The best pepper spray can be the perfect self-defense weapon to carry on you at all times. It’s a type of non-lethal way to stay safe, whether you’re running errands late at night, or you want a non-lethal form of home protection. However, not all pepper sprays are created equal. In fact, you’ll be surprised by how many different low strength products are currently on the market.
I’ve done my research, searching for the most powerful pepper sprays on the market. I’ve also tested out several of these products, not only paying attention to the strength, but how it sprays and how reliable it is.
This buyer’s guide that I’ve created includes all of this important information, so you’ll know exactly how to pick out sprays that are tough and reliable. Below, you’ll notice a comparison chart which includes each of the sprays that made it onto my top ten list, their rating, and other important information.
Pepper Spray Comparison Chart
Best Pepper Spray Overall-SABRE 3-in-1 Advanced Pepper Spray
The Sabre 3-in-1 pepper spray has a four-year shelf life, which is twice as long as the average OC spray. It also features a maximum strength formula that will stop an attacker in their tracks. The UV dye, is a standout feature that allows the victim or law enforcement to easily identify an attacker. The spray’s power comes from both CS tear gas and pepper spray. This product was tested for stopping power and maximum heat. According to the manufacturer, the testing found that the formula eliminates the 30% failure rate that can occur with other pepper spray brands.
The spray is just ¾ of an ounce and comes in a compact, well-built canister. Despite the low volume, the manufacturer claims that there are 35 bursts per can. Considering its power and stream quality, it comes as no surprise that the Sabre 3-in-1 is one of their top selling sprays.
- Excellent stopping power
- Used by police
- Quick release
- UV dye
- 4-Year shelf life
- Twist lock design can make it difficult for left-handed people to use
- Canister loses its spraying power over time
The Sabre 3-in-1 pepper spray is police-grade strength, delivering maximum stopping power. The ten-foot range keeps you at a safe distance from the attacker. The 35 sprays per canister means this small canister can be used multiple times. The canister’s reinforced twist lock trigger is designed with safety in mind and can prevent children from depressing the trigger and other types of accidental discharges. The formula is definitely packing some serious power, with the addition of both OC and tear gas.
Best Personal Protection Pepper Spray- Mace Brand Self-Defense Triple Action 3-in-1 Formula Pepper Spray
This 3-in-1 pepper spray by Mace brand consists of a combination of UV dye, cs tear gas, and oc pepper spray. This blend of ingredients is designed to cause disorientation, shortness of breath, and excessive tearing. The UV dye will leave behind a long-lasting residue that can help to identify an attacker. These pepper spray canisters also feature a flip top safety cap, which helps by improving grip and shooting accuracy. The model is 100% FAA and TSA compliant, so it can be stored in your checked baggage when you fly.
- Includes oleoresin capsicum OC
- Produced by a top brand
- Includes tear gas
- UV dye can help to identify attacker
- Easily fits in the palm of your hand
- Flip top safety
Bottom line, while the can may be small, this is one of the best pepper sprays on the market. It’s packing plenty of power thanks to a formula that’s made up of tear gas and pepper spray. This spray has earned a reputation for its strong formula and innovative canister design that promotes shooting accuracy. The canister itself is very small, so it can easily be concealed in the palm of your hand, so it’s perfect for those evening jogs or walks with the dog.
Best Pepper Spray Guns- Mace Brand Self Defense Pepper Spray Gun
This pepper spray gun by Mace can make it significantly easier for some users to aim accurately and shoot. It also has an impressive twenty foot range, so users can shoot at a safe distance. The formula includes OC pepper spray, which can cause an intense burning sensation, impaired vision, coughing, and respiratory distress. The inclusion of the UV dye will make it easy for victims or law enforcement to spot the attacker if they’re able to escape. You’ll also find an integrated LED strobe light that features a dual mode, in addition to a picatinny rail, which allows you to attach accessories.
