Shoplifter Detention and Use of Force – Proper Methods to Detain a Thief

July 4, 2007

Each year shoplifting incidents are estimated to cost retail merchants in the United States well over $12 billion in losses. Since most retail stores operate on very narrow profit margins, those shoplifting losses can mean the difference between profit, loss and even bankruptcy.

Merchants sometimes use store detectives or security personnel in an effort to curb shoplifting losses. Most of the security personnel come armed with the standard arsenal of security equipment such as pepper spray, batons, stun guns, hand cuffs, etc. Unfortunately, some merchants, their employees, and any security personnel (in-house or contract) are untrained, or under-trained in the proper handling of shoplifting incidents. As a result, often store employees or security personnel take actions or make mistakes that lead to increasingly large legal liabilities and negative publicity for their employer, and sometimes personally for themselves.

In May 1999, the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC) issued the first in a series of Best Practices dealing with various security issues. The best practices meld together the best practices employed by industry leaders with those recommended by independent security experts. The results were then peer-reviewed by others within the industry. Part of that first best practice, titled Detaining Shoplifting Suspects, is reproduced here (with permission):

Detaining Shoplifting Suspects

Definition: As used [herein], the term “security person(s)” is intended to include only store proprietors and managers, store plainclothes security agents sometimes called “detectives,” and uniformed security officers also called security guards (either proprietary or contract). The term does not include sales clerks, maintenance persons, or stockers, for examples. The term “security person(s)” is not intended to apply to off-duty public law enforcement or special police personnel unless they have been instructed by store management to follow the same procedures required of ordinary citizens, which procedures do not include police powers of arrest.

In almost all jurisdictions in the United States, merchants are legally empowered to detain shoplifting suspects for investigation and possible arrest and prosecution in the criminal justice system. This power is called “merchant’s privilege.”

  • The merchant’s privilege provides for detention of persons suspected of shoplifting only when probable cause or reasonable cause exists to believe a person has committed theft. The best practice for establishing this probable cause (as compared to any legal standard) is the security person’s having met all the following six steps: (1) observe the customer approach the merchandise, (2) observe the customer select the merchandise, (3) observe the customer conceal (or otherwise carry away) the merchandise, (4) keep the customer under constant and uninterrupted observation, (5) see the customer fail to pay for the merchandise, and (6) detain the customer outside the store.
  • The merchant’s privilege permits detention for limited purposes which vary by state. Common among these limited purposes are: (1) ascertaining that stolen merchandise is possessed by the suspect, (2) identifying the suspect, (3) investigating the alleged theft, (4) recovering stolen merchandise, and (5) notifying the police of the offense. Some states permit limited searches of the suspect, some states limit the extent to which identity may be established; and the use of force which can legally be used is, if mentioned, always non-deadly. Many company or store policies further restrict permissible actions in dealing with shoplifting suspects; e.g., prohibiting pursuing suspects beyond company property.

In some circumstances shoplifting suspects are treated incorrectly by store management and security persons. Such treatment may cause results varying from simple mistakes to the violation of civil rights of suspects. If a best practice is not used, it is better not to detain a suspect than to risk the high cost of a civil liability suit. Two kinds of questionable detentions will illustrate this point. One kind applies to the customer who is truly an innocent party but whose conduct, for any number of reasons, led the security person to believe that a theft had occurred. People in this kind of detention are innocent victims of circumstance. The other kind applies to the customer who is not truly an innocent party, but for any number of reasons is not in possession of stolen merchandise when stopped by a security person.

Security persons usually do not actually “arrest” shoplifters, but simply detain them for police authorities. Exceptions arise to this practice in those states where private persons’ arrest powers exist concurrent with but separate from the “privilege” statutes discussed above. In these exceptional cases, security persons arrest after proof of the offense of theft.

Security persons cannot look into the minds of suspects. Security persons can only observe actions of suspects and completely and accurately report such actions. It is up to a judge or trier of fact to determine intent to deprive a merchant permanently of a taken item …. Step number 6 [detaining the customer outside the store] exists to help the judge or trier of fact determine the intent of the customer because the cash registers inside a store are normally the last place a person would have to pay for an item before departing a store. Reports by security persons are normally detailed enough to include other observations which would tend to establish intent.

