Reviews

Best Pepper Sprays (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Keep these handy pepper sprays in your vehicle for use in emergencies

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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON November 23, 2021

When it comes to personal safety, a lot of drivers have well-outfitted roadside assistance kits for unplanned roadside emergencies. One item that’s not included in those kits that can be a game-changer when it comes to personal safety is pepper spray. Kept handy in your center console or glove compartment, a can of pepper spray can help you quickly defend yourself. You can also grab it and go whenever you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood, going for a walk or run, getting gas, and more.

 

If you’re in the market for a strong, reliable pepper spray, The Drive has you covered with our top picks and a handy buying guide that will help you know exactly what to look for in a high-quality pepper spray.

Best Overall
Mace Pepper Spray with Tear Gas
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Summary
Summary

This pepper spray disorients an attacker thanks to its unique combination of Oleoresin Capsicum and tear gas.

Pros
Pros
  • The UV dye it leaves makes it easy to identify an attacker 
  • It also causes shortness of breath and profuse tearing 
  • The pepper spray comes out in a stream pattern and offers protection for up to 10 feet
Cons
Cons
  • The canister is very small and you may easily lose it
  • The spray doesn’t reach very far and drizzles out at times
Best Overall
Mace Pepper Spray with Tear Gas
Best Value
Sabre Advanced Compact Pepper Spray
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Summary
Summary

An affordable three-in-one pepper spray with a reinforced trigger to prevent accidental spraying.

Pros
Pros
  • Has a 10-foot operating range
  • Can produce up to 35 spray bursts
  • Features a UV-marking dye and burning tear gas and is lab-tested for maximum performance and user safety
Cons
Cons
  • Has a shelf life of only four years
  • The content may ooze onto your hands and burn you
  • The spray nozzle may fail
Best Value
Sabre Advanced Compact Pepper Spray
Honorable Mention
Mace Brand PepperGard Pepper Spray
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Summary
Summary

If you’re looking for a professional strength keychain style pepper spray, check out this option, which includes UV detection dye.

Pros
Pros
  • Professional strength pepper spray
  • Long bursts of spray 
  • Features UV detection dye
  • Shoots up to 12 feet
Cons
Cons
  • A little too large to carry in your pocket
  • Keyring loop could be more durable
  • Concerns about the long-term reliability of the canister
Honorable Mention
Mace Brand PepperGard Pepper Spray
Pepper Spray Close Up
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Our Methodology

When it comes to choosing a reliable, safe, and easy-to-use pepper spray, the options are vast and varied. In order to narrow the playing field, we decided to look at name brands that most people are already familiar with. These companies have a solid track record of providing fast-acting, high-quality products. We wanted to provide a variety of different pricing strategies so that there would be a good option to suit any budget. We also tried to include options that are suitable for a range of different scenarios, from pepper spray for runners to pepper sprays that help prevent animal attacks. For more about our selection criteria and methodology, check out The Drive’s Gear About page.

Best Pepper Spray Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall
Mace Pepper Spray with Tear Gas

When it comes to non-lethal self-defense, that’s fast and effective, it’s tough to beat the Mace Pepper Spray with Tear Gas. This canister emits a powerful spray that causes disorientation, shortness of breath, and profuse tearing. The Mace pepper spray combines the power of teargas and Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), which is a derivative of cayenne pepper that can cause temporary blindness and a burning sensation in the eyes and mouth. It incapacitates an attacker, allowing you to get away safely. The canister only weighs 11 grams and contains 15 bursts of powerful spray.

This pepper spray features a finger-grip design to maximize your grasp and targeting accuracy and its flip-top safety cap helps prevent misfires and accidents. However, this pepper spray doesn't spray as far as expected and may trickle out at times. The canister is also tiny and you may easily lose it.


