OC spray is one of the world’s most trusted forms of self-defense and for a good reason, it works. It is relied upon by law enforcement, military and outdoors enthusiasts and why not? It is cheap, brutally effective (I have used it before) and compact to carry with you every day in your car, handbag or backpack.
There are a lot of different types of OC spray out there with quite a few different names such as capsicum spray, pepper spray, capsaicin spray, CS spray and pepper gel.
But what do you actually know about OC spray apart from the fact it hurts? Maybe not much, so let’s take a look at some of the questions you might have about OC spray and look at some of the trusted brands people are using around the world.
Where it is used
A big part of why OC spray is so popular is due to its diverse and non-lethal use. If you were originally thinking it was only available and used by police and military members, you are definitely wrong. Some of the biggest uses of OC spray are:
- College students seeking a personal safety device
- Females seeking a means of self-defense
- Home protection against burglars
- Elderly for personal protection
- Law enforcement as personal carry
- Riot police for crowd control (also used in paintball-like ammunition for crowd control)
- Prison officers
- Private security agents, bodyguards and security guards
- Hunters, campers, and hikers as a spray against attacking bears or dogs
What OC Spray is
Put simply, OC spray is oleoresin capsicum. It is an extract from peppers where a method of finely grounding the pepper and then extracting the concentrate of that using evaporation. To say it easier, you know when you eat a chilli and you can feel the burning feeling around your lips? That is a very diluted form of what is used in OC spray, so you can imagine how powerful the spray can be.
That irritant that gives you the burning is the active component of chili peppers and is called capsaicin. The individual compounds are called capsaicinoids and are how the strength of most OC sprays are measured. The strength of that spray, measured with the capsaicinoid amount (CRC), varies upon use.
- Personal OC sprays range from 0.18% to the highest at just under 3%
- Law enforcement sprays are between 1.3% and 2%
- Bear attack deterrent sprays contain at least 1% and not more than 2%
You might, however, see that some sprays are measured in a different way. This is due to different national regulations which stipulate an OC spray must have an OC limitation. The simple difference is:
- OC measures the amount of burning stuff in the spray
- CRC measures the strength.
So for law enforcement, we can say the strength of their ‘burning stuff’ is between 1.3 and 2% but the amount of it would be much higher.
What it does
Ever had chilli in your eyes? It’s horrible and it burns. Even just thinking about it will bring tears to your eyes. So imagine that multiplied by one hundred – it is that intense. I have used it before as part of law enforcement and it is a wild burn, disabling me from doing anything apart from trying to see, let alone falling to the ground in pain.
OC spray has some very strong effects, which are temporary but very effective. The blindness sensation lasts for about 10-15 minutes depending on the strength of the spray. But there is also the excruciating burning sensation that it comes with which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on treatment.
The spray also has a very strong choking effect on the lungs. This is like if you have ever cooked a pan of oil and then thrown chopped chili on, it causes a smoke which makes you cough. Again, times one hundred and you get the idea. This uncontrollable coughing lasts for about five minutes.
In summary, using OC spray on someone will cause:
- Temporary blindness
- Burning sensation of the skin
- Coughing and choking
This is why you should always adhere to all safety procedures when using the spray and make sure you fully understand the power it has when using it. In some countries it is a graded weapon specifically because of the debilitating effect it has, so please keep that in mind.
Treating OC spray symptoms
There is a common story out there that using water does not work. This is completely true. Water will not help lessen the effects of OC spray. Depending on the type of spray, other urban remedies such as milk does not work to fix the eye problem either.
The steps to treat OC spray are:
- Blink rapidly to induce tears which will assist in flushing the eyes (you can also use no-tears baby shampoo in the eyes)
- Do not touch the face to calm the burning sensation
- Use milk, baby shampoo or hand soap on the skin (not the eyes as mentioned above) to remove spray from the skin
- The lungs will breathe through the OC spray which will reside in the time above
The best sprays available online
First, it is important to check with a product and your local laws as to whether you are allowed to carry OC spray. For most states and countries, if you are over 18, purchasing OC spray is legal. At the bottom of this article, I have included a list of US, European and Australian states and countries that have restrictions on carrying OC sprays for self-defense purposes.
Of the most widely used brands, SABRE is at the top of providers. They provide a large majority of law enforcement and military personnel with safety and non-lethal weapons and have large campaigns driven towards public self-defense awareness.
SABRE Red Pepper Spray (benefits National Breast Cancer Foundation)
One product of theirs that I am very happy to promote is their pink case, police strength, red pepper spray. They launched this item to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation with proceeds going towards the Foundation and to raise breast cancer awareness.
