell you - having your keys and pepper spray in separate hands is a huge asset because you can distract the attacker by throwing your keys at them with one hand, putting them on defense, immediately followed by OC spray from the opposite hand. Before they know what happened they’ll be on the ground and you’ll be able to safely get away. This is a distraction technique similar to what boxers do to successfully land a punch, and it's very effective.

It is also important for your keychain OC to have a major capsaicinoid percentage greater than 1.1% and be smaller than .5 ounces. Our experience shows the MC percentage needs to be high because keychain canisters are generally small, and your unit needs to be small if you’re planning to carry it on your keychain every day. Most ½ oz. units only have 4 to 6 one-second bursts, which means you will need to make the most of those bursts, so a high-heat spray is very important.

We especially love the Wildfire keychain quick-release pepper spray because it meets every piece of criteria we just mentioned. It comes in a small .5 oz canister that is lightweight and easy to attach to keyring. With 1.4% MC is it one of the hottest sprays you can buy, and has an effective range of up to 8 feet. The stopping power of the Wildfire line is unlike anything we've seen from other keychain units. It also comes in different options with a either a hard case, a soft cases like plain leatherette or leatherette with some bedazzle, or halo leather cases which offer more protection over the firing mechanism.

A close second is the Sabre Red 3-in-1 keychain unit. This popular formulation is Sabre's best selling line and is well known amongst people that have been hit by it as being the most excruciating 30 minutes of their lives. We love the hardcase as its plain and simple and doesn't draw attention to the unit.

 

Best Everyday Carry (EDC) Pepper Spray

Fox Labs Mean Green

Fox Mean Green 1.5 oz

Sabre Red 3-in-1 Hardcase Keychain

Sabre Red 3-in-1 Hardcase Keychain

Defense Technology OC Aerosol

Defense Technology MK-3 OC

Rating
4.8 / 5 Wildfire OC Keychain Rating
4.7 / 5 Sabre 3-in-1 Keychain Rating
4.6 / 5 Mace Sport Jogger Rating
Price
Starts at $19.99
$12.99
Starts at $17.99
Volume
1.5 oz | 3 oz
.5 oz
1.47 oz
Spray Pattern
Stream | Cone
Stream
Stream | Cone | Foam | Gel
Range
Up to 20 ft.
Up to 10 ft.
Up to 12 ft.
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Daily carrying of a defense spray is becoming more and more popular with each passing day. Many civilians don’t always feel comfortable carrying a firearm and many prefer a non-lethal product that can still stop an assailant in their tracks. When looking for the best pepper spray to carry everyday, there is one main consideration – how you want to carry the defense spray. There are three realistic options: on a belt with a holster, on a keychain, in a purse.

holsters for everyday carry pepper spray

They each have their pros and cons, and it largely depends on personal preference. If you live in a high-crime neighborhood, it might make the most sense to have a belt holster pepper spray so it’s always quickly within reach. Keychain pepper spray is a great option for those that just want to have peace of mind but aren’t necessarily serious enough about it to want to attach to a new pair of pants every morning. We’ll give you a product recommendation for the best of both options.

If you’re interested in carrying on a belt holster, the best EDC pepper spray is the Fox Labs Mean Green personal defense spray. The formulation in this collection from Fox Labs contains a highly pigmented color spectrum, a virulent shade of green. The green spray marks your attacker for easy visual identification with no UV lights needed. Made with 3 million SHUs at a 6% OC concentration, it clocks in at 1.2% MC. As with most Fox products, it comes 1.5 oz or 3 oz canister and either a stream or cone spray pattern. The stream reaches up to 20 feet and the cone fogger up to 18 feet. It is our general advice for interested EDC customers to go with a smaller unit. Much like experienced concealed carry firearm holders, who generally prefer smaller pistols with a 6 round magazine as opposed a larger 17 round magazine because it’s lighter and easier to carry and conceal.

