Like anything else, pepper spray is just one self-defense “tool” in your toolbox. It is not a magical solution that will solve every self-defense scenario, and should not be relied upon as such. Listed below are some pros and cons of pepper spray based on my 23+ years in law enforcement.
Pros of Pepper Spray
Pepper spray is portable and can easily be carried on your person or in a woman’s handbag. It is also easy to conceal.
Pepper spray is generally non-lethal and does not have any long-lasting effects. It can end an attack without the use of physical force or violent action.
Pepper spray is relatively easy to use and does not take years of training to effectively deploy it.
Pepper spray is easily available for purchase.
Cons of Pepper Spray
Pepper spray does not work on everyone. I have personally fought with people who were not affected by it whatsoever. This can be due to mental illness or altered states of mind due to the use of narcotics. Many people can also just fight through the effects of pepper spray (law enforcement is trained to do so).
Pepper spray can be difficult to deploy in stressful and violent situations. The target area is small (mainly the eyes) and they may be wearing glasses or a mask that will interfere and/or negate the effects of pepper spray.
Pepper spray runs a huge risk for over contamination. Under stress, people who are not trained tend to empty the canister when they deploy it. They generally do not use it in the directed fashion of a small controlled targeted burst. This means that everyone in the area suffers the effects. It may even incapacitate the person who deploys it.
Deploying pepper spray has legal ramifications. You may be called upon to justify your actions. Many people's "logic trains" don’t go this far. They just believe that if they are attacked or threatened they will spray them with the pepper spray and everything will be right with the world.
As stated above, pepper spray has its place in the world. But like anything else, you should approach self-defense reasonably and not count on pepper spray as the magic solution.
A self-defense tool that I highly recommend for your toolbox is the MUNIO. It is small, unobtrusive, and has a non-threatening appearance. It passes through security checkpoints without any issues. It fits in a woman’s handbag or your pocket, so it can always be with you. The MUNIO also gives you an advantage over empty hand techniques in that it can be used as a flail or a force multiplier. The cost is very reasonable for the benefit it provides. All in all, a very versatile and effective tool that you should not be without.
Greg Borlan is a 5th degree Black Belt Master Instructor in Combat Hapkido, a practical, real-life self defense system, and has been studying martial arts for over 13 years. He is the founder of New Jersey Combat Hapkido and P.I.N.K.S. Self Defense for Women (Preventive Information Necessary Knowledge of Self Defense) structured to teach women the skills, abilities and winning mindset to survive a violent encounter. Greg is also a Police Captain, with over 23 years of law enforcement experience, and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops.