How To Use Pepper Spray

Lady pepper spraying man

It’s super important to learn how to use pepper spray correctly. Poorly used pepper spray can be taken away or be effective against an attacker. Also, using pepper spray illegally can result in criminal prosecution. I have used 26 pepper sprays and did other research. This is what I learned.

Pepper sprays should be held with a firm grip. It is most effective when it makes direct contact with the eyes and nose. Pepper spray should only be used defensively against an unprovoked assault or when there is reasonable fear of an assault.

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How to Use Pepper Spray

How Pepper Spray Works

Most pepper sprays rely on the chemical oleoresin capsicum (OC) to impair vision and make breathing difficult. As an inflammatory agent, OC causes involuntary, temporary eyelid closure and blindness. Impaired breathing results from inflamed airways, coughing, and excess mucous.

These near instant effects can be emotionally distressing. This sudden loss of vision and difficulty breathing often reduces an attacker’s willingness to fight.

Why Carry Pepper Spray

There are several reasons to carry pepper spray.

One of the most important is that it’s non-lethal. Most self-defense situations involve non-deadly force aggression. It’s a crime to use deadly force on an attacker who is using non-deadly force. Therefore, a non-deadly force self-defense tool is more frequently needed than a deadly force tool like a firearm.

Pepper spray is an easy self-defense tool to get. It’s widely available at popular retailers like Walmart and online on Amazon. Also, it’s much less expensive and easier to buy than a firearm. There’s no paperwork, background check, waiting period, or license required.

Also, pepper spray is easy to use. There is no recoil and muzzle raise. Some people are recoil sensitive. They are unnerved by firearm recoil and noise. Also, some people are not comfortable using lethal force and will only carry a non-lethal self-defense tool.

You can learn more about the reasons to use pepper spray by clicking the underlined text.

How To Hold Pepper Spray

Correctly holding pepper spray is super important. A strong grip makes it difficult for the spray to be taken and used against a defender. Also, pepper spray needs to held in such a way for optimal aiming. Most pepper sprays come in one of two forms. The most common is in a vertical form and the second is as a pepper spray gun.

Vertical Style Pepper Sprays

Vertical type pepper sprays should be shot using the thumb. This will insure a strong grip with the other 4 fingers grasping the canister. When I let a friend borrow a pepper spray, he gripped with his index finger on the safety. Don’t do this. Shooting with the index finger will result in only 3 fingers gripping the can. The picture below shows the right and wrong way to hold.

How to hold pepper spray and how to not hold pepper spray

Pepper sprays are aimed pointing the nozzle at an attacker, firing, then correcting the stream onto the attacker’s face. To do this, hold the spray in line with your nose and a little below the eyes. This will insure you can see both the stream and the attacker’s face.

Lastly, only use one hand the grip. Two hands are not needed. You can use your free hand keep separation between you and an attacker.

How To Hold A Pepper Spray Gun

Pepper spray guns are gripped and fired like pistols. Unlike vertical pepper sprays, they should be fired with the index finger.

Most pepper spray guns don’t have sights. They must be aimed and fired like vertical pepper sprays. Aim by holding just below the eyes and inline with the nose. You will be able to see the stream and the attacker’s face in this firing position.

If you have shot pistols, then you might be tempted to use two hands to shoot a pepper spray gun. Like with vertical pepper sprays, this is unnecessary.

Where To Spray Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is most effective when it makes direct contact with both eyes, and nose. Aiming at one ear and then sweeping the stream straight across will get the spray in the eyes and nose.

Pepper Spray on mannequin

How To Pepper Spray Someone With Glasses

If an attacker is wearing glasses, then hitting the eyes will be more difficult. This makes using pepper spray on someone wearing glasses less effective. However, glasses are unreliable protection against pepper spray. Even will glasses, there is a good chance enough spray will hit the eyes to cause eyelid closure.

Spray just above or below the glasses. Pepper spray hitting above glasses can cause blindness by moving down into the eyes. If the target’s eyes close to keep it out, then they will be blind. Pepper spray hitting below glasses can spatter up and into the eyes.

