4 Quick Steps On How To Use Pepper Spray To Protect Yourself

In order to be effective, pepper spray must make contact with a person’s or animal’s mucus membranes. That would be in the eyes, nostrils and/or mouth. The term ‘effective,’ in terms of OC Spray, refers to creating a definitive dysfunction or serious reduction in a person’s or animal’s ability to continue to assault or attack you. OC contact will also create a rather intense burning sensation when it contacts exposed skin.

A former associate of mine (a sublime skeptic), upon being issued a canister of OC Spray, conducted a self-exposure exercise. He read the instructions and paid especially close attention to the decontamination procedures. Anticipating the worst (or maybe the best – depending how you look at it) he decided that the best place to proceed with the self-exposure test was in his shower to accommodate rapid decontamination. So he stripped himself down and jumped into his shower. He held the canister out at arms length and gave himself a brief burst of the pepper spray – upon which gravity carried the excess OC to exactly where you do not want an irritant to contact you. Of course he couldn’t see and he had difficulty breathing and his motor coordination was severely limited. He had great difficulty executing the decontamination procedure, but gained supreme confidence in and respect for the effectiveness of pepper spray.

My primary law enforcement function from the mid 1980s through the 1990s was oversight and operation of a police training academy that served a population base of approximately 1,250 law enforcement officers. This was during the period pepper spray was being adapted as a law enforcement tool. Part of my job was to train and certify most of these officers in the use of OC Spray. The OC Spray training curriculum at that time included a voluntary exposure exercise. Of course virtually every officer elected to participate in the exposure exercise for fear of being branded a coward should he or she decline to participate. And, of course, the lead instructor was expected and elected to frequently participate in exposure demonstrations to calm the fears and nervousness of the student/officers and to prove it was effective and safe to participate. (I doubt there is another man on earth who has been exposed to OC Spray more than me.)

Once pepper spray contacts mucous membranes, the effects are as follows:

1. temporary blindness (involuntary closing and temporary inability to open the eyes – I should stress that OC Spray does not actually alter or impede the physical structure or mechanical operation of the eye or ocular components – it’s just the autonomic reaction to the intense burning sensation);

2. temporary inability to breath (due to swelling of sinus and mucous membranes in the nose and throat and involuntary interruption of autonomic responses);

3. due to reduced breathing capacity and compromised oxygen transfer (dilated capillaries), many people exposed to pepper spray report experiencing lightheadedness, disorientation, confusion and loss of muscle control. This is particularly what gives the assailant’s intended victim that brief window of opportunity to escape.

People who have been caught totally by surprise by exposure to pepper spray in an actual tactical situation have reported that they thought they were having a heart attack or some type of coronary episode. (This, however, does not happen in training exercises where participants anticipate and understand the exposure.)

People exposed to OC Spray also experience massive sage spray rhinorrhea – a voluminous discharge (snot) from the mucous membranes of the sinuses. (We actually used to take photos of the officers participating in our exposure exercises and give the person with the longest hanging snot string a ‘booger’ trophy.) One of my favorite one-liners in the pepper spray training class was, “… pepper spray impresses the snot out of me.”

Of the thousand plus officers I’ve had participate in OC Spray exposure exercises, I’ve encountered one person whose reflexes were so quick, we had difficulty getting the pepper spray in his eyes or nostrils. Of course he was standing there looking at the canister in the instructors hand fully anticipating being sprayed. I’ve come to the conclusion that no one can avoid pepper spray’s invasion to mucous membranes in the sudden, unanticipated deployment of pepper spray in an actual tactical situation.

We even had people wearing glasses participate in exposure exercises. Glasses may serve to prevent the highest concentrations of pepper spray from invading directly into the eyes, but the indirect invasion of pepper spray always proved to be effective in halting the aggressive actions of our test officers.

The effective deployment of pepper spray does require some minor marksmanship skill, depending on the nature of the pepper spray product you choose to use. There are generally three types of spray dispensers.

One is a very concentrated stream. The spray is dispensed in a narrow stream and requires the most skill to hit the intended target (the eyes, nose and mouth area of the assailant). The advantage of such a dispenser is that it affords greater range and can be deployed without letting the assailant get as close. Another advantage is that when it is deployed competently, there is less chance that it will affect anyone in the vicinity it is not intended to. Some dispensers claim ranges of up to 15 or 20 feet.

Dispensers that produce a less concentrated stream of pepper spray product sacrifice a little range but don’t require the degree of accuracy to make contact with the intended target area on the assailant.

A third type of dispenser is referred to as a ‘fogger.’ It dispenses the pepper spray product in a finely atomized mist that covers a larger area. It is probably the surest way to get the pepper spray to where it needs to be to affect the assailant’s mucous membranes. But you sacrifice even a little more effective range.

Many manufacturers of OC Spray products offer inert samples of their various dispensers for sale as well, that allow users to experience the performance of their selected dispenser type so the user knows better what to expect concerning the deployment of his or her chosen pepper spray dispenser.



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