Timing One of the keys to effective use of Pepper Spray is timing. Exactly when you bring a spray to aim at an assailant can be critical to the outcome of a situation. First, make sure the Pepper Spray is readily available and, second, through practice, learn how to use it quickly and accurately. Now, when faced with a potentially threatening situation, it’s only a matter of when you decide to react.
The timing of Pepper Spray use is controlled by three things: prior awareness, the distance involved when the assault actually takes place, and whether or not your movement or physical capabilities are restricted by the assailant.
The first timing factor is prior awareness, which was covered in the last section. An un-anticipated assault will be covered shortly. Just remember, that if you have any forewarning at all, it will probably be very short, and you may have only seconds to react. Under these circumstances, timing is critical! Timing refers to exactly when you un-clip your Pepper Spray and raise it up to spray the assailant.
In situations where you see the assault coming, DON’T pull the spray out immediately to threaten the assailant. To repeat, DO NOT pull your Pepper Spray out until you’re ready to use it! Do not threaten with it! Showing the spray before you shoot tells the assailant what you’re going to do and gives him the opportunity to prepare for and react to it. And what’s worse, he may have his own weapon. Showing him your spray may cause him to brandish his weapon and escalate the situation to a far more dangerous level. Many of today’s criminals carry weapons “just in case.” When you pull out your pepper spray, be ready to use it! The more swift and unexpected your countermeasure, the more successful your defense will be.
Just as important as the capacity and brand of your Pepper Spray, is the spray pattern. There are generally two types of spray patterns: a stream pattern which gives good range but requires aiming directly at the face; and a cone mist, also known as a fogger, which has a shorter range but does not require true aiming.
In addition to these factors, there are two other important comparisons. First, if there is a breeze, the stream spray is more controllable. The cone mist can be blown off target or even back at the sprayer. Second is the question of inhale ability. OC works best when it hits the eyes and when inhaled. The cone mist is inhaled instantly while the stream may require longer exposure to cause coughing spasms. With all types of sprays, it is critical to hit the attacker in the face!
Over the last several years, the popularity of self defense sprays, mistakenly called tear gas or Mace, has grown tremendously. The rising rate of violent crime, the publicity and media coverage of such crimes, and the reasoning, “If it’s good enough for the cops, it’s good enough for me”, has led more and more citizens to rely on these devices. The demand for defense sprays has become so great that today there are literally dozens of different brands, types, and size to choose from. To confuse matters further, there are three basic chemical compositions used, only one of which is worth considering for civilian self-defense.
Chemical Composition There are three basic chemical compounds used in self defense sprays:
CS (Orthoclorobenzalmalonitrile) a form of Tear Gas CN (Alphachloroacetaphenone) a form of Tear Gas OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) Pepper Spray OC is the newest of the three, by far the most effective, and the only one you should consider for personal self defense use.
Comparative Effects CS and CN are irritants to membrane tissues. They cause stinging pain and tearing, and take from 5 to 30 seconds to be effective. In cases of persons who are drunk, on drugs, suffering a psychotic episode, or otherwise cannot feel pain, there may be no effect at all. For years, the field experiences of police officers has been riddled with accounts of total failure of CN and CS products when used as a self defense spray. The reduced ability of CS and CN to subdue those who can’t feel pain, coupled with their delayed effectiveness (5 seconds is an eternity if you’re being attacked with a knife), make these two chemicals too unreliable for use by untrained, possibly physically limited, persons.
OC is not an irritant, it is an inflammatory agent; and this makes all the difference in the world. When a person is sprayed with OC, two things happen instantly. First, the person’s eyes clamp shut, instantly. If they do manage to force them open, they still can’t see because the OC dilates the capillaries and causes temporary blindness. Second, an immediate fit of uncontrollable coughing doubles the person over since the OC causes instant inflammation of the breathing tissues, restricting all but life support breathing. OC, in effect, puts up a brick wall between an assailant and the victim. As one police trainer has put it, “It’s like being hit with a flame thrower!” An assailant who’s sprayed with OC stops what they’re doing, stops what they’re thinking – period. This is true even for those who are drunk, on drugs, or psychotic. OC works extremely well on animals, although most versions are not made for this purpose.