The International Association of Professional Security Consultants, Inc. (IAPSC) has examined the methods of detaining suspects recommended by security professionals and practiced by merchants throughout the United States. IAPSC sets forth below what it believes to be the best practices.

Best Practices

  • Practice. Security persons using best practices detain a suspect only if they have personally seen the suspect approach the merchandise.
    Rationale. The suspect may have entered the store with the merchandise already in hand or otherwise on or about their person (say, in a shopping bag or purse).
  • Practice. Security persons using best practices detain a suspect only if they have personally observed the suspect select or take possession of, or conceal the merchandise.
    Rationale. Security persons trust their own eyes and do not rely on reports by others.
  • Practice. Security persons using best practices detain a suspect only if they have observed the suspect with the merchandise continually from the point of selection to the point where the suspect has gone beyond the last checkout station without paying for the item. If the surveillance has been broken, or if the person has gotten rid of the merchandise, the security person breaks off following for that offense, but may continue surveillance if it appears the suspect may commit theft again.
    Rationale. The suspect may have “ditched” the merchandise or concealed it. By continually observing the suspect, the security person can observe whether or not the suspect still has the merchandise even if it has been concealed on the suspect’s person.
  • Practice. Security persons using best practices detain a suspect outside the store after the suspect has passed the last checkout station and has failed to pay for an item of merchandise. At this point security persons using this best practice immediately investigate to verify or refute a suspect’s claim of innocence. Special care and consideration is exercised when merchandise is displayed for sale outside the store, such as garden supplies, sidewalk sales, etc., or which is displayed for sale inside the store, but beyond the last sales point.
    Rationale. The security person does not do only what is required to meet the minimum requirements of theft laws. The actions of a suspect make it easier to prove intent to deprive the merchant of an item of merchandise. The farther from the actual taking a suspect is detained, the clearer the offense will appear to a judge or trier of fact. The security person is aware of suspects who might claim they were looking for a matching item or looking for someone to give an opinion on the merchandise before it is purchased. A suspect may, however, offer a logical explanation for actions that initially appeared to the security person to be acts of shoplifting, but which may require only a limited investigation to verify the suspect’s explanation.
  • Practice. Security persons using best practices normally do not “chase” suspects by running inside a store or in shopping centers that are occupied by customers. Exceptions occur when necessary, but only in such areas as parking lots, and then only when few people are in the area and it is unlikely a bystander could get hurt. Such foot pursuits never leave the property on which the store is located. If a suspect runs, the best practice is for the security person to make a mental note of the appearance of the suspect and the merchandise that appears to have been taken; then to make a written report for the store’s files.
    Rationale. Running may create more problems than it solves. When a suspect runs and a security person chases that person by also running, clients and employees of the store and store employees are endangered more by the combination of two persons’ running, than by the suspects running alone. Handicapped clients may be knocked off their feet. Wheelchairs may be overturned. Store employees who may intervene to help may be injured by security persons in pursuit, or by running into counters or display devices, or by slipping on polished floors. When clerks leave their posts, they leave their own merchandise exposed to theft. An exception to this best practice may exist when it is necessary to chase a suspect down in order to protect customers and store employees from ongoing violence by the suspect.
  • Practice. Security persons using best practices treat suspects equally and fairly regardless of a suspects race, color, creed, gender, or national origin.
    Rationale. Anecdotal information suggests certain groups have been marked by some store management and security persons for more surveillance and/or more aggressive anti-shoplifting measures. Color, religious or national dress, gender, and “race” are alleged to have been used to identify persons in such groups. However, there is no scientific evidence regarding the validity of such “profiling,” and this practice is avoided by security persons using best practices. Suspicion of shoplifting depends upon observed actions, not appearance. All law-abiding persons have the right to be treated the same as any other person in the marketplace.
  • Practice. Security persons using best practices do not use weapons such as firearms, batons (“nightsticks”), or restraining devices such as thumb cuffs, “come-alongs,” mace, or pepper spray in order to apprehend or detain a shoplifting suspect. Stores using best practices occasionally permit the use of handcuffs by security persons whose training has included instruction in the proper use of handcuffs when necessary to prevent injury to customers or store personnel. Security persons using best practices use handcuffs only when a suspected shoplifter is physically threatening violence or otherwise resisting detention; or there is, in the good judgment of the security person, the risk of imminent serious harm absent their use.
    Rationale. There is no merchandise of such value that it warrants a security person’s injuring a suspect or an innocent customer. Use of weapons and restraining devices except handcuffs should be left to on-duty public law enforcement officers. If it is not possible to get the suspect’s willing cooperation, it is better to let the suspect go free than to risk injuring a suspect or other customer. Risk avoidance is a factor considered in apprehending and detaining suspects. Because handcuffs are restraining devices, they can be painful if improperly applied and can cause injury. Not all persons caught need restraining. Many people caught shoplifting are humiliated by the incident and are cooperative; hence, in such cases restraint is not necessary.
  • Practice. Security persons using best practices limit the use of force to “holding” or “restraining” to effect a detention. Security persons using best practices do not use actions such as striking, tackling, sitting on a suspect’s body, or any other action that might cause physical injury to the suspect.
    Rationale. Use of force is subject to criticism, and assaultive use of force is typically unnecessary and unacceptable in the private sector. However, some holding or restraining may be necessary lest potential thieves learn that by simply resisting they may come and steal with impunity. Use of limited holding or restraining force is sometimes necessary to detain a suspect until police arrive, or to prevent a suspect from injuring security persons. Under no circumstances should the force applied be that which may result in injury or death to a suspect. No merchandise is of such value as to justify physical injury to a suspect. The better practice is to allow the suspect to depart the premises rather than to cause any injury by the use of force in detaining the suspect. Assuming the suspect can be identified, the merchant can file a complaint; then the public police have the option of apprehending the suspect at a later time.


