How to Use Pepper Spray or Mace Effectively

Pepper Spray

It has been proven time and time again that people who purchase and “learn to use” self defense products stand a much better chance of stopping an assault to escape and summon help.

We all have a natural tendency to trust our surroundings, but more and more of us are starting to realize that we must be “street conscious” and assume responsibility for our own safety and well being.

Kubaton Key chains, Pepper Spray, and Stun Guns disguised as anything from a cell phones to a tube of lipstick can all protect us if we are willing to put in the time to learn their proper use.

Most Stun guns like the small fry now come with some sort of disable pin to prevent the device from being used against the victim, where as most self defense sprays don’t really come with a manual or anything that prevents them from being used on the victim.

Defense sprays owe a lot of their popularity to the fact that they are light weight, small in size, and require no long term special training for successful use. Their range is good enough to keep an attacker away from us, and their use causes no permanent harm.

Self defense classes certainly have their place, but in the real world when danger strikes, things don’t always go as planned since our minds are no longer in the logical thinking mode that they are in when we are learning a martial art, panic can render a lot of self defense moves ineffective.

Techniques for Pepper Spray, or Mace products can be learned easily and require only minimal practice for maximum efficiency. Spending a few minutes to learn the proper self defense techniques and tactics of these products can save you years of agony recovering from an assault and may even save your life or the lives of your loved ones.

Defense Sprays are one of those things we learn how to use in the hope that we never have to implement our training.

How to choose the right pepper spray

Popularity of self defense products has grown over the past few years, not necessarily as a response to increased crime, but also as a growing trend to take personal responsibility for our own safety and the safety of our loved ones. There is a general consensus that “If tasers, and pepper spray are good enough for the cops, they are good enough for me”

This Buying Guide is about choosing the right pepper spray, so that will be our area of focus.

There are 3 main chemical compositions of pepper sprays, each with different effectiveness ratings.

CS Orthochlorobenzalmolonitrile

CN Alphachlorocaetaphonone

OC Oleoresin Capsicum

OC is the newest of the 3, and by far the most effective. This is the only one you should consider using for your personal safety.

CS (Orthochlorobenzalmolonitrile) and CN (Alphachlorocaetaphonone) work by irritating the membrane tissue. This causes a stinging pain and eye watering reaction (tearing). This reaction may take from 5 – 30 seconds to manifest, which is a long time when you are confronted with a life threatening situation.

If your attacker is drunk, delusional, or on drugs, there may be no effect at all. This is where stun devices had a previous advantage. Police have complained about these sprays for years that CS and CN pepper sprays are too unreliable, and this is one of the main reasons why the introduction of OC based pepper sprays has led to an increase in officer and civilian safety.

Unlike CN and CS, OR is not an irritant. It acts as an inflammatory agent, giving it a huge advantage over other sprays.

When a person is sprayed with an OC based pepper spray 2 things happen instantly:

  1. The attackers eyes clamp shut hard, and if they do manage to open them, they still wont be able to see due to their dilated capillaries

  2. They attacker will suffer an immediate coughing fit as the OC pepper spray causes an inflammation of breathing tissues that restrict all breathing except for life support

As you can see, OC pepper sprays can be just as effective as stun guns in stopping an attack.

OC is a natural chemical derivative of various hot peppers, (unlike CN and CS which are man made and possible carcinogenic agents) and has been found non toxic in any way. OC does not harm delicate tissues. The effects of this type of pepper spray take about 20 to 30 minutes to wear off and there are no after effects or skin problems identified with CN and CS

The American Security Institute recommends a defense spray containing OC in any formulation and concentration over a CN or CS based spray for self defense by both law enforcement and civilians.

Size and Capacity

Pepper Spray generally comes in a sizes ranging from1/2 an ounce to 4 ounces. Small units can be safely attached to your kubaton key chain, while medium size 2 oz versions can be carried in a purse or on your belt clip.

The capacity of a mace or pepper spray unit is usually measured in:

  1. The number of shots per canister

  2. How far the pepper spray will shoot

  3. The length of time the pepper spray will fire for.

To be effective, a mace of pepper spray canister need to fire a distance of 6-8 feet (the range most physical assaults take place). The number of shots is not critical as a good 1-2 second burst is usually enough to disable an assailant. This make the smaller versions a lot more practical.

