Defend Yourself using Pepper Spray

Everyone should carry a defense spray wherever they go! If that sounds a bit drastic, just look at today’s newspaper or watch your nightly news. Unless you can predict the future, you should have some form of defense protection with you at all times. And an OC defense spray is one of the best protection devices available. Some people feel they only need a defense spray when going out at night. That could be a terrible mistake! Today’s criminals don’t care whether it’s day or night. No matter who you are, where you are, what you’re doing, or when you’re doing it you’re a target! You might ask if that sort of thinking is paranoia. The answer is no! A violent assault occurs every 17 seconds in this country. Carrying a personal-defense spray at all times is simply good common sense! Make sure you carry it with you whenever you leave your home.

How to Carry Defense Sprays

The American Security Institute recommends carrying the largest size defense spray that is practical and legal for you. Most 2-ounce sprays are about 4″ long and 1″ in diameter- small enough to clip onto a purse or a belt. If you find this size inconvenient or impractical, carry a key chain spray. The biggest advantage of the key chain spray is that you’re not likely to forget it. Unless you have no other choice, do not carry a defense spray in your pocket! Too often the spray cannot be retrieved quickly enough to do any good. Remember, most physical assaults occur very quickly, often giving the victim a second or two, at most, to react. As you’ll read later, there’s a way to handle this, but only if your defense spray is readily available. The other reason you shouldn’t carry the spray in your pocket is the possibility of forgetting it the next time you go out.

Purse Carry

For women, the obvious place to carry pepper spray is a purse. What is not so obvious is HOW to carry it in the purse. Don’t let the spray sit at the bottom of your purse. The time it takes to find and retrieve it can be all the time an assailant needs to overpower you or even steal your purse! Defense sprays carried in a purse should be clipped to the front end of an inside pocket, flap, or divider. Clip it so that the unit itself is inside the purse, easy to access, pull out, and use in a few seconds. You may consider holding it in your purse as you’re walking. A purse with a long strap slung over the shoulder is ideal for this purpose. An assailant just might hesitate if he sees you’re prepared to deal with someone just like him. A recommended alternative to carrying a purse is a small waist or “fanny” pack. The belt of the pack is ideal for carrying a defense spray and there’s little danger of a “purse snatch” attempt on the pack. A note of caution: If you do use a waist or “fanny” pack, don’t carry any defense spray in the open where it can be seen. You will lose the important element of surprise, (covered later), and it might even be stolen! Cover it up with a coat, jacket, sweatshirt, etc.

Belt Carry

If you’re going to carry the defense spray on a belt beneath a jacket or coat, attach the spray upside down. If you experiment with this, you’ll probably find it much easier to “draw” the spray downward off the belt, rather than upward. Also, if possible, position the spray in its holster so that when it’s grabbed and drawn, it’s already in position to use without having to turn it or rearrange it in your hand. Experiment until you can quickly draw the spray, raise it up, and shoot it in one fluid motion.

Practice Drills

Practice the same drill noted above, if you carry the spray in your purse. Keep in mind that you want to retain possession of the spray even if your purse is grabbed and yanked away. The spray should be positioned and clipped onto the purse in such a way that, when you have hold of it, any downward yank of the purse will allow the spray to come off in your hand. Anytime you’re on foot, such as walking to your car, leaving a restaurant, shopping, jogging, etc., alone or isolated; you should have the spray ready to use in an instant. Whether it’s attached to your purse or belt, or on a key chain makes no difference; have it ready! The time you may need to react to an assault may be less than a few seconds. It’s also very important to mentally rehearse exactly what to do in case you need to use the spray. Practice against an imaginary assailant until you’re comfortable with your ability to use the spray fast and effectively. This practice could make the difference between becoming a victim and surviving a hostile confrontation.

Developing Security Awareness

Developing security awareness, for the purposes of this handbook, is learning when to heighten your sensitivity to your surroundings. It’s knowing when to be ready to use your defense spray, and when to actually use it. The key to security is awareness. As we live our daily lives, we all have the tendency to focus on what’s happening at the moment and lose our awareness of our environment. Developing security awareness is nothing more than learning when to focus on our own safety. For example, when you’ve just left a restaurant with a date, your focus may be on the good time you’ve had, or anticipating the rest of the evening and not on your immediate safety. The problem is that in our increasingly violent surroundings, it makes us much more vulnerable to surprise attacks. Developing security awareness is nothing more than learning to focus on our safety at those times when we are even slightly vulnerable. Usually it’s when we’re walking alone, jogging alone, or doing anything that isolates us. Learn to think consciously about your personal safety when you’re isolated-even briefly-and get used to concentrating on what and who is around you and any potential threats.

