My Simple Answer: I really like using strategically placed canisters of pepper gel as part of my home defense plan. Currently I’m not at a place where I want to carry pepper spray as part of my normal routine. Keep reading for the long answer. 🙂
I’m minimalistic about what I carry. I don’t like feeling bogged down by having a million things. I do NOT carry a purse. I literally leave the house with:
1. My cell phone (I use ZVE Wallet Case that stores my essential cards and a little cash.)
2. A keyring with 2 keys (car and house)
3. My gun (usually attached to my bra using my Flashbang Bra Holster that I adore!)
That’s it! I am usually wearing lounge pants or leggings which means I don’t have pockets. Today I wore jeans (rare for me) so I stuffed chapstick and a knife in my pockets (I don’t usually carry a knife but I knew one of my stops was a no-gun place.)
The spray or gel creates a strong burning sensation when it comes in contact with the eyes, throat, nose, and skin. This effect can stop someone in their tracks as they focus their attention on the burning. This allows you time to escape. The burning can last up to 45 minutes. The active component is oleoresin capsaicin but some formulations also add other active components. Mace’s website gives good details.
Mace is actually a brand name. They make pepper spray/gel canisters for personal defense and law enforcement. Some of their products also include tear gas.
Pepper gel is thicker. The benefit is that you get a more controlled and narrow stream. This reduces the likelihood of getting any of the spray on yourself. Pepper gels can also be shot longer distances. Gel can be sprayed up to 18 feet. Spray can be sprayed up to 12 feet.
Pepper spray can have different spray patters from narrow to a wider misting. In outdoor situations wind can blow the spray back towards you or other bystanders. In indoor environments, the spray can contaminate the area and affect everyone in the room.
These are other names for pepper spray/gel. In the training realm instructors lean more to the term OC spray. It kind of has a more tactical vibe to it. In the normal day to day, most people just call it pepper spray.
Oleoresin capsaicin (OC) is the active component in pepper spray/gel. The more OC that is in the spray, the more potenant it is. They typically range from 2% to 10%.
I have this POM (Peace of Mind) pocket sized pepper spray. I have carried it but I don’t regularly carry it. If you want to carry pepper spray, I think it’s a good option. It has great reviews on Amazon.
Everything in life is a journey. We are all at different places. What works for me today isn’t necessarily what will work for me in 5 years. I grow. I change my mind. I change my habits. Right now, I don’t desire to carry pepper spray regularly. Maybe someday I will.
Here are my thoughts from where I stand today.
1. The Logistics
Pepper spray doesn’t fit into my routine and current lifestyle. I don’t want something else to carry around. You have to be realistic and understand who you are.
When I bought the pepper spray I thought I would carry it but I found I just didn’t. It was inconvenient for me. I just came to terms with accepting that I was okay with that.
If you want to follow the “textbook” version of what we should always have it starts to get overwhelming.
It’s ALOT! I understand the reasoning and purpose behind each of these things. I have to find the comprise I’m comfortable with for now.
If I could cast an extension charm on my pockets like Hermione did to her purse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I’d love to carry all these things!
And why stop there? I’d also carry chapstick. And extra hair ties. And gum. And a nail file for the pesky snags. And a book to read in case I find a spare few minutes. And snacks in case I get hungry. Actually, LOTS of snacks!
2. Decision Paralysis; I Like to Keep it Simple
In a real life defensive encounter you have to make split second decisions under extreme stress. Decisions are paralyzing for me. I overthink them. I make lists. I weigh pros and cons. I talk it over with my husband or best friend for hours. (Okay, more like months instead of hours.)
If I have pepper spray in my pocket and a gun on my body, I have 2 tools. That means I have to make a decision (under stress). I know the two tools are for different purposes (pepper spray is for non-lethal enounte; gun is for lethal encounter). But it’s still complicated.
I like the idea of keeping my plan simple.
1.) I’ll run (escape) if I can.
2.) If I can’t escape, and my life is in danger, I will know it’s time for the 1 tool I have. My hope will be that drawing the gun will be enough to make the attacker run and I won’t actually have to shoot. If it doesn’t, I’ll do what I have to do.
I understand the flaw in the plan: What if it is a non-lethal encounter and I can’t escape? The world just ain’t perfect. You can’t be perfectly prepared for everything. If you want to carry a non-lethal option and cover all your bases, go for it girl! I’m rooting for you!
I strongly believe that because I practice good situational awareness I significantly, like super significantly, reduce the chance that I’ll ever find myself needing either tool! (Don’t misunderstand; I said reduce, not eliminate. I’m not being naive.)
My best tactic for staying alive is AVOIDANCE! You win every gun fight you avoid. You have a 50/50 shot of winning the gun fight you enter- I don’t like those odds.
