Why I don’t like Pepper Spray, but I started carrying it. Should You?


I’m not going to lie …

I thought pepper spray was for old ladies and little girls and until a few months ago, I thought there was absolutely no reason in the world why I would want to carry it.

It seemed silly to me.


After all …

*** If you put your hands on me, I’m more than capable of putting my hands on you back. A lot. Hard. Fast.

So why carry pepper spray if I’m confident in my hand-to-hand skills?

*** I also carry a gun and a knife …

So it seemed to me like I had all the angles covered. Hand-to-hand situations requiring a (hopefully) non-lethal response. Check.

A gun for situations that need a lethal response. Check. And a pocket knife if somehow the other two plans get FUBAR’ed.

So why even THINK about pepper spray too?

There’s only so much room on a belt before you start looking and feeling like Batman.

Well, the truth is after a few training classes this past summer, I started carrying pepper spray.

I’m still not sure if it will stay in my every day carry, but let’s talk about why you might pick some up.

What is Pepper Spray?

Pepper Spray is classified as a non-lethal, non-deadly use of force option. Pepper spray, also known as OC spray (from “oleoresin capsicum”), OC gas, and capsicum spray, is a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain, and temporary blindness.

As an aside, people commonly use the word “mace” to describe pepper spray but it’s innaccurate. Mace and tear gas are LESS effective than pepper spray as I understand it because they’re classified as “irritants”.

And while pepper spray may not work 100% of the time, it has a much higher chance of disabling a person because it is classified as an “inflammatory” agent andshould cause extreme inflammation to the sprayed areas.

In short, a pissed off or violent or really determined attacker may not care about an irritant because he may not care about pain, but if his body betrays him and inflammation causes his eyes to swell shut — even if he’s so motivated to kill you he doesn’t care about the pain — his eye’s swelling shut still gives you an advantage.

At least, that’s my non-expert way of looking at it.

Why Consider Pepper Spray?

There are many options when using your gun, a knife, or even your bare hands may not be the best solution …

*** Consider a REALLY aggressive homeless, drunk guy asking for change. After you tell him no, he’s cursing and coming towards you. Oh yeah, and you’re with your family.

Do you want to grapple with the really drunk, pissed off homeless guy covered in pee and poop in front of your family and possibly get stabbed with the knife you didn’t see he had?

Worse, if it escalated like that, do you really want to shoot the poor drunk guy in front of your family?

If after telling him to “BACK OFF!” with multiple, repeated verbal warnings and urging your family out of danger, wouldn’t it be best just to hit him with a bit of pepper spray to give you and your family time to escape?

*** What about a really aggressive dog that’s not quite life-threatening? Or acting like it will attack your child? Or your smaller dog?

Shooting your neighbors pet (even if it’s acting like a jerk) may not make you any friends. Neither will pepper spraying the dog, but at least you didn’t kill it, and you got away without any teeth marks where they shouldn’t be.

*** Finally, what if you have NO hand-to-hand skills? Or the guy is bigger, stronger and younger than you? Pepper spray and run is a better option than getting beat up … or even getting involved in a fist fight that could turn into a situation where the guy is trying to kill you with his bare hands and you are forced to shoot him and your life ends up looking like Zimmerman.

Hopefully at this point you can see where I’m going. There are a LOT of situations that haven’t quite gotten to the level of lethal force, but you definitely would love nothing more than to get the heck out of there instead of scrapping hand-to-hand or escalating it further.

Why I Don’t Like Pepper Spray…

The truth is, I thought about Pepper Spray as being something that they sold to women when they should of told them to buy a gun.

But I can definitely see how it’s another tool that can give you another option on the use-of-force continuum and it’s not a bad idea.

Now, my only problem with it is it’s a little bit of a pain to carry.

What I Use And Recommend …

First off, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Sabre Red. So that’s the brand I chose. Again, I like simple. So I listen to the guys that know what they’re talking about and do what they say. Simple.

Chuck Haggard of www.agiletactical.com has been sprayed with OC about 60 times, in the training context, and has sprayed somewhere around 1000 people (I’ve yet to take a class from Mr. Haggard, but I hope to soon — he actually teachs an OC class, maybe I can get into that) and I saw a forum post where he called Saber Red “the very best OC I have ever been hit with”.

Then it comes down to the types of canisters you can get.

Now, John Murphy of FPF Training — whom I highly respect — recommended a model (and we trained with the inert trainers in his class) that I believe to be the MK-6 Flip Top. It’s got a belt clip and fills up your entire palm.

Honestly, I’m already carrying a pocket knife, a Glock 19, at least one spare mag, my keys, and my cell phone everywhere I go so that’s just too big of an extra thing to carry. If I’m adding one more annoying thing to carry around it’s going to be a medical kit.

