Pros and Cons of Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray Collection

Pepper spray can be an effective non-lethal self-defense tool. It has benefits no other self-defense option has. However, pepper spray is not perfect.

Is pepper spray right for you? There are several things to consider. Keep reading to learn more.

What Are The Advantages Of Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray is easy to use, inexpensive, and effective. It causes eye lids to shut and severe eye pain. Pepper spray in the respiratory system causes coughing, pain, and airways restriction. Pepper spray can be used at a distance. It is also legal in all 50 U.S. states, and many other jurisdictions.

It’s Effective

Pepper spray is great at stopping attackers. It’s effectiveness comes from the compound capsaicin. When it hits the eyes, they will involuntarily close. This causes temporary blindness and eye pain. Upon entering the nose, throat, and lungs, airways will become restricted. Intense pain and coughing will also effect the respiratory system.

For maximum effect, the spray to directly hit the eyes and nose.

Pepper Spray on mannequin


Pepper spray puts distance between a defender and attacker. Unlike stun guns and knives that put a defender within arms reach. Most pepper sprays have an effective range of at least 10 feet or 3 meters. This give space to spray an assailant then run away, and avoid being grabbed.


Pepper spray usually has no lasting effects on those exposed to it. Typically after 4 to 6 hours, the burning sensation, and airway restrictions are totally gone. Those who experience longer and more severe problems from pepper spray usually have chronic health problems such as asthma. 

Legal In Many Places

Pepper spray is legal in many places. It can be purchased and used defensively in many places including all 50 U.S. states.

Some states restrict the size of the container and the percent of capsaicin used.

Minors, felons, and those addicted to narcotic may not purchase, possess, or use pepper spray in some states.

Also, pepper spray is often legal where pistols are not. School campuses, government buildings, and business with no gun signs are often places where pistols cannot legally be carried. Depending on your state and city pepper spray might be a legal self-defense option in places like these.

Lastly, using unnecessary force, can be a crime. Using pepper spray instead of lethal force, might aid in legal defense of defensive actions. 

Easy To Get And Use

Pepper spray is easy to purchase and use. Many pepper sprays are small enough to fit in a pocket, purse, or holster. This smallness also makes pepper spray easy and comfortable to conceal.

It is also easy to use. Commonly, pepper spray has a safety feature that is disengaged with the thumb. After this, a user only needs to aim and press the trigger with that same thumb. As long as a user is not panicked, pepper spray is simple, easy, and fast into action.

Learn How to Use Pepper Spray with this Video

How to Use Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is much easy to use than a pistol. There is no recoil, loud noise, or fear of shooting lethal bullets. Those who might be intimidated by a firearm might be more eager to carry and use pepper spray.

Pepper spray will not cause hearing loss. Unprotected ears always receive permanent hearing loss from close gunfire.

Also getting pepper spray is convenient and affordable. Models with wrist straps, key rings, or belt clips are available for as little as $12 or less.

In the U.S. popular online retailers such as Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart sell pepper spray. It is often sold in local retailers too.

Works On Animals

Pepper spray works good on animals including dogs and bears. Yes, bullets are very good at stopping dog attacks, but pepper spray is often the better choice.

Dogs bark aggressively more than they attack. Pepper spray stops dog aggression without the need to kill someone’s loved animal and having to explain gunfire to police.

Bears are very large and fast animals. It’s true that well placed bullets will stop a bear attack.. Hitting a bear in the face with spray is arguably easier to do than get stopping hits with bullets. Shooting under stress is hard. Even trained shooters will shoot less accurately during a bear attack. A face full of pepper spray usually makes bears retreat. Also, many state parks do not permit firearms. Bear pepper spray might be the only legal defensive option.

Bear pepper spray is different than self-defense spray for everyday carry. It comes in large canisters. Also, bear pepper spray is usually not a stream or gel, but a fog ejection. These pepper fogs are more vulnerable to cross wind movement than streams and gels.

Watch this Video of Bear Spray in Action

What Are The Disadvantages Of Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray does not always work. It must directly hit the eyes and nose for maximum effect. Rain, wind, mental illness, drugs, and shear force of will can make pepper spray less effective. Cross contamination is possible. Wind can blow spray into a user’s face. Also, it is illegal in many jurisdictions.

It Does Not Always Work

Some people have little or no negative reaction to pepper spray. Mental illness, drugs, or even shear will and determination can cause some to fight through the affects. Law enforcement and military personnel train to push through and overcome pepper spray exposure.

Also, rain and wind can reduce the effectiveness of pepper spray.

Must Directly Hit The Face

Pepper spray must made direct contact with the eyes or nose to be effective. This is difficult to do especially under under stress. Don’t let the marketing videos from pepper spray producers fool you. An attacker will not just stand there and take a spray to the face. He or she will likely try to evade. Turning around and getting hit in the back of the head might stop pepper spray from working.

Also, pepper spray will not work if a defender is grabbed from behind.

Pepper Spray Expires

Pepper spray canisters expire over time. This is due the compressed air in the canister. Small amounts of this compressed air are always leaking. After a few years, the spray will no longer expel from the canister.

Manufacturers often guaranty sprays for 3 or more years. To be super safe, I recommend replacing your spray every year.

Cross Contamination

Badly used pepper spray can get on others who are not the intended target. Missing the target might get spray on those behind and around the target.

Also, if an attacker gets close after being sprayed, then the person who used it might get exposed.

A strong wind can also move the spray onto the wrong person. A pepper gel will be much less effected by wind.

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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