Product Specs:

  • Brand: Mace
  • Model: 80812
  • Weight: 0.20 pounds

Pros:

  • UV dye it leaves makes it easy to identify an attacker 
  • Causes shortness of breath and profuse tearing 
  • Pepper spray comes out in a stream pattern and offers protection for up to 10 feet

Cons:

  • Canister is very small and you may easily lose it
  • Spray doesn’t reach very far and drizzles out at times
Best Value
Sabre Advanced Compact Pepper Spray

This Sabre Advanced Compact Pepper Spray is an excellent budget-friendly method of self-protection. It has a reinforced trigger to prevent you from accidentally spraying it, and you can achieve a 10-foot spray range and up to 35 spray bursts. It also contains a UV marking dye for attacker identification later. Each formulation goes through rigorous lab testing for user safety and optimum performance, and this is a compact, easy to conceal canister that can quickly go from your backpack or purse into your car’s center console for easy access.


You’ll need to routinely replace your pepper spray if you don’t use it as it has just a four-year shelf life. The spray nozzle can fail or leak, which puts you at risk of getting the contents on your hands, which can cause a burning sensation. 


Product Specs:

  • Brand: Sabre
  • Model: P-22
  • Weight: 0.79 ounces

Pros:

  • Has a 10-foot operating range
  • Can produce up to 35 spray bursts
  • Features a UV-marking dye and burning tear gas and is lab-tested for maximum performance and user safety  

Cons:

  • Has a shelf life of only four years
  • Content may ooze onto your hands and burn you
  • Spray nozzle may fail
Honorable Mention
Mace Brand PepperGard Pepper Spray

If you’re looking for a professional strength keychain style pepper spray, check out the Mace Brand PepperGard Pepper Spray And you can choose from black, blue, orange, pink, or yellow when purchasing this discreet pepper spray. There’s enough spray to deploy up to 12 bursts of two to three seconds each and the trigger comes with a flip-top safety cap to prevent accidental sprays. The pepper spray shoots up to 12 feet and features UV detection dye as an added bonus.


You’ll be able to carry this canister for three to four years before you’ll need to replace it. Unfortunately, the loop that holds the keyring to the canister isn’t very durable and can break. The canister can also be defective, which will make it useless in an emergency situation. 


Product Specs:

  • Brand: Mace
  • Model: 80729
  • Weight: 0.33 pounds

Pros:

  • Professional strength pepper spray
  • Long bursts of spray 
  • Features UV detection dye

Cons:

  • May be too large for your pocket
  • Keyring loop could be more durable
  • Concerns about the long-term reliability of the canister
Best for Women
BlingSting Pepper Spray Keychain for Women

The stylish BlingSting Pepper Spray Keychain canister is perfect for women as this model comes in a blinged-out rose gold, but you can also choose from black, grey, millennial pink, pack pink, and silver. Each canister holds .5 ounces of 1.4 percent MC spray and you can get 12 to 15 bursts of spray that shoot up to 12 feet. The lid of the spray features a safety lock to prevent accidental discharge and the lightweight feel and sturdy clip will make it a breeze to have attached to your keychain. 


The spray also contains a UV dye that will stain the attacker. Unfortunately, the safety cap tends to pop off or break and can make it dangerous to carry or not dependable for use when you need it most. 


Product Specs:

  • Brand: BlingSting
  • Model: ‎BS3RGLD
  • Weight: 0.5 ounces

Pros:

  • Inconspicuous looking
  • Can shoot up to 12 feet away
  • Available in plenty of color options

Cons:

  • Holds less spray than some other options
  • Spray cap has a tendency to pop off or break
  • Finish on the canister may chip or scratch
Best for Runners
Sabre Red Runner Pepper Spray

Frequent joggers and runners will enjoy the easy-to-hold design of the Sabre Red Runner Pepper Spray as this is a compact and ergonomic canister that contains 0.75 ounces. The durable and strong adjustable strap rests easily in your hand throughout the shortest jog or the longest marathon and this particular unit gives you up to 35 bursts of Sabre’s maximum strength spray that is capable of reaching up to 12 feet away. This thick formula also allows for less wind blow-back and safer deployment than some other brands on the market.