How To Carry Pepper Spray

Pepper sprays should be carried concealed in a comfortable and fast to access place. Pockets, key chains, bags, and belts can be good places to carry pepper spray.

How To Legally Pepper Spray Someone

Using pepper spray on someone may only be done with their permission or for self-defense. Being a victim of and unprovoked assault, is legitimate reason to pepper spray someone.

Also, a reasonable fear of assault is enough to pepper spray someone. A complete explanation of a reasonable fear is beyond the scope of this article. In short, if a reasonable person believes they are in imminent danger of assault, then they could defend themselves with pepper spray.

To learn more on how to legally use self-defense, read the book “The Law of Self Defense Principles” by attorney Andrew F. Branca. You can get it by clicking the button below.

Can You Go To Jail For Pepper Spraying Someone ?

Even though pepper spray’s effects are temporary, illegal use of pepper spray comes with great criminal and civil liability. Misuse of pepper spray during an altercation can result in an assault with battery charges. This is a high level misdemeanor and sentences often come with months of jail time.

An aggravated assault charge can also be issued for illegal use of pepper spray. This type of criminal prosecution is for intentionally causing serious bodily injury. Again, the fact that pepper spray’s effects are temporary is irrelevant. However, most states only criminally prosecute illegal pepper spray use, when it’s used for other crimes. For example, a prosecutor might issue an aggravated robbery charge to a mugger using pepper spray.

How To Choose A Pepper Spray

Comfort, concealment, and convenience are the most important things to consider. An uncomfortable pepper spray might not be carried. Also, it should be comfortable and convenient to conceal. A surprise pepper spray defense is more likely to be effective.

Pepper spray companies often put burst counts with their pepper sprays. I recommend ignoring this because I don’t think it’s helpful. In a self-defense situation, a defender will likely shoot a continuous stream and not in short bursts. I used pepper spray on a pack of dogs. I shot all of them with a continuous stream.

5 Great Pepper Sprays For Every Day Carry Self-Defense

After testing and reviewing 26 pepper sprays, I found these 5 to be some of the best. They each have their pros and cons.

Combo Pepper Spray By Plegium

Combo Pepper Spray by Plegium

Full Disclosure: Plegium gave me this pepper spray at no charge.

I’ve tested 26 pepper sprays and this is one of my favorites. 

In regard to the actual spray, it will shoot out 10-12 feet. You can see me test the spray in the video. There is a raised line down the middle of the trigger. That line lets a user get the spray ready to use without looking at the spray.The best feature of this spray is the siren. It sounds like bloody murder. You can hear the siren by playing the video. The siren will be a huge surprise to Thuggy McThuggerson and it will alert anyone nearby to something bad happening. When I first tested this spray, I something unexpected happened. After pressing the trigger, spray shot out but the siren did not go off. I guessed that this happened because of a light trigger press. I pushed the trigger again with a good firm press. The spray shot and the siren activated. If you have to use the spray, really mash on the trigger.

The Combo can attach to a key ring with a magnetic quick-release keychain. The magnets are super strong. The Combo will only release with a good strong pull.A strobe light activates when the spray is fired. Strobe lights are meant to disorient an attacker.


  • Very Loud Siren
  • Excellent Quick-Release Attachment
  • Strobe Light
  • Good Range


  • A Little Expense


One of the best pepper sprays. The automatic siren is a game changer. If you can spend $25 on a pepper spray, then this is a great option.

Mace Pepper Gun

mace pepper gun on a table

Mace’s pepper gun is one of the most powerful pepper sprays on the market. It shoots a large can and it comes with a light.

The large can allows it to spray up to 20 feet. When I shot this spray, it went a long way. I think it can shoot the full 20 feet. The GIF below shows me spraying it.

Shooting Mace Pepper Gun

Shooting the Practice Canister

The light is plenty bright. It will illuminate out to the range of the spray. The light has two modes. It alternates between solid and strobe each time the trigger is pulled. With short trigger pulls, the light mode can be changed without firing the spray. Once a user has the desired light mode, the trigger can be pulled more to fire the spray.

