All About Self Defense Pepper Sprays

Pepper spray is now endorsed and used by nearly every law enforcement agency throughout the U.S.A. and other countries around the world. More effective than Mace and Tear Gas, it seldom causes permanent injury when properly used in self-defense or as a neutralizing agent and has only temporary effects. Pepper spray gives today's law enforcement officers a means to control subjects without resorting to a physical confrontation or to deadly force.

In the search for a non-lethal method of crowd control scientists produced pepper spray. Pepper spray was originally introduced in the U.S. in the 1980s by the Postal Service as a dog repellent. It was also used to defend against attacking bears and other animals. The FBI endorsed it as an "official chemical agent" in 1987 but it wasn't until 1991 that more than 3,000 local law enforcement agencies added it to their arsenals. This surge of interest hinged on a widely circulated and influential study by a special agent of the F.B.I...

A Little Pepper Spray History

Dating back as far as ancient China, we can find the fiery red chili pepper's bite used as a weapon. The Chinese put ground cayenne chili pepper in rice paper and flung it in the face of their opponents. Millions of fans of Kung Fu movies have seen bad guy Japanese ninjas remove ground pepper from their secret chest pocket to blow it into his opponents eyes as soon as the good guy starts to beat him up. During Japan's Tukagawa Empire, police used the "Mitsubishi," a box used to blow pepper into the eyes. That right, the "Mitsubishi".

When Columbus dropped anchor in the New World in search of spices, he discovered chili peppers. Thinking he was in "India", he called native Americans "Indians". He also named chilies "peppers", thinking they were related to black pepper, Piper Nigrum, which they are not. The family of chili peppers is called "Capsicum". Good ole "wrong way Columbus".

Oleoresin Capsicum (OC). Oleoresin stands for oleo = oil + resin = extract obtained from a plant, and Capsicum is the Latin word for pepper, so Oleoresin Capsicum means quite literally "pepper extract in oil". OC is an inflammatory agent derived from hot chili peppers such as jalapenos, chiletpin, cayenne and habaneros. Pepper Spray causes an intense burning sensation, temporary blindness, restricted breathing, and disorientation and is very painful upon contact.

"The Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science published a study that concluded that single exposure of the eye to OC is harmless, but repeated exposure can result in long-lasting changes in corneal sensitivity. They found no lasting decrease in visual acuity."

Rating the Strength of Pepper Sprays

The heat of the pepper spray is determined by the very powerful alkaloid capsaicin (cap-say-a-sin). A single drop of tasteless and odorless capsaicin in 100,000 drops of water creates a noticeable heat. Believe it or not Capsaicin can be detected by humans at one part per ten million.

The most important factor in the rating of Pepper Spray potency is the Scoville heat rating. The Scoville Organoleptic Test was named after a pharmacologist named Wilbur Scoville who in 1912 came up with the standard for measuring the power of capsaicin. Originally Scoville would have five tasters sip a mixture which included the pepper extract and give it a grade based upon the level of heat that the majority (3) felt.

Due to the invention of the computer, today the value is established through a method called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The pepper scale ranges from zero Scoville unit for a bell pepper to 5,000 or so for a jalapeno to 200,000-300,000 for a habanero! Pure capaicin is 15,000,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The oleoresin capsicum used in a superior pepper spray formula is derived from the hottest peppers and further processed and refined until the heat rating is 5,300,000.

A Little known Fact

The Naga Jolokia pepper has been tested at over 1,001,300 Scoville heat units! Almost twice as hot as the old champ, the Red Savina Habanero.

Choosing a Pepper Spray

Look for the pepper spray by its Scoville Heat unit rating, ease of use and safety features when shopping for a pepper spray. Sizes can range from a 1/2 ounce personal pepper spray up to 9 ounces for the bear pepper spray. Defensive sprays come in Keychain sizes and sizes easily carried on a belt or in a purse. Some are made like lipstick cases and others like jewelry rings. Even the smallest units have enough in them to deter an attack. In self-defense situations a good spray will immobilize an attacker and allow you to take control of the situation and escape. Report the incident to the police right away. Some pepper sprays contain UV DYE which later help in the description of the assailant in order to make an arrest possible. Another aspect of pepper spray that makes it attractive is its affordability. At an initial cost of $10 to $25 per canister, and If you add a Pepper Spray Training manual you can have excellent protection for under $50.00.

Who uses Pepper Spray?
  • Police Officers
  • Security guards
  • Parents
  • Nannies
  • Postal workers
  • Cab drivers
  • Merchants
  • Forest rangers
  • Campers
  • Runners
  • Walkers
  • Bike riders
  • And a whole slew of ordinary citizens.

In conclusion, Pepper sprays not only offer law enforcement officers a needed degree of flexibility to confront non-cooperative subjects, but also allows private citizens and communities the opportunity to explore this new and effective alternative to using deadly force for self-protection. And remember- please be careful out there!

The Author Jerry T. is 63 years of age. He was born in a small coal-mining town in Logan county, West Virginia. At the end of World War II his father returned from the war where he had served in the Pacific and moved the entire family to Chicago Illinois. He was educated in the inner city completing high school and 2 years of college. After joining an apprentice-printing program, Jerry became a Master Printer and worked in his field for 37 years. Jerry is the father of 5 adult children and 13 grandchildren. The author is now trying his hand at his own web business at

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