If you’re interested in EDC on a keychain, then the easy choice here is the Sabre Red 3-in-1 keychain pepper spray with a quick release key ring. Sabre Red is one hottest sprays and best-selling sprays on the market, and this .5 ounce compact canister is perfect for anyone looking to daily carry. It boasts an impressive 10-foot range and up to 25 half-second bursts. The quick release key ring is very important to immediate access of the spray as it breaks away from your keys with a quick pull. Sabre’s in-house HPLC testing lab ensures that all of their product meets their heat standards and won’t fail unlike some other big-name brands which have been reported to not fire or contain the heat consistency as advertised.

 

Best Pepper Gel

Wildfire Sticky Pepper Gel

Wildfire Sticky Pepper Gel

Mace Pepper Gel w/ LED Light

Mace Pepper Gel Night Defender

 Mace Magnum 4 Pepper Gel

Mace Magnum 4 Gel

Rating
4.9 / 5 Wildfire OC Keychain Rating
4.7 / 5 Sabre 3-in-1 Keychain Rating
4.4 / 5 Mace Sport Jogger Rating
Price
$24.95
$24.99
$19.99
Volume
4 oz.
1.5 oz
2.78 oz
Spray Pattern
Gel
Gel
Gel
Range
Up to 18 ft.
Up to 18 ft.
Up to 25 ft.
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Wildfire is one of the best OC collections you’ve probably never heard of, and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Safety Technology manufacturers and distributes Wildfire, and they have been quietly successful since 1986. The reason for this success is the quality of capsicum sourced specifically for their Wildfire pepper line. Among all the products in the Wildfire collection, including their disguised lipstick pepper spray, their keychain pepper spray with any holster design you can think of, their pistol grip foggers, and more, their pepper gel is easily the best. Let us explain why.

Pepper gels in general are relatively new formula and spray pattern to the OC industry. Coming onto the scene in the early 2000s, they have been steadily gaining popularity with consumers for their inherent benefits over traditional OC spray. The thing our team likes the most about the gel formulation is that once it gets on an attacker’s skin it becomes nearly impossible to wipe off. The thick, sticky, glue-like gel substance smears across the eyes and face and permeates the mucus membranes instantly incapacitating the attacker with an unmatched burning sensation. In addition, gel streams have a longer range and are better in outdoor settings over traditional spray streams due to a lesser chance of blowback for you or others in close proximity. Today, many of the best pepper spray brands now have a gel in their collection because of all these reasons, but Wildfire stands out as top in its class.

Major capsaicinoids are the true measure of heat in all pepper products. We’ll say it time and time again, forget OC percentage and SHU numbers. Nine times out of ten times they’re advertising numbers that aren’t indicative of the true heat. Wildfire sticky pepper gel comes with an astounding 1.4% major capsaicinoids making it one of the hottest gels on the market. The OC gel comes in two different size canister options: 2 oz and 4 oz. The 2 oz canister has a range of up to 10 feet and contains about 8 one-second bursts. The 4 oz canister has a range of up to 18 feet and contains about 18 one-second bursts. In our opinion, the 4 oz bottle is a far better option if you have enough space where you typically keep your pepper spray. The bottle profile is thinner than most 4 oz canisters so it can still easily fit comfortably in a purse, pocket, glove compartment, center console, nightstand, or holster. And you get the increased range to keep enough distance between yourself and the attacker.

The flip-top actuator offers the perfect combination of safety and convenience. Just flip up the lid with your thumb and press the actuator down to send an instant stream of gel hell barreling towards your attacker’s face. We promise, anyone that gets sprayed with Wildfire Stick Pepper Gel will have their world turned upside down for the next 45 minutes.

