Even though it doesn’t look very threatening, the best pepper spray is a powerful tool for self-defense. Sometimes, it’s even more efficient than a firearm. In most corners of the world, its purchase and use are liberalized, making it far more accessible than a gun.
Still, most preppers never even consider getting a pepper spray. Among their arsenals of firearms and cold weapons, they feel that pepper or bear spray is just too light as a self-defense tool. This is probably due to the widespread, popular images of women carrying small canisters in their purses to defend themselves against the bad guys. Still, being able to deter any type of predator without spilling a drop of blood or breaking the law definitely is a major component of urban survival.
In this article, we’re going to lay out everything you need to know about pepper sprays. And then, we’ll choose and review some of the best commercially available options for everyday carry (EDC).
- 7 Reasons Why Every Prepper (Female AND Male) Should Have a Pepper Spray or Mace
- What to Look for in the Best Pepper Spray
- Best Pepper Spray – 7 Top Picks Reviewed
- 1. SABRE Advanced Compact Pepper Spray 3-in-1 – the Best Pepper Spray Overall
- 2. Mace Self-Defense Triple Action Pocket Pepper Spray – Great Design
- 3. SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray – Best for Protection Against Wildlife
- 4. Fox Labs Mean-Green Pepper Spray – Really Green for the Mean
- 5. SABRE RED Pepper Gel Spray – Gel Doesn’t Blow With the Wind
- 6. POM OC – Strongest Pepper Spray Available to Civilians?
- 7. Wrist Saver OC Spray – Best Pepper Spray for Runners
7 Reasons Why Every Prepper (Female AND Male) Should Have a Pepper Spray or Mace
- It’s efficient. No person on earth can get a dose of pepper spray in their face and keep doing what they’re doing, unless they’re wearing gas masks, glasses or other protection. Using this tool against a bad guy can get you just enough time to run away and/or call the police.
- It’s often legal where firearms or other weapons are not. Unlike guns, pepper spray is generally legal in all of U.S., although many states have some stipulations. For example, you need a firearms licence for carrying pepper spray in Massachusetts. In other states (such as Florida or California), you can only legally carry a canister of 2.5 ounces or under. If you live in Canada, on the other hand, you may use bear mace, but only to defend yourself from an actual bear. Human animals obviously aren’t considered dangerous enough.
- Mace or bear spray is a must-have for all outdoor addicts. Believe it or not, if you ever experience a close encounter with a bear, you’ll stand better chances of escaping with your bare life if you have a canister of mace than a gun. Guns require decent shooting skills and a cold head. Fail in any of these departments, and that’ll probably be the last time you’ve ever failed.
- It’s nearly impossible to hurt, let alone kill someone innocent by chance. And even if you hurt them, a painful hour or two (sometimes even a day or two) is the worst they can experience.
- Very affordable. With firearms, you need to shell out at least a couple hundred bucks to be able to defend yourself. A small bottle of pepper spray is a self-defense item that anyone can afford.
- Versatile. It’s not only good for survivalists, but for just about anyone. Many people use pepper spray for defense against stray or aggressive dogs, for example.
- Requires zero training. Like we said so many times on this blog, actual weapons are only useful if you know how to use them (and if you don’t forget it under stress). The fact that pepper spray is so easy to use makes it excellent for women and even minors (where allowed).
What to Look for in the Best Pepper Spray
- Keep an eye on the allowed contents of oleoresin capsicum (OC) or other capsaicinoids, the chemical agents that make it pungent, irritating and inflammatory to human or animal eyes, noses and lungs. These substances are measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) and extracted from chili peppers, hence the name of the spray. Military and police forces use tear gas (CS or CN) in riot control. These agents cause other effects such as vomiting or disorientation, but they won’t be an option in pepper sprays you can buy as a civilian.
- Marking dye. Be it UV or some other marking, this feature won’t help incapacitate the attacker, but it may help the police identify them. It’s not easily washable and will remain on their face for a while.
- Choose spray or stream over foam. Generally, all three are viable options, but all come with certain trade-offs. A spray will cover the widest area, but its downside is that you can’t “shoot” precisely or at a longer range. On the other hand, streams provide precision and long range, and there’s less chance of backfiring on you due to wind. But your attacker won’t inhale much of it either, giving you less time to escape. Foam is precise and long-range, but the least inhalable.
- The shelf life of an average pepper spray ranges from two to four years. They may still be usable after that, but you just can’t count on their potency and effect, which means they become unreliable. That means you should rotate your supplies on a yearly basis even if you never actually used them.
- How big a bottle should you opt for? There are various sizes, but of course you can’t EDC a 16-ounce bottle. A 2-ounce bottle, on the other hand, will be easily concealable yet have enough spray to stop even a few bad guys at 10-15 feet. But even a humble keychain pepper spray is better than none.
- Shape and features. Most canisters are shaped like bottles, but some will have handy straps to provide a firmer grip, which can prove vital when you’re agitated. Others can even be pistol-shaped, which translates to better aiming and longer range.
Best Pepper Spray – 7 Top Picks Reviewed
1. SABRE Advanced Compact Pepper Spray 3-in-1 – the Best Pepper Spray Overall
SABRE is a widely renowned brand that you’re going to come across more than once when you look for the best pepper spray. And for a good reason – they make premium quality products for law enforcement as well as civilians. This particular product contains both OC and CS, which means it really burns! Plus there’s a UV marking dye, so that police may easily catch the attacker. Furthermore, there’s a safety lock, which means the spray is only going to go off when you want it too.
