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How to Use Pepper Spray Safely (And When You Should)

The statistics surrounding violence against women are alarming. According to the World Bank, 35% of women have been the victim of physical or sexual assault, and this only accounts for attacks that have been reported.

Our goal, however, is not to inspire fear. Instead, we want to talk about one of the many ways that women can protect themselves against attackers.

There are many tools women can use for protection. An important thing to note is that when you don't know how to use these tools properly, you can cause harm to yourself.

Let's discuss how to use pepper spray. Read on to find out more about this effective method of self-defense.

What is Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray is a combination of inert ingredients and Oleoresin Capsicum (or OC). OC comes from hot cayenne peppers with at least two million Scoville heat units. 

OC works as an inflammatory agent and produces results immediately. The spray must come into contact with a person's mucous membranes in the nose, throat, eyes, or lungs. It can cause temporary blindness and difficulty breathing. 

The effects of pepper spray are not permanent or lethal. There have been reported deaths that were linked to the use of pepper spray. However, the pepper spray in question was both stronger than commercially available products and contained abnormal ingredients, such as alcohol and hydrocarbons. 

How to Use Pepper Spray the Right Way

If you're not careful with pepper spray, you can end up spraying yourself or innocent bystanders. Read on to learn more about the right way to use it.

Get to Know Your Pepper Spray

Pepper spray comes in canisters that often vary from brand to brand. It's important that you make sure you know how to use your pepper spray (and that it isn't defective) before you're in an emergency situation.

First, get used to how the spray feels in your hands. Make sure you know how to remove the safety and practice with it until you never find that you are pointing it at yourself. 

To test your pepper spray, head to a deserted outdoor area on a low-wind day. If there is any wind, make sure you're spraying with the wind and not against it. Point the mouth away from you and hold down the trigger for five seconds.

Take note of how far the stream reaches. This will give you an indication of how close you'll need to be to an attacker in order to spray their face.

Finally, find a place on your person to store the pepper spray that is accessible. Outer jacket pockets or a holster on the hip is best. Placing it in your purse or wearing it as a keychain may inhibit your ability to get to it quickly. 

Proper Posture and Defensive Moves

Practice heightened awareness when you are in vulnerable positions. This includes times when you are out by yourself or in dark, secluded areas. When you are hyper-aware of your surroundings, you are less likely to be caught off guard by an attacker.

If you are approached, get out your pepper spray and remove the safety. At the same time, take a step or two away from your attacker and bend at the knees. Lift both hands in front of your face and avoid extending your arms all the way out in front of you. 

You will want to use your thumb to hold down the trigger of your pepper spray. This gives you a firm grip on the canister and allows you to keep your other hand free in the event that you must punch or shove the attacker. 

Once you have sprayed the attacker, move away from the area. This will give you more distance from any residual spray in the air. It will also confuse your attacker, who is now temporarily blinded but may lunge toward the location where they last saw you standing. 

How to Spray Pepper Spray  

Most pepper sprays release a stream and tend to have the highest range. They are most effective when sprayed across the eyes and nose in a horizontal motion.

Some pepper sprays release a mist. These should be sprayed vertically, from the forehead area to the chin and back again.

Finally, there are some pepper sprays that release foam and have the lowest range. These you will need to spray in a circular motion as the foam directly hits the attacker's face.

When to Use Pepper Spray

The use of pepper spray is regulated by law. Unlawful use of pepper spray can lead to court cases and fines.

The lawful use of pepper spray is in self-defense. For example, if an attacker is threatening harm, wielding a weapon, or is larger or stronger than you, you can use pepper spray to protect yourself. 

The use of pepper spray is considered unlawful when it involves excessive force or is sprayed recklessly in a crowded area, causing harm to innocent bystanders. It is also unlawful to use pepper spray offensively rather than defensively. 

In other words, you may use pepper spray against someone who is clearly trying to cause you harm. While you want to practice hyper-awareness, you do not want to overreact when you are startled by someone who is merely passing by.

Where to Purchase Pepper Spray

Now that you know how to use pepper spray, it's important that you purchase yours from a reputable seller. 

At Women on Guard, we specialize in self-defense tools that are designed to fit legal regulations and increase the security of women across the nation. For more information about our products, contact us today.