Other Considerations In addition to not being as effective as OC, CN and CS take longer to wear off and the chemical residue can last for days. They are both man-made chemicals and are identified as possible carcinogenic agents. Long term skin problems and toxic reactions have also been documented. OC, on the other hand, is a natural chemical- a derivative of various hot peppers. It has not been found to be toxic in any way, and absolutely does not harm delicate tissues. The effects of OC, depending on the concentration and the availability of fresh air, take about 20 to 30 minutes to wear off. The assailant makes a full recovery, with no after-effects unless the OC spray contains an identifying dye. This usually lasts a week or more, but is harmless.
Recommendations For the reasons outlined previously, 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 law enforcement and civilians.
The American Security Institute recommends carrying the largest size pepper spray that is practical and legal for you. Most 2 ounce sprays are about 4″ long and 1″ in diameter- small enough to clip onto a purse or a belt. If you find this size inconvenient or impractical, carry a keychain spray. The biggest advantage of the keychain spray is that you’re not likely to forget it.
Unless you have no other choice, do not carry a pepper spray in your pocket! Too often the spray cannot be retrieved quickly enough to do any good. Remember, most physical assaults occur very quickly, often giving the victim a second or two, at most, to react. As you’ll read later, there’s a way to handle this, but only if your defense spray is readily available. The other reason you shouldn’t carry the spray in your pocket is the possibility of forgetting it the next time you go out.
Purse Carry pepper sprayFor women, the obvious place to carry pepper spray is a purse. What is not so obvious, is HOW to carry it in the purse. Don’t let the spray sit at the bottom of your purse. The time it takes to find and retrieve it can be all the time an assailant needs to overpower you or even steal your purse!
Pepper spray carried in a purse should be clipped to the front end of an inside pocket, flap, or divider. Clip it so that the unit itself is inside the purse, easy to access, pull out, and use in a few seconds. You may consider holding it in your purse as you’re walking. A purse with a long strap slung over the shoulder is ideal for this purpose. An assailant just might hesitate if he sees you’re prepared to deal with someone just like him.
A recommended alternative to carrying a purse is a small waist or “fanny” pack. The belt of the pack is ideal for carrying a pepper spray and there’s little danger of a “purse snatch” attempt on the pack. A note of caution: If you do use a waist or “fanny” pack, don’t carry any defense spray in the open where it can be seen. You will lose the important element of surprise, (covered later), and it might even be stolen! Cover it up with a coat, jacket, sweatshirt, etc.
Belt Carry If you’re going to carry the pepper spray on a belt beneath a jacket or coat, attach the spray upside down. If you experiment with this, you’ll probably find it much easier to “draw” the spray downward off the belt, rather than upward. Also, if possible, position the spray in its holster so that when it’s grabbed and drawn, it’s already in position to use without having to turn it or rearrange it in your hand. Experiment until you can quickly draw the spray, raise it up, and shoot it in one fluid motion.
Practice Drills Practice the same drill noted above, if you carry the spray in your purse. Keep in mind that you want to retain possession of the spray even if your purse is grabbed and yanked away. The spray should be positioned and clipped onto the purse in such a way that, when you have hold of it, any downward yank of the purse will allow the spray to come off in your hand.
Anytime you’re on foot, such as walking to your car, leaving a restaurant, shopping, jogging, etc., alone or isolated; you should have the spray ready to use in an instant. Whether it’s attached to your purse or belt, or on a key chain makes no difference; have it ready! The time you may need to react to an assault may be less than a few seconds.
It’s also very important to mentally rehearse exactly what to do in case you need to use the spray. Practice against an imaginary assailant until you’re comfortable with your ability to use the spray fast and effectively. This practice could make the difference between becoming a victim and surviving a hostile confrontation.
