How affective is pepper spray?

Hello everyone, this is my first thread. :smiley: I’m all nervous. Well, here goes.

I don’t live in a huge city or anything, but I do live in one of the worst parts of my town. A week or so ago a guy got shot 2 blocks from my house. A month before that a girl got raped, stabbed and left to die in a laundromat a couple of blocks away. I guess that’s not as bad as some other places but it really freaks me out. One thing that really got to me was when my freind and I were walking the short distance between a late night restaurant and my house after bar one night. We were passing a park and I heard someone yelling for us to stop, naturally we picked up the pace. But they (3 guys?) came bookin’ it through the park towards us, yelling the whole time, and they didn’t sound too friendly. I guess it kind of sounds stupid now but I shouted at them to go away and don’t come any closer. Actually I used quite a bit of profanity and some explicit threats when they started getting closer, but hey, it worked right?. I don’t think I overeacted or anything, it really scared both of us.

My mom bought me some pepper spray when I first moved into my wonderful new nieghborhood, also I usually have a knife on me if I take a walk (and one next to my bed). Now, I know the knife thing might not be that smart, because they could take it away and use it on me for example. I’ve been instructed (By a couple father figures) to never pull a deadly weapon unless I know I’m going to use it instantly for the reason stated above. So, when I’m walking I conceal it in my hand so it would be a suprise defense.

Now, I feel more safe with a knife, but I don’t want to stab someone (all that mess, you know?). Although I would have no qualms doing so if needed to to survive. I would rather be able to spray 'em, kick 'em in the face and run like hell. But I’m afraid the pepper spray would either not work at all or wear off right away and they’d be able to catch me anyway. Wow, I must sound really paraniod. Oh well, maybe I am, but is that a bad thing? Not always, me thinks.

Anywho, I was wondering if anyone has had the misfortune to actually have to use pepper spray on someone (or have it used on you :eek: ), and if so, how affective is it? Does it actually stop them in thier tracks, or (as I fear) just piss them off more?

I appreciate all opinions and/or personal experiences shared in advance.


I don’t know through personal experience how effective pepper spray is, but one problem with it I see already is that your attacker has to be pretty close for you to be able to use it. Your best bet, in addition to the pepper spray: don’t make it easy for someone to make a victim of you. Check your windows and make sure the latches are secure - and use them. If you need to open your windows for ventilation, put nails in the sills to ensure the windows can’t be raised more than a few inches. Don’t walk alone, especially at night. When you are walking at any time, look purposeful - like you know where you are going. Keys are also a good up close defense tool - hold your keyring so there is a key between each finger and if you are attacked go for the eyes.

And this will sound silly, but keep your door locked. I was attacked and almost raped in my dorm room in college because my roommate was expected back from work at any moment and I left the door unlocked.

I’m sure others will post with more information. Stay safe and good luck.

First off, welcome to the Dope.

Now, to your question. I have both used pepper spray and had it used on me. A good solid chest hit with a fog-type sprayer will deter any non-psycho from bothering you. The problems are that you have to let the assailant get into range of the spray, you have to spray accurately, and it isn’t really very effective against multiple assailants. Surprise is your best tactic with spray. That way you get a clean face-shot. Get the highest % capsaisin you can legally carry, and get a good-sized canister. Get the dummy canister while you are at it and practice. If the wind is blowing, spray is contra-indicated, for obvious reasons.


I had a small key-ring sized can of pepper spray. I sat out on the deck and gave it a short squirt just to see if it would actually spray. The spray hung in the air for a full half hour. I coughed and my eyes watered. It works.

I hope you’re considering moving to a somewhat safer neighborhood. I know it’s hard, but the peace of mind is worth paying a little extra.

----mother of a son who lives in a very questionable neighborhood

Thanks Snakescatlady.

I was taught this one from a friend a couple years ago and always use it. I think this is great advice, looking like a victim will only attract the psycos.

As for locking the doors and windows, I had to get used to doing this when I moved out on my own (my parents never locked the door). I used to only lock the door when I would leave. Now I keep it locked all the time.
silenus thanks for the warm welcome and the suggetions. I never knew you could get a dummy canister. Practicing my aim is a great idea and most likely very needed.

As for you, YaWanna, correct away, I was expecting nothing less. (did I use enough comma’s there?) :smiley: I know I need it, I’m reasonably good at taking constructive criticism. Besides I know ya wanna…Ok I know that was lame but I couldn’t help myself.

I teach a Sexual Harassment, Assault & Rape Prevention (SHARP) seminar in my school at least once a quarter. I’m always asked about pepper spray, etc.

I have no personal objection to it; anything that distracts your opponent from attacking you is A Good Thing ™. However, there are some caveats associated with it.

  1. It’s got to be easily accessible, pretty much in your hand from the get-go.
  2. Your attacker has to be close for it to be effective, and you might get hit with the backlash.
  3. If the wind is blowing toward you, you WILL get hit with the backlash.
  4. Same for being in an enclosed area.

The best self-defense is to control your situation. Don’t let yourself get into a situation that invites attack. Travel with friends, be wary of approaching strangers, look confident at all times, etc.

I am planning on moving out before the end of summer. I don’t like worrying all the time about some wierdo breaking in. Plus, my evil/abusive ex-boyfriend knows where I live and just left a drunken “I still ** love** you.” note outside my door. (And yes, he underlined the word “still” and scribbled “love” over and over till it was really dark.) It’s been a year already since I broke up with him and moved out on my own. I thought he had given up, but I guess not. :rolleyes:

What, you know me? :smiley:

You meant to say “effective,” is all. “Affective” refers to mood.

