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6 Pepper Spray Facts You Didn’t Know

closeup view woman holding pepper spray

Pepper & Mace Sprays are one of the most popular self-defense weapons in the United States, with women making up the majority of carriers. With so many Americans owning a pepper spray product, you would think that the majority of people would know pepper spray inside and out. But truthfully, there are many things you might not know.

While you don’t need to know everything to properly use pepper spray for self-defense, it might provide you with greater insight as to how the product came to be and how it exactly works. Here are some of the most interesting facts you never knew about pepper spray.

Who invented pepper spray?

Mythology has it that pepper spray was originally invented as far back as 7000 BC by the Japanese and/or Chinese, having created small bombs full of extremely hot spices that would stop aggressors in their tracks. Yet, the story of modern pepper spray is different.

In 1964, following the mugging of a friend, Alan Litman submitted patent applications for an “Assailant Incapacitator” and “Aerosol Safety Device.” When combined into a little bottle, these two devices would work to spray harsh chemicals that would incapacitate an aggressor. Using the U.S. military tear gas chloroacetophenone, Litman and his wife created what would become known as “Chemical Mace.”

What were the original uses of pepper spray?

MACE® pepper spray was originally designed to be a personal protective device. However, since the 60s, the device has become accepted for use by the FBI, police departments, and the Department of Justice to dissuade and break up public protests. Nowadays, while still used by some police departments, pepper spray has largely returned to the hands of the public, being used for personal protection.

Wait … what’s the difference between pepper spray and Mace?

Sometimes used interchangeably, the difference between pepper spray and Mace is slim. The actual difference is in the name: pepper spray is a general name for any product that uses aerosol and an inflammatory agent to stop aggressors, while Mace is a brand name product that is an irritant. It is sometimes used as a synonym for both tear gas and CS gas.

What is OC spray?

OC spray, pepper spray,  is created by utilizing the main agent capsaicin—an extreme chemical irritant extracted from hot chili peppers. To create Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), the extracted capsaicin is mixed with a water- or oil-based solution and a propellant, often aerosol, to be sprayed from a pressurized canister. While Oleoresin Capsicum might sound dangerous outright, it is actually used in other products. OC can also be found in pain-relieving creams and salves, as the irritant nature of the chemical compound can be helpful in loosening muscles and relieving physical pain.

pepper spray in mans hands

Does pepper spray always work?

Pepper spray is known to be an extremely effective self-defense tool. When properly deployed into a person’s face and eyes, pepper spray will work to incapacitate an aggressive person. Due to the chemical nature of the OC solution, you cannot build a tolerance to the compound, meaning that it will remain effective no matter how many times someone is hit by it. It is effective on animals, too, utilized in dog- and bear-repellant sprays.

Tear gas and CS gas are a different story, though. As irritants, people can build a tolerance to the concentration of these products. Furthermore, CS gas has been shown to be less effective when used on people on drugs, which dulls their pain receptors.

What pepper sprays are the most effective?

Each pepper spray product is different, so the effects will differ due to numerous factors. The strength of a pepper spray is determined by its OC percentage, its concentration of major capsaicinoids (MC), and its Scoville Heat Units (SHU)—a scale used to measure the heat of hot peppers.  Police-grade pepper sprays tend to be the strongest, often used for riot control purposes. The Fox Labs pepper spray, 5.3M SHU Police Pepper Spray carried at The Home Security Superstore is an impressive and incapacitating 5.3 million SHU.

woman holding pepper spray

Finding the right pepper spray for you depends on numerous factors, all of which need to be considered in regards to your needs and safety. Before you make a purchase, find out which pepper spray is right for you by reading our Guide To Buying Pepper Spray.


What is Pepper Spray?

It is a lachrymatory agent meant to incapacitate an attacker or aid in arresting someone who is being uncooperative or aggressive.

How Long Does Pepper Spray Last?

Most pepper spray canisters should have an expiration date stamped on the product. It is important to test your pepper spray once every 90-180 days to ensure it still sprays efficiently.

What is the Difference Between Mace and Pepper Spray?

While they are sometimes used interchangeably, pepper spray refers to any product that uses aerosol and an inflammatory agent to stop attackers, while Mace is the brand name of an irritant.


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