A typical scenario is the walk from the shopping mall to the car. Concentrate on your packages and locating your car; now concentrate on who’s around you as you leave the mall. Did anybody follow you out? Turn around and look. Is there anyone hanging around the entrance as you leave? If so, are they following you? Are they attempting to stop you and ask the time, or otherwise delay you? Is there anyone in the area of your car, or sitting in a car near yours. These situations present potential threats you must be aware of. The most natural thing for us to do is “mind our own business.” We all tend to avoid eye contact. None of us wants to be accused of staring at someone. And yet that’s exactly what you must learn to do. Force yourself if you have to. Look at the people around you. How many are there? How close are they? In what direction are they moving? Are you vulnerable? Are you isolated? Are you a likely target? All too often, personal attacks take place as a complete surprise to the victim. In some circumstances, that’s unavoidable, such as an assailant jumping out from a hiding place. But in too many instances, victims are surprised because they don’t perceive the risks around them or their own vulnerability. The victim usually says something like, “They came from nowhere.” No they didn’t! The assailants came from somewhere, the victim just didn’t see where. Force yourself to look, and to see!

From Awareness to Defense

How do you know when you’re being assaulted? When do you switch from being aware and careful to being defensive? There are three criteria: distance, verbal assault, and physical assault. (The term assault is not being used in a legal sense here.) If any one of the three criteria are realized, don’t hesitate, use your defense spray! If you’re wrong you can apologize later. If you’re right, you just might save your life! If this sounds a bit like “shoot first and ask questions later,” it is. It may be a sad commentary on our modern society, but it’s also the harsh reality of the world we must live and survive in.


We all have a distance or buffer zone we put up around ourselves. This zone, and our comfort level when it’s intruded, varies with each situation. We usually have no problem with reasonable proximity of another person if we’re standing on a crowded bus or elevator. But that can change drastically if a complete stranger is suddenly the same distance away in a parking lot without a legitimate reason. In other words, the zone grows or shrinks according to the situation. The size of the buffer zone we create for ourselves results from our inherent survival instincts. When the zone is suddenly or blatantly intruded upon against our wishes or instincts, we experience the automatic “fight or flight” reaction. And in that reaction, lies the answer to when you should react with defensive countermeasures. A typical scenario illustrates how this works. A woman leaves a shopping mall carrying a large shopping bag and a purse. As she exits the door a young man loitering near the entrance asks her what time it is. She half turns, says, “About 4:15 I think,” and continues on towards her car in the parking lot. The distance, 15 feet, is enough in that situation to make the woman feel fairly safe under the circumstances. However, as the woman approaches her car she hears someone behind her. She turns to discover the same young man. Only this time he’s only about 10 feet away and walking quickly and silently toward her. Should she be prepared to use a defense spray? Absolutely! In the absence of any other information, she has every reason to believe the young man is coming after her; and every right to defend herself in the face of a probable personal assault. The key is whether or not the distance involved gives you any choice. If the distance is short, or being shortened quickly, react defensively; particularly if you’re isolated or even semi-isolated. Trust your internal instinct.

Verbal Assault

Verbal assault is another factor that determines if defensive countermeasures should he used. It can take the form of a threat, a demand, or indecent proposals or suggestions. Verbal assault in the form of demands and threats are a clear-cut case for using defense measures. If a mugger approaches you and says, “Give me your wallet or I’ll hurt you” that’s an assault. If a demand is made and the assailant shows a weapon, that is assault.. If a panhandler approaches and asks for a dollar for food, that’s not an assault. However, beware of panhandlers, particularly if you’re fairly isolated. Occasionally if you refuse their request, they may continue to bother you. As long as their pleas are requests, assault has not occurred. The moment they make a demand, try to block your path, grab you, or couple a verbal threat with any of these actions, assault is occurring and you should use defensive measures. Be very careful in the situation just described. Often a “request” is a test to see how you react and handle yourself. An assailant may be “sizing you up” prior to assaulting you. Or, he may be softening your natural defense instincts by making a nonthreatening approach. The same situation occurs with sexual assault. The assailant may start out by asking an innocent question (directions, time, etc.), making suggestive remarks, or harassing you to see how you react. Are you hesitant and fearful, afraid to look them in the eye? Or are you confident, decisive, and able to deal with them? This is what they look for. If the assailant feels you are weak, they may decide to escalate this ploy into a physical assault. Don’t let this happen! Stop the assailant in his tracks. A verbal
reaction of, “Leave me alone!” is sufficient. If the harassment or verbal abuse continues beyond that, take defensive steps, particularly if the assailant is following you! When you make your demand to be left alone, don’t do so while walking away. Stop, face the assailant and make your demand: “Leave me alone. Get away from me!” Then, still facing the assailant, back away from him. At that point the assailant will either leave you alone, or continue his assault on you, at which time, you don’t hesitate to use your spray!

Physical Assault

Physical assault is any unwanted hitting, grabbing, touching, shoving, tripping, or sexual advance. It’s also the obvious or implied threat of such physical action. Physical assault calls for immediate and decisive defensive action, using your defense spray, to stop the assailant in his tracks. This will be covered in another article.

Copyright By Doug Lamb


One Response to Defend Yourself using Pepper Spray

  1. Jeff Glinter says:

    Thank you for the article. Living in Miami and working in Fort Lauderdale, pepper spray has been the choice for my wife and me as well. I’ve read up on the effectiveness and especially like that it is not a lethal weapon. Florida is pretty safe, but something for self defense is always a good idea.

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