Thanks, I was actually wondering which is which. I was too lazy to actually pick up a dictionary and check. :smiley: And yes I’ve been lurking religiously for about 6 months now and I know there’s a lot of nit-picking that goes on. It’s alright though it makes me feel at home. (My mother is one of those people that will correct your grammer even if she just met you.) :rolleyes: I don’t know how she’s put up with my dad for so long. He says a lot of stuff like “I seen so & so the other day.” She hasn’t given up on him yet though. :smiley:

Thank you Clothahump I do my best to practice all of these.

That’s why you have to stay up-wind of your assailants. :stuck_out_tongue:


Just asked a 22-year veteran cop acquaintance of mine about this. He said, unless your assailant is completely crazed by drugs, a good dose of pepper spray in the eyes will stop him in his tracks.

That’s what I was wondering. Thanks, I know it hurts like a sonofabitch. I think I was at concert when someone sprayed a little but it didn’t hinder my actions or anything. I wasn’t right in the middle of it though. But I wanted to make sure it would actually stop someone. I think my dad put the fear in me. (which is good in a way) He told me if someone was attacking me and I kicked him in the nads it wouldn’t necessarily stop them. (we were talking about self defense classes and such) So I’m thinkin’ if that doesn’t stop someone how will the equivalent of liquid cayenne (sp?) pepper do it. I guess if they’re all drugged up I’m screwed either way. Which is why it’s so important not to get in that situation to begin with. Thank you everyone once again for your input and tips.

I definitely think pepper spray is a good tool. Every single cop in the US carries it, so it certainly is well-tested. As an EMT, I saw OC used on suspects several time, and they certainly weren’t looking to fight afterwards.

It has a decent effective range too–from what I have read it can be used on an assailant who is 5-10 feet away. The most important thing is to keep them out of reach; for a knife to be effective, you obviously need to be within that range.

In terms of a specific recommendation, many cops with whom I come in contact seem to recommend Fox Labs 5.3 as being effective. I have the stream dispenser, since it is supposed to reduce blowback.

As just general points, as has been mentioned, try to not look like a target. Walk purposefully. Be aware of your surroundings–scan constantly for threats.

In terms of helping with more specific suggestions, could you at least tell us which state you are in (assuming you are in the US)? Different defensive devices vary in their legality across states. OC spray is a good starting point, though, because as far as I know some form of pepper spray is legal in every state.

I’ve been sprayed with it and I used to spray people who were initially qualifying to carry it for LE purposes. Basically, it’s extremely effective on someone such as myself - fair skin and light colored eyes. The darker the eyes and skin, the less effective it may be. This isn’t always the case, of course, but I’ve sprayed or observed the spraying of all sorts of people running the spectrum of skin tone and that generally seems to be the case. I’ve seen the rare case where pepper spray did not stop that individual from functioning normally.

When I was sprayed, it was the worst pain I had ever felt. Ever. I’d rather get stabbed before I go through that again.

A note to the OP:

You mentioned that you sometimes carry a knife upon your person in public.
Unless said knife is of the Swiss Army variety, you would be well advised to consult with an attorney as to the legality of carrying this item upon your person outside of your house.

I’ve never heard that skin and eye color have an effect on the intensity of the pain. Do you have a cite for that?

That information came from my initial exposure training when the CG first starting using OC. Other than that, my only cite is anecdotal; the only people that I have witnessed deal with OC well were darker in eye/skin tones. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not.

Don’t carry a knife. It’s obvious you won’t use it or will hesitate too long if by some chance you actually do. That will make a bad situation much much worse.

Make sure you get the strongest pepper spray you can. I would also test it on yourself. 25 years ago when I was in a dojo we tried some. some of the stuff on the market then was really weak and wouldn’t do anything except annoy your attacker. Some was pretty nasty and would incapacitate you.

Bear in mind that 5 to 10 feet is much closer than it sounds in a threat situation. That range offers very little reaction time against an assailant who actually intends to use a knife. A commonly cited figure in this regard is that the average healthy adult male can cover 21 feet in roughly 1.5 seconds (see the Wikipedia entry on the Tueller Drill). I did a quick, unscientific test just now: I started from a casual stance with a practice knife in hand and made some practice lunges while timing them. I determined that I could hit a target 7 feet away with that knife in about 0.4 seconds…and I’m short, pudgy, and out of practice.

If you intend to practice with a dummy spray, I would suggest including an evasive maneuver in your practice. Stepping back and to one side is probably the best simple maneuver to use, as it’s unlikely to conflict with your reflexive reaction to being charged. Practicing it will help keep you from freezing up in a crisis. Noticing possible obstacles is also an important part of your situational awareness–positioning yourself so that there’s something between you and a potential attacker can buy you some precious time. Cover is not just for gunfights.

I’ve had to use pepper spray (more specifically CS gas) in an attack before. I’m not tall by any means, but most guys that see me don’t want to mess with me. I had the spray in my hand unarmed, the guy I had to use it on saw the tube, lunged at me and grabbed it with both hands. I was stronger than him and managed to arm the device with my thumb and point it towards him.

A good portion of the spray hit the inside of my car, but I definetely hit him square in the eyes. He got real mad. I was sitting in my car. I got out, backed up, and when he got close enough to hit me, I hit him so hard that his grandmother felt it.

It makes me mad when people describe pepper spray as an ultimate solution*. Sometimes it does not work. It’s helpfull, that’s for sure, but it’s not a singular solution to assault situations.

[sub]Not that anyone has said that in so many words here.[/sub]