 

Best Pepper Spray Gun

Pepperball TCP Launcher

Pepperball TCP Launcher

Mace Gun 2.0 w/ LED

Mace Pepper Gun 2.0

 Mace Pepper Gun

Mace Pepper Gun Black

 

Rating
4.7 / 5 Wildfire OC Keychain Rating
4.4 / 5 Sabre 3-in-1 Keychain Rating
4.3 / 5 Mace Sport Jogger Rating
Price
$399.99
$59.99
$59.99
Volume
6 Rounds
1 oz
1 oz
Spray Pattern
Projectile
Stream
Stream
Range
Up to 150 ft.
Up to 20 ft.
Up to 20 ft.
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OC spray innovation doesn’t end with better product formulations and more heat. With great industry minds and brilliant engineers have come incredible products over the last few years like the pepper spray gun. What used to be a space owned by the Mace brand with their one-of-a-kind Pepper Gun and Pepper Gun 2.0, they are now being overtaken by niche brands focused exclusively on non-lethal self-defense guns that fire pepper projectiles.

In our opinion the best pepper gun today is made by Pepperball. Pepperball’s roots can be traced back to the mid 1990’s and is the product of a US military defense contractor developing a product for use in non-lethal missions. The brand has since grown like wildfire thanks to the features and functionality of their products that we will touch on below. As a result, Pepperball is now the preferred non-lethal self-defense device for prisons, correction facilities, and border patrol agents.

Pepperball manufacturers two main products for civilian use. The first is their Tactical Compact Pistol (TCP) Launcher. Resembling an appearance to that of a standard pistol or firearm, the TCP fires up to 150 feet with LIVE-X projectile rounds with incredible accuracy. The 6 round magazines hold enough projectiles to ensure you will safely deter your threat. The TCP Launcher takes an 18-gram CO2 cartridge, or for cold weather climates a nitrogen cartridge.

The second product is the Pepperball LifeLite, which takes the appearance of a flashlight-like unit but offers much more functionality than your standard flashlight. Equipped with a 350 lumen LED light, the LifeLite launches non-lethal pepper projectiles up to 60 feet away. Best yet, there is a built-in laser guide that helps the shooter find and hit the target easier. We absolutely love this pepper spray gun.

Both the TCP and the LifeLite project paintball like rounds, deemed LIVE and LIVE-X (extended distance) rounds. The active ingredient is a chemical agent called pelargonic acid vanillylamide (PAVA), a synthetic capsaicinoid. PAVA is considered significantly more potent than CS tear gas, however is well-documented to be less reliable than OC on drunk and drug-fueled assailants due to its synthetic nature.

Overall, you can probably see why Pepperball launchers are the best pepper gun and the preferred option for professionals in search of non-lethal defense products. The long range makes them ideal for anyone wanting to keep a larger distance between themselves and an attacker than the typical 15-20 foot range of a typical pepper spray.

Lastly, the Mace gun has been a top seller for the last two decades, and continues to impress. Unlike Pepperball branded items, this gun fires actual OC spray much like a traditional handheld canister would, except its in the form of a pistol. The dual mode LED light on the Mace gun allows for either a constant light or a strobe pattern to distract and blind an assailant, and makes the 20-foot stream spray even more effective as they can’t see what’s about to hit them. The pistol grip design is great for point-and-shoot accuracy and is easy to grab, aim and fire. The Mace pepper spray gun has been a staple in this space for almost three decades.

 

Best Pepper Spray For Dogs

Mace Muzzle Dog Repellent

Mace Dog Repellent Spray

Sabre Red Dog Protector

Sabre Red Dog Repellent
Rating
4.8 / 5 Wildfire OC Keychain Rating
4.7 / 5 Wildfire OC Keychain Rating
Price
$16.99
$16.99
Volume
.6 oz
1.8 oz
Spray Pattern
Stream
Stream
Range
Up to 10 ft.
Up to 15 ft.
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A common question we get is what is the difference between dog spray and human spray? Well the main difference is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the maximum strength of dog spray, and by law they only allow up to 1% MC in dog repellent formulations. The reason being is that dogs have much more sensitive noses and mucous membranes than us mortal humans, so the OC spray doesn’t need to be as strong. The average human spray has about 2 million SHU whereas the average dog spray has less than 1 million SHU.

