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How Long Does Pepper Spray Last

how long does pepper spray last questions

Self-defense weapons have come a long way, over the past few decades, but there are some items that have remained mainstays. Developed during the late 1960s, pepper spray gained prominence for the ease of use and protection it offered to users. Non-lethal, federally legal, and packaged as a civilian product, it paved the way for simplified personal protection, allowing any person to carry a self-defense weapon wherever they went.

Anyone considering the purchase of a non-lethal self-defense weapon might be eyeing a pepper spray option, maybe a pepper spray gun or even a pepper spray keychain. But before you commit to a product, it’s important to ask some important questions: How does pepper spray work? How should it be stored when not in use? How long does it linger? Let’s dive deep into the topic to answer all of your most crucial questions. 

What Is Pepper Spray? 

Pepper spray is derived from the oily resin derivative oleoresin capsicum. Capsicums, a nightshade species, are inflammatory agents found in specific types of food—usually hot peppers. Isolated through the extraction of dried and ripened chili peppers, capsicums are then distilled and compounded in an oily resin that is used as a lachrymatory agent. 

This lachrymatory agent—or inflammatory agent—can easily cause swelling and running of the eyes and mucous membranes, physical pain, and temporary blindness through direct interaction. It is for this reason that oleoresin capsicum (OC) is used as the active ingredient in pepper spray. Used for self-defense purposes and riot and crowd control purposes, this best-selling, non-lethal product makes it a surefire protective weapon. 

history pepper spray quote

The History of Pepper Spray

Although pepper spray was first developed in the 1960s and brought to American notice due to the FBI fine-tuning it in the 1970s and 1980s, it had been used as a deterrent in centuries past. Warriors from around the world would use bags of extremely hot spices to ward off enemies, either stunning them to leave them open to attack or employing it to make enemies run away. 

Recent years have seen pedestrians using pepper spray for personal self-defense purposes, but police departments around the globe have also begun using it to curb more violent crime, utilizing high-powered weapons-grade pepper spray guns.  

The Primary Ingredients

As mentioned above, oleoresin capsicum (OC) is the primary ingredient used within pepper spray weapons. Often concentrated from cayenne peppers, which have heat measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), the oil extracted is combined with water, glycol, and propellant to turn it into an easily deployable spray. 

Depending on the type of product and usage, pepper sprays may also include components of teargas or a UV marking dye. The latter is often employed in police-grade weapons, as it makes it easy for law enforcement to identify assailants under riot conditions. 

pepper spray hero

Traits, Characteristics, and Specs of Pepper Spray

Pepper spray cans often come in small, easy-to-hide containers, allowing you to readily store them in a purse, bag, or pocket. Depending on the size of the canister, a single can of pepper spray can carry anywhere from a ¼ ounce of a solution up to 9.2 ounces. Pepper spray guns often have more capacity, as the reloadable cartridges make it simple to switch out and store them with ease. 

The characteristics of the spray, from the type of deployment method to the construction of the container, will determine how far the pepper spray can be deployed. While some devices will spray wide waves from up to six feet away, there are more-effective, gel-based sprays that allow deployment from up to 35 feet away. 

Some sprays created nowadays make their ease of use and concealment much greater, with many different pepper sprays being designed solely with women in mind. These pepper spray keychains may look innocuous to an assailant, but they can be easily grabbed and utilized whenever needed, ensuring all-around safety. 

The Effects of Pepper Spray

Any person who has had to interact with pepper spray knows how brutal it can be. This especially includes military personnel and federal, state, and local police officers, who must be pepper sprayed as part of their official training to understand how effective it is while knowing that it should only be used under certain circumstances with the right safety concerns in mind. 

the effects of pepper spray

Getting sprayed with pepper spray is a painful experience—one that will stop almost any assailant. The eyes will clamp shut due to excessive tearing and the dilation of the capillaries. When hit in the face, the immediate inflammation will make it difficult to breathe, with the throat swelling. An onset of excessive, uncontrollable coughing and gasping will follow. Finally, beyond the pain felt on the exposed skin, the assailant hit by pepper spray will become disoriented, losing their balance and sense of space. All of the effects are intended to be non-lethal, and they are sure to stop the most aggressive people in their tracks. 

How Pepper Spray Is Dispersed

Pepper sprays are dispersed in four different methods: 

  • Stream: Liquid is expelled through a straight stream, where contents are able to concentrate on a specific target. 
  • Mist: Rather than a straight stream of a propelled solution, mist allows a larger area to be covered, making it easier to hit a target’s face. 
  • Foggers: Similar to the mist method, it covers an even wider area, allowing you to effectively hit a crowd of people. 
  • Gel: Often deployed in concentrated streams, yet able to travel farther and with less wind interference than stream-propelled pepper spray.

Pepper Spray Gun

A pepper spray gun is an effective, non-lethal alternative to a real firearm. Designed to look like a handgun or pistol, it is small, portable, and simple to use. If you’re looking for the threat of a handgun without the danger, a realistic pepper spray gun is a terrific substitute. 