- Slide release prevents accidental discharge
- Gun can help improve user’s aim
- Includes water cartridge for practice
- Strong OC formula
- UV dye
- LED strobe light
- Great choice for non lethal self defense
- Size of the gun makes it difficult to conceal
- Seven sprays per can
Considered one of the best pepper sprays for beginners, this product by Mace brand is easy to use, thanks to the addition of the pepper spray gun, which offers a faster delivery system. If you have no experience spraying pepper spray, this gun can help you to aim more accurately. It also comes with a slide release that prevents accidental discharges and a pistol grip design that’s comfortable and improves shooting accuracy and control. Not to mention the sight of the gun will strike some fear into your attacker.
Best Fog Defense Pepper Spray-Fox Labs Mean Green Pepper Spray
This Fox Labs Mean Green fog features the type of powerful formula that Fox Labs is known for. This fog has a spraying distance of ten to twelve feet, and includes a green dye that can help to identify the attacker. Each canister of mean green contains approximately 32-36 half second bursts of pepper spray.
- Includes green marking dye
- Contains 32-36 half second bursts per can
- Long shelf life
- Powerful formula
- Compact canister
- Low price
- Can be difficult to hit target in windy conditions
- Wide spray pattern means an increased risk of secondary spray
The best pepper sprays will be fast, effective, and easy to use. This Fox Labs Mean Green pepper spray features the type of powerful formula and shooting range that you need to take down an attacker. The inclusion of the dye can make it easy for law enforcement to recognize an assailant on the run. Additionally, the powerful spray pattern means you don’t have to be the best shot to hit your target. This Mean Green spray is packing a serious punch and definitely a product you can rely on.
Best Red Pepper Spray-SABRE RED Pepper Spray Keychain
The Sabre red pepper spray is very small, so it’s easy to conceal, and it has an impressive shooting range, despite its smaller design. According to the manufacturer, this is the top brand of pepper spray used by law enforcement. It features a four-year shelf life, which is twice as long as competing brands, and a compact design that makes it easy to conceal the canister as an attacker approaches. Testing done by the manufacturer eliminated the 30% failure rate, an issue that’s common with competing brands of pepper spray. The Sabre Red spray also has an impressive ten-foot range and includes twenty-five sprays per small canister, which is pretty impressive, considering the size.
The design of the canister is also meant to reduce chances of accidental discharges, thanks to the reinforced trigger with the flip top safety.
- Impressive shooting range
- Powerful stream
- Compact pepper spray canister
- Twenty-five sprays per can
- Eliminates 30% failure rate
- Safety design prevents accidental discharge
- Four-year shelf life
- Safety switch can come loose, causing accidental discharge
- Spray only lasts for five seconds
This quick release Sabre Red spray gives you easy access to take down your attacker faster. Despite its smaller size, the canister offers a powerful shooting stream that will not be impacted by windy conditions. The canister’s compact design makes it easy for users to conceal the spray until they’re able to aim and shoot an attacker. This is a must-have non lethal self defense spray that can allow you to escape safely.
Best Red Pepper Gel-SABRE Flip Top Pepper Gel w/ Snap Clip
Red pepper gel can be a great alternative for beginners who are worried their aim will be off or that they’ll accidentally spray themselves. Red pepper gel is just as strong as spray, it just gives you more control over your shots.
Recommended by law enforcement agencies, this Sabre red pepper gel has a four-year shelf life, compared to competing products that typically expire after two years, which is one of the reasons this gel made it to my top product lineup. The OC red pepper gel has been tested in-house. The test findings guarantee you’ll get max power with every burst. Many consumers switch to gels because they have a reputation for better range. Unlike pepper sprays, which atomize, the gel offers 20% greater range. The Sabre Red gel itself will only affect the target, so you won’t have to worry about blowback.
- Maximum strength Sabre red pepper formula
- Gel form decreases chances of blowback
- Canister is easy to store and conceal
- Flip top design
- High OC concentration
- The grip is too short for people with large hands
The Sabre red pepper gel features twenty-five bursts per can, with a powerful stream that’s designed to prevent blowback in windy conditions. The included flip top allows you to safely secure the canister when not in use, preventing accidental discharges. The can’s compact design makes it easy to conceal and store, both of which are important factors for most buyers.