Spray pattern

Much More important than a pepper sprays capacity is its spray pattern or “nozzle” This determines dispersal density of the pepper spray and allows us the choice of a direct stream to the attackers face (requires aim but gives more distance) or a cone mist which has a shorter range but is easier in panic situations.

The cone mist versions of pepper spray mean that it is possible for the mist to be blown back into the sprayer face if there is a strong wind. However, the stream shot may not be fully inhaled by the attacker. Either way, when making your decision it is important that we realize we must hit the attacker’s face area for true pepper spray effectiveness.


Pepper spray or mace usually comes in concentrations of 1%, 5%, and 10% (10% is usually limited to law enforcement) The formulation effectiveness may vary from brand to brand. Some 1% versions may carry a greater efficacy than that of a 10%, it just depends. Generally a 5% concentration with a cone mist is the safest choice. Attaching the small pepper spray unit to a kubaton keychain is effective for when out and about, while a large fogger type is good for at home beside the door.

Everyone should have some sort of plan for their own safety should they be attacked. This may include martial arts or self defense training, self defense product tactics and the efficacy to implement these tactics in emotionally challenging situations.

Believing you are safe during the day and only carrying your stungun, or pepper spray at night may be a crucial mistake. In today’s world a violent crime gets committed every 17 seconds. Carrying a defense spray or taser is simple common sense.

How to Carry your Defense Spray:

On your Belt . If you are going to wear your defense spray on your belt, it is a good idea to attach it upside down. This makes the pepper spray or mace easier to draw. If you are using a holster for your pepper spray, make sure it is in the correct positioning so that you don’t have to rearrange it before shooting it.

You should practice drawing it and aiming it until it feels natural. Bruce Lee found that the best training was to actually imagine the attacker, and the emotions you would be experiencing, in a real situation. By treating every practice drill as if it was real, you empower yourself for the time when it is.

In your Purse:

For women, one of the most favored places to carry pepper spray is their purse. If you choose this method it is important that you don’t just throw it in there. Make sure that it is easily accessible or you may find your purse stolen before you can retrieve your defense spray.

The best way to carry mace or pepper spray in your purse is to clip it to an inside pocket, flap, or divider. Arrange it so that you can walk with your hand in your purse allowing you to draw your pepper spray quickly. A long strap slug over your shoulder is ideal and could potentially cause an assailant to hesitate if they see you with your hand in your purse.

When you do practice drills, treat them as if they were real life life situations. Your focus should be on maintaining control of the pepper spray, not your purse. This could be the difference between becoming a victim and surviving a hostile confrontation.

When to Draw Your Defense Spray

There are 3 main things or thresholds that determine when you should have your pepper spray drawn. These thresholds are:

  1. Distance

  2. Verbal Assault

  3. Physical Assault

You need to trust you instincts while remaining in control of your emotions. A preemptive strike is very close to assault. If you are unsure the best thing to do is avoid the situation.

People generally prefer their own personal space. If someone is giving up this personal space in order to be closer to you, this may be a warning sign. For example. We are completely fine with standing 6 inches away from someone in a crowded elevator, but someone 6 inches away in an otherwise empty elevator should definitely set off some warning bells.

When being verbally harassed in the form of demands or threats it is completely justified to draw and use your pepper spray. This isn’t to say that if someone is angry at you for cutting them off in traffic that you have the right to pepper spray them, but it is saying that if they are threatening to enforce their will upon you that you have the right to defend yourself.

If the physical barrier is crossed at anytime you need to keep your head and deploy your self preservation and defense strategies. This calls for immediate and decisive action. Make sure you keep up your practice sessions as describe below.

Pepper Spray Defense Tactics


One of the keys to effective use of pepper sprays is timing. The most important thing is to have the spray easily available and ready. Next is you need to learn to use it quickly and accurately.

Your timing will be determined by 3 things:

  1. Readiness

  2. Distance, and

  3. Maneuverability

Readiness means anticipating and/or extinguishing a possible threat before it comes to fruition

It is important to know the difference between threatening someone with your pepper spray and holding it in hand for ready use. If you threaten someone with your mace or pepper spray before you are ready to use it, they may escalate the situation by pulling their own weapon. As well, this takes away your advantage of surprise.