3. Legal Ramifications
This point is tough because you can argue it either way. Having a “less than lethal option” available to use in a situation could be good or it could be bad depending on the specifics of the situation. There’s not a “right” answer because there’s no way to know what the exact situation will look like.
Nonetheless you should understand that by carrying a “less than lethal option” in addition to your gun, you run the risk that if you use your gun instead of trying the other option first, a prosecutor could use the angle that you should have tried the other option first. The prosecutor is doing their job. The reality is the prosecutor has plenty of time to analyze and scrutinize (while sitting in a comfy chair sipping hot coffee) the choices you had to make in a split second under extreme stress.
I’ve read about too many “should-be-slam-dunk” self-defense cases that have gone awry. (By the way you should definitely read the second book on my book list.) A good prosecutor will use any and all angles.
4. When You Can’t or Don’t Want to Carry a Gun
I think pepper spray is a great tool for someone who can’t or doesn’t want to carry a gun.
I have a nurse friend who works at a hospital in a not-so-great part of town. She has to walk through the parking lot at night when she gets off and it makes her uneasy. A gun isn’t an option but pepper spray could be.
It’s also a great option for those who aren’t old enough to have a gun. (This is why pepper spray is part of my home defense plan for my children.)
This really surprised me when I first heard about this. It’s hard to get a consensus on how common it is. SABRE claims it is a myth but there are plenty of people out there reporting first hand experiences of spraying someone and it not affecting them.
In fact, I found this U.S. Department of Justice report on the Effectiveness and Safety of Pepper Spray. It references a 1999 study of 690 police incidents involving pepper spray. The officers found it was effective 85% of the time. Furthermore it explains that “the effectiveness rate reported by officers was significantly reduced when subjects exposed to pepper spray appeared to be on drugs.”
Based on deductive reasoning from the findings in that study, there is about a 1 in 8 chance of any bad guy being tolerant to the pepper spray. That is bonkers to me!
The Flip Side; Why Maybe I Should Change My Mind
Many of the awesome trainers I admire and follow strongly recommend carrying pepper spray regularly. They say you are more likely to find yourself in a nonlethal encounter than a lethal encounter. Hmmmm….. That’s a great point ladies! You should really mull on that.
If I do ever change my mind and decide to start carrying pepper spray it will undoubtedly be from hearing it suggested frequently in videos like this one from John Correia’s Active Self Protection YouTube Channel.
10 years ago I told my husband I’d never carry a gun. Well here I am today where I don’t leave home without it. You can’t force people on to journeys. They have to get there on their own and in their own time. Their journey has to be authentically theirs. So for now….
I own a pocket sized pepper spray option to carry places I can’t carry my gun but I don’t carry pepper spray while carrying my gun on a regular basis.
Let me start by clearly stating that every single gun in my house is either attached to my body (or my husband’s body) or locked in a safe 100% of the time. Just changing my clothes? Nope, I don’t just set it on the counter for a second. Into the safe it goes for that minute.
Our kids are good kids. We take them to the range. They know how to shoot (both pistols and rifles). Still, it is my responsibility to make sure my kids do not have access to firearms without my supervision. No exceptions. No matter how much I trust them.
Pepper Spray opn the other hand is left out in the open on purpose. It’s actually there predominately for them to use.
Our kids have access to them. We’ve taught them
Like I already stated, my kids are pretty good kids. I don’t think they would ever use these outside of a true emergency situation. Even if I’m wrong, it’s not going to be a deadly mistake. (It would be crappy for the person that accidentally got sprayed… but they would live.)
For me and my situation, the pros of having pepper gel available outweigh the cons.
After having them, I realized they are a viable tool for the adults in the house too. They could be the tool that buys me time to get to my gun. I can have them out in the open (strategically placed) so they are very quick to access.
We will likely add 2 or so more eventually.
Think through different scenarios in your home. Where are you right now in relation to where your kids, spouse and guns are. If someone came through your backdoor, what would you do? Front door? Basement window? Run scenarios in your head.
Tomorrow as you are washing dishes at your kitchen sink, think about it again.
The next day while you are making trips in and out carrying in your groceries think about it again.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you create an excellent home defense plan? One step at a time.
If you try to make it absolutely perfect you might spend more time researching and planning and never finish. Just keep taking small steps and you’ll keep moving forward.
Carrying pocket sized pepper spray everyday doesn’t work for me right now. It’s something I might grow in to. (I’ve changed my mind alot over the years as I’ve grown and changed as a person.)
These things may or may not be right for you. You’ll have to analyze your situation, feelings and lifestyle and do what feels right for you. And then be open minded that what feels right can and will change.
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