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FAQ Pepper Spray


Mace/PepperSpray Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions on Pepper Sprays?

What are the common types of self-defense sprays?

There are three major chemicals used in defensive sprays. The first two are CS and CN, commonly known as tear gas. These manmade chemicals are irritants to the membrane (eyes, nose, throat, and lung) tissues. In large quantities, they cause heavy flow of tears and produce mucus. Tear gas has been used by law enforcement in crowd control for years.

The third chemical is OC (Oleoresin Capsicum), commonly known as pepper spray. OC is an inflammatory agent made from hot cayenne and other peppers. Upon contact, it causes an intense burning sensation, temporary blindness, restricted breathing and disorientation. Pepper spray is a hot selling product on the market now.

What is the difference between pepper spray and tear gas?

  • The reaction to pepper spray is involuntary (not dependent on pain response), so pepper spray is effective on those who feel no pain, such as psychotics, drunks and drug abusers. Pepper spray also works to control wild animals. Tear gas is not effective in these situations.
  • Tear gas vaporizes to some extent. It may have some effect on a person who is hit less accurately, due to the vapors being inhaled or drifting into the eyes. Pepper spray does not emit fumes, and it will not deteriorate with age, but it must be sprayed in the eyes or inhaled directly to be effective.
  • Tear gas takes take longer to be effective, anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 seconds, while the effects of pepper spray are quicker. Tear gas also takes longer to wear off and the chemical residue can last for days.
Since each spray has different advantages, some formulations (e.g. Triple Action Sprays) are being manufactured which contain blends of OC (the chemical in pepper spray) and either CS or CN (the chemicals in tear gas).

What is Mace?

Mace is a term used to describe one type of tear gas, but it is also a very common term to describe all types of self-defense sprays.

Mace is also a well-recognized trade name by Mace Security International. The company produces
PepperGard pepper spray, and blended sprays( Pepper Foam, etc) under the name Mace. Mace sprays have some distinct features, such as the finger-grip dispenser, flip-top cap, and glow-in-the-dark firing buttons. It is one of the most reliable and advanced self-defense sprays available on the market.

What are the benefits and limitations of pepper spray?

Pepper spray is an excellent self-defense product. It is used by nearly every law enforcement agency throughout the country. It is non-lethal and extremely effective when sprayed in the facial area and eyes. It put a safe distance between your and an attacker and gives you plenty of time to escape and seek help.

Because pepper spray does not cause death to the attacker, people are more likely to use it instantly with out hesitation. Acting quickly can often avoid serious injuries and save lives. Pepper spray is very inexpensive, and is not typically restricted by law. A permit is not usually required to carry them.

Still, you should be aware of its limitations, so you do not rely on just one form of defense. Pepper spray may take a few second for it to be effective. An attacker may be able to take your canister away from you, before the effects kick in. It may be used against you. Wind and rain may reduce its range and effectiveness. You may get spray-back when sprayed against strong wind.

How do I measure the effectiveness of pepper spray?

Pepper spray is rated in two ways: OC% and SHU rating. The % you see listed on the package (10%, 15%, etc.) explains how much OC is in the container relative to the other ingredients (propellant, dyes, etc.). However, this percentage cannot always be used to compare the "hotness" of different pepper sprays. The hotness of OC is directly related to the amount of capsaicin in OC, which varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. The amount of capsaicin in OC is rated in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). To compare the hotness of two different pepper sprays, SHU rating is more important. The more capsaicin content the OC has, the hotter & more effective the spray will be. Two million SHU will be sufficient.

Will pepper spray expire? How often should I replace my pepper spray?

Most defensive sprays have an expiration date stamped on the canister. OC will not degrade over time, but the unit may not spray as far as expected, if at all. The aerosol propellant may leak out, rendering the spray less effective. This is especially true with the smaller sprays like the key chain.

The nature of the product suggests that effectiveness is of utmost importance. We recommend replacing your spray after the expiration date.

To make sure that propellant does not go bad, you should test your spray every 90 days. Every time you perform a test, you reduce the contents of the canister. If you are using a key chain model and you test regularly you may need to replace the unit every 9 to 12 months.

When will pepper spray start to work, and how long will the effect last?

It can take 3-5 seconds for pepper spray to take effect, and the effects can last anywhere from 15 minutes to about 60 minutes depending on concentration, which will give you plenty of time to escape an attacker and call the police.

UV Dye, a harmless additive used to assist authorities in catching the attacker, will generally wear off in about a week.


Use pepper spray if you are threatened or your life is in danger. And use it ONLY in defense of people, not property. It is a crime to use self-defense sprays in an offensive manner.

How should I store & carry pepper spray?