Like many others on our list, this particular model has a shelf life of four years. While this canister is set up to be held during a run, be sure to be careful not to accidentally discharge the spray. There are also some concerns over the reliability of the spraying mechanism over time. That said, this is an affordable and highly portable option that’s ideal for runners. 


Product Specs:

  • Brand: Sabre
  • Model: P-22J-OC-US
  • Weight: 0.75 ounces

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Adjustable strap for confident carrying during a run
  • Low wind blow-back occurrence

Cons:

  • Have to be careful not to accidentally spray it while running
  • Spray nozzle has some reliability concerns
Best Spray Keychain
Sabre Red Pepper Spray Keychain w/Quick Release for Easy Access

This small canister of Sabre Red pepper spray is designed to attach to your keychain and comes in a pack of two, three, four, or five. Each pack will have different colors for each canister, including black, pink, mint, light grey, and dusk purple. Each canister can achieve a 10-foot spray and deliver up to 25 bursts and has a shelf life for these canisters is four years, which makes it longer than many of the other canisters on the market. It also has a significantly higher burst rate than comparable products. 


The keyring attachment is a quick-release design for easier deployment and the trigger also has a safety lock that’s a reinforced lock to make it secure. Having to order multiple canisters may be more than what you need and result in unused products. The plastic parts for the keyring quick release can break and the safety lock isn’t very secure, and can easily slide into the unlock position, which creates a risk of accidental deployment. 


Product Specs:

  • Brand: Sabre
  • Model: ‎HC-14-19W3-US
  • Weight: 0.54 ounces

Pros:

  • Inconspicuous looking
  • Can shoot up to 25 bursts
  • Available in packages of 2, 3, 4, or 5

Cons:

  • Doesn’t spray as far as some others
  • Plastic keyring holder can break fairly easily
  • Lock is not very sturdy or secure
Best  Gel Spray
Phoenix Tactical P360S Pepper Gel

If you want a tough and safe gel pepper spray, take notice of the Phoenix Tactical P360S Pepper Gel. This proprietary formula is proudly made in the USA and is a trusted brand among law enforcement and military personnel. The specially designed gel and canister allows you to spray the formula from any angle, even upside down. Another added bonus is that this particular pepper spray has an impressive shelf life of five years, making it one of the longest-lasting options on our list.


This canister is simple to use, although it does require you to press the flip-top cap, which can sometimes be sticky or difficult to open compared to some other brands. However, this spray can reach up to 18 feet, which is much farther than most other pepper sprays on the market. Safe to use indoors or out, this is a versatile option. The one drawback is that it’s kind of pricey. Another issue is that this formula doesn’t give you as many uses as some others before needing to be replaced.


Product Specs:

  • Brand: QSeel
  • Model: ‎‎43
  • Weight: 0.22 Kg

Pros:

  • Longer range of use than some others
  • Can spray from any angle
  • Long-lasting shelf life of five years

Cons:

  • Somewhat pricey
  • Formula runs out faster than some others
Best Bear
UDAP Pepper Power Premium Bear Spray

If you love the outdoors and spend time camping, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and more, you should consider stocking up on the UDAP Pepper Power Premium Bear Spray. This formulation has been found to be highly effective at preventing bear attacks of all sorts, in a widely varied set of climates and conditions. Unlike pepper sprays that are formulated for people, this pepper spray produces a super hot, oil-based fog that drastically and instantly affects the nose, eyes, and lung tissue of bears.


It’s effective at ranges of up to 30 feet, giving you the best chance possible of avoiding a bear attack. As an added bonus, this formula is non-lethal, EPA registered, and tested in conditions as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. It’s proudly made in the USA and is also legal to carry across the border to Canada. Beware though, its price tag is a little on the hefty side. 


