Pepper Spray 101

The popularity of chemical self defense sprays is steadily growing. More and more people are relying on defense sprays than ever before. The demand for chemical defense sprays has become so great that the market has become saturated with hundreds of brands, styles and sizes to chose from. In addition, there are  3 different types of chemical defense sprays available to the public for self defense purposes. The term tear gas, pepper spay, and Mace are often used interchangeably as if they are the same thing; however, they are 3 totally different chemicals. This has led to a lot of confusion. The 3 chemicals used in self defense sprays are as follows:

  1. CN- "Mace" (Chloroacetophenone Phenacyl chloride)
  2. CS- "Military Tear Gas"  (Orthochlorobenzalmalonitrile)
  3. OC-  "Pepper Spray" (Oleoresin Capsicum)


CN  is a powerful lacrimator (tear-producing substance) & respiratory irritant. Common effects when exposed to CN include: uncontrollable tearing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, nausea & stinging sensation of the skin. It may also induce psychological effects such as panic & fear. CN was the first tear gas used by the US military. CN was also the first chemical defense spray marketed to the public as a means of non-lethal self-defense. 

Brief History of "Mace"

  Mace is often used as a generic reference for all self defense sprays. This has led  to the circulation of  false and/or partially correct information.    In 1965, Allen Lee Litman invented the first aerosol defense spray. Litman created  his formula by dissolving Chloroacetophenone Phenacyl Chloride (CN) in hydrocarbon solvents.  The solution was evenly distributed into small aerosol cans and sold to the public for self-defense. Litman patented his product and chose "Chemical Mace" as the official brand name.  Chemical Mace was the first product of its kind and rapidly grew in popularity for its effectiveness at stopping aggression. The term "Mace" is  is a generic name for Chemical Mace. Mace is often used incorrectly as a name for all defense sprays regardless of  brand or chemical composition. 

 Chemical Mace has switched ownership and currently operates as Mace Security International. Mace Security international is  currently one of the largest manufactures of defense sprays. Due to the potentially toxic nature of CN,  the original Chemical Mace formula containing only CN has been discontinued; however, a popular blend of CN and OC known as "Triple Formula" has been retained by the manufacturer. Because  of the superior incapacitating qualities of OC (oleoresin capsicum) Mace Security   International has shifted their focus primarily to OC formulas. 

CS Tear Gas (Military Tear Gas)

In the 1960’s, the US Army replaced CN with CS Tear Gas. Officials believed CS was far less toxic and more effective than CN. CS, also a lacrimating irritant, affects the mucous membranes, causing perfuse tearing, runny rose and persistent coughing/sneezing. Also accompanied with CS is nausea, tightness of chest and burning sensation of the skin along with fear & panic. Like CN, CS relies on pain compliance for effectiveness. CS does not work on everyone.  Sprays containing only CS are not reliable for self-defense. CS sprays are much more effective when blended with an OC formula. 

Does Tear Gas Work On Everyone

The chemical components of both CS and CN Tear Gas are irritants. They work by irritating the mucous membranes of the eyes,throat, and lungs causing a painful burning sensation.  The irritating effects produced from CS and CN can take anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds to  become effective. CS and CN are less  effective on individuals under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol because both rely on pain compliance for effectiveness. CN and CS does not work on everyone. A small percentage of people are immune to the irritating effects of tear gas.

Is it Legal to Use Pepper Spray in Self Defense.

Pepper spray is legal in most US States. Some states have imposed restrictions regarding pepper spray Click HERE to read our summary U.S. State Pepper Spray Laws. 

Is Tear Gas Stronger Than Pepper Spray

Unlike CS and CN, OC (oleoresin capsicum)  produces immediate results when it  contacts the skin and  mucous membranes. OC does not require the attacker/assailant to feel pain in order to be effective. Unlike CN or CS, OC effects everyone. There is not a single person immune to the inflammatory effects of OC.

Why Does Pepper Spray Hurt 

Oleoresin Capsicum 

Oleoresin capsicum is the active ingredient in pepper spray. OC is obtained from peppers through an abstraction process. OC contains a capsaicinoid known as capsaicin. Capsaicin is the chemical responsible for the irritating and inflammatory  effects of pepper spray. The heat or potency of a pepper depends on how much capsaicin the pepper contains. The higher the capsaicin level is; the hotter the pepper is . The same is true for pepper spray. The more capsaicin a spray contains; the more potent and effective the pepper spray  is. Capsaicin is an inflammatory agent as well as a irritant. Although oleoresin capsicum is listed as the active ingredient in pepper spray, it would not be incorrect to list capsaicin as the active ingredient.