For such a quality product at a cheap price, I really like the initiative that SABRE has undertaken here. As for the product itself, it works really well. It runs on a maximum strength formula to ensure it does not fail for the user when they need it the most. It also has:
- An impressive 10 foot (3m) reach
- 25 bursts
- Free training video
- Four-year shelf life
- UV Marking Dye for suspect identification
- Has a safety lock so you don’t accidentally discharge it
Another top selling Amazon OC spray and also a product from SABRE is their 3 in 1 pepper spray. This one comes with 35 bursts, unlike their breast cancer awareness OC spray and instead of coming with a keychain, is instead secured by a clip so that you can keep it more secured on a belt, pocket or in a backpack or purse. This unit also has a spray reach of 10-feet.
The reason why they call this spray a 3 in 1 formula is due to its combination spray of:
- Pepper spray
- CS military tear gas
- UV marking dye
This UV marking dye mentioned is a way for police to identify people who may have washed OC spray off. The dye is revealed under UV light to show someone who may have been in a protest or may have attacked the firer of the OC spray. This is especially prominent in sexual assault attempts.
An alternative to the sprays and with a further shooting distance is SABRE’s Red Pepper Gel which shoots a gel rather than a spray. This is designed as a more safe way of using OC spray as there is no risk of a blowback of spray affecting the firer and will only affect the person that the gel lands on. The benefit to using the gel is that is has a further distance of up to five and-a-half meters so that a firer can remain at a safer distance from someone when using it.
- Pepper spray is in replaceable cartridges
- Allows a pressurized constant stream to shoot at 20 feet
- Has an LED light function
- A water practice cartridge
- Has a safety lock
These are a great item for anyone preferring to use something that is controlled like a gun but as a non-lethal suppressant.
For people seeking a non-lethal alternative to home defense, this is the ideal item. Let’s take a closer look as to the specifics of this kit. Each kit comes with:
- An OC spray gun
- 10 rounds
- 10 practice rounds
- A magazine (holds 7 rounds)
- A lockable case
- An easy-to-follow manual
So why do I think this is the perfect home protection device? This handgun can shoot OC spray pellets at up to 150 feet, or 45 meters. The rounds use military OC spray which breaks on impact in a spray cloud affecting the attacker with the initial shock of the shot and then the following OC spray side-effects. Unlike a normal firearm, this isn’t a gunpowder weapon so there’s no bang or recoil when it is fired. It is simply a high-powered paintball OC spray gun.
This is definitely a self-defense item that will no doubt become more widely used with law enforcement as well as the public as a method of suppressing, delaying and immobilizing criminals and attackers.
Another wide use of OC spray is by campers, hikers, and hunters as a deterrent against bear attacks. Much like in the event of an attacking aggressor, the spray gets used to deter an attacking bear. A very trusted brand for bear OC spray is the Frontiersman Bear Spray which works with a 2% strength of capsaicinoids and is EPA approved. The Frontiersman spray is made by SABRE, who made the personal defense items I mentioned previously.
The spray shoots at a 9m safe distance and also delivers a rapid spray fog in the area of firing to ensure an added blanket of OC protection against a charging bear. The spray is widely recommended by national park services and is effective against black, brown and polar bears. If you are a regular hiker or camper in areas where bears regularly roam then you should be adding this to your pack before you step out the door.
Laws Affecting OC spray
As mentioned above, because of the debilitating effects of OC spray, even though it is a vegetable you can buy in the supermarket, it has some legal obligations with it.
As of 2016, OC spray can be used and carried in all US States. However, there are some restrictions in certain states:
California: Container has no more than 2.5 ounces or spray
Michigan: have “reasonable use” of spray with no more than 10% oleoresin. Must be over 18
New York: Must be over 18. Must be less than 0.67% capsaicin. Must be purchased from pharmacy or firearm retailer. Must keep proof of purchase
New Jersey: Non-felons over 18 can possess.
Washington: Must be over 18. Can carry at 14-years-old and up with guardian’s consent
Wisconsin: OC Spray must have less than 10% concentration. Weight range of oleoresin is 15-60grams. Must have a safety feature, not camouflaged.
Belgium: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
Denmark: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
Finland: License needed
France: Must be over 18
Germany: Sprays must be labeled “animal-defense spray”. Justified use against humans as self-defense is allowed.
Hungary: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
Iceland: illegal for private citizens
Ireland: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
Italy: anyone over 16 without a criminal record can possess
Netherlands: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
Norway: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
Sweden: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
Turkey: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
UK: possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers
New South Wales: must be an authorized person
Northern Territory: prohibited weapon
Tasmania: unauthorized possession is illegal
South Australia: must have lawful excuse
Western Australia: must have “reasonable excuse” for self-defense item
Queensland: may use as a personal alarm device
Victoria: Prohibited weapon
Make sure you check with any local regulations on the possession of OC spray and pepper spray and ensure you familiarise yourself with all safety procedures when getting your spray.