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.
This pepper spray disorients an attacker thanks to its unique combination of Oleoresin Capsicum and tear gas.
- 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
- The canister is very small and you may easily lose it
- The spray doesn’t reach very far and drizzles out at times
An affordable three-in-one pepper spray with a reinforced trigger to prevent accidental spraying.
- 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
- Has a shelf life of only four years
- The content may ooze onto your hands and burn you
- The spray nozzle may fail
If you’re looking for a professional strength keychain style pepper spray, check out this option, which includes UV detection dye.
- Professional strength pepper spray
- Long bursts of spray
- Features UV detection dye
- Shoots up to 12 feet
- A little too large to carry in your pocket
- Keyring loop could be more durable
- Concerns about the long-term reliability of the canister
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.