dog attack
While that certainly will not feel good in a human’s face, it’s entirely possible a drunk or someone on drugs will not feel the full effect and continue with their unlawful intentions should they be sprayed with dog spray. That is why it is our recommendation that if you must carry just one type of pepper spray, make it human spray. It will not cause any long-term injuries or harm to a dog or coyote, and will still protect you in the event you’re out walking and encounter an attempted human attack. You will also gain a more effective range with a traditional stream canister which will allow you to place more distance between yourself and the aggressive dog.

 

With that being said, we understand that some people just feel more comfortable knowing they have a lower strength spray for the routine problem dogs in their neighborhood. In this case, the best pepper spray for dogs in our experience is the Mace Canine Repellent. This Mace spray contains 1% MC and comes in a 17-gram canister with a Velcro strap, perfect for those neighborhood or trail walks. The effective range of 10-12 feet isn’t great, but is far more than a typical stun gun or expandable baton offers in these situations.

The second product we recommend is the Sabre Red Protector dog repellent. Also containing 1% MC, the most legally allowed by the EPA, the Sabre Red defense spray comes in a larger 1.8 oz canister that supplies 25 short bursts and offers an effective range up to 15 feet. We wish this repellent had an elastic strap to fasten to the hand, but it does come with a plastic clip to attach on a waist band or belt which we do appreciate.

With either the Mace or Sabre brand, you will be able to safely protect yourself against any dog attack. If you wish to use a human spray, refer back to our top-rated units at the beginning of this article.

 

Best Bear Spray

Mace Bear Spray

Mace Bear Fogger

Frontiersman Bear Fogger

Frontiersman Bear Pepper Spray

Guard Alaska Spray

Guard Alaska Spray

Rating
4.8 / 5 
4.8 / 5
4.1 / 5 
Price
$49.99
Starts at $41.99
$39.95
Volume
9.2 oz
7.9oz | 9.2 oz
9 oz
Spray Pattern
Heavy Cone Fog
 Heavy Cone Fog
Heavy Cone Fog
Range
Up to 35 ft.
Up to 35 ft.
Up to 20 ft.
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Anyone that spends anytime in the woods hiking or hunting knows the threat of coming across a bear is very real, and you never want to be unprepared should it happen. And when it comes to personal defense against animals that are 4x the average weight of a human, run up to 25 mph, and have razor sharp claws and teeth, you don’t want to mess around or take your chances. And it doesn’t even have to be a grizzly, even small bears can cause severe injury or death.

The good news is that there is extensive research on this very topic, and it has shown that bear pepper spray has proven to be the most effective deterrent against these aggressive four-legged furballs, surprisingly even more so than firearms. That’s right, according to a multi-decade study dubbed the “Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray” by renowned professors Tom Smith and Stephen Herrero, those who were carrying spray were uninjured in 98% of close-range encounters compared to 84% with handguns and 76% with long guns.

So what is bear spray, why is it so effective, how exactly do you use it, and what is the best pepper spray for use against them? We we’re hoping you’d ask.

Bear spray is an extremely intense OC pepper spray comprised of concentrated capsaicin and capsaicinoids, the active ingredients in chili pepper and what make those things burn. Much like OC spray for dogs, the EPA regulates bear spray and has guidelines that they must contain between 1-2% MC. For comparison the average human spray has just over 1% MC. So it’s important to always make sure your unit is EPA approved to ensure the best results.

bear in the woods
It’s also important to note that bear spray is a deterrent, not a proactive repellent like insect spray. Some research has shown that it might actually attract animals because of the strong odor of the formulation. It should also be considered a last line of defense against bears. No one should substitute common sense, safety, and preparation because they have spray as fallback protection. With that said, we do believe a big reason bear spray is so effective is because it gives you a reason not to flee. While it’s incredibly difficult not to turn and run away in the face of imminent danger, everyone knows they should not turn and run as it’s a sure sign of weakness. Instead, having the spray at the ready and thinking through possible options might naturally exert the confidence and time needed to stand your grand, which in-itself can deter an attack in most cases.

