7 Reasons to Avoid Self-Defense Sprays

Why You Want to Avoid Self-Defense Sprays

Over the weekend, someone sent me a video from a self-defense expert who was recommending wasp spray to stop a home invasion.

I’m sure the gentleman was well-meaning (or had a spouse who didn’t like guns), but here are seven reasons I would avoid sprays for self-defense purposes… whether it’s pepper spray, wasp spray or bear spray.

1. Not everyone is affected by sprays.

When I was pepper-sprayed in the police academy, it definitely affected me. But, there were plenty of others who weren’t affected at all and acted as nothing had happened.

If you run into a criminal who is immune to pepper spray, it will likely not be a good day for you.

2. Wind and misdirection.

If you accidentally have the nozzle pointed in the wrong direction or if it’s a windy day and you get blowback in your face, then you may incapacitate yourself, thereby making yourself an easier victim for the criminal.

3. Sunglasses.

If a criminal is wearing sunglasses while they try and attack you, then the spray won’t get in their eyes, and it won’t stop them.

4. Use a Gun Instead?

If someone attacks you in a parking lot and tries to drag you into the woods to rape and murder you, do you really want to use a spray on them and hope it works, instead of using a gun?

5. Pepper Spray for Home Invasion?

If someone kicks in your front door at 3:00 am and it looks like a deadly home invasion is about to take place, do you want to bet your life on a bottle of pepper spray (or bear spray or wasp spray)?

6. Accessibility

Most people I know who carry pepper spray, carry it on a keychain that is buried at the bottom of a purse.

Since you have only seconds to react to an attack it’s better to have a gun on your hip or in your pocket, or a knife or tactical pen in your pocket that you can draw more quickly and without having to worry about fumbling to push the right button to deploy the spray.

7. Pepper Spray Malfunctions Too

I realize that you can pull the trigger, and a gun might not fire, which is why you have to learn how to “tap and rack” to clear malfunctions. But, I’ve seen nozzles on pepper sprays that were clogged and all “gunked” up so they wouldn’t fire, and no amount of tapping and racking would save the day for those people.

The bottom line is, I’ve researched an untold amount of personal protection tools, and the three that work best for me are still a gun (right now a Sig P250), a knife (Benchmade 9100 Auto Stryker), and a tactical pen.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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Gh0st 0wl

Hi Jason, thank you as always for great information and your opinion on an important subject. I agree with you that pepper spray is not the best option in a life and death situation, but I do feel that it is a better option than nothing at all. I know several women that refuse to even consider carrying a gun, with my wife being one of them. Although I would much prefer that she had a firearm I feel better knowing that she is at least carrying something, anything that will give her a chance to stay safe and sound.

I know that pepper spray is not completely reliable but I feel that, in the absence of a firearm, it gives her a better chance than carrying nothing at all. I know several police officers and also some corrections officers and it appears to me that the number of people the spray does affect is higher than the number it does not. I know that still leaves a big gap and much to be desired, but it she raises her chances by 50 percent, that’s still 50 percent better than what she started with. Since she is not ready to carry a gun yet, I’ll take that if it’s all I can get.

Personally I think that every women alive should carry pepper spray for the same reasons. I know they won’t carry a gun, but almost all of them will carry pepper spray. That is at least better than no means of protecting themselves at all.

Thanks again, keep the good stuff coming!


Brad Butler

there are other things besides lethal and non lethal in an arsenal of self defense tactics and tools…like distraction……and spray of any kind is that at the least.


and spray of any kind is that at the least.

Actually, it ISN’T that in the case of many people on drugs, that are not sufficiently coherent to be distracted.

Brad Butler

so been attacked by lots of people on drugs have you? had sprays failed on you many times? ,,,,,,,i wont argue the point i will just say ,been there done that ,have the t shirt, wrote the book i dont hang at the water cooler, , have /do you? better to have it than not. do what you want.


You inability to properly capitalize, use punctuation, or come close to proper grammar does NOT make up for your lack of an argument.

Brad Butler

rofl wow , real professional grammar nazi response.you show what an internet rambo you really are . enjoy your water cooler ,putz. and btw way, mr perfect it is YOUR inability…..add hypocrite to your credentials lol wow, just wow.


Misusing the term hypocrite and engaging in personal insults doesn’t lend you any credibility either. You have yet to demonstrate you are sufficiently mature to have a Yahoo Answers account without violating the rules. The terms require you to be at least 13. You act more like 5.

Brad Butler

Says the schmuck that used grammar and spelling critiques to debate….no….hypocrite pretty much nails it. …as does TROLL. Keep pushing for that attention you pathetic little turd. quoting terms and conditions……ROFL wow. You are ignored buh bye.