In addition to the Best Practices listed above, which are the best procedures to use in most circumstances, I also recommend that a minimum of two trained employees be utilized in every suspected shoplifter detainment, also referred to as a “stop.” The best rule of thumb is to use at least one more employee than there are suspected shoplifters. This is not only to ensure the safety of the security personnel, but also to ensure that there is at least one trained witness to what occurs and what is said, from the first moment of the “stop,” until its conclusion.

Where practical, loss prevention personnel should be provided with badge and/or photo-identification card identifying them as security personnel for that store or company. They should display their I.D. card and/or badge when making a stop. Regardless of whether or not they have a badge or card, at the beginning of any stop they should verbally identify themselves as security personnel before doing or saying anything else. (Other store personnel should identify themselves as “store manager” or whatever is appropriate). Grabbing a suspect without warning before identifying themselves, especially if the person is grabbed from the side or from behind, creates a situation that may provoke a violent response from startled persons.

Use of force is the area most likely to lead to lawsuits and to create a bad public image for merchants, damaging their reputation or brand. In the heat of the moment, it is easy for employees or other security or loss prevention personnel to fall into the trap of wanting to catch the thief, and get the merchandise back at all costs! However, self-defense excepted, nothing is so valuable in the store as to risk injury to employees or to customers, or the risk of subsequent bad publicity, and the possibility of a lawsuit for using “excessive” or “unneeded” force.

Likewise, chasing a fleeing shoplifter through the store or parking lot traffic, especially if he or she has already dropped the merchandise, is an invitation for someone to be injured, frequently resulting in a lawsuit against the store or employee. Offensive punching, kicking, tackling, and dragging suspects is always inappropriate and should be prohibited by management. Note that sometimes grabbing a suspect or holding him, including holding him down is necessary for self-defense or defense of others, but such actions should be limited in scope and defensive and holding in nature. Use of force should never exceed the amount of force being used or being attempted by the suspect. Caution and discretion are always the best approach in this area. If management authorizes the use of any more force than simple guiding or touching restraint, (e.g., the use of “come-along” holds, the use of pepper-spray, etc.), the officers should be trained in such tactics by a certified instructor, and that advanced training should be documented. As one government agency frequently states about training, “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t occur.”