 

There are quite a few brands in this space, but in our opinion the best is bear Mace Spray. A powerful magnum fogger with a 2% MC formulation, the strongest allowed by the EPA, and that delivers a cone blast spray pattern boasting a remarkable 35-foot range. This bear deterrent Mace comes in a 9 oz canister with a finger loop handle to safely clip onto a backpack or belt loop, making it perfect for totting along in the backcountry. The 35-foot range is a result of the intense pressure inside the canister that once activated, dispenses the spray outwards at 70 mph and empties the bottle in about 6 seconds. For obvious reasons, the 35-foot spray distance is critical in all pepper spray use on bears.

A very close second to the Mace brand is the Frontiersman bear spray from Sabre Red. Frontiersman is a line offering nearly identical specs as Mace with 2% MC, but it does come in two different size options. The 9.2 oz offers a range of up to 35 feet, and the 7.9 oz offers a range up to 30 feet. Both size sprays are deployed in a cone fog blast ensuring adequate coverage to hit the bear where it counts, the nose. We would recommend the 9.2 oz over the 7.9 oz for one main reason. The larger canister deploys the pepper spray fog at 1.84 ounces per second. This is very important as every fraction of a second matters as a bear is charging, and you want your bear spray to empty as fast as possible. We also love the glow-in-the-dark trigger which makes finding the trigger and dispensing the spray easy in low-light or dark situations.

Overall, the Mace and Frontiersman sprays both offer more than enough specs to keep you safe in backcountry. These are the two best bear spray products on the market today and you can’t go wrong with either one.

 

Top Pepper Spray Brands

 

Fox Labs International

Fox Labs International Logo

The leader in the industry and manufacturer of the best pepper spray for the last 20 years, Fox is the largest supplier of OC spray to police departments, sheriffs offices, correction facilities, border patrol agents, hospital security guards, and virtually anyone else in the private security industry. They make the worlds best pepper spray, the FIVE POINT THREE defense spray. With 5.3 Million SHUs and 2% OC formula with the purest capsicum you can find, their products are simply the best.

Sabre

Sabre Red Logo

The manufacturer of the Sabre Red line, this brand is always in the conversation. Sabre has been a leader in this industry for the last 40 years, consistently producing some of the hottest sprays thanks to their proprietary High-Performance Liquid Chromatography lab. This process has one specific purpose which is to eliminate bad batches, and it does an exceptional job. Their most famous product line of Sabre Red 3-in-1 uses a combination of OC, CS tear gas, and UV marking dye, all which come together to form a spray with incredible stopping power.

Defense Technology

Defense Technology Logo

Defense Technology is defense product manufacturer that is probably more well-known for their commercial grade products than they are their personal pepper sprays. They make everything from impact munitions such as rubber bullets, to riot shield and suits, to friction lock batons, to tear gas canisters commonly used in prison yards. The bottom line is that they are expert in the self-defense category, and they know a thing or two about how to make the best OC delivery units.

Mace

Mace Logo

We don’t need to tell you that Mace is a top brand in this industry. Heck they created the industry. Mace has been around since the 1960s with their early CN based spray, which they have refined over the years to continue to best their competitors and stay ahead in the market. They are remarkably good at product marketing, and that has resonated as the term Mace is synonymous with pepper spray. Their Triple Action formula is one of the best-selling personal defense sprays available and millions of people worldwide trust Mace to protect themselves and loved ones.

