Pepper Spray, How Do I Choose a Defense Spray?
With all the different pepper spray formulations, concentrations, sizes, nozzle types, and spray patterns, how do I choose a defense spray?
Size and Capacity
The sizes of pepper spray range from a half ounce to up to one pound units. The small units work well as a keychain or clipped onto a purse or pocket. Typical effective range is 8 - 10 feet with a capacity of 10 half second bursts.
The 2 ounce defense sprays are classified as personal or medium units that work well in a purse, on a belt or concealed in the palm of the hand. These pepper sprays have an effective range of 12 - 15 feet with a capacity of 25 half second shots.
The 4 ounce size is the most popular for law enforcement purposes. This is the size typically found on their duty belts. The larger sprays have become popular with civilians for home security. These defense sprays have an effective range of up to 20 feet with a capacity of 40 half second burst.
The 9 ounce and 1 pound defense sprays are often called crowd or riot control units. Generally used to control or deter large groups of people. The range is up to 30 feet with a very large capacity.
As you can see the size of the unit generally determines its capacity; how much compound can be sprayed for what length of time. To simplify things, the range only needs to be 6 to 8 feet, the distance at which most personal attacks take place. Keep in mind that the greater the distance the unit is fired from, the more accurate the aim must be, something that can be difficult in time of stress. The number of shots available is not critical, as a good one second shot will disable almost any attacker. Even the smallest pepper spray units have enough formula to handle multiple attackers.
Nozzle and Spray Patterns
Much more important than capacity is the spray pattern and dispersal density of the unit. There are generally two types of spray patterns: a stream pattern which gives good range but requires aiming directly at the face; and a cone fog which has a shorter range but does not require true aiming. In addition to these factors there are two other important comparisons. First, in a wind the stream spray is more controllable. The cone fog is more likely to be blown off target or even back at the sprayer, when using in a windy climate. Second is the question of inhailability. OC works best when it hits the eyes and when inhaled. The cone fog has smaller particles that are instantly inhaled, while the stream may require slightly longer exposure to cause respiratory distress. With all types of sprays it is critical to hit the attacker in the face area.
Although each person should purchase the pepper spray they feel is best for them, a medium-size 10% concentration with a cone fog spray is probably the overall best choice for most people. Further, since most people carry a key chain of some type, a key chain unit should be added as well. In addition, a large unit with a fog spray should be in the home either at the bedside or by the front door.