Best Pepper Spray for Everyday Carry-Fox Labs Pepper Spray
This oleoresin capsicum OC spray by Fox Labs is one of the top self defense sprays on the market. What this model lacks in size, it makes up for in other departments, such as shooting range, which is seventeen to twenty feet. This is significantly further than competing products of this size. According to the manufacturer, this is the hottest pepper spray on the market.
Unfortunately, you may run into issues with this product, depending on the state you live in. States, such as California, limit the size of pepper spray you can carry to 2.5 ounces, so people in states with a weight limit law will not be able to purchase this product. You’ll want to check state laws regarding pepper spray carry limits and use, before you buy.
- Flip top
- Quick release action
- Easy to conceal
- Powerful short bursts
- Cannot be shipped to every state
- Does not contain tear gas
The manufacturer does not list the product’s Scoville heat units, but does claim that this spray is the hottest formula currently on the market. When used for short, powerful bursts, the stream has an impressive range of seventeen to twenty feet. The power of the stream is also designed to prevent blowback. It’s a great buy if you’re looking for a small canister you can easily store in your purse, backpack, or vehicle.
Easiest to Conceal-SABRE RED Pepper Spray Discreet Pen Design
If you’re looking for a low profile personal protection spray, this pen shaped cayenne pepper spray pen is a great option. The only real downside is the smaller size also means less spray, but if you’re looking for a powerful product, using short bursts, you can easily take down an attacker with this strong formula. Keep in mind, the pen also has a shorter range compared to canisters. An average can of OC spray has a range of ten to twelve feet, while this pen has a range of just eight feet.
- UV marking dye
- Fifteen bursts per can
- Powerful OC formula
- Easy to conceal
- Short range
- Does not contain tear gas
This Sabre red pepper spray is just as powerful as the spray in the larger canisters sold by Sabre, but because of the design, it has a very short range and holds approximately fifteen bursts per pen. This can be more than enough to take someone down. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get closer to the attacker to use it. Overall, Sabre Red is the best choice for the buyer who is looking for the best way to conceal their OC spray and keep it on their person at all times.
Best Choice for Home Defense-Fox Labs Pepper Spray – 1.5 oz. Canister
This 1.5 oz pepper spray by Fox Labs features an OC content of 2% and a safety lock flip top that deters accidental discharges. The product comes with its own black nylon web holster, complete with a Velcro flap and a belt loop, so you can secure it and keep it close at hand for faster access. The product has a three year shelf life, which is better than average.
- 2% OC
- 5 oz
- Powerful short bursts
- Includes holster
- Marking dye
- Difficult to conceal when it’s worn on your belt
Powerful enough to provide the protection you need when you’re alone in a dangerous situation, the massive fog pattern will take down an attacker within seconds.
This OC spray has a 5.3 million SHU rating, a compact design, complete with an easy to use flip top, and a nylon holster that keeps the spray close at hand. The shooting range of fifteen to eighteen feet is excellent and better than what you’ll get with competing brands.
Best Bear Spray-SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray
Like the popular Sabre red pepper spray, their latest defense pepper spray offers a stronger formula than the competition and is designed to take down a bear, with its shooting range of thirty-five feet. This is fifteen feet farther than competing sprays. The manufacturer also claims this spray is 50% stronger than police-strength pepper sprays and it’s designed for rapid deployment with a rating of 1.84 ounces per one second burst. This type of powerful stream is designed to place a massive barrier of protection between you and the bear. While it may be overkill for everyday use, this is definitely one spray you don’t want to go hunting, hiking, or camping without.
- Powerful stream spray
- Thirty-five feet range
- Does not cause permanent injuries to bears
- High strength OC formula
- User is at an increased risk of getting hit with spray due to the wide spray pattern
This product has undergone extensive testing and has been proven effective against all breeds of bears by Brown Bear Resources and the Elmendorf Air Force Base. The spray is designed to temporarily incapacitate the bear, removing their ability to smell and see. Fortunately, the spray will not cause any permanent injuries to the bear.
The biggest downside to this spray is its increased risk of accidentally spraying yourself due to the massive stream it deploys. Of course, this type of power is necessary if you want to stop a bear in its tracks.