Store your defensive spray in a safe place at room temperature. Keep it away from children. Do not leave it in your car during summer because high temperatures may cause the seals to leak.

Think in advance how you want to carry your pepper spray. In a typical assault, you get no warnings and you will get attacked when you least expect it. Carry your pepper spray with you whenever possible, and keep it in the same place. You can put it in a loose outer pocket of a jacket or inside a pants pocket, or in a purse with an open pocket. Try a few different carrying methods and find good accessible locations for you. Practice and make sure you can draw it quickly in an emergency situation.

The keychain pepper sprays (ASP Key defender, Spitfire pepper Spray, etc) are very convenient, and you are more likely to carry them with you all the time because of their smaller size.

How do I use pepper spray?

It is very important that you get some training and practice with the specific spray you are going to carry. Study the canister, the nozzle, and the dispenser. Take your canister to an open field, make sure the wind, if any, is at your back, and fire it for about two seconds. How far will it spray? Is the spray a stream or a foggy mist? How did it react to the wind? Can you spray it into the eyes of an attacker?

In an emergency situation, make sure you have distance between you and the attacker. Don't get within their grabbing distance. Don’t threaten an attacker with your spray. Fire 2 or 3 second bursts directly into the eyes of the attacker. If it is not working, give them another two seconds. The small pocket or purse size will give you between 5 and 10 seconds of continual fire. Once the threat is stopped, run immediately and call the police. If your spray contains UV dye, tell the police that. It can help the police to identify your attacker.

You may wish to get a Tactical Use of Defense Spray Manual. It is loaded with useful tips on using defense sprays.

Will pepper spray work on bears and dogs?

Pepper spray is effective on dogs and other wild animals. To protect you from bear /dog attacks, purchase bear spray and dog spray that is specifically formulated and clearly labeled for deterring attacks by bears or dogs.
At what temperature should I store my Pepper Spray/MACE? Do not leave your spray in any area that may exceed 125 degrees F or drop below 15 degrees F. Excessive heat or cold may cause the can to leak or burst.

Can I take Pepper Spray/MACE or a Stun Gun on an airplane? No, you cannot carry either spray or a stun gun on an airplane.

Can I use my Pepper Spray/MACE after the indicated expiration date? Like any pressurized aerosol device, over time the unit may not spray as far as expected, if at all. We recommend replacing your spray after the expired date shown on your spray.

Is it legal for me to carry Pepper Spray/MACE? A number of cities and states have specific regulations pertaining to the purchase, possession and use of Aerosol Defense Sprays. If you have a question you should contact your local Police Department.

States or cities where pepper sprays may be restricted or regulated: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C., Wisconsin.

The above list of states where pepper sprays are restricted is for illustrative purposes only. It is not exhaustive nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Laws and regulations are subject to change. Before purchasing or using any "Less-Lethal" product, it is the responsibility of the purchaser to determine and comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws in effect at that time.

FAA and TSA regulations may be applicable to commercial airline travel.

Federal statutes and regulations may be applicable to federal buildings, post offices, and courthouses.

Aerosol Defense Sprays are meant for defensive purposes only. Purchaser must be of legal age to purchase and possess the device.

Is Pepper Spray and MACE easy to use? Using these sprays is as easy as spraying bug spray on ants and cockroaches. They are designed for instant action, delivering a wide spray pattern, thus eliminating the need to aim closely. The formula takes effect upon contact.

Below are pepper spray laws and restrictions that we are aware of. You should check locally if you believe pepper sprays may be restricted in your area.

State Laws and Restrictions Pepper Sprays cannot be shipped outside the continental US, which includes Alaska, Hawaii, and US Territories. Pepper Sprays cannot be shipped by any method other than GROUND. Pepper Sprays, stun devices, knives and batons, cannot be shipped outside the United States (including its territories.) States Where Pepper Sprays are Restricted (We cannot ship to: New York, Massachusetts . If an order is placed your order will be cancelled)
Pepper Spray FAQs

Pepper spray against the law?

If you are interested in using pepper spray, you should check with your local law enforcement office or your state’s Attorney General’s office. Each state has their own regulations, although most states state it is legal to possess and carry pepper spray. Some states have strict regulations on the size, age, or OC concentration of the pepper spray their residents carry.

Places that prohibit pepper spray?

Yes. If you are flying on a commercial aircraft, you cannot carry pepper spray with you. If you attempt to carry pepper spray on board, you will be violating Federal law and may be fined up to $25,000. If you would like to carry pepper spray in your checked baggage, you might be able to do so. However, you may want to check with your airline and notify the ticketing agent when you check your baggage.

In addition to aircraft, you cannot carry pepper spray into many Federal buildings, State buildings, or anywhere else with a security checkpoint. There may not be laws about these situations, but using your best judgment is often advised.