The trigger, safety, and chamber open lever are easy to use.

A water practice cartridge is included. This is great for getting a feel for how to use it and building confidence.

The Mace pepper gun is large. It’s about as large as my subcompact pistol. You can try carrying it in a front pocket. This might be uncomfortable especially when sitting. A holster or bag might be the best places to carry this pepper gun.

This is my favorite pepper gun.

Watch the video above to see me shoot this in day time and at night.


  • 20 Foot Range
  • Dual Mode Strobe and Solid Light
  • Lots of Spray
  • Refillable
  • Practice Canister Included
  • Ambidextrous Safety


  • Large
  • Holster or Bag Carry Solution Might Be Needed


It’s long range and light make this a powerful pepper gun. If you can handle the inconvenience of a large pepper gun, then get this spray. 

Pepper Enforcement Splatter Stream + Metal Belt Clip Holster

Pepper Enforcement Splatter Stream and metal belt clip holster

This is one of the best pepper sprays I have tested. It sprays a huge amount. This pepper spray could stop more than 5 attackers easily.

Also, it shoots a stream unlike any of the 22 pepper sprays I have tested. It shoots liquid droplets in a stream. This gives the spray a wide area of effect. Look at the Gif of me shooting it.

Shooting Pepper Enforcement with Splatter Stream

The holster is good. The can sits in the holster firmly, but still comes out easily. The belt clip is made of thick metal. The holster’s lid grips the side good and comes off quickly for fast access to the can. If you want to carry a pepper spray on a belt, then this holster is a great option.


  • Great Range
  • Excellent Volume and Spray Pattern
  • Good Holster


  • Huge


This is one of my all time favorite pepper sprays. If you are OK with the huge size, then this is a great pepper spray for you.

POM Pepper Spray With Clip

POM Pepper Spray with clip

Full Disclosure: POM gave me this pepper spray at no charge.

POM pepper sprays have two unique features. The flip top safety is one of them. Smallish pepper sprays like the ones from POM usually have swivel safeties. When using pepper sprays with a swivel safety, I learned they tend to come off safe accidentally. I let a friend borrow a swivel safety pepper spray, and he returned it to me with the safety off. However, flip top safeties don’t have this problem.

The other feature is the emphasis on style, and personalizing. POM Pepper sprays are available in white, grey, and black with several choices of colored ring. If you are the type of person who wants everything to match your style, then POM pepper sprays are the self-defense tool for you.

When I tested this, it shot the 10-12 feet the packages says it will go.

The clip is strong. It will hold onto cloth very tightly.


  • Great Safety
  • Good Range
  • Stylish


  • A bit expensive


If you care about matching your pepper spray with your style, then there is no better pepper spray for you.

Sabre Red Keychain Pepper Spray With Quick Release

SABRE Keychain Pepper Spray with Quick Release

This is another keychain pepper spray

It feels good in hand. It has finger grooves. I’ve used pepper sprays without finger grooves and they work just fine. Having said that, these finger grooves work and they are not in the way.

The range is 8 to 10 feet. That’s good enough for every day carry.

The keychain attachment is good. It has a release button. Pushing the button and pulling on the spray will release it. I hope Sabre upgrades to a magnetic quick-release.

The swivel safety and trigger work as they should. They both have some resistance, but will move for any adult.

It shoots an orange spray. That color helps with aiming and seeing the spray on a target.


  • Quick Release Keychain Attachment
  • Decent Range
  • Orange Spray


  • Kind of Small


If you must keep a pepper spray on a keychain, then this is a great pepper spray for you.

Andrew Jordan

I’m a lifelong native of Memphis, TN. Shooting drills especially with 22LR are one of my passions. My concealed carry permit application was submitted on my 21st birthday. The P10C is my EDC pistol. I invented the patented 15 round 5.56 stripper clip. You can also find me on the “Concealed Carry Andrew” Youtube channel.

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