Likewise, only security personnel who have been trained and periodically re–trained in their use should be permitted to carry and use handcuffs. Handcuffs have sometimes been used as weapons, and, when improperly applied, they have led to serious injuries and, in some cases, deaths. Reasonable policy dictates that handcuffs are used only to restrain a shoplifter who has used force against the merchant or employee, or otherwise physically resisted detention, or, once detained, has verbally threatened to use force. In every case for which handcuffs are used, their use must be reasonable and justifiable for that particular situation (“reasonable” as in reasonable in the minds of a judge or jury). Caution and discretion are extremely important when using or even displaying handcuffs.

Extra special care and restraint, especially in the areas of use of force, length of detention and the use of handcuffs, should also be exercised whenever dealing with juveniles, or the elderly, or those who are sick, injured, or physically or mentally challenged. If someone is injured or sick, or even claims to be, don’t guess! Immediately call for medical assistance! If the person has I.D., you can always pursue criminal charges later if you wish. If he or she doesn’t have I.D., call the police and tell them you have called for medical assistance for a sick or injured shoplifting suspect whom you are detaining, and you are requesting police assistance. They will usually speed up the police response.

Readers desiring additional information on these or related subjects should contact a qualified professional security consultant and/or their attorney.


This article is based on generally accepted security principles, and on data gathered from what are believed to be reliable sources. This article is written for general information purposes only and is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a primary source for making security decisions. Each situation is or can be unique. The author is not an attorney, is not engaged in the practice of law, and is not rendering legal advice. Readers requiring advice about specific security problems or concerns should consult directly with a security professional. The author of this article shall have no liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss, liability, or damage alleged to have been caused by the use or application of any information in this article, nor information contained on this or any linked or related web site.

by R. Witherspoon


How Hot is Pepper Spray?

June 20, 2007

A word about pepper spray effectiveness:

As you know, there are many self-defense sprays on the market today. Pick up a few packages, and you will see that their effectiveness is advertised and presented in a few different ways. Of course, common sense tells us that what really matters most is “how hot is the pepper spray that hits the attacker?” In marketing the effectiveness of their pepper spray products, some manufacturers stress the amount of OC (Oleoresin Capsicum shown as a percentage) in their spray. Others stress the SHU (Scoville Heat Unit) value of the OC contained within the spray, or they use a combination of the two. We believe that neither method is a completely true and accurate measurement of effectiveness.

This is why:

The OC percentage is, simply put, the percentage of OC contained within the defense sprays formulation. A spray that advertises a “10% OC” content simply contains 10% OC (active ingredient), and 90% inactive ingredients. What this percentage does not tell you, however, is the potency, or “hotness,” AFTER it is blended with its inactive ingredients. Stressing the SHU (Scoville Heat Unit) value, or “potency,” of the OC is another measure used by manufacturers. This value is simply the strength of the OC before it is diluted in the remainder of the solution. Sure, the OC in a spray may come from peppers with a 2,000,000 SHU value, but what percentage of the final formula actually contains OC?

Bottom Line?

Neither the OC percentage nor the SHU rating are accurate measurements of the strength of the formula inside a can of pepper spray! Simple math would tell you that a 10% OC formula manufactured from a 2,000,000 SHU strength OC should yield a spray with a 200,000 SHU. Unfortunately, chemistry is not that simple of a science. While advertising the simple math is not necessarily an outright lie, it is very misleading. The only true and accurate way to measure a spray’s potency is to measure it AFTER it leaves the nozzle. This is why our producer had other sprays independently tested and rated on how they perform when they leave the can, not on what the base formulation is before it is blended with other ingredients. That is why most of our pepper sprays advertises the actual “Nozzle SHU” of their defense spray – the strength of the spray after it leaves the nozzle. We also evaluated an independent lab test of the formulas of the competing sprays. Compared with what these other brands advertise, the results are surprising! We guarantee the strength of the spray when it leaves the can! We may just be your only self defense company that fully guarantees its OC spray heat rating. We realize that the safety of their friends and family were at stake with many of the other products. That is why we distribute a line of new defense spray formulations that you, your friends and your family could depend on at any time. We are so confident in the effectiveness of our spray formulas, that we actually guarantee it, 100%.