Upon immediate contact, capsaicin causes the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs become irritated, and inflamed. A painful burning and stinging sensation is felt on any mucous membranes or skin it comes into contact with.

What are the Effects of Pepper Spray

Once sprayed, the eyes are forced to slam shut. OC causes the capillaries of the eyes to swell leading temporary blindness. Uncontrollable tearing, painful burning and stinging of the eye can last up to an hour. The mucous membranes of the nose become swollen and irritated resulting in painful burning and stinging sensation. The lining of the throat swells and restricts the airway causing uncontrollable gasping and a gagging sensation. The lungs become inflamed and irritated causing irrepressible coughing, tightness of chest, and shortness of breath.  The duration of its effects is depends on the strength of the pepper spray. On average, the full effects of pepper lasts about 45 minutes but the average full effect lasts approximately 45 minutes with diminished effects lasting for several hours.

Does Pepper Spray Really Work

Pepper spray is one of the most effective non-lethal means of incapacitating or debilitating an oncoming aggressor or attacker. 

 I have observed many people fall victim to the nasty effects of pepper spray.  I have used pepper spray during training exercises, and I have also been forced to use it on the street. During all of my experiences with pepper spray, I have never saw it fail. It has worked effectively every time.

Is Pepper Spray the Best Spray for Defense

Unlike CS and CN, OC (oleoresin capsicum)  produces immediate results when it  contacts the skin and  mucous membranes. OC does not require the attacker/assailant to feel pain in order to be effective. The inflammatory effects of pepper spray causes temporary blindness. OC should be the only chemical defense spray you should need in your arsenal. 

Does Pepper Spray Work on People Who are Drunk or Under the Influence of Drugs

OC pepper spray is highly effective on individuals that are under the influence of drugs and or alcohol. OC inflames the capillaries of the eye resulting in temporary blindness. OC does not rely primarily on pain for effectiveness. 

Are Some People Immune to Pepper Spray

No matter whom is sprayed or how many times they have been sprayed, OC pepper spray causes the eyes to involuntarily slam shut and causes temporary blindness.
By saturating the eyes, you give yourself an opportunity to escape even if the attacker/threat cannot feel pain due to alcohol/drugs, emotionally disturbed, or mental illness. OC does not require the attacker/assailant to feel pain in order to be effective.  Nobody is totally immune to the effects of OC spray. A small percentage of the population does not experience the full effects of OC; however, they are not totally immune to it. Everyone will experience temporary blindness if OC makes contact with there eyes.

 Does Pepper Spray Work on Everyone

Pepper spray works on everyone. There is not a single person immune to the inflammatory effects OC has on the eye. Pepper spray inflames the capillaries of the eye and causes temporary blindness. Unlike CS and CN, OC does not rely primarily on pain to stop an aggressor. The temporary blindness offers plenty of time to escape  the situation and get to safety. 


What is the Strongest Pepper Spray

The potency of Pepper Spray depends on several factors. . The average potency of pepper spray is normally a solution that contains a 10% OC concentration with a SHU rating of 2 million.

Oc pepper spray is classified by both its strength and concentration.Nearly a century ago,  American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale gives the sweet bell pepper a zero rating and measures the habenero at 350,000 SHUs.  The strength (heat) of the peppers used to make OC is graded using Scoville Scale. The hotter the pepper used the more severe the effects of the spray will be. The strength of the pepper used to make pepper spray ranges from 500 thousand to 5.3 million SHUs. When selecting a pepper spray, always select a spray with a Scoville Heat Rating of 2 million SHUs or more.

OC concentration is another factor to consider when purchasing pepper spray. The   OC concentration  determines how long the effects of the spray will last. The higher the OC concentration, the longer the effects. OC concentrations  range from 5% to 15% and higher. Always chose a pepper spray formula with a concentration of 5% or higher.  Because  the more is better syndrome of society,  many people  believe a higher OC percentage means a more effective spray;however, this number only measures the amount of OC within the spray. It is not a true indicator of the heat or strength of the spray.

The OC concentration and Scoville Heat Rating of a spray are not the only important factors in determining the potency of a spray.  The most important factor when determining the strength of pepper spray is the capsaicin content.

Capsaicin Content, Total Capsaican, Major Capsaicinoids & Total Capsaicinoids are all synonymous and refer to the total amount of capsaican in a spray. Capsaican is the chemical that makes peppers hot. The more capsaicin a spray contains; the more potent and effective it will be.

   Very few manufactures list the capsaicin content on the labels of their spray. Consumers are led to believe that the higher the OC concentration and/or the higher the SHUs the more potent and effective the spray is; however, that is far from the truth. 