The only cons are that the 3/4 oz canister may be a bit small, even though it contains 35 bursts. Also, it’s a spray and not a stream, so it may work against you if the wind doesn’t pitch in. It has a convenient clip for pocket or belt.
- 3-in-1 formula: OC, CS, marking dye
- Pocket clip
- Safety lock
- It burns like living hell
- Maybe a bit too small
- It will really work on 10 feet like advertised only in perfect weather conditions
2. Mace Self-Defense Triple Action Pocket Pepper Spray – Great Design
Like the above SABRE 3-in-1 spray, this one also relies on the immense power of mixed OC and CS (tear gas), as well as UV dye. It means your attacker would feel nasty pain and burning on their whole face, but would also most probably lose their balance. This combo action means total incapacitation for at least half an hour, which gives you more than enough time to run away or call for help.
Another awesome feature is ergonomic design, which means you’ll be able to hold it tightly and aim right. Other features include a safety cap, belt clip and keychain.
Are there any shortcomings? You guessed it – the capacity of 18 grams (slightly over half an ounce) won’t last long. Another con is that the range isn’t very long.
I’ve seen lots of angry comments from users who apparently received duds. Note that your product is only legit if it has Mace’s seal of authenticity.
- OC + CS + UV = bad guy on his knees
- Safety cap
- Built-in pocket clip
- Excellent design for holding and aiming
- Small capacity
- Short-ish range and weak-ish stream
3. SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray – Best for Protection Against Wildlife
Our list wouldn’t be complete without at least one bear spray that will actually protect you against bears and other bloodthirsty creatures in the great outdoors. This canister is pretty capacious, which is both a pro and a con. Its 9.2 ounces will suffice even if you’re on a weeks-long outdoor trip (and encounter a lot of bears). But at the same time, they make it a bit less convenient to carry around. This concern is addressed with the hip and chest holsters, though.
But its power is remarkable. It shoots a cloud of heavy mist at 35 feet, with the speed of 35 miles per hour. This thing has 2% capsaicinoids and is 50% stronger than your average police-grade pepper spray, which means the poor bear will cry its fill. But until it does, it will most likely leave you alone.
- Very powerful – covers up to 35 feet and outperforms police pepper spray
- Shoots heavy mist
- Chest and hip holster
- E.P.A. and Health Canada approved
- You’ll get a 2-pack
- Ample capacity
- A bit on the pricier side
- Not very concealable if you’re using it for urban survival
4. Fox Labs Mean-Green Pepper Spray – Really Green for the Mean
With this OC based spray, a potential attacker won’t just be visible to the police under a UV detector, but to just about anybody. Both their face and clothes will scream “assailant”, which is only fair if you ask me. It’s another larger can of pepper spray – with 3 oz, you’ll have plenty of chance to defend yourself from multiple attackers if need be. If that’s too bulky a bottle for you, you can opt for the smaller 1.5 oz which still has ample capacity.
Note that the shelf life of this product is 3 years, but the manufacturer recommends rotating it every 2 years.
- It’s a stream, which is both more precise and less risky than spray mist
- Green marking
- Relatively long range (10 feet max)
- Safety lock
- Super hot
- Not very concealable
5. SABRE RED Pepper Gel Spray – Gel Doesn’t Blow With the Wind
Even though this little canister only contains 3/4 oz of gel spray, it can still protect you from multiple attackers with exactly 35 bursts shooting up to 12 feet. The stream of gel is very precise, and you don’t have to worry about the wind. There’s also a hand strap to tighten the grip, and UV dye to help the police identify the attacker.
- Shoots precisely and efficiently
- Hand strap for runners
- UV dye
- Small and compact
- Has a twist lock to prevent accidental discharge
- May be too small for some users
6. POM OC – Strongest Pepper Spray Available to Civilians?
Granted, this is a small bottle with only half an ounce capacity, accommodating 24 bursts. But as I said above, small sizes are good when you’re looking for an easily concealable item. And of course, if you’re ready to buy another can every once in a while. By the way, POM stands for Peace of Mind. The formula is 10% OC, which is as strong as the law allows and potent enough not only to deter any attacker but to give ‘em hell for a whole day or two.
As for the range, the manufacturer claims it’s 12 feet. I would take this with a grain of salt, as always. The range will depend on a whole variety of external conditions. Still, it’s realistic to expect it to work on 8-10 feet.
- Very compact
- Strongest formula legally available
- Ambidextrous belt/pocket clip
- Safety lock
- Long range for such a small can
- Small, just 24 bursts
7. Wrist Saver OC Spray – Best Pepper Spray for Runners
This is the most compact pepper spray I’ve ever seen. You don’t even need pockets, purses or any other special place to carry it. It will walk or run with you on your wrist, which makes it best for runners or joggers. Additional features include an emergency ID card holder and a LED light for visibility in the dark. That doesn’t mean that everyone will know you’re carrying a pepper spray on your wrist, though. The spray itself is concealed.
It’s small alright, but that doesn’t mean it’s not potent. The stream is powerful enough to hit someone at a few feet. And you’ll get $1 spray replacements for life. That kind of annuls the high price point.
- Most compact on the market
- Has LED light and ID card holder – a multipurpose product for athletes
- $1 spray replacements for life
- Great customer service – fast and easy replacements, free returns
- Won’t fit bigger wrists
- A bit inconvenient for targeting