Says the schmuck that used grammar and spelling critiques to debate
Says the TROLL that doesn’t even pretend to debate, and can’t articulate his personal attacks as well as the typical troll. As the term hypocrite refers to saying one thing and doing another, NOTHING I have said here comes close to being hypothetical, but EVERYTHING you have claimed does.

Brad Butler

You are ignored buh bye.


You are ignored buh bye.

Do you even realize the the mere fact you posted that is IRREFUTABLE proof you are NOT ignoring me?


Over-all, you a make a point and I agree that OC spray should be used in conjunction with a firearm. But, no one is immune to OC or ‘tear gas’ but some people learn to deal with the pain/effects and fight through it. I was the OC poster boy and instructor at a very large sheriff’s office. Everything is determined by experience and mental fortitude after being sprayed. Also, the visible spray does not need to contact the eyes to be effective: the particulates–the solid material–will reach the eyes regardless if the Bad Guy wears sunglasses or not. You did not mention wasp sprays directly: I warn the people reading this NOT to use it against Bad Guys as it is not made for self-defense, can harm the eyes of the attacker and in some cases, the Good Guy using it may get charged with battery or at least be embarrassed in court. The operative word is be PREPARED and have the OC spray ready in hand or somewhere easily accessible when in high crime areas. Note: I have been sprayed by (almost) every brand and type and the best is a combination of OC and CS or CN. This actually put me on my knees!

Brad Butler

yes wasp spray isnt designed to be a self defense item neither is a baseball bat….wasp spray is poisonous and can permantly blind someone or even cause respitory arrest…..but when one doesnt have access to self defence sprays or cant LEGALLY own a gun or other self defence item…believe me a bird in the hand…and the spray has other uses if kept by the front and back doors…like for instance WASPS, or dogs or other dangerous pests. i answer the door with a gun, but i also keep wasp spray handy by all doors . prepared is the key. i would rather my students explain in court why they used wasp spray on an assailant at the front door than have the authorities explain to their loved ones why they didnt defend themselves when they couldnt AFFORD or legally own a firearm. js.


Jason, I agree with you. However, when in a non permissive (read illegal with force of statute) environment (and there seems to be so many these days) , pepper spray may be the only choice available. That said, I will continue to carry my spray as a less than desirable back up. Would I rather always have access to a side arm…yes but when that’s not possible the spray will have to do.


I have one concern, and that is a “gun on your hip or in your pocket.”

A gun should never be carried in a pocket (or a purse) without a holster. There is simply too great a possibility of another object in the pocket getting into the trigger guard and either causing the gun to fire accidentally or interfering with drawing the weapon when needed.

Brad Butler

or the weapon not being in a drawable position OR wearing a hole in the pocket and not being there at all….SEEN THAT.


Well it doesn’t have to be in the eyes for one, if it gets into the respiratory system as in nose, mouth it will work as well. Sure blinding them is better, but if they are choking, cannot breath, that should allow you time to do something else to save yourself. Recently someone (a thief) pepper sprayed a person at a retail store, there were many people suffering the effects within close proximity of the spray. If you read articles about Bear Spray, most of them will tell you, it is has a better chance of saving your life from a Bear Attack than a gun will. Yes, there are exceptions to every choice of defensive product, the best defense: Don’t Make Yourself a Target, Be Alert, Be Aware.

John K.

I have to agree with 2ThinkN_Do2. I do not recommend pepper spray as a replacement for a gun but I highly recommend it as a supplementary tool. The concerns you brought up in the article are all valid and should be taught but they are NOT reasons against carrying it as a non-lethal option. There are a lot of cases where pepper spray is the much better option in self defense and can also establish a level of defense other than lethal which can help the legal defense but, most of all: I’ve never seen anyone go to jail for defending themselves with pepper spray… I’m not saying it couldn’t happen. Of course anything can be used in a negligent manner but most times I’ve seen pepper spray used, the officers on scene were amused by the criminal with his face on fire…


As a retired LEO I can relate one personal experience while working; sprayed a person who was under the influence of PCP. It had absolutely no effect. Don’t bet your life on chemical sprays, you may be sorely disappointed.