Product Specs:

  • Brand: UDAP
  • Model: ‎‎12
  • Weight: 7.9 ounces

Pros:

  • Legal in the USA and Canada
  • Can shoot as far as 30 feet away
  • Effective in extreme conditions

Cons:

  • Very pricey
  • Bulky compared to some other options
Best for Dog Attack
Fox Labs ACK, LLC 1.5 Ounce 2% OC 5.3-mm Flip Top Stream Pepper Spray

Protect yourself with this 1.5-ounce can of 2 percent OC spray, which is highly effective at deterring most dog breeds. You’ll be able to fire 18 bursts that are a half-second in duration and the stream will extend 17 to 20 feet. The can is only four inches tall and 1.25 inches in diameter and everything is made in the USA. The lid on the canister is a flip-top design for safety and to prevent accidental discharge, and the unit can deliver some serious protection in strength and spraying distance. It also has a long shelf life of three years, so you won’t have to replace it often. 


The spray contained inside also has a UV dye to further identify your attacker...err, dog, but the downside is that it doesn’t come with a carrying loop or handle. This can make it hard to locate and use if it isn’t readily available and within reach. You may also find that the spray doesn’t reach as far as the manufacturer claims. 


Product Specs:

  • Brand: Fox Labs
  • Model: PS-152FTS
  • Weight: 1.5 ounces

Pros:

  • Weaker formulation is effective on dogs without harming them
  • Flip-top design ensures safer operation
  • Compact size makes it a great option for purses

Cons:

  • Spray may not reach as far as the manufacturer claims
  • Compact size can be easily misplaced

Our Verdict on Pepper Sprays

If you’re looking for the ideal combination of compact size, effective formulation, good spray range, and decent price point, our top pick is hands down the Mace Pepper Spray with Tear Gas. This pepper spray disorients an attacker thanks to its unique combination of Oleoresin Capsicum and tear gas.

For an effective and reliable budget-friendly choice, consider the Sabre Advanced Compact Pepper Spray. It’s an affordable three-in-one pepper spray with a reinforced trigger to prevent accidental spraying.

What to Consider When Buying a Pepper Spray

There are several factors to consider when purchasing a pepper spray that’s suitable for you. Whether you plan to keep it in your backpack, vehicle, or both. It’s not just about canister size and color, although those are legit factors as well. The following buying guide is meant to help you narrow down the various choices and make a confident selection.

Types of Pepper Sprays

Stream

You can achieve a spray range of 15-20 feet with a spray. Because of this extra force, it’s less susceptible to wind and blowback. If you use it in an enclosed area, you risk inhaling the liquid spray or getting splashed. How far yours will go will depend on the size of the canister and the amount of propellant.

Fogger

A fogger will have a spray range of 4-8 feet and while they are effective for spraying at a distance, they aren’t effective in windy conditions. Be sure you’re standing upwind if you choose to use a fogger.

Gel

If you want to protect yourself while indoors or in an enclosed space, then gel is the way to go. You can achieve a spray range of up to 25 feet and isn’t susceptible to wind or blowback because of its thicker consistency. It is also more effective because it sticks to your attacker once it makes contact. 

Foam

The foam pepper spray is similar to the gel, which makes it perfect for use in tight quarters or inside. When you spray the foam, it will coat the attacker to create full coverage and can achieve this protection from 6 to 8 feet away. It also is less vulnerable to wind and blowback. 

Pepper Spray Key Features

Size

The size of the can you buy will determine how long you can dispense the spray. Bigger isn’t always better as you need to think about the convenience of carrying the can. There are also maximum limits in some states. Smaller units are meant for carrying on a key ring, while medium cans are good for on a belt holster or in a purse. 

Purpose

You need to buy the right pepper spray for your intended purpose. If you’re looking for self-defense, then you need to buy a spray that’s meant for humans. There is also pepper spray that’s meant to protect you from dogs or bears. Buy the spray that matches the animal you want to protect yourself from. 

Range and Pattern

Look at how the pepper spray will leave the canister. Some will shoot a stream. This type will have a longer range and allow you to target your attacker better. A stream is harder to get inhaled, though. A mist is more easily inhaled but has a shorter effective range. The third spray pattern is foam. It stays contained better, so you don’t hit an unintended target. Unfortunately, it has a shorter range, won’t be inhaled, and is slow to take effect. 