How to Calculate  Actual Capsaicin Content of an OC Spray



 A divided by B times the percentage of OC = Capsaicin Content 

A = Scoville Heat Units Claimed
B = 16 Million SHUs which is the rating for 100% Pure Capsaicin
% OC = Percentage of OC Claimed


Let's assume you want to know which is the most effective pepper spray between WildFire 18% claiming to be the most hottest spray on the market. effective with  18%, 3 million SHUs claim and Pepper Enforcement at 8%, 2 million SHUs. Use the above formula to arrive at the critical Capsaicin Content:

WildFire 18%: 3 million divided by 16 million = 18.75% times .18 = 3.75% Capsaicin Content

Street Enforcer: 2 million divided by 16 million = 12.5% times .08 = 1.0% Capsaicin Content

In this example Wildfire 18% is much more effective than Street Enforcer. Click HERE and check out our selection of WildFire 18% Pepper Sprays.

Pepper spray capsaicin content levels greater than 1.00% may not be safe to use against humans. OC Sprays with a capsaican content of 1% or higher are normally labelled and sold as bear spray.

How to Choose Your Pepper Spray

Not all pepper sprays are  equal. There are several styles and varieties available. There are several things you should consider when selecting your pepper spray. Important things to consider are as follows:

  1. Brand
  2. Strength/Potency
  3. Spray Pattern
  4. Canister Size
  5. Safety Features

What is the Best Brand of Pepper Spray

There are several excellent brands of OC pepper spray on the market. Fox, Mace, Sabre, and WildFire are excellent. Never purchase pepper spray from a gas station or a department store. Purchase your OC from a source that specializes in self-defense. 

What Size of Pepper Spray Should I Carry

Pepper spray cans range from .5 ounce canisters to 16 ounce canisters. I carry both a .5 ounce  canister and a 4 ounce canister at all times. The .5 ounce is a key chain unit. and the 4 ounce canister is carried in a holster and attached to my belt. The choice is a personal preference.  Click HERE to see a variety of high quality pepper spray.

What Pepper Spray Pattern is the Best.

Pepper Spray has 5 spray patterns to chose from.There are pros and cons to each pattern. 

  • A stream pattern has a liquid base and sprays a lot like a water gun. The greatest advantage is its range, which is generally around 12 feet. It’s best for outdoor use, and it’s less likely to be affected by the environmental factors such as wind and/or rain. The stream is somewhat wind resistant and is much safer than fog or cone patterns on windy days.   The downside to a stream is that it requires some amount of accuracy to be effective. 
  • A fog pattern covers a wider area, which makes having correct aim less important and is great for protecting against multiple attackers. It  has a  range of 18 to 25 feet. Use caution on windy days. Wide spray patterns have more potential for blow backs. The wide spray pattern increases the chance of effecting innocent bystanders with overspray; however, even on a windy day, the attacker will receive the majority of the spray. Due to the fine mist, the fog pattern has the greatest effect on the respiratory system than any of the other patterns Instant choking and uncontrollable coughing will occur if even a slight amount of the mist is inhaled.
  • Forced Cone Spray: Most of the smaller 1/2 oz. personal size pepper sprays are forced cone sprays. The spray pattern is circular and covers a width of about two feet; approximately the size of a human head. The range of the forced cone spray is about six to 12 feet. The spray is a finer mist than the broken stream but is delivered in a forceful stream. The cone spray has the attributes of both the stream and fog  pattern.
  • A foam pattern is excellent for indoor use There is a slim chance of blow back if it shot into the wind; however, I recommend that you never spray any form OC directly in the wind. The blow back from OC can be just as debilitating as getting sprayed directly in the face. OC foam is thick and sticky. The consistency of OC pepper foams is similar to shaving cream. Pepper foam has a range of 8-12 ft. Foam takes some degree of accuracy in order to be effective. You need to practice and do a little experimenting with OC foam before carrying  it and relying on it for self -defense. People have been known to scoop the foam from their face and throw it at you. This can easily be avoided with a little caution.
  • A gel pattern is similar to the foam but has a much longer range of 12 to 18 feet. Like the foam, it is ideal for indoor use and is quite sticky. Pepper Gel is partially wind resistant and significantly reduces the chance of blow back. Gel also reduces the risk of effecting innocent people overspray.

There are pros and cons to each pepper spray pattern. Pepper spray is useless if you are unable to hit your target in the face. Stream, gel and foam patterns rely on accuracy in order to be effective. You will need  practice to ensure that you can effectively hit your target.  I recommend the fog or cone pattern because aim is not a factor; however, there is a stronger chance of blow back on windy days. Even if blow back occurs, the attacker will always receive the majority of the spray. OC fog is the fastest acting form of pepper spray. I recommend fog to all of my students. Practice and experiment with a variety of pepper sprays. All forms of OC are effective when used correctly. 