Brad Butler

anything that can even stall or slow the attack is worth considering.causing an instinctual reaction like ducking or evading might give one time to get away or prepare a better defense. NOTHING is the end all be all i have seen someone take fatal body shot after body shot from heavy powerfull handgun and rifle rounds and still kill the defender before they bled out…..js


I am so sick and tired of hearing about how people on PCP become some kind of super humans whose bodies no longer are held to the basic laws of nature. While they may have a high tolerance to pain and exhibit psychotic behavior, they still bleed, bones still break, they need to breath and to be able to see to continue an attack. None of them I have encountered had ‘PCP’ printed on their forehead, so how do you treat them any different than any other deranged suspect? Put them in a choke hold and they will react just like anyone else. Give them a dose of pepper spray in the eyes and their eyes WILL tear up. While a LEO may have to continue to press the attack in order to detain the subject, most civilians will be able to flee the situation if confronted by such an individual. If that fails and they continue to attack, then resort to deadly force. It’s made from an animal tranquilizer, not fairy dust!


I don’t know how many people on PCP you’ve encountered but I’ve had more than my fair share and some those were shot several times with no visible effect for far longer than a “normal” person. I’ve also seen them jump from a two story window, break an ankle, get up and RUN away as if nothing were wrong. And yes, I’ve seen them literally hosed with pepper spray and keep right on coming. Perhaps you led a charmed life dealing with them, I certainly didn’t.


There’s an eighth reason: While the attacker is already aggressive for whatever reason, if the spray has no effect on that person, it may just ratchet his aggression up a notch or two making it harder to gain control of the situation.

Brad Butler

if you are already defending yourself with ANYTHING the situation is already beyond “controlling” js.


My CCW instructor almost insisted we purchase some kind of pepper spray. The reason being in states like mine (CA), where concealed carry is either non-existent or highly restricted, you must have some way to escalate force without resorting to deadly force immediately. Otherwise, a jury will just assume you are a vigilante who wanted to kill people. My preference for a non-lethal weapon would be a Taser C2. But they are not cheap. Until I can afford one, a $20 container of pepper spray is going to have to do the job.

Brad Butler

i disagree with you on many points. some people cant have a firearm in their home or at their disposal…you say you have been sprayed with pepper spray before and others it didnt affect…it affects all just takes some longer to show it. sometimes the initial guarded or drawing back response from the spray is all that is needed to get away or ready some other defense,as for wasp spray apparently you have never taken a full in the face mouth eyes skin blast from THAT. believe me it affects everyone. try it sometime then get back to me about that. “the nozzle accidentally pointed in the wrong direction”? really? the same argument could be said for the gun barrel pointed in the wrong direction..”Most people I know who carry pepper spray, carry it on a keychain that is buried at the bottom of a purse” same could be said for a gun buried in the bottom of a purse or pocket.two of your perfect tools require contact distances…wasp spray is good to 30 feet OR MORE with a HUGE payload, pepperspray half that. TRAINING in whatever it is you choose is the key. i guess a pan of hot grease wouldnt affect someone either ,better nothing if not a gun is that it?your mindset that if it isnt a gun it is worthless is dangerous and irresponsible. nuff said. oh and 20 plus years of teaching self defence in all forms and having to use it has shown me that. thanks.


Spray is still an invaluable tool for when you just need to get someone off of you, but they haven’t presented a deadly threat. The justification for pepper spray use is far, far lower than that for lethal force. In an uncomfortable situation? you can have the spray in hand and ready to go. You can be more proactive with spray and thus keep the initiative.


If there is a need to get them off you, they HAVE presented a deadly threat. The justification for pepper spray, or ANY force other than physical contact, is EXACTLY the same as for lethal force.


Technically, probably yes. But I don’t want to be the next test case for the media to characterize as murdering an unarmed yuut who was just holding a sandwich when I can deploy an alternative that requires very little justification, and if that doesn’t work, my right hand is already on my gun.


If you think the media will attack you any less for using pepper spray than for using a gun, I believe you are mistaken.


Last I checked the media isn’t on a misguided crusade to ban pepper spray. Can you name the last pepperspray story that didn’t involve a celebrity?

OK it was Seattle Pacific University, but the media dropped that one like a hot potato when it was discovered the shooter was stopped by an armed (with pepperspray) student.


The media drops EVERY story when they discover the ‘bad guy’ was stopped by someone armed with ANYTHING, unless they have already set the bad guy up as a victim.


so sadly true.


Human beings cannot build up an immunity to pepper spray. Regardless of their physical state, when pepper spray makes contact with the ocular area, it causes involuntary eye closure. Taking away your threat’s vision gives you a major tactical advantage and a great opportunity to escape or take other counter measures if necessary.

Leslie Hoerwinkle

Pepper spray > nothing.

Chelsea Thomas

I was attacked several times. Once I had a knife which the man that was stronger than me was able to get out of my hand and use it against me. Then the other time the only thing I was able to pick up was a screw driver and that was taken from me as well. Something to think about. Proper training is a must no matter what your using and if you pull a weapon use it immediately with the intent to kill unless you are specifically trained to disarm or injure someone enough where they are no longer a threat