Pros and Cons of Pepper Spray as Self-Defense Weapon

Using pepper spray to ward off an attacker can be an effective means of self defense. When used correctly, this chemical agent causes severe irritation to the eyes and trachea, leading to excessive coughing and temporary blindness. However, there are pros and cons to using pepper spray as a weapon of self-protection when faced with a potentially dangerous situation.

Advantages of Pepper Spray

pepper-sprayed-on-facePepper spray is a non-lethal substance available in small pressurized canisters that are small and easily portable. The canisters can be attached to a keychain, clipped to a belt, or stowed in a bag or pocketbook. Some versions are disguised as fake cell phones, tubes of lipstick or concealed from view in hand-held exercise weights. Due to their small size, the pepper spray can be discretely carried and used at a moment’s notice. Pepper sprays are available for less than 30 dollars.

Compared to stun guns, pepper spray can be deployed from a long distance. Depending on the style of the canisters, the victim can be 8 to 20 feet from the attacker. Escaping from a dangerous situation is therefore easier than using a weapon requiring a short range. However, pepper canisters should be sprayed at a range of 4 to 6 feet for maximum effectiveness.

Disadvantages of Pepper Spray

For safety reasons, pepper spray canisters have a locking mechanism to prevent the material from being accidentally released. Users must disable the lock quickly when attacked, but victims often panic and freeze when approached by a predator, leaving them vulnerable to having the spray taken away and used against them.

Before spraying, the user must aim the canister properly, otherwise they could spray themselves in the face. Because pepper spray canisters are pressurized, there is a slight risk that the material will explode if there is exposure to heat or sunlight for a period of time.

Unfortunately, pepper spray doesn’t always work. Attackers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs may have a high threshold of pain, making the product ineffective. If the attacker is wearing sunglasses or a baseball cap, they could escape the effects of the spray.

Rain or wind can negate the long-range advantage of using pepper spray. The victim may have to move closer to the attacker, putting them in harm’s way. There’s an additional risk that the spray will blow onto the user. Even if there is no wind, the user may experience blurry vision and other negative effects of coming into contact with the spray.

Understanding Self Defense

Possessing pepper spray does not mean that a person should take risks and enter a potentially dangerous situation. It’s important to understand that pepper spray should not be relied upon for self defense. Conditions may not make it feasible to use the pepper spray and therefore training in fighting techniques and awareness skills should also be learned.

Assailants often distract their victims at the time of attack and may grab the spray canister. Focusing on using pepper spray may keep a victim from effectively fighting back or running away. It is important to remember that pepper spray is best used at the onset of attack during the approach phase when the assailant has not yet demonstrated physical aggression.

When deciding on whether or not to have a canister of pepper spray readily available on your belt or key chain, it is important to weigh the pros and cons. There is always the risk of the canister malfunctioning, or conditions may cause the device to be ineffective. But in the event of encountering a predator in a dark parking lot or deserted side street, dispensing a blast of pepper spray could create a brief window of time to escape a dangerous situation.