Legality 

You need to know the laws in your state for non-lethal self-defense tools. Some states have strict laws pertaining to size and shipment, while others define their laws based on intended uses. For example, New York only lets its residents buy human defense pepper spray from licensed dealers, but animal sprays can be bought from online sellers. Then other states limit the amount you’re allowed to carry. 

Formula

Under the category of pepper spray meant for humans, you’ll find three main types of formulas: CN, CS, and OC spray. CN and CS are military or police strength sprays that cause pain. OC will cause pain and cause inflammation. This can make it difficult and painful to open your eyes and even breathe. 

UV Dye

Some pepper sprays that are meant for self-protection come with an additional UV dye, which can help law enforcement identify your attacker by shining a UV light on the accused. You and the attacker won’t be able to see the dye in normal light, but it will glow under UV lights. 

Pepper Spray Brands To Know

Sabre 

Founded in 1975, Sabre’s headquarters is located in Fenton, Mississippi. The company is well-known for its reliable products. The company produces a range of personal protection products, including stun guns, sprays, and gels. Consider carrying the Sabre Red Pepper Gel Spray.

Fox Labs

Founded in 1992, Fox Labs supplies both individuals and law enforcement agencies. The company claims to produce the most intense pepper spray on earth. You can have your own intense spray with the Fox Labs -11G 2% OC-UV Key Chain.

Mace Brand

The Mace Brand began experimenting with the ideal formulation of pepper spray in1965. The company has a long history of innovation as they have developed their products and sprays over the years. It’s the original and most authentic spray on the market. Try it for yourself with the Mace Brand Self Defense Magnum Collection.

Phoenix Tactical

Family-owned and operated, Phoenix Tactical was opened in 2016 in Newark, N.J. by Bryan Bryner. Bryner is a retired United States Air Force veteran with a solid history of outstanding military service. Rest assured that when you purchase top selling items like the Phoenix Tactical P360S Pepper Gel, you’re supporting a locally owned, US-based family business.

Pepper Spray Pricing 

When it comes to pepper spray pricing, you can get ultra-compact, discreet canisters that are often designed as keychains or small handheld items for less than $20. They will feature up to 15 sprays with a range of around 10 feet. For $25-$50, you can purchase larger canisters of pepper spray that go up to as much as 13 ounces and offer an impressive range of up to 25 feet. Stronger formulations that are often used by military and law enforcement personnel are also in this price range. Above $50, you’ll find pepper spray guns, multi-packs, and larger canister options.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and pepper sprays. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Always carry your pepper spray whenever you go out. It should be a permanent part of your daily loadout, and consider hiding one in your vehicle’s glove box. 
  • When in an elevator or any enclosed space, liquid pepper spray may splash all around, and you may end up getting burned. Consider using a gel spray that typically shoots out in one direction. 
  • Never relax after spraying the attacker. The spray takes a few seconds to start working. You should run or start defending yourself immediately after you spray it. 
  • If you don’t want to attract attention to your pepper spray, consider buying one that’s shaped like lipstick or an attractive keychain, which is harder to suspect. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: Can pepper spray blind a perpetrator? 

A: Most pepper sprays aren’t designed to cause permanent retinal damage. It only works to disorient the attacker and give you enough time to escape to a secure place. It can, however, cause temporary blurry vision, which can be cleared off with cold running water.  

Q: How long does the pepper spray effect last?

A: Depending on the concentration of the irritant, the effects can last for about 45 minutes after 10 seconds of contact. The redness and eye irritation can last for an hour, and if the spray has a UV-marking dye, it can last for 24 hours. 

Q: How do I protect myself from the effects of the pepper spray?

A: Keep your distance, and spray with your arm stretched out. Maintain a minimal shooting range of about five feet if you can. You should also note that if there are strong winds blowing, some of the fluid may splash on your face.