Pepper Spray Buyer’s Guide
The best pepper sprays are designed to protect you, without using lethal force.
Pepper sprays have become a popular type of self-defense tool, one that’s legal, non-lethal, and easy to use. It also offers some impressive stopping power, allowing you to get away safely, in the event of an attack. In this guide, I’ll go over what features to look for, how these sprays work, and how they can keep you safe. But first, let’s check out some of the benefits that come with relying on this type of non-lethal self-defense product to keep you safe.
The Benefits of Carrying Pepper Spray
- The compact canister design makes it very easy to conceal and carry
- Pepper sprays are not heavily regulated
- Some products are small enough to fit on a keychain
- You don’t have to be a great shot to use this type of product
- Any type of skin contact with the spray can give an attacker pause. This means you may miss spraying their eyes, but if it gets in their nose, mouth, or any exposed skin, it can cause the attacker to stop in their tracks, giving you time to get away.
- Using pepper spray for self defense is a more affordable option compared to other types of self-defense weapons
- This spray works by inflaming the mucous membranes of the attacker’s lungs, throat, nose, and eyes. This will cause an attacker to close their eyes immediately and may blind them temporarily. The attacker may also experience breathing problems if the formula is very strong. The effects typically last half an hour, depending on potency. By incapacitating an attacker, you will have time to make your escape.
- This spray is legal in most states.
- Pepper sprays are available in different potencies and sizes.
How Pepper Spray Effects the Body
When the spray comes into contact with someone’s eyes, it will immediately cause the eyes to close, and can cause extreme pain and temporary blindness.
The spray can also cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Red eyes
If the spray makes contact with the skin, it can cause:
While being sprayed can be very painful, the symptoms often disappear within thirty to forty minutes.
Is Pepper Spray Lethal?
Like a stun gun, this spray is categorized as a non-lethal self-defense weapon. There have been reports that have been linked to several deaths due to pepper spray use, however, death is very rare. Police-grade spray is significantly stronger than what’s sold in stores for civilian use. In most cases, pepper spray, when used alone, will not cause serious injury. However, police-grade sprays are another matter and more research is needed to understand the cases of sudden death that have occurred as a result of police-grade pepper spray used on civilians.
What’s the Difference Between Mace and Pepper Spray?
If you’re like most people, when you hear the word mace, you automatically think of pepper spray. Many people use the terms mace and pepper spray interchangeably, while others wonder what the biggest difference is between these sprays. However, Mace is just a brand of pepper spray, there’s no difference in terms of ingredients used. Both name brand and off brand sprays will contain oleoresin capsicum, which is derived from many different types of peppers including the ghost pepper and even cayenne pepper. Mace remains one of the most popular brands for this type of product, and it’s one that’s commonly used by the police. However, there are brands out there that offer formulas that are just as strong as Mace, and some also have a better range.
OC is an oil that’s derived from chili pepper plants.
Most people shopping for this self-defense spray are looking for a product that offers maximum effect. The oleoresin capsicum level is what measures how much of the oleoresin capsicum oil is in a can. However, the OC level doesn’t measure how much the spray will burn. A spray’s concentration, type, and amount of capsaicinoid chemicals is what causes the burning sensation.
Safety Locks and Cap Designs
These dispensers look like an average aerosol can, but it does have a safety lock in place, which can prevent you or someone else in the home from accidentally spraying themselves with this powerful irritant. According to the CDC, accidental discharges are very common. Because of this, many of the major brands have incorporated a safety locking mechanism or pin, which is designed to lock the trigger when not in use. Unfortunately, this extra level of protection can get in the way, if you’re not familiar with the safety locking mechanism or how to unlock the trigger. If the spray you purchase comes with this type of safety mechanism, make sure you read the buyer’s guide and learn how to safely remove it. Knowing how to do this before you rely on it to protect you in the event of an attack, will be crucial.
There are also twist tops or flip tops, which are designed to prevent accidental discharges. Out of the two, the flip top is the more popular choice.