That’s why I picked up quite a few of the keychain models from Sabre red to try out for me and my family.

Currently, there’s a Sabre Red Spitfire attached to my keychain. After taking off the little label, it even looks like it belongs there and doesn’t really draw much attention (though I’ve had a few friends notice it and ask if it was “mace”).

Picture of my current keychain with Sabre Red Spitfire and an inert Mk-6 Sabre Red training unit for size comparison.

Because I already carry my keys everywhere I go, this is a good solution for me.

And because I use a small carabiner to attach my keys to my belt loop, I don’t worry about it accidentally discharging in my pocket.

The compromise is that this small little guy sprays a “mist” pattern of aerosol type spray, wheras the larger unit I trained with during classes with John from FPF Training spray a stream.

Obviously, because it sprays a mist, the Spitfire is only usable at a shorter distance.

Training With Pepper Spray 

Obviously, you should train with and practice with pepper spray.

Luckily, there are “inert” training units available that will allow you to practice spraying people without hurting them.

I just picked up some inert units for the Spitfire so I can practice with that now, and plan to train with it more.

The other thing I want to do, soon, is get my wife or someone else I trust to spray me with my pepper spray.


Greg Ellifritz (who has also been sprayed himself over 50 times) explains why in one of his excellent articles on defeating pepper spray:

“Most of you will think I’m crazy to advise spraying yourself, but I think it is a smart strategy, escpecially if you carry the spray yourself.  Every time I’ve sprayed someone with pepper spray on the street, I’ve been exposed to it myself on some level.  Every. Single. Time.  If you plan to use it on a criminal, you’ll get a taste yourself.  I promise.  Knowing how to handle that will give you the confidence you need to win the fight against an attacker armed with a chemical irritant spray.”

What I want to do is act like the aggressor, so that my wife gets some practice spraying someone and practice with her self-defense skills …

But then immediately after I want to try fighting through the effects of the spray.

I’m thinking at least two sessions of exposure, one to hit some thai pads or something (fighting fisticuffs after being sprayed) and a shooting session (seeing how bad it makes my marksmanship/gun handling after being sprayed).

Anways, that’s my plan for testing the stuff.

The Bottom Line Is I Think Pepper Spray Is Viable & You Should Consider It

After thinking through multiple scenarios, there are a lot of times when a non-lethal option like pepper spray would come in handy.

Hopefully this helps you too.

For more info, the video below has a lot of useful info:

And Greg Ellifritz has a great article here on How to Choose Pepper Spray And How To Use It.



  1. hmmm interesting article… I have been thinking about doing the same for a few months now and have had about the same thoughts about not carrying it (HK P2000 & spare mag, Benchmade, small Surefire light, tactical pen and a small folder on my key-ring).. I have felt like my edc was pretty adequate but I may just have to get some – seems like another good thing I could have on my key-ring…

    • Yeah, I hear you …

      I’m constantly looking at how to lighten the load. And I don’t carry half the stuff most people recommend already lol.

  2. Caleb, I don’t carry pepper spray on me, but do keep a can in my truck. It really does work well on out of control dogs. I am very sensitive to the stuff and more times then not, when I used it, I got at least some of it, even if only the particles hanging in the air. I know how it affects me and don’t want stinging eyes if I have to get involved in an altercation. As a LEO, I was first issued tear gas (CS) and when the pepper based stuff came out, that was issued. For me, they were both equally bad. I’ve seen it work very effectively and also where it had zero effect. Generally, if the suspect was under the influence of drugs, it was less effective. Good to have around, but you definitely need to know how it would affect you prior to using it.

  3. Caleb
    I can only add to Marty’s input. Some people are super sensitive to it while others not so much. Those that are need to be careful as the affects will not allow you to defend themselves or worse you become your own victim rather then defending from another. Lastly as a word of advice. DUMP THE SPRAY !!! If it doesn’t stream it has no value as a defense device. If it sprays you WILL get it on you and regardless of how many prior exposures you will be affected. I would much prefer to get some pee on me in front of my wife then to avoid it and use a spray pattern and get it on me (or them) and then watch while the homeless guy ransacks my wallet and my family. Stream or Glock your choice 🙂
    If it doesn’t stream dump it. You can even go so far as to get a “WD-40″ type tube and cut a 1/2” piece off and insert it into the nozzle with some judicious use of glue to hold it in place (test to insure you didn’t occlude the device) this will give you even more stream and further protect you but definitely no spray pattern stuff.
    Dr D

  4. While in basic training in the Army, we had to go into a shack that was filled with tear gas. While there, we had to say our name, rank and service number. When I got out, I could not stop my eyelids from closing, for a couple of minutes. I must say it slowed me down – if not stopping me. My friends who went to the Marines had to sing the Marine Corps Hymn in the “gas house”. My sympathy for them!

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