The  PepperBall® TCP™ Pepper Gun offers civilians real self-defense that can protect them against assailants. This pepper gun launches pepper balls up to 60 feet that releases a 12-foot cloud of pepper spray irritant upon impact, ensuring that you can protect yourself from a safe distance.

pepper spray keychain quote

Pepper Spray Keychain

With a handy built-in keyring, pepper spray keychains are easy to store and carry on your person, making them perfect self-defense weapons that can be hidden while walking to work or hitting the town with friends over the weekend. 

One of our most popular pepper spray keychains is one produced by Fox Labs. Easily stored on you at all times, this Fox Labs pepper spray comes in a compact black hard-shell casing complete with a quick-release key ring for easy carrying and accessibility. Able to emit 5.3 Million SHU in 10 half-second bursts, you can fire a stream of pepper spray up to a distance of 10 feet, allowing you to protect yourself while remaining at a safe distance from your aggressor. 

The Legality

Pepper spray is currently legal for use across all of the United States; however, there are some restrictions currently leveled at pepper spray, which are decided on a state-by-state basis. Here are considerations you should keep in mind:

  • Out-of-state pepper spray sales are prohibited in Massachusetts and New York.
  • The capacity of pepper spray canisters cannot exceed the following: 
    • Arkansas: 4.99 ounces
    • California: 2.5 ounces
    • Florida: 2.5 ounces
    • Michigan: 1.2 ounces
    • New Jersey: 0.75 ounces
    • North Carolina: 4.99 ounces
    • Texas: 4.99 ounces
  • Pepper sprays containing tear gas are prohibited in Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.
  • Restrictions on the amount of OC in a container/concentration of pepper spray are levied throughout Wisconsin, New York, and Michigan. 

Disguised Pepper Sprays 

Whether a pepper spray keychain or a pepper spray gun, there are some devices that are meant to be easily disguised. Whether appearing like a different item altogether—phone, perfume, lipstick dispenser—or remaining easily hidden within a purse or on your belt loop, disguised pepper sprays give users the upper hand when it comes to surprise attacks. These are most pertinent for women, who are often targeted by assailants by surprise. 

Can You Travel with Pepper Spray?

At this time, TSA regulations state that pepper spray canisters must be stored in checked baggage, not carry-on luggage. Only one 4-ounce (118mL) container of pepper spray is allowed, and a safety mechanism must be present on the device to ensure that no accidental discharge occurs. Furthermore, any pepper spray checked in your luggage must contain no more than 2% by mass of CS or CN teargas

pepper spray closeup

What Is the Difference Between Mace and Pepper Spray? 

Mace is technically a brand name, although many people will use it interchangeably, meaning the answer to “What is the difference between Mace and pepper spray?” is that there is effectively none. 

However, historically, there are very different active agents used between mace and pepper spray, but this has changed in recent years. Original versions of Mace contained phenacyl chloride (CN tear gas) in it, but this was removed for two reasons: CN tear gas has been shown to be ineffective against people under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and it, along with the original formula of Mace, was found to be toxic. 

At this time, Mace and pepper spray products rely on OC as their main ingredient, ensuring a non-toxic, yet highly effective distribution of inflammatory propellant can be sprayed on an assailant while remaining effective against people under the influence.

looking at pepper spray

Expiration, Testing, and Storage

Anyone purchasing a canister of pepper spray may be wondering how to handle their device when not in use. If it will be sitting around unused for some time, you may be wondering how to store it and how to know whether it’s still good. Here are some things to keep an eye out for. 

  • Expiration Dates 

Most pepper spray products feature expiration dates that are stamped on the product’s canister. While you might think that the product will expire because of the main ingredient, OC, going bad over time, the real reason is that the canister might not spray as well as it once did. The aerosol propellant that is combined with the OC ingredient is the primary, aerated ingredient that makes it possible for the weapon-grade OC to be sprayed. Over time, this aerosol propellant can leak from the can. If left untouched for long enough, the pepper spray may not even spray out of the canister at all.  

  • Testing Pepper Spray

If you’re not using your pepper spray on a regular basis—hopefully, you don’t have to—you should still be testing the device to see if it’s working as well as it should. Experts say you should test your pepper spray once every 90-180 days to ensure that it is still spraying efficiently. Head outside on a non-windy day to test your pepper spray, standing upwind to ensure it does not blow back against you. Press the button for less than a second to make sure the device still works as expected. 

  • Storing Pepper Spray

To maintain your pepper spray for the long-term, there are a few tips you should follow:

    • Keep your pepper spray stored at room temperature, avoiding extremely hot or cold conditions.
    • Never leave your pepper spray in your vehicle, as extreme temperature conditions can lead to an eventual leak.
    • If you are unable to carry your pepper spray in a bag, keep a pepper spray keychain on you and out of improper conditions.

Pepper Sprays: Wrapped Up 

When in need of a non-lethal self-defense weapon, you should reach for a canister of high-grade pepper spray. Easy to store, carry, and deploy, pepper sprays are designed to keep you safe while putting distance between you and any aggressor. Forget the worry of taking a person on with your hands as a last-ditch effort; rely instead on the safety of a highly effective spray that can deter and incapacitate any assailant who approaches you. 

Take your defense into your own hands. Carry a pepper spray canister and ensure you have a long-range defense on you at all times.

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