It is important not to raise, point and shoot the pepper spray until you are ready to shoot. This means the attacker must be within range. (i.e. you can hit them in the face.) The idea is that you incapacitate the attacker before they have a chance to think. When you are ready to fire your mace or pepper spray you should go into a slight crouching position with your weight evenly balanced on both feet. Thrust your non-shooting hand forward and yell “STOP” at the attacker. Then raise your shooting hand and spray the attacker directly in the face. Yelling stop creates a slight diversion and focuses your energy. As well it causes the attacker to focus on the hand without the pepper spray.

Never thrust your shooting hand at an attacker as they may be able to knock it away or disarm you. Instead, fire your pepper spray while slowly backing away from the assailant. As well, do not close your eyes, you may have to correct your aim even with a wide range firing pepper spray. Fire the spray for 2-3 seconds for a good solid hit around the head and shoulders area. Once the assailant is experiencing coughing spasms concentrate on getting away and calling help.

If you are facing multiple attackers you should concentrate on using a circular or semi circular spray pattern as a protective barrier. It is usually a good idea to go for the closest attacker first as it may cause the others to retreat. If they do not retreat you must fight the urge to run. Spray a 180 degree arc in front of you and continue backing up. This defense works best at 6-8 feet. If however your attacker’s are attacking you at a run from any sort of distance, your first reaction to run is probably the best one. While running, pull the pepper spray out and aim it behind you and shoot. This is only effective if they are 8-10 feet behind you, otherwise you are just wasting your pepper spray.

If you find yourself being held in such a way that you cant escape, fight to free your shooting hand and while holding your breath, fire your pepper spray in a fog that surrounds the both of you. This may make the attacker let go long enough for you to refocus the spray directly at them while retreating. Unlike you, he will not be holding his breath.

If you find yourself being attacked in a car, firing your pepper spray will fill the space instantly. You must get out of the car. If you use your mace or pepper spray in your own car, make sure you roll down your windows and only drive away if absolutely necessary.

If the attacker has a gun, it is imperative that you do not pull out your pepper spray as this may cause the attacker to shoot you. If you are facing an assailant with a knife do not let them get within arms length. The moment you see a knife, back away while spraying your mace or defense spray. NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON AN ASSAILANT WEILDING A KNIFE. You must remain aware of how far the knife is at all times in order to protect yourself adequately.

If you are surprised from behind don’t spray in a panic. Do not use your pepper spray until you know if there is a weapon involved. Anytime you are close to an attacker with a weapon it is always better to get far enough away so that the weapon cannot harm you.

How often should I replace my Pepper Spray?

You should test your pepper spray unit once per month. Spray it outside, downwind for a brief spurt then release. If the mace or pepper spray’s range is less that 3 – 4 feet, or the pepper spray seems weak or thin, replace it immediately. Mace and pepper spray canisters are like fire extinguishers in that over time they lose their pressure.

Residential Pepper Spray Uses.

Pepper Spray is best kept near the main entrances to the home. It is better to keep them out of sight high on a closet shelf or potentially attached to the wall or door frame.

Intruder in the Home

If there is an intruder in your home your focus should be to create a spray barrier outside a lockable safe room where you and your family can take refuge.

Do not attempt to open the door, pepper spray the intruder and then close the door suddenly. If you do not have a “safe room” it may be better to wait for the intruder to come through the door before pepper spraying them in the face. This gives you the element of surprise, which is a large tactical advantage.

If the intruder is entering in through a window or door, or they are within 6 feet, you should employ your pepper spray as if you were being attacked on the street.

Do not turn on the lights if the intrusion occurs during the night unless they are still outside. If they are outside, the lights may scare them away, which is always better than a face to face encounter.

The large fogger type pepper spray or mace usually has a range of 15 – 20 feet, and is generally considered the most effective type of residential defense spray to buy.

Remember, there is a difference between carrying a defensive weapon like mace, tasers, or a stungun, and knowing how to use these items effectively in life threatening situations.

Make sure you include all house residents in all practice drills and that you have a family escape plan

Buy your Pepper Spray, Mace, and Taser products at Stun Gun Mike’s Home Security and Self Defense Superstore Now!

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