True preparedness means having what you need for situations you hope to never encounter. Whether you’re walking home late at night or you’re on a train, there are times when you might encounter someone with malicious intent. Taking martial arts and self-defense classes can be a good way to prepare, but they may fall short if you’re dealing with an armed attacker. That’s why it can be worth investing in a non-lethal self-defense weapon. And one of the best options for personal defense is pepper spray.
The primary agent in pepper sprays is capsaicin, which is a chemical found in peppers. Of course, they’re formulated to be way more intense than your standard packet of hot sauce. They temporarily blind a would-be-assailant, giving you enough time to get away and call for help. One of the best things about pepper spray as a self-defense tool is that it can be used at a distance. The best pepper sprays give you lots of range, giving you an opportunity to warn a would-be-attacker or defend yourself before they get too close.
Of course, pepper spray is only allowed to be used in self-defense situations or to protect someone else who is in danger. It should go without saying that pepper spray is not a toy; misuse can land you in jail or facing a hefty fine.
The efficacy of pepper spray as a self-defense tool heavily depends on accuracy. You have to spray in the assailant’s face in order to temporarily blind and irritate their eyes. However, some of the options on our roundup disperse as gas, allowing them to be effectively used even if you miss the face.
Most pepper sprays have a safety lock to prevent accidental discharge, so you’ll need to make sure you know where that is and how to turn the safety off in an emergency situation. It’s important to familiarize yourself with all of the components of your particular device; a situation where you’re being attacked is not the time to learn how your new pepper spray works.
We’ve rounded up some of the best pepper sprays for self-defense, including options from top brands like Mace and Sabre.
1. SABRE RED Pepper Spray Keychain
Sabre is one of the top manufacturers of pepper spray, and this option uses oleoresin capsicum (OC) as its primary ingredient. From this listing, you can choose from seven different colors. Each canister comes with a matching keychain that features a quick-release button — this is designed to allow you to quickly detach the spray canister from your keys in an emergency.
Pros: Quick-release keychain with a four-year shelf life. Designed to have a 10-foot range. Available in a variety of colors.
Cons: Quick release lever on the keychain can potentially come undone in your bag or pocket.
2. Mace Pepper Spray
The Mace brand is so synonymous with pepper spray that the name is often used as a verb, as in “to Mace someone.” This option features a flip-top cover that prevents accidental discharge, while still being easy to quickly deploy. The pepper spray canister includes both a beaded keychain, but you can also use the belt clip to attach it to your pocket or belt. This option has a “triple-action” feature — that means that even if you miss the face, the tear gas will activate, allowing for more widespread coverage. In addition, a UV dye marks the attacker so police can identify them.
Pros: “Triple-action” spray features a tear gas component, meaning that a direct hit to the eyes may not be necessary. UV dye marks the attacker. Convenient belt clip and keychain.
Cons: The police model, which is the one featured, is somewhat large, which means it will not fit in small purses and some pockets.
3. Guard Dog Security Pepper Spray
This option has several features that are designed to make it effective and safe. It’s designed to shoot a long, 16-foot spray in a pressurized stream. That gives you more range against an attacker while also preventing blowback. The canister comes with a keychain carrying pouch with an easy-access snap fastener. You can choose between various colors for the pouch.
Pros: Comes with a convenient carry pouch. UV dye to mark the assailant. Extra-long, 16-foot range.
Cons: Included pouch could be more durably made.
4. SABRE Advanced Compact Pepper Spray
This compact pick from the Sabre is a good option for adding to your everyday carry. It’s a small 4 inches tall, making it easy to take on the go, and it features a convenient clip for attaching to your pocket or belt. It’s also small enough to slip in a purse. This option has a 10-foot range, allowing you to adequately protect yourself at a distance. Plus, the UV dye creates an invisible mark on the attacker, which can assist the police in apprehension.
Pros: Compact design with a convenient pocket clip. 10-foot range. Three-in-one formula has UV dye, pepper spray and tear gas.
Cons: Twist-safety lock can potentially be too easy to unlock.