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July 11, 2018

Mace vs. Pepper Spray: What’s the Difference?


Walking to your car at dusk feels a lot safer if you have some protection on your keychain or in a purse pocket. Pepper spray is one self-defense tool that is affordable and effective. Legal in most states, pepper spray delivers a stunning and powerful offense against would-be attackers. You may have also heard about mace, which is still sold but has seen changed in the last few decades. Have questions about the difference between mace vs. pepper spray? We’re here to help. 

Are Mace and Pepper Spray the Same?

Mace is technically a brand name, though the term is often used broadly to describe spraying agents. Just like we call all bandages Band-Aids, some people refer to pepper spray as “mace.” Historically, mace and pepper spray used very different active agents, but that has changed somewhat over time. 

The original version of mace had phenacyl chloride (also called CN tear gas). Tear gas is an irritant and can cause serious pain to the eyes, nose, skin, and throat. Unfortunately, it can be ineffective against people who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The original mace formula was also found to be very toxic. Pepper spray is an irritant and uses oleoresin capsicum (often called OC). Pepper spray works as an inflammatory agent and is more effective on people under the influence (and is less likely to cause toxic harm to the user). 

Understanding Pepper Spray and Mace Laws

If you’re asking yourself “Is it illegal to pepper spray someone?” we have some good news. Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, but some states do have restrictions on its purchase and use. For example, in California, the canisters must be smaller than 2.5 ounces. In New York, pepper spray can only be sold by pharmacies and firearm dealers so you can’t order it online. Michigan and Wisconsin require that all pepper spray sold has an OC concentration no higher than 10%.

Now, is it illegal to mace someone? If you’re using the new, OC formula, you can rely on pepper spray laws to guide your decisions. However, tear gas is illegal in most states. That makes it illegal to mace someone using a canister with a CN formula. 

Before you purchase pepper spray, check out your local laws to make sure you’re in compliance.

Safe Use of Pepper Spray 

Once you determine which type of sprays are legal in your area, it’s important to learn how to safely use pepper spray. Remember that you’ll likely need to grab pepper spray in a hurry, and there may not be time to fiddle with the cap. Practice grabbing your pepper spray and disarming it in just a few seconds. It can be helpful to practice finding and pointing your canister with your eyes closed. 

Check your canister to see how close you need to be for the chemical to be effective. Some models may reach up to 12 feet, while others require you to be within 8 feet of your target. Always aim for the face when you’re shooting pepper spray, and once you hit your target, use the time that they’re stunned to run away to safety. 

Pepper spray and mace are made from the same key ingredients these days, but mace remains a trusted brand. Not sure which canister is right for you? Contact The Home Security Superstore and we’ll help you navigate the intricacies of self-defense. We have pepper spray in a variety of sizes and models so you can feel safe carrying one you’re comfortable with. 



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