A can that delivers a powerful, steady stream of spray can be used at a minimum of ten feet. Some major brands have reported that their canisters have a spray range of fifteen feet. Many brands will claim their canister has the longest range. Just keep in mind, the distance may be an exaggeration.
Scoville heat units are used to measure the strength of the spray. The pepper byproducts that are used in this type of spray will typically have a rating of 1-3 million. Police officers will use sprays with a 5 million rating. The higher the Scoville rating the better, since a higher rating is indicative of a more powerful spray. But again, this is something that many manufacturers tend to exaggerate.
How much pepper spray do you really need? Do you want a low-profile canister, something that’s very compact and easy to hide? You’ll come across large canisters that are similar to those that police officers use for crowd control, or tiny cans that are the size of a lighter. These tiny cans most likely don’t offer the same spray range as a large canister, but those canisters can be overkill if you’re simply looking for a product you can keep on your person when you’re out and about.
The size of the canister you purchase should be small enough that it fits in a jacket pocket, purse, or backpack. It should also be large enough that it offers a decent spray range, so that you’ll be able to get a good sized dose of spray before the canister is exhausted.
How do you want to carry the spray? Do you want to secure it in a holster, for easier access? Do you want a more discreet way to keep your spray on you, such as a keychain? If you want to carry a small canister in your backpack, coat pocket, or purse, make sure it will fit. Holstering it can make it more accessible, but most people want a low-profile way to carry their spray.
Shots Per Pepper Spray Canister
A pepper spray canister that has more shots will allow you to use the OC spray more than once. It also means you can try some test shots to determine the can’s true range. You should also fire off a shot once a year to ensure it still works.
A spray’s shelf life can vary by brand. You’ll come across some products that have a three-year shelf life, while others expire in five years. Most manufacturers will clearly list the expiration date on the side or the bottom of the canister.
Types of Pepper Spray
Most cans have a spray pattern that’s similar to a water gun. This type of spray pattern also equals a longer range. But you’ll come across a variety of spray patterns that can make the product a better choice depending on whether you’re looking for better range, outdoor use, or the ability to hit more than one attacker per shot.
For outdoor use, stream patterns are the best choice because it’s shooting power will not be impacted by rain or wind. However, with this type of spray pattern, you’ll need to be an accurate shot.
Fog pattern OC sprays are normally what you’ll get with a bear spray, however, it’s possible to find this type of pattern for sprays used for everyday carry. The fog pattern has an impressive range of up to twenty-five feet. This type of range and the spray pattern also means it’s more likely that you, the attacker, and any people in the immediate area, are going to get hit. Additionally, this type of range also means that more spray is used per shot, so there are fewer shots per can.
For indoor use, the foam pattern is a better choice. The foam has a shaving cream-like consistency. It’s heavy and sticky, which minimizes the chances of hitting an unwanted target. Unfortunately, foam has a very short range of just four to five feet.
Gel products are often referred to as pepper gels. A pepper gel has a much longer range compared to foams, at ten to fifteen feet. Just like foam, the pepper gel is a good choice for indoor use. The gel itself is very sticky and heavy, which reduces the risk of hitting the wrong target.
This isn’t a product that you’ll want to use as an everyday carry. In fact, it’s for use when you go hunting, camping, hiking, or basically anywhere that you might run into an angry charging bear. This type of product is very powerful and often has a massive spraying pattern and a significantly longer range compared to ones used for concealed carry.
Once your package arrives in the mail, don’t just set it aside or stash it in your purse or backpack until you need to use it. Not knowing how to correctly aim and deploy sprays is one of the biggest causes of accidental discharges. This is when you accidentally hit yourself in the face because you didn’t have your back to the wind, couldn’t figure out how to remove the safety lock, or how to depress the trigger.
Practicing with one of these canisters is fairly simple. Obviously, you don’t want to practice a whole lot if you have a small can. Some manufacturers will include cans of water, which act just like traditional sprays. This will allow you to safely (and painlessly) practice your aim, using the trigger, and locking or unlocking the trigger. Practice will also make you feel more confident about using this type of product.
Always read the included instructions that come with your product. These instructions will usually include what you should do in the event of an accidental discharge.
