Pepper Spray

Comparing Pepper Spray for Self Defense

There’s an ongoing debate about which is more efficient for self-defense, guns or pepper spray. I’m one of those who favors guns over other self-defense weapons, but I also carry around pepper spray at times, and there are definitely moments in life where pepper spray is the right choice.

How to Choose a Pepper Spray

Believe it or not, there is an art to finding the right pepper spray. You have to consider several factors, like the type, the distance it can spray, the size of the canister (the part of the pepper spray that holds the chemicals), and laws governing the use of pepper spray.


There are several types of pepper sprays, each with their own pros and cons. Choosing the right one increases its efficiency. On the other hand, using a pepper spray that’s not right for the situation can cause harm to you or bystanders.

Stream Pattern

One of the most common types of pepper spray is the stream pattern. It squirts out a stream of OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) and can shoot a distance of up to 10ft. It is best used outdoors.


  • Can shoot up to 10ft.
  • Wind and rain won’t affect accuracy when spraying.
  • Liquid-based; doesn’t blow back


  • Requires good aim
  • Not very effective with multiple attackers


As the name suggests, fogger type pepper sprays produce fine OC droplets that cover a wide area. They can shoot up to 25 feet, although again, the effectiveness reduces with distance. Foggers are best for indoor use and efficient against multiple attackers.


  • Covers a long distance
  • Can incapacitate multiple attackers at once
  • Good aim is not required


  • High chance of blowback
  • Risk of incapacitating bystanders

Cone Pattern

The cone pattern pepper spray is the baby brother of fogger-type sprays. It can shoot up to 8 feet away and still cover an area as large as a human head. It is best used against multiple attackers and best used indoors.


  • Average distance
  • Produces microscopic droplets that can make breathing difficult
  • Aim is not an issue
  • Can spray multiple attackers at once


  • High chance of blowback
  • Wind or rain can make it less efficient
  • Foam

    Instead of liquid-based spray, a Foam sprayer produces OC foam that easily covers an attacker’s face. The method is similar to assaulting your friends with silly string, but much more lethal. Foam spray is best used indoors and is most effective against one or two close range attackers.


    • Less chance of hurting unwanted targets
    • Not hard to clean up after use


    • Short distance (up to 6 feet)
    • Must have good aim


    Pepper Gel works similarly to foam-type sprays, but the gel is stickier and can shoot farther.


    • Can reach a distance up to 15 ft.
    • Not affected by wind
    • Less chance of hurting unwanted targets


    • Good aim is required

    Other Factors To Consider

    Aside from the type of pepper spray, you should also consider the number of shots it can produce. One shot is equal to a one-second spray, which is enough to incapacitate your attacker temporarily. That is if you have good aim, and you are only facing one attacker. It is always a good idea to choose a spray that can hold many shots.

    Another thing to consider is the distance one pepper spray can shoot. Most attackers in public areas only attack when they are within close range, so you don’t necessarily need to carry around a long-range pepper spray in public. But if you’re using pepper spray to defend your home, a long-range pepper spray is ideal.

    You should also consider the strength of the spray. Some people can develop immunity against the effect of OC, making weaker pepper sprays useless against them. The strength of a pepper spray is measured in different ways. For instance, some may measure it in OC percentage or the amount of OC in proportion to the size of the canister. However, these measurements don’t necessarily tell you how hot the actual spray is to the skin. According to, the MC rating (major capsaicinoid rating) is the most accurate measure as it measures the heat-bearing chemicals in peppers.

    And finally, you should consider the laws governing the use and carriage of pepper spray in your area. Some states only allow pepper spray canisters that are less than 4 ounces. Some states, like Massachusetts, consider pepper spray to be ammunition. In such states, you can only buy pepper spray from stores that are licensed under the ammunition state law. Before you buy, know the laws.

    3 Best Pepper Sprays

    Defense Technologies MK-4 Sabre Red Home Defense Pepper Gel Fox Labs Defense Spray- Flip Top Cone Fog Pepper Foam Home Protection Kit Sabre Red Runner Pepper Gel
    Price/Buy Now BUY FOR $16.99 BUY FOR $50.99 BUY FOR $23.95 BUY FOR $13.99 BUY FOR $12.99
    Type Stream Fogger/Gel Cone Foam Gel
    Number of Shots 20-25 short bursts Up to 32 bursts 34-36 half-second bursts 10 short bursts 35 short bursts
    Distance of Spray Up to 12 feet Up to 30 feet 12 to 15 feet Up to 8 feet Up to 12 feet
    Strength of Pepper Spray (MC rating) 1.33% 1.33% 1.33% 1.33% 1.33%
    Weight (oz.) 3 oz. 13 oz. 4 oz. 2.5 oz. 0.75 oz
    Size In Inches (Height x Diameter) 6.5 x 1.25 9.5 x 5 5 ¾ x 1.5 4 7/8 x 1.25 3.9 x 0.8
    Included Accessories None Wall-Mounting Bracket None Wall-Mounting Bracket Adjustable Hand Strap
    Indoor or Outdoor Outdoor Indoor Outdoor Indoor Outdoor
    Shelf-Life 4 years 4 years 3 years 4 years 4 years
    Other NA UV marking dye for easy suspect identification UV marking dye for easy suspect identification UV marking dye for easy suspect identification; Glow-in-the-dark UV marking dye for easy suspect identification; Easy-carry

    After comparing the options, we’ve narrowed down the list to the three best pepper sprays: Sabre Red Runner Pepper Gel and Home Defense Pepper Gel as well as Defense Technologies’ MK-4.

    1. Sabre Red Runner Pepper Gel

    Sabre Red is one of the best-known pepper spray brands in the US, and one of their best products is the Runner Pepper Gel. It is a portable pepper spray that comes in a pink and a black version. It also comes with a hand strap so you can conveniently hold it while running or walking.

    It is, obviously, a gel-type spray, so no blowback and a thumbs up for long shooting distance. It can shoot up to 12 feet away and can produce up to 35 bursts per canister. It is only 0.75oz and can be carried in most states. It has an MC rating of 1.33%. MC ratings usually range from .18% to 1.33%. Police officers use pepper sprays rated at 1.33%. Pepper sprays designed to incapacitate bears can have a rating of up to 3%.

    You can order Sabre Red directly from their website for $12.99.

    2. Defense Technologies MK-4

    Defense Technologies is a nationwide provider of law enforcement products. One of their most popular pepper sprays available to the public is the MK-4. MK-4 is a stream pattern pepper spray that weighs 3oz. One canister can contain up to 20-25 short bursts and can shoot out a stream of OC up to 12 feet away.

    Like the Runner Pepper Gel, MK-4 has an MC rating of up to 1.33%. It sells for $16.99 on Amazon.

    3. Saber Red Home Defense Pepper Gel

    If you’re looking for a pepper spray you can keep close to your bedside, Home Defense Pepper Gel is the one for you. It is a heavy-duty pepper spray that can shoot as far as 30 feet and can produce up to 32 bursts. It weighs 13oz. and is almost the size of a small fire extinguisher. It has a pistol grip making it easier to aim and a safety pin. It has a shelf life of up to 4 years, and you can hang it on your wall using the wall bracket that comes with the package. It has an MC rating of 1.3% and it sells for $50.99.

    If you are interested in an actual Pepper Spray gun, check out this article next.