How to Choose the Right Pepper Spray: All You Need To Know

SecPro Advanced Police Strength OC Pepper Spray w/ Lighted Ballistic Stream (Level III) 

In a perfect world we would have no need to defend ourselves from outside aggression. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. Here are some grim facts:

Rape occurs every 5 minutes. 1 out of 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Assault occurs every 10 seconds. Robbery occurs every 46 seconds. 1 in 5 families will be a victim of crime each year. 4.5 million dog attacks occur each year. There are many reasons that you should carry a personal defense weapon rather than a conventional weapon. Pepper spray is a non-lethal weapon. The effects wear off in 30 to 45 minutes giving you ample time to get away and/or secure the attacker. Also, because it is non-lethal, you will be less likely to wait until the situation is beyond critical to use it.

This also lessens the chance of the weapon being taken away and used against you. Another reason to use pepper spray instead of conventional weapons is that the pattern is a very wide 'shotgun' pattern so it is not necessary for a great amount of training and practice to be accurate and effective with its use. Most of these reasons also apply to the outdoorsman who will be using the product against animal attacks. Pepper sprays have been proven to be more effective than hand guns against aggressive animals. Also, most human/animal confrontations occur within the boundaries of state or national parks where firearms are forbidden.

Another favorable aspect of pepper spray is that it can be kept in a readily accessible place. If your children happen to get their hands on it and accidentally discharge it, the worst that can happen is a period of discomfort. But that will pass, unlike what can happen with a firearm.

What is OC?

O.C. (short for oleoresin capsicum) is the oily extract produced by distilling hot red peppers of the Capsicum genus. It is comprised primarily of; (1) carotenoids, the red pigment found in many vegetables, (2) vegetable oils and (3) capsaicinoids, the compounds responsible for pungency. There are over 15 capsaicinoid compounds found in O.C. The one primarily responsible for the "heat" or pungency is Capsaicin. The other capsaiciniods, while comprising a larger percentage of the O.C., are relatively inert with respect to pungency.

What is the difference between pepper spray and Mace or tear gas?

Mace is a brand name for a tear gas product. Tear gas, both CS and CN are synthesized chemicals that are known as "lacrimators". A lacrimator is a substance that produces profuse tearing. Lacrimators, such as tear gas, are not effective against animals. Tear gas can also cause severe blistering of the skin and permanent blindness. In short, tear gas has a very high level of toxicity whereas our pepper spray is totally non-toxic.

I see that most pepper sprays are 10% OC. Does that mean that they're the same?

Absolutely NOT! OC (oleoresin capsicum) is a resinous extract taken from the capsicum peppers. OC is made up partly of 'capsaicinoids', one of which is Capsaicin. Capsaicin is the primary component of OC that makes it hot. Some OC's contain lower levels of Capsaicin than others and while they are cheaper, they are not nearly as hot. Nearly all of the companies manufacturing pepper sprays use food grade OC, which is quite cheap.

Food grade OC is also fairly low in Capsaicin content and is very heavy and oily making it very difficult to solubilize and aerosolize, so often you need to shake the can before spraying for it to be effective. Also, food grade OC has been shown to attract bears from fairly long distances (due to the "meat like" odor of the oils). We use only pharmaceutical grade pure extracted Capsaicin in our products so we can make a 'hotter' product without running into aerosolization problems.

It is much costlier but we feel it is no place to scrimp considering the nature of the product and its intended use. Press here to see the difference between our spray with pure capsaicin and our competition's with food grade OC.

When comparing brands in the stores, I've noticed that some cans are 12 or 15 ounces while others are only 8 ounces. They seem to be the same size can so what is the difference? Does your bear attack deterrent only work on bears? Given the location of our company which is about halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone Parks, our main focus is as a deterrent from attacks by grizzly bears.