Accidental discharges happen. Once you purchase this spray, it’s important to learn what you need to do in the event of accidental exposure.
- First, leave the area immediately to limit your exposure
- Remove clothing if it came into contact with the spray
- Flush out your eyes with pure water immediately. If you wear contact lenses you will need to remove them and toss them out.
- Once your eyes have been flushed, apply an ice pack to help minimize inflammation.
- Avoid rubbing and touching any area that is reacting to the spray, since doing so will make it burn more.
- You can try using whole milk on any exposed areas of skin, to reduce the sting.
- If the burning is intense, you can use a mixture of three parts cold water and one part dishwashing soap to soak your eyes and face. Soak your face for up to twenty seconds, repeating if necessary.
- During this time, you will need to wash your hands many times and avoid touching your face.
- In most cases, you will not need to see a medical professional after accidental pepper spray exposure.
The Top Pepper Spray Brand
If you’re doing your research, searching online for this type of self-defense product, then you want to go with a brand that has a reputation for products that are both powerful and reliable. Many of the leading brands offer a wide variety of product types from your average sprays to gel and fog styles. Some of the top brands currently dominating the market include:
- Fox Labs
In terms of popularity and a reputation for products that can take someone down in a matter of seconds, Mace and Sabre are head to head. Both Sabre and Mace offer a variety of sizes, types, strengths, and styles to choose from including pens, keychains, fogs, and gels. Mace tends to have a better reputation simply because they’ve been around longer than Sabre. Sabre is one of those companies that is always coming out with new and improved sprays, which is what makes it so exciting to try out their latest releases.
Mace Versus Sabre
Both Mace and Sabre have produced OC sprays in the past that have had issues, such as a poor quality safety lock, or a much shorter than average range. Fortunately, their latest products are crushing the competition, especially the 3-in-1 products by Sabre that include both OC spray and tear gas. Sabre red pepper spray is another one of their products that is a top-seller, due to its reputation for take down power. In the end, if you’re trying to choose between Sabre and Mace, each company has earned a solid reputation for their quality products, so it will boil down to user preference, range needs, and carry style.
Read Pepper Spray Reviews
If you’ve come across some great products and you’re still not sure which one is right for you, read pepper spray reviews. This can help you learn how each product performs, what their spray range is really like, and what you can expect as far as how effective the product is. It’s common to find a customer who leaves reviews and will go in-depth in terms of strength, ease of use, and any issues they came across, such as a faulty safety lock that causes accidental discharges.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Go to Jail for Pepper Spraying Someone?
If you use pepper spray while defending yourself and you can prove as much, then it’s not likely that you’ll be convicted of assault. However, if the court believes that you used the spray improperly, then you can face fines and jail time.
Will Pepper Spray Stop an Attacker?
It can. If you want to ensure your attacker goes down, spray them in the eyes. Keep in mind, the spray may not be as effective on a person who is intoxicated. It may also not be effective on people who have a high pain tolerance. Once an attacker has been sprayed, the victim of the attack should run and find a safe location where they can contact the police immediately.
Should You Test Your Pepper Spray?
Yes. Pepper spray should be tested once every three to six months. You can test the spray outdoors, shooting off one spray to make sure the canister is still functioning.
If you have a small keychain canister, you may need to replace it annually, since these canisters don’t hold much spray.
Is Pepper Spray Good for Self-Defense?
This spray is non-lethal and doesn’t have any long-lasting effects. It’s designed to be used to help quickly end an attack, without having to use a violent action or physical force. The spray is simple to use and doesn’t take extensive training to learn how to properly deploy it.
What Helps Pepper Spray in Your Eyes?
When you’re hit with pepper spray in the eyes, try blinking rapidly. This will cause your eyes to tear up, which can help with flushing out some of the spray. Next, wash any exposed skin with soap and rinse.
The best pepper spray is powerful, reliable, and offers the type of shot range you’re looking for. The products I’ve included here each earned top marks for their powerful performance, easy to use triggers, extra safety features, and their overall quality. With this buyer’s guide and the products I’ve included here, you should have no trouble finding a product that has what it takes to protect you in the event of an attack.