Always have Pepper Spray in its holster ready for immediate use. Don’t bury it in your pack. Be alert where recent bear activity has been documented by park officials, Fish and Game, Forest Service, and other public service people. Some common areas where bears like to frequent are: avalanche chutes, stream beds, dense edge cover and, in late summer, berry patches. pepper spray and bears
Use extreme caution when traveling on trails at night or at either end of day. Be careful with food smells – never cook close to camp. Store all foods in plastic away from camp at night and when camp is unattended. We suggest at least 100 yards from camp and at least 14 feet up a tree hung 4 feet away from the trunk. Watch for fresh bear sign (scat or bear tracks) on the trail or near possible campsites. If possible, make plenty of noise on the trail, especially on blind curves, in dense vegetation and in areas with limited vision Be conscious of the wind – bears have an excellent sense of smell. If the wind is at your back, chances are a bear will smell you and leave the area well before you reach it. If the wind is blowing in your face, your chances of an encounter greatly increase. Also, in high wind situations or along creeks and streams, a bear might not hear you coming or you might not hear it. Dead animal carcass – If you come upon a dead animal carcass, immediately leave the area. Bears will often feed on a carcass for days and also stay in the area to protect their food. Bear cubs – If you see a bear cub, chances are the sow is not far away. Female bears will fiercely defend their young, so it is best you leave the area and find an alternative route. Keep dogs under control – dogs can lead an angry bear back to you. We advise not to travel alone in bear country. Invite a friend. It is always safer to travel in groups if possible.
Shooting the Spray There’s much more to using a defense spray than just pointing and shooting. Remember, don’t raise, point, and shoot the spray until you’re ready to fire, until the assailant is in range and you know the spray will hit him full in the face and incapacitate him. The objective is to surprise and stop him before he has a chance to react or think. When you’re ready to shoot the spray, go into a slight crouch with your weight evenly balanced on both feet, if you have the chance. Thrust your non-shooting hand straight out in front of you. At the same time shout “STOP” as loud as you can. As you’re doing this, raise your hand holding the spray to eye level, approximately six inches in front of your chin, aim over your outstretched arm and hand, and shoot at the assailant’s face.
Shouting “STOP” creates a slight diversion, but more importantly, it focuses your energy. Raising your arm outstretched toward the assailant may cause his immediate attention to be focused on that hand, not the one with the spray. This gives you time to bring the pepper spray to bear and shoot before the assailant can react. Never thrust your shooting hand out in front of you toward the assailant. He may react quickly and hit your hand aside or grab it, as you shoot, back up, continuing to do so until the spray has affected the assailant.
Most sprays emit a wide enough pattern so that they don’t require precise aiming. However, if you need to make an adjustment, do it calmly but quickly. Don’t wave the spray around like a fire hose. That does nothing but waste the spray, causing much of it to hit empty air. Aim, shoot, see where you’re hitting and, if need be, correct your aim quickly while spraying. You should shoot the spray for 2 to 3 seconds. A good, solid medium duration spray around the head and shoulders should do it. After shooting, the assailant will normally stop within a second or two, blinded and virtually helpless due to uncontrollable coughing spasms. Once he’s disabled, stop spraying. Continue backing up and concentrate on getting away. Obviously you may not have time to shoot the spray in such a “textbook” way. You may not have time to do anything but bring the spray up and start shooting. If that’s the case, don’t worry about aiming correctly, or even correcting aim. JUST SHOOT!
Retreat and Escape The whole purpose of using a defense spray is to stop your assailant immediately, disable him so he can no longer hurt you, and give you the opportunity to escape to a safe place. DO NOT attempt to hold the assailant for the police. In fact, get as far away from him as you can. DO NOT move toward the assailant in any way since you could be affected by the pepper spray, which then could incapacitate you. The best way to escape is by backing away from the assailant as you’re shooting, or immediately after.
Do not turn your back on him! Obviously, you need to see where you’re going, but don’t turn your back and run away until you’re at a good distance and the assailant no longer presents an immediate threat. If the assailant attempts to follow you or the first spray wasn’t enough, you must be ready to spray him again. Once you’re a safe distance from the assailant, turn and run quickly to the nearest safe place, preferably one with people who can help you. Once you reach a safe place, be forceful in your request for help. A command of, “Call the Police now!” will usually do it since people can sometimes be hesitant to help or get involved. DO NOT WAIT! And do not go back to where you left the assailant. He may still be in the area.
Residential Tactical Use pepper spray tactical use in residenceThe primary purpose for having pepper spray for protection in a residential setting is to create a barrier to prevent the intruder from getting inside. There are two types of barriers with two different and distinct functions. The interior barrier is created by spraying into an area of entry just prior to retreating to a “safe room” inside the residence. The door/window defense is similar to personal defense on the street. It is used on an intruder when he is entering, or is already in the residence.
