The 411 on Pepper Spray
Do the words "pepper spray" conjure up images of a great new spicy sauce from Emeril’s kitchen? Unlike your favorite hot sauce, pepper spray is not something you’d want to use to spice up your dinner. No, pepper spray is one mean self-defense device, and that is why it is so popular.
And just like hot sauce, there are many different kinds of pepper spray on the market. There are different concentrations of pepper spray, different sized canisters, different brands, and even pepper spray disguised in things like ink pens and rings. With all these choices, how can you know what type of pepper spray is right for you? The first thing you need to know is exactly what goes into a canister of pepper spray .
There are three main kinds of chemicals that go into pepper sprays: CS, CN, and OC. CS and CN both attack and irritate the tissues in a person’s nose, eyes, and throat, otherwise known as the membrane tissues. When the chemicals get into these tissues, they cause them to run, tear and burn like crazy. But the sensations are not always immediate. Depending on the attacker, they can take anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 seconds to take effect, and even that is not guaranteed. If a person is intoxicated or high on drugs, or if they can’t feel pain for some other physical or mental reason, the CS and CN will not take them down.
The CS and CN chemicals are better known as tear gas, and they do have a profound effect on attackers and other people that happen to catch a whiff of the spray. But people can build up resistances to CS and CN. Because of this, the military and police departments have been known to put their recruits through a tear gas initiation, so that they can later be able to fight through the effects of tear gas.
On the other hand, the OC chemical, or oleoresin capsicum always works. That’s because technically this natural chemical is not an irritant, but an inflammatory compound. That means that the chemical has nothing to do directly with pain, though OC surely does cause pain. Instead, the main outcome is to cause the person’s membrane tissues to swell up. Their throat swells shut, and allows only the most basic breathing. In the meantime, their respiratory system goes into coughing seizures and their eyes swell shut.
OC is so powerful that it even causes the blood vessels in their eyes to “swell up,” or dilate. So a person goes temporarily blind, whether or not their eye lids swell shut. Nothing—not training, drugs, booze, or will power—can help a person when they are sprayed with pepper spray containing OC. They become incapacitated to the fullest, and can’t even concentrate enough to beg.
What does all of this mean to you? Basically, if you want a pepper spray to work, you need to buy the real thing. That means a spray with OC, or capsicum in it. Your personal safety is well worth it.
This article was posted on August 31, 2006
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