Monday, November 15, 2010

Pepper Spray - Less Lethal Defensive Alternative

A lot of thought, by a lot of people, has been put into answering the question, "What defensive tool should I carry with me?" I think that this is an important question. I believe that if more people gave self-defense more serious thought, many of the muggings and shootings that you hear about on the news would be avoided. The truth is, many people assume that: either an attack will not happen to them or that the police will be there to rescue them.

Both assumptions stem from a very naive mindset, a mindset that is very dangerous and can get the person killed if he/she is faced with a life or death defensive situation.

While I've written about self defense previously, and I promise to write about it again, today I wanted to look at a very unique defensive tool. I wanted to help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of this tool and how it can fit into your use of force continuum. The tool that I will analyze is Pepper Spray.

Cold Steel makes a powerful
Pepper Spray called Inferno
Pepper spray is a chemical agent whose active ingredient is Oleoresin Capsicum. This is the same chemical found in chili peppers and it gives a sensation of heat and burning when it comes into contact with the skin or mucous membranes. It hurts, a lot, however there is no permanent damage done after contact with it. The painful effects are only superficial, which makes pepper spray very unique when compared with other pain compliance devices such as a kubotan, a baton, or even a sjambok, whose pain can be damaging.

It is important to know where pepper spray fits in the use of force continuum. What is a use of force continuum? I wanted to briefly touch upon this before going further, since I believe that it is important. In a defensive situation, it is your obligation to de-escalate the situation wherever possible, with the least destructive effects. If a simple walking away will de-escalated a situation, it is much better to do so. This often means swallowing your pride, but, in the end, you are a winner if you take the higher ground, avoiding a greater conflict.

There are varying threatening levels of force that should be met with a similar level of force on your part as the defender. Meeting a lower level of force with a higher level of force can escalate a situation and can turn you into an aggressor. Good luck defending yourself in court if you pull a gun on someone because they shouted a derogatory remark at you.

You can even get Pepper Spray in a
lipstick case like this spray from Mace.
Understanding where pepper spray fits into the use of force continuum is important. Pepper spray belongs in the middle of the use of force continuum, underneath a firearm and other more damaging defensive options. Knowing that certain situations do not require the use of firearms or other such tools, carrying a can of pepper spray may be a good thing for those who want to have many defensive options depending on the situation at hand.

Pepper spray has some benefits and drawbacks that I would like to go into now. These need to be understood if you are looking into using it for your own, personal protection


I'll first say that having a defensive tool is always better than not having one, since it gives you options in situations where you would have to defend yourself. So, having pepper spray is better than not having anything.

Unlike a firearm, purchasing pepper spray is easy to do in most locations and does not require a background check. It is also inexpensive. The legal ramifications of using a spray are also usually less than using a more deadly defensive option. To top it off, using pepper spray is easier than using a firearm and requires less training. Pepper spray has many things going for it. Don't get carried away, though. There are some drawbacks.

Possible Drawbacks

Pepper spray is a less-lethal (as opposed to non-lethal) defensive option, since it can, on rare occasions kill (if the person has asthma or other breathing conditions). Still, it is much safer to the target than most other defensive options. This is both a good and a bad thing. Situations where this would be a bad thing would be if the attacker has a very strong will, or is high on drugs and the effects of pepper spray do not stop him/her. In these situations only a serious impairment would stop the attacker, saving you from harm. It is important to understand this, since pepper spray is not a magic tool that will diffuse any and all situations.

Pepper spray also takes a couple of seconds to take effect. If you need to immediately stop an attacker, then pepper spray is probably not the best choice for a defensive tool. For example, if an attacker has a gun aimed at you, and you spray him/her in the eyes, there is little stopping him/her from pulling the trigger. In fact, after being sprayed in the eyes, they have more of a reason to pull the trigger.

As a rule of thumb, if there is an immediate threat of serious injury or death (the attacker has a gun or a knife drawn), then a more powerful defensive tool than pepper spray should be used; something along the lines of an impact device, edged weapon or a firearm.

That just scratches the surface of all there is to know about less lethal defensive options and pepper spray. I hope that reading this got you thinking, a little bit at least, about the importance of self-defense and about how to be prepared for it. Pepper spray is good for some situations, but it's not perfect for all situations. If you can carry it, however, I'd recommend it.

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