Pom Pepper Spray

Pom Industries Logo

Pom is the young, hip millennial version of the pepper spray industry that makes all established incumbent brands nervous because they know what young consumers want. They’re the Apple of pepper sprays. Pom has designed an OC spray that will blend into your modern lifestyle, because they know aesthetics are just as important as function. They offer one spray formulation delivered through several patented keychain and hardcase options and colors, and it turns out the spray is quite good. With 1.4% MC, a 12-foot range, and 24 half-second bursts packed into a small .5 oz unit shows that Pom has the pepper spray to match the aesthetic.

Streetwise

Streetwise Logo

Streetwise is a self-defense product manufacturer focused on non-lethal devices for personal use. Their most popular OC sprays come in the form of keychain units, handheld flip top canisters, and pistol grip foggers. They offer two spray formulations – Streetwise 18 and Streetwise 23. The Streetwise 18 collection contains 1.17% MC derived from over 4 million SHU. And the stronger Streetwise 23 collection contains 1.47% MC derived from over 5 million SHU making it one of the most effective sprays available. Streetwise also makes one of the best disguised pepper spray products in the form factor of a black pen, which makes it great for men who traditionally find disguised sprays in the form of lipstick canisters.

 

Types of Spray Patterns

There are a number of different delivery methods and spray patterns that are used to expel a spray from the canister. In addition, there are also different types of solvents and solutions that create unique textures and viscosities, like foams and gels. Both were developed to give consumers options and flexibility depending on their environment and their situational use, like if its for home protection or everyday carry. Each have their pros and cons, and its largely personal preference, but it's important to understand the difference so you can identify the best OC spray for you.

Stream: Provides a strong, tight spray pattern that allows for a greater standoff distance. Offers the longest spray range over another other delivery. Best for outdoor conditions as the chance of blowback is reduced without the fine aerosols of a cone spray. Generally need to have better aim over other dispersions due to small target-specific shot. Think sniper rifle, as opposed to shotgun.

Cone: Sometimes referred to as cone fog or foggers, they provide a wider delivery pattern making it easier to acquire a target. Sacrifices distance for increased coverage. Best for indoor use over outdoors as the fire aerosols increase the risk of blowback in windy conditions. Aim is considered less important which is critical in high-adrenaline encounters. Think shotgun as opposed to sniper rifle. 

Gels: Provides a tight, targeted gel stream for reduced cross contamination potential. Lowest risk of blowback over any other spray pattern, making them great for indoor or outdoor use. Many new gels use low molecular weight gelators (LMWGs) which allow for distances to rival stream sprays, despite the heavier weight of the gel. Very difficult to wipe off as the thick, sticky glue-like substance smears very easily.

Foams: Provides a dispersion method for powerful fast-acting foam that coats the face upon contact. Much like gel it is very difficult to wipe off. Aim is not as important as foam has a wider pattern making it easy to acquire and hit a target. Least popular spray pattern for consumers as many brands do not offer foaming pepper spray.

 

Pepper Spray vs Mace

The old adage that pepper spray and Mace are synonymous still incorrectly stands true to this day. Brands that are the first to successfully develop and market a product to the masses often acquire a term coined genericized trademarks, meaning consumers see the brand as the generic product. The generic item in our case is pepper spray, and the brand is Mace. The same goes for Taser and stun gun. All Tasers are stun guns, but not all stun guns are Tasers.

At face value, Mace was the industry pioneer and owned the defense spray market for a generation during the mid to late 1900’s. No one could match their pepper spray formulation and marketing power. Mace originally started as a CN tear gas but after years of research and testing it became clear that OC has superior incapacitating qualities over CN and other tear gases, so they changed formulas.

And with time came increased competition. Here we are today where the current Mace formula is relatively well known and established with 5-10% OC and 2-3 million SHU depending on the product lines. Newer brands are putting their unique twist on ingredients, solvents, solutions, and propellants to try to gain a competitive advantage over the gold standard for so many years, the Mace brand.

