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You are here:Home > SELF DEFENSE ARTICLES > OC Pepper Spray Guide


• CS (Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile)

• CN (alphachloroacetaphenone)

• OC (Oleoresin Capsicum)

CS and CN both have several disadvantages and are not recommended. CS and CN are irritants that affect the membrane tissues, leading to a stinging sensation and causing eyes to tear. Both take approximately 5 to 30 seconds to take effect. This alone makes them inadequate for personal use. Imagine spraying a potential attacker and having to wait 30 seconds for the effects to kick in. Several studies have discovered that people under the influence of certain mind altering drugs are impervious to pain and thus are not affected by CS or CN. Also, both CS and CN are man-made chemicals that are carcinogens and may lead to long-term health problems.

OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) generally referred to as pepper spray, is the most common and effective defensive spray. OC is an inflammatory agent, unlike CS and CN which are irritants. OC is not a man-made chemical, it is created from a variety of hot pepper plants and as a result, is natural, non-toxic and causes no permanent damage. OC begins working immediately, and typically takes about thirty to forty minutes for its effects to subside.

OC dilates the eye capillaries, which causes temporary blindness. Next, it enters the throat and inflames breathing tissue, resulting in severe coughing. Therefore, its effective on people under the influence of drugs who might not feel pain. The attacker is still able to breathe, so OC isn't life threatening, but is extremely debilitating and uncomfortable.

So OC is clearly the best option when it comes to choosing which type of pepper spray to buy. However, there are two additional things to consider when purchasing an OC spray; formulation, and delivery method.


Pepper sprays come in a range of concentrations from 1% to 18%. Most people believe that 18% is the best because it's made up of the highest concentration of OC. However, the best method to determine a pepper spray's effectiveness is to find out the heat rating. The heat rating of OC pepper spray is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU's). The SHU for a standard bell pepper is 0, while Habanero peppers are approximately 200,000 to 300,000. Many OC pepper sprays have an SHU of between 1,000,00 to 3,000,000. So, purchasing OC pepper spray with a concentration of 18% is fine, but the most important thing to consider is the heat rating. Pepper spray with a higher heat rating will incapacitate an attacker and make him more uncomfortable than a pepper spray with a lower heat rating.


The second thing to consider is the delivery method. This is just as significant as the formulation in determining which pepper spray is right for you. Each delivery method has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. The five delivery methods are; the stream, cone mist, fogger, foam and gel.


The stream works in a way similar to a high pressure garden hose nozzle. A large amount of pepper spray being forced through a small opening in a short amount of time.


The stream has the largest range, up to 20 feet, so you will be able to keep a safe distance between you and the attacker. It's made up of heavy droplets so it's not likely to be affected by strong winds and won't blow back into your direction. The stream can be shot directly into an attackers face, making it particularly effective.


Although the stream has the best range, the user must be precise in their aim, which could prove to be difficult under the stress of the circumstances. If an attacker is within close range, it may be tough to get an accurate shot to the face. The stream doesn't last as long as some of the other models. Shooting a large amount of spray means you will empty your canister quickly. The stream doesn't create a mist-like barrier so a direct hit to the face is required for it to be effective.


The cone mist works similar to hair spray or a room deodorizer, it will linger in the air for up to 30 seconds.


The cone mist disperses the pepper spray in a wide, circular pattern so the user doesn't have to be very accurate with their aim, particularly at close range. If an attacker gets even remotely close to the mist, he will breathe it in and it will penetrate the pores of his skin. Because its made up of small, fine droplets, it will remain in the air for a long time and create a barrier that an assailant must pass through to get to his victim. Even if an attacker shields his eyes and holds his breath while attempting to walk through the mist barrier, it will still penetrate the skin and incapacitate him.


The range for a typical cone mist spray is about four to ten feet, so an attacker could get pretty close to his intended target. The cone mist is less effective in windy conditions. The wind could blow the mist away from the assailant, or worse, it could blow back toward the person using it.


The fogger, as its name implies, creates a fog-like spray pattern. It is similar to the cone mist, but is made up of much finer droplets, so it lingers in the air much longer.


Foggers are under high pressure, so the range is nearly equivalent to the stream, about 15 feet. Foggers are unaffected by heavy winds and won't blow back in the users direction. The fogger also creates a mist-like barrier, that hovers in the air for several minutes, which makes it effective against multiple assailants. The fogger is especially effective indoors. Spraying the fogger in a doorway or hallway will make it nearly impenetrable. This is ideal if you need to hold an off attacker for a few minutes to give yourself time to escape through a window or another door.


Because Foggers are under high pressure and they discharge a large amount of spray, you'll empty your canister pretty quickly.


The pepper foam looks like a foam-type shaving cream and can cover an attacker's entire face, making it difficult to see.


The pepper foam sticks to the face and any attempt to wipe it off will cause deeper penetration into the skin. It includes a UV dye that marks the attacker for law enforcement to identify him. The range is good at 8 to 10 feet.


It doesn't create a barrier like the cone mist or the fogger. The user must aim accurately to achieve a direct hit to the face.


The pepper gel is a glue-like substance that reacts similar to the pepper foam and sticks to an attacker's skin.


The pepper gel sticks to the face like glue. Like the Pepper Foam it marks the attacker's face for law enforcement to identity easily. The pepper gel has an excellent 18 foot range. Any attempt to wipe it off, causes further penetration into the skin.


It doesn't create a barrier like the cone mist or fogger. The user must aim accurately to achieve a direct hit to the face.

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