But, our spray is equally, or perhaps even more effective against other animals such as mountain lions, dogs, wolves or black bears. I have seen in the news that OC based pepper sprays actually attract bears. Is this true? First of all, you must remember that pepper sprays are designed to be used defensively as an attack deterrent, not as an animal repellent. When sprayed on objects as a repellent, it will not only NOT keep animals away, but will contaminate the object with pepper and render it virtually unusable. The news reports that you have seen cite a study being done by Tom Smith, a USGS biologist doing studies on brown bears in Alaska. His study is actually in its infancy and, so far is based mainly on observations. He has purposely misused the product (for test purposes) by spraying it on objects and on the ground and has observed bears rubbing and scent rolling on the contaminated areas.

He has observed bears coming from as far as 400 yards away after a 4 second blast of spray. We have been in continuous dialog with Tom since the news story broke and are assisting him in obtaining information and specific compounds in order to conduct scientific studies on the actual compounds in question. So far ours is the only product tested that has absolutely no attractive powers towards bears.


Is pepper spray harmful to humans or animals?

A well formulated pepper spray should have absolutely no lasting effect on man or animal. Unfortunately, not all pepper sprays are well formulated. Some sprays still contain CFC's which are known to be harmful to the earth's ozone layer. Also, many sprays contain a substance called methylene chloride which is the active ingredient in paint stripper. Methylene chloride is a known carcinogen and has been banned for use by the EPA. Another side effect of methylene chloride is blindness if sprayed into the eyes. We have made certain from the start that our products contain only FDA and EPA approved substances which are all food, cosmetic and/or pharmaceutical grade and pose no threat.

Should I shake my can of pepper spray before using it?

While shaking a can of pepper spray is not harmful, a properly formulated product should never require it. However, we have tested many OC sprays in our lab and found most, if not all, of them to be quite lacking in this area. The problem with a poorly formulated spray is that the OC has a tendency to separate from the propellant. The OC, being lighter than the propellant, floats to the top. Spray cans are designed with dip tubes so the contents in the bottom of the can are expelled when you spray. The problem with a poor formula is that at first you discharge mostly propellant and when you finally do get down to the pepper, rather than spraying a fine aerosol, you get 'beads' of pepper which are considerably less effective. We have put our formula through rigorous testing. We are pleased to say that our formula has stood up under the worst of conditions and has shown no tendency towards separation. There will never be any reason at all to shake a can of our spray.

How far does your product spray?

While distances are affected by conditions such as wind, temperature or precipitation, the average distances for our sprays are 25 feet for the 225gm can and 15 feet for the 80gm and the 40gm cans. At these distances the spray pattern is quite wide so accuracy is not important. When watching the actual spray pattern, it seems that these distances are about half of what I've stated. The reason for this is that the spray is very highly aerosolized and as it moves away from the nozzle it spreads and the particles become smaller and smaller until they can no longer be seen. But, believe me, they are still there and are still moving toward the target.

How often should I replace my can of pepper spray?

It is recommended that products of this nature be replaced every three years. The reason for this is that the cans are designed with two soft rubber gaskets. Given time, some of the pressure can bleed off past these gaskets rendering the spray less effective. The nature of the product suggests that effectiveness is of utmost importance, thus the replacement time interval. I have heard that just about all pepper sprays are made by the same company and then repackaged. Is that true? What is a Scoville unit? The Scoville unit as an archaic measurement that was used in the food industry before there was an effective method of chemical analysis. The sample in question would be diluted and given to a panel of tasters. The number of panel members that could actually detect hotness would be counted. The sample would be further diluted and the process repeated until only a certain percentage of the panel could still detect hotness.

The measurement was then calculated by the amount of dilutant used. Of course, the ratings were totally subjective rather than objective because they would vary greatly from panel to panel as tolerance to hot food varies from person to person. The Scoville unit is meaningless in the pepper spray business. The only true way to assess the hotness of any given formula is to have it chemically analyzed and assess the actual percentage of Capsaicin (rather than OC).

According to Government guidelines, pure Capsaicin has an SHU rating of 15 million so in order to have 3 million SHU's the product would have to be at least 20% Capsaicin (do not mistake 20% OC).

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