How to Buy Pepper Spray

When it comes to personal protection, there’s no weapon like pepper spray. Guns are dangerous in the home, expensive to own and keep up, and illegal in many situations, making it impractical to depend solely on a handgun for your safety. As a self defense tool, knowing how to buy pepper spray is the first step towards personal security.

Pepper spray is a non lethal weapon in the form of an aerosol spray. The name “pepper spray” is a generic word that can include any number of non lethal spray type weapons, but traditional pepper spray is actually made from peppers. A derivative of pepper plants, oleoresin capsicum, is sprayed on a target to either stop them in their tracks, cause temporary blindness and discomfort, and even in the wild as a way to keep animals away. Though the pepper spray you buy may not actually be made of oleoresin capsicum (OC) it is still considered “pepper spray”.

So how do you go about protecting yourself with this non lethal firearm alternative? Knowing how to buy pepper spray means knowing what product you want, where to find it, some price details so you don’t get ripped off, and the proper way to store and use your new pepper spray deterrent.

What Kind of Pepper Spray Should I Buy?

The market is flooded with pepper spray products. Different sprays come in different concentrations, chemicals, containers, and with a wide variety of nozzles and containers. Some pepper spray products come with accessories, like a belt holster.

To pick a pepper spray product, decide what kind of spray you want (there are three basic ingredients to choose from) then find the right container. There is no shortage of choices when it comes to buying pepper spray.

So how do you know which chemical to buy? Here’s a breakdown of the three big names.

  • CS — Also known as Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile (you can see why they shortened it), this is a man made substance meant to imitate the effects of good old fashioned OC. CS works almost exclusively as an irritant, meaning it doesn’t cause any changes in the tissue of the victim but just irritates. Though CS is an effective deterrent, the widespread use of OC has pretty much put this chemical off the shelf.
  • CN — Another man made irritant, CN is the shortened name of alphachloroacetaphenone. Just like CS, CN works to irritate the mucus membranes without doing any actual damage to them. The problem with irritant deterrents is that the effects take a little while to kick in (anywhere from ten seconds to a minute) and they wear off rather easily. Also, since CN and CS are man made, some people react very little to the deterrant, if at all.
  • OC — The big man on campus, oleoresin capsicum is pretty much the only dog in the fight when it comes time to buy pepper spray. OC is an inflammatory rather than just an irritant — this means the victim of an OC pepper spray will simply have to slow down their attack. The eyes, nose, and throat become inflamed (though not completely shut) which incapacitates a victim and can put an end to even the most violent conflict.

How to Buy Pepper Spray

How to Buy Pepper Spray

How to Buy Pepper Spray

There are only three considerations that are vital to the purchase of a pepper spray nonlethal deterrent weapon. If you are in the market for a pepper spray product, walking into the store with a good idea of what you want in these three categories will make your job (and the salesperson’s job) much easier.

  • Size — Not just the size of the container, but the capacity of the weapon as well. Pepper spray comes in all different sizes. I’ve seen cans of pepper spray as small as a half ounce up to nine ounces or larger. There are cute little “Keychain” defensive pepper sprays made so they’re easy to carry and always within reach — these are generally the smallest containers. You don’t have to buy a gallon jug of spray to stay safe. The smallest pepper spray products contain enough spray to protect yourself from a few encounters, if you know how to use the spray that is. The size of the spray will affect your range (how far away you can spray) and the number of shots per can. For personal protection, I recommend a 6 foot range minimum, since that is the range in which most assaults take place. As far as the number of shots you need — cops say that a two second burst is enough to take down an attacker.
  • Spray Pattern — This is a factor that most people don’t consider when they wonder how to buy pepper spray. Good news — you don’t have too many options to confuse you. Pepper spray comes in one of two basic patters, stream or mist. Though a stream pattern (looks like a squirt gun’s pattern) seems forceful and direct, it requires a perfect shot in the nose or eyes to work effectively. The “mist” option (the spray comes out like a cone shape) has a more limited range than the stream but is easier to use as you don’t have to make a direct hit. Pepper spray works best when it is inhaled, and the mist pattern causes more particles to hang in the air, ensuring that inhalation takes place.
  • Formulation — OC pepper sprays come in a few different concentrations ranging from 5% on up pretty much as high as you want to go. Pepper sprays for hunters (meant as a bear or other animal deterrent) is not rated by the concentration, so unless you’re expecting a bear attack, don’t stock up on bear spray. Unfortunately, the concentration is not really an indicator of how strong a spray is or how well it will work — that depends largely on the chemical ingredient and the user of the spray. If you aim in the right place and shoot in 1 – 2 second bursts, the OC will take care of the rest. That’s why “formulation” is not a crucial part of how to buy pepper spray . . . but having a high concentration of OC may give you more peace of mind.

Sometimes just having pepper spray in your hand will deter a potential threat. Sometimes the can of pepper spray in your purse will never get used but it feels good to have a nonlethal option for protection. Whatever your reason, you shouldn’t feel like you don’t know how to buy pepper spray — pick a size, a chemical, and learn how to properly use pepper spray and you’ll be confident in your safety in no time.

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