What is the Failure Rate of Pepper Spray.

The failure rate of pepper spray has not been established through any reliable studies. Pepper spray is highly effective most of the time; however, there are conditions and or circumstances in which pepper spray will fail. Most pepper spray failures can  easily be avoided. The following are the most common causes and/or reasons pepper spray may fail or be ineffective. 

How to Prevent Pepper Spray Failures

  1. Pepper spray will fail when it is old. Replace it every two years to ensure the potency of your OC canister.Pepper spray (even when stored correctly) will need to be replaced regularly. Even if never used, pepper spray past its expiration date should never be used.  Expired OC spray loses its potency and is no longer reliable for self defense. OC canisters naturally lose pressure over time. The loss of pressure distorts the spray pattern and reduces the distance the canister shoots. Many self-defense instructors recommend changing your OC canister every year. 
  2. Pepper spray will fail if the nozzle is clogged. Rinse the nozzle after every test spray. Check it regularly to ensure that it is free from any type of debris. Be sure to test your canister every 90-180 days to ensure it is working properly.  Remember, each time you test the canister, you’re using some of its contents. One quick burst is all it takes to ensure the unit is functioning correctly.
  3. Pepper spray will fail if you spray it directly in the wind. Be aware of the wind direction before you spray. You do not want it to blow back onto you. 
  4. Pepper spray will fail if you do not have it readily available. Keep it handy. It should never be buried in your purse. Always keep your pepper spray in a place that you can easily access it like an outside purse pocket or the outer pockets of a jacket.  
  5. Pepper spray will fail if you purchase a crappy brand. Wildfire 18%, Mace, Sabre and Fox Lab are few few examples of high quality pepper spray brands. Never purchase pepper spray from retail stores or gas stations. Always obtain your pepper spray from a  vendor that specializes in self defense. Visit our shop to get great deals on a variety of high quality OC pepper spray. We offer a selection of high quality defense sprays for a fraction of the normal costs. We carry some of the best pepper sprays on the market. In addition,  We offer FREE shipping on every  'Continental U.S." order.
  6. Pepper spray will fail if it is exposed to extreme temperatures. Exposure to extreme temperatures can damage the seals of the can or even cause it to explode. Double check your pockets before doing laundry. Both the washing machine and the dryer can damage your pepper spray. If your canister is accidentally washed and/or dried, I strongly recommend that you replace it. Do not store your pepper spray in your vehicle.Depending on the season, the inside of a closed vehicle can range anywhere from o-175 degrees Exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures will adversely affect potency and  spray distance of your canister. Keeping your pepper spray frozen or chilled will not preserve the strength or potency of the spray.Your canister should always be kept and stored at room temperature.
  7. Pepper spray will fail if the canister has been exposed to long periods of direct sunlight. Research has suggested that OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) in pepper spray breaks down in excessive sunlight.
  8. Pepper Spray will fail if you  fail to identify a threat. Always be aware of your surroundings. Keep your spray in your hand when you feel there is a chance of a threat. 
  9. Pepper spray will fail if you do not know how to operate your device. Familiarize yourself with your canister. Learn how to operate the safety mechanism. 
  10. Pepper spray will fail if you are unable to hit your target. If you are a beginner, I recommend using a fog pattern spray. Streams, gels, and foam patterns require accuracy.  

        How to Correctly Use Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray in Action

Watch the Following Videos to Witness the Effectiveness OC Pepper Spray.


Amazon's Price with Free US Shipping

Our Price with Free US Shipping

WildFire Self Defense Pepper Spray Keychain
1/2 oz WildFire 18% Only $7.99 Free US Shipping
Please follow and like us:

4 thoughts on “Pepper Spray 101

  1. macotrell
    Teeth Whitening - 8 months ago

    Exceptional insight, appreciate your posting this
    I really have got a whole lot of understanding from this content,
    continue the good work, appreciate it.

    1. macotrell
      macotrell - 7 months ago

      Thank You. OC pepper spray is really an amazing self defense tool. Please let me know if I can assist you.

  2. macotrell
    Nicole - 7 months ago

    Your article really cleared up a few misunderstandings I had regarding the use of OC Pepper Spray on individuals that are drunk or under the influence of drugs. In addition, the WildFire 18% O ordered arrived at my front door 3 days after I ordered it. I thought it would take longer because you offer free shipping. thanks for the amazing service.

    1. macotrell
      macotrell - 7 months ago

      Thanks. We offer FREE SHIPPING on every order. Thanks for your purchase. WE are adding products daily so check us out on a regularly. I will e-mail you a special discount code for giving me feedback.

Comments are closed.