This is not to say that Mace hasn’t innovated. They continue to create new products, new canisters, new colors, and new dispersion methods. But newer brands have pressed the envelope even further in our opinion. We love most Mace products and the vast majority of consumers do also, but some of the brands we talked about in this article are starting to take over the industry, and Mace is realizing that a strong brand name only goes so far.

If you remember one thing from this entire article, make it that not all pepper spray is Mace, but all Mace is pepper spray.

 

Semantics, Ingredients, and Chemistry

The best place to start is by defining some terms that will come up often in this article.

OC Spray
inside of a pepper

Pepper spray is also known as OC spray, which stands for oleoresin capsicum. Oleoresin is an extract, in our case in the form of an oil, from the pepper plant species capsicum. The capsicum species is comprised of compounds known as capsaicinoids. There are a few different types of capsaicinoids, but the most common and the one with the highest amount of SHU is capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers and what makes them HOT! And because of this, capsaicin is the active ingredient in all pepper sprays. Note that we might interchangeably use the terms pepper spray and OC spray throughout this article, but they are in fact the exact same thing.

 

Tear Gas

tear gas canister pluming smoke and person running
Tear gas differs from pepper spray in that unlike pepper spray which derives from natural chemicals (capsaicinoids), tear gas comes from man-made compounds. Popular tear gases include irritants like 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS gas), phenacyl chloride (CN gas), and dibenzoxazepine (CR gas) and are most commonly used in riot control. Unlike their name, most tear gases are not actually true gases but rather liquids or solids that can be finely dispersed through the use of fog generators or grenades. These are typically the familiar grenade-like object thrown by law enforcement into violent and disruptive crowds that disburse a plume of white fog as they roll along the ground, or the large pistol grip canisters.

 

Many of the best pepper sprays like Mace Triple Action and Sabre 3-in-1 use a combination of both OC and CS because they complement each other very well in targeting different mucous membranes creating an exceptionally effective incapacitating spray.

Both pepper spray and tear gas are formally known as lachrymatory agents, which are defined by compounds that irritate the eyes and cause burning, pain and temporary blindness. Fortunately for those in the dispersion area of tear gas, the effects generally wear off within a few minutes after exiting the affected area. But for those hit with OC the effects are much, much worse.

 

Effects of Pepper Spray

Pepper spray works by the capsaicin causing severe irritation and a burning sensation to mucous membranes in the areas of contact (eyes, skin, or nose) and take effect within seconds of exposure. Even an indirect hit of pepper spray will result in the eyes tearing and burning, causing temporary blurred vision and blindness. Noses will start running, burning and swelling. The chest will begin to experience tightness, resulting in excessive coughing and shortness of breath.

The first reaction of people sprayed with OC is to immediately close their eyes. This is an involuntary reaction as the capsaicin overwhelms the body’s mucous membranes. The key is to NOT rub the eyes as this can cause corneal abrasions. If you wear contacts, take them out as soon as possible and avoid touching your eyes and face afterwards. Many people experience fear as a result of feeling disoriented due to the lack of vision immediately after being sprayed.

How Long Does Pepper Spray Last

Showing the effect of tear gasbreathing problems from oc

Depending on the brand and heat strength, the acute effects of pepper spray generally wear off within 30-45 minutes. A person exposed should immediately be removed from the affected area and taken to a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors with plenty of fresh air. Rigorously blinking and flushing of the eyes with cold water will help to speed up recovery time, but anticipate at least 30 minutes of intense burning in the eyes and shortness of breath.

If problematic breathing does not resolve after 45 minutes, ‘bronchodilators’ which are generally used to treat asthma may be needed to prevent ‘bronchospasms’, an abnormal constriction and narrowing of the respiratory airway. OC supervisors or medical personnel should have these on-hand should one be getting sprayed for training purposes.

 

How To Get Pepper Spray Out Of Eyes and Off Skin

Despite many assailants or law enforcement academy plebes best efforts to get pepper spray out of their eyes with water alone, capsaicin is not soluble in water so while it might dilute the OC concentration it won’t wash it off. Ultimately there is no cure, but there are things to help minimize the effects. Perhaps the most common suggestion is to blink like hell to encourage the tear ducts to flush the irritant out of the eyes.