How pepper spray works?

The active ingredient in pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum (OC). OC is derived from one of the hottest peppers in the world, the Cayenne pepper. Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent, not an irritant like MACE or tear gas. Upon contact with mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, pepper spray causes instant dilation of the capillaries. This contact can cause temporary effects such as temporary blindness, difficulty breathing, and excessive coughing. The skin contacted with pepper spray will also have an intense burning sensation. These effects are not permanent. Traditional effects last from 15 to 60 minutes. Since pepper spray is an inflammatory and not an irritant, those who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs will still be able to feel its effects.
Using my pepper spray?

Using your pepper spray is something you should research in advance. Be sure to keep a distance between you and the attacker, if at all possible. Aim for the eyes or the face. Release a one to two second burst of spray onto the attacker. After spraying, move out of the way, keeping your eyes on the attacker. By noticing the reactions of the attacker, you will be able to see if you need to spray again or not. “Spray and Move” is a great motto to go by when using pepper spray. Once the threat is eliminated, move to safety and call the police.

Does pepper spray expire?

Yes. Pepper spray can expire, so take note of the expiration date on the can. The expiration date will typically be three to four years after the date of purchase. The spray life can be indefinite, however the potency is what loses effect over time. Use of pepper spray after the date of expiration is unadvisable. It is a good idea to replace your pepper spray each year, to ensure you always have the most potent spray available.

Test your pepper spray to make sure it will work if needed

You can test your defense spray every 90 days, to ensure it does work. To do this, step outdoors and test the direction of the wind. Always stand upwind from your spraying direction, to ensure you won’t be affected by any spray blowing back. Depress the button for less than one second. Of course, each time you test your spray, less spray will be in the can. So, be sure you leave plenty for an emergency.
Pepper Spray Restriction states

Pepper spray, although made from an item you can get in the produce section, is considered a weapon by most civilized countries, and is restricted to some extent in nearly all of them. Pepper spray causes temporary blindness, pain, breathing problems and panic: when it's used excessively, it can kill.
In some states, you can buy pepper spray, but the amount is restricted, and you can be arrested or fined if your canister contains more than the amount specified by law. Some states regulate the allowed strength of the pepper spray: most sprays contain somewhere between 2% and 10% of capsaicin, the primary component of capsicum. Pepper sprays that also contain tear gas may be illegal in some states but not others, so that before you decide to buy a spray, you should find out what the state and local ordinances say about their possession.
According to pepper spray manufacturers, pepper spray as a personal defense weapon is considered legal in all 50 states, although various state restrictions may prevent shipping to several states. Some manufacturers may ship their bear spray (a stronger pepper spray made to deter an attacking bear) to states where pepper spray can't be shipped as a weapon. However, if someone is found to have used bear spray on a person, there are all sorts of interesting questions about its legal use (unless that person happens to be doing a highly convincing bear act). Pepper spray isn't sold to minors or to people who have been convicted of a felony. A few instances of state regulations follow: check with your local police force in the restrictions and permissible use of pepper spray in your area and never take pepper spray with you when you travel by air.
Animal Repellents (including dog and bear sprays) can be legally shipped to and purchased from online retailers in ALL 48 contigious states, including the restricted states listed below.
States Where Pepper Sprays are Restricted
  • New York: Sold in pharmacies and by licensed firearms dealers.
  • Massachusetts: Sold by licensed firearms dealers.
  • Michigan:  Pepper spray must not be more than 10% and can be used for self defense. "The reasonable use of a self-defense spray or foam device containing not more than 10% oleoresin capsicum by a person in the protection of a person or property under circumstances that would justify the person's use of physical force." 
  • Wisconsin: Tear gas is not permissible. By regulation, OC products with a maximum OC concentration of 10% and weight range of oleoresin of capsicum and inert ingredients of 15-60 grams are authorized. This is 1/2 oz. and 2 oz. spray. Further, the product cannot be camouflaged, and must have a safety feature designed to prevent accidental discharge. The units may not have an effective range of over 20 feet and must have an effective range of six feet. In addition there are certain labeling and packaging requirements: must state cannot sell to anyone under 18 and the phone number of the manufacturer has to be on the label. The units must also be sold in sealed tamper-proof packages. 
  • California: Weight restricted to 2.5 ounces (about 70 grams).
  • Washington D.C.: You must register with the police for possession of pepper spray.


NOTE:  Pepper Spray is legal in all 50 states, however a number of cities and states have restrictions on sizes, strengths, etc.. If you have a question, it is wise to check with your local city or state attorneys office.

Defense sprays should only be purchased by those 18 years of age or older.

*The above list may not be totally accurate or complete and accepts no responsibility for its accuracy or completeness.