Interior Barrier Defense This defense is used if you become aware of an intruder still outside, in the act of breaking in, or if he is already in the residence. In order for this spray defense to work it is necessary to have a “safe room,” an interior room such as a bedroom, bathroom, or a closet that can be securely locked and will resist break in by the intruder. It should also have a phone to call the police. If a break in is in progress or is imminent, spray the entry area the intruder must come through, then retreat to your safe room.
If there are children or others in the residence, gather them together in the safe room with you. Once there, be ready to spray anyone who breaks through the door. Don’t go from your safe room for any reason as you don’t know whether the intruder is armed, his mental state, or his intentions. Inside the safe room, don’t wait directly in front of the door, but rather to the side of it, ready to spray anyone who enters.
Door and Window Defense The big difference between door and window defense and an interior barrier defense is the amount of preparation or warning time. The only time you should use a spray defense to stop an intruder from coming through a door or window is when the intruder is already in and you’re in imminent danger. A good example would be waking up to find an intruder climbing in through your bedroom window or actually in the residence.
The tactic you should use for window defense is similar to that of pepper spray defense during a personal attack on the street. However, you will not have a place to retreat. If you catch an intruder coming through a window, or if he’s already in the residence, spray him directly in the face, then get out of the room, either to a another room or to a hallway. Shut doors behind you if possible. If the intruder comes through the door, spray him again and leave the house. The exception to this is if you have children or other residents in the residence that must be protected. In that case retreat to a position where you can defend them from the intruder should he press the attack.
Use any means available to you to warn the others and facilitate their escape. Spray defense at a door is much the same as at a window, as you directly spray the intruder as he enters the residence. Don’t try to open the door suddenly, spray the intruder, then shut it again. Like the street assault, you want the spray defense to take the assailant/intruder by complete surprise. If you spray an intruder and surprise him as he comes in, the chances are good he’ll immediately run away.
If the intrusion takes place at night do not turn on the lights if the intruder is inside. If he’s still trying to break in turn the lights on. This will probably scare him off which is exactly what you want. The best form of preparation for defending against an intruder is to rehearse what you should do in various situations. This rehearsal can be very effective, particularly if you find you have to use a spray defense in the dark. It’s very important to include all residents in the procedure and practice drills.
As mentioned previously, the best type of pepper spray to use for residential defense is a large fogger type. Their range is usually about 15 to 20 feet, and they emit a fine mist, remaining in the air for several minutes. Living in the residence for the next few hours maybe uncomfortable, even after you’ve washed the area down and aired it out, but that is far better than becoming a victim of a violent assault, which has effects that can last a lifetime.
Multiple Assailants When faced with multiple assailants, you should use a circular or semicircular spray pattern technique that provides a protective barrier. If the assailants are in front of you, spray the one nearest you directly. His sudden reaction may stop the others when they see the agony he’s going through. As with a single assailant, immediately begin retreating or backing up, never taking your eyes off the assailants, remaining ready to spray anyone else foolish enough to pursue. Retreat and escape to safety as previously described.
Multiple assailants will often travel and strike in packs, for protection and dominance. Usually when one or two of them are stopped, the rest will stop as well. If multiple assailants keep coming toward you, even after stopping one of them, put out a 180 degree arc of spray to your front while continuing to back up. You must fight the natural urge to turn your back on the assailants and run. You cannot disable them as well, or as effectively, if you’re running away. The idea is to force the assailants through the spray to get to you. Keep in mind this defense works best at a range of six to eight feet. Any shorter distance and they’re too close. The successful use of the 180 degree spray tactic also depends on the type and range of your spray. Test spray your unit to determine its range and spray pattern. Again, don’t wave the spray around like a fire hose. Lay down a solid, continuous barrier of protection quickly but thoroughly.
There’s an exception to the single and multiple assailant tactics just described. If your assailant(s) attack you at a run, your first, and best instinct, is to run as well. But while you’re running, pull the spray, aim it behind you, and shoot. This tactic again forces the assailant(s) through the spray to get to you. Use this only as an emergency measure, however, and only spray when you know the assailant(s) are in the effective range of your spray, usually 8 to 10 feet. Otherwise you’re simply wasting the spray.