Sudecon wipes for pepper spray

Assuming you are prepared to get sprayed and have time to gather some recovery aids beforehand, there two other remedies that are said to have helped suppress the worst of the effects. The first is a 3:1 ratio of cold water to Dawn dish soap. Dawn in particular has been shown to be very effective in removing oils. Turn your head sideways as to not let the solution run down your body carrying capsaicin oils with it.

There are also disposable wipes that many police academy’s use to help get spray out of the eyes and off the skin of their cadets on OC day. The most popular are Sudecon wipes from Fox Labs. These pepper spray remedy wipes have a patented formula to help decontaminate OC, CS, and CN exposure by stripping the chemical agents from the skin.

The capsaicin oils can remain on the skin for a numbers days after being sprayed. We recommend not showering for at least 24 hours as it can reactivate the capsaicin, also known as a ‘reflash’, and the water can carry the oils to sensitive parts of the body. Use the Dawn 3:1 solution in the shower and scrub vigorously.

 

Does Pepper Spray Expire?

Yes, pepper spray does expire and don’t let anyone tell you different. The good news is that just about every manufacturer includes an ‘end of life’ or expiration date on the canister, and they’re generally 36-48 months from birth date, which should also be on the canister. The reason pepper spray expires is not as much about it losing its potency as it is about the canister losing its pressure. To assure the effective spray range or eliminate the potential chance of total propellent degradation, its critical to maintain the expiration date and purchase a new spray when that date comes.

 

Is Pepper Spray Legal?

Pepper spray is legal to carry in all 50 states for self-defense, however some states may have online purchasing or canister size restrictions. New York and Massachusetts are the only two states that prohibit the purchase of OC spray through the mail which prevent shipments from entering into the states. It is legal, however, for us to ship dog defense spray into New York and Massachusetts so we do recommend at the very least those interested in a non-lethal self-defense product carry a Mace dog repellent spray. We are legally not allowed to ship stun guns into either state as well.

Other states like New Jersey, Michigan, Florida, California, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Wisconsin limit the number of ounces in pepper spray containers. Essentially this is to deter residents from owning large amounts of OC, mostly in the form of big pistol grip foggers used in riot and crowd control situations.

For more information on the state laws surrounding pepper spray and stun guns, refer to our product laws page where we breakdown each state and identify if there are any shipping restrictions. We try to keep this as up-to-date with state law and current legislation as much as possible.

 

Can You Bring Pepper Spray on an Airplane?

Yes, however there are many caveats. The first being only for domestic flights, as many international countries actually view pepper spray as a weapon. The second is that one 4 oz. container of mace or pepper spray is allowed if it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge, but it must be included in checked baggage not a carry on. If a defense sprays contains more than 2% CS or CN tear gas they are prohibited even from checked baggage.

It’s worth mentioning that certain airlines may have their own restrictions so we highly recommend checking with your carrier before the flight.

 

Where to Buy?

Here at Guardian-Self-Defense.com of course. We’re not just referring you to Amazon to buy the products and get a commission off your click. We have been one of the largest online sellers of self-defense products for the last 15 years, and we continue to offer the best products from the best pepper spray brands on the market. We have a state-of-the-art inventory system, contracts with the best manufacturers, distributors, and vendors to service our customers and ensure a constant and uninterrupted supply chain.

All of which is great, but the thing we’re most proud of is the relationship with our customers and the support we offer, pre-sale and post-sale. If you have any questions at all, our team is here to help in whatever that might be. If your product isn’t functioning the way you had hoped, let us know and we’ll be happy to get to the bottom of it or send a replacement.

We know just about everything there is to know about pepper spray, so please don’t hesitate to send us a message on our Contact Us page.

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