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What Is Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray, used in self defense against dogs, bears or human attackers, comes in an aerosol form and its active ingredient is OC (oleoresin capsicum) - a term used in reference to chile peppers.  The heat of a chile pepper is measured by the amount of capsaicin it contains - the more capsaicin, the hotter the bite. The Scoville scale rates capsaicin heat in peppers: a bell pepper gets a rating of zero Scoville units, while a habanero (hottest of the hot peppers) is rated at 300,000 units. Pure capsaicin is rated at 15,000,000 and most pepper sprays would be rated around 2-5,000,000.  Fox Pepper Spray is 5,300,000.  If you've ever bitten into a jalapeno pepper and experienced its fiery sting at a mere 5000 Scoville units, imagine the bite of a mouthful of pepper spray.
 
How Does Pepper Spray Work?
 
OC is an inflammatory agent. Contact with mucous membranes like eyes, nose, throat and lungs causes instant capillary dilation. This results in major tearing of the eyes, if not temporary blindness, and breathing restriction. Sprayed into an attacker's face, pepper spray is an excellent self defense product - the victim will be incapacitated long enough for you to get away or get help. And the effects are not long lasting; you needn't worry that you've caused damage as you could with mace or tear gas.
 
Is Pepper Spray Legal?
 
Yep. You may not carry it on an airplane and some US states have pepper spray restrictions and formulation rules:

Massachusetts - you must have a Firearms Identification Card (FID) to possess and/or use pepper spray
Michigan - specific pepper or tear gas formulations are required  (see some samples of Michigan-approved sprays)
New York - pepper spray must be purchased from a New York state licensed firearm dealer or pharmacist
Wisconsin - state formulations do not allow UV dye in pepper spray
 
 Practice!
 
 Avoid an armpit or face full of pepper spray by practicing your aim before you have to spray an attacker in panic. Aim spray at your assailant's eyes and then dodge away if you can to avoid allowing any back spray to hit you. Milk or sour cream, a baking soda paste or honey are decent pepper spray antidotes (that's why milk is the perfect beverage to accompany a spicy meal full of capsaicin), but expect some lingering pain and heat if you accidentally dose yourself.
 
 The Bottom Line
 
 Pepper spray is a valuable men's and women's self defense tool, but it is also a weapon. Used maliciously, it could get you in big trouble. Be careful with it, follow basic safety precautions to avoid being in a situation where you have to use it, and enjoy the feeling of security it offers.


"Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it."
--Mark Twain

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