Strategic Use of Defense Sprays in Self Defense

June 19, 2007

You’ve just read that one of the keys to protecting yourself is recognizing a potential threat and knowing when it becomes an assault. That moment is when apprehension becomes fear; when your own instincts scream at you, “Act! Now!” At this moment, you must be ready to act quickly and precisely. In this section we’ll discuss exactly how to use defense sprays to prepare you as best we can, how to escape a hostile confrontation.


One of the keys to effective use of defense sprays is timing. Exactly when you bring a spray to bear on an assailant can be critical to the outcome of a situation. First, make sure the spray is readily available and, second, through practice, learn how to use it quickly and accurately. Now, when faced with a potentially threatening situation, it’s only a matter of when you decide to react. The timing of defense spray use is controlled by three things: prior awareness, the distance involved when the assault actually takes place, and whether or not your movement or physical capabilities are restricted by the assailant. There are several other special factors, but those will be covered later. The first timing factor is prior awareness, which was covered in the last section. An un- anticipated assault will be covered shortly. Just remember, that if you have any forewarning at all, it will probably be very short, and you may have only seconds to react. Under these circumstances, timing is critical! Timing refers to exactly when you unclip the spray and raise it up to spray the assailant. In situations where you see the assault coming, DON’T pull the spray out immediately to threaten the assailant. To repeat, DO NOT pull the spray out until you’re ready to use it! Do not threaten with it! Showing the spray before you shoot, tells the assailant what you’re going to do and gives him the opportunity to prepare for and react to it. And what’s worse, he may have his own weapon. Showing him your spray may cause him to brandish his weapon and escalate the situation to a far more dangerous level. Many of today’s criminals carry weapons “just in case.” When you pull out your spray, be ready
to use it! The more swift and unexpected your countermeasure, the more successful your defense will be.

Shooting the Spray

There’s much more to using a defense spray than just pointing and shooting. Remember, don’t raise, point, and shoot the spray until you’re ready to fire, until the assailant is in range and you know the spray will hit him full in the face and incapacitate him. The objective is to surprise and stop him before he has a chance to react or think. When you’re ready to shoot the spray, go into a slight crouch with your weight evenly balanced on both feet, if you have the chance. Thrust your non-shooting hand straight out in front of you. At the same time shout “STOP” as loud as you can. As you’re doing this, raise your hand holding the spray to eye level, approximately six inches in front of your chin, aim over your outstretched arm and hand, and shoot at the assailant’s face. Shouting “STOP” creates a slight diversion, but more importantly, it focuses your energy. Raising your arm outstretched toward the assailant may cause his immediate attention to be focused on that hand, not the one with the spray. This gives you time to bring the spray to bear and shoot before the assailant can react. Never thrust your shooting hand out in front of you toward the assailant. He may react quickly and hit your hand aside or grab it. As you shoot, back up, continuing to do so until the spray has affected the assailant.

Most sprays emit a wide enough pattern so that they don’t require precise aiming. However, if you need to make an adjustment, do it calmly but quickly. Don’t wave the spray around like a fire hose. That does nothing but waste the spray, causing much of it to hit empty air. Aim, shoot, see where you’re hitting and, if need be, correct your aim quickly while spraying. You should shoot the spray for 2 to 3 seconds. A good, solid medium duration spray around the head and shoulders should do it. After shooting, the assailant will normally stop within a second or two, blinded and virtually helpless due to uncontrollable coughing spasms. Once he’s disabled, stop spraying. Continue backing up and concentrate on getting away. Obviously you may not have time to shoot the spray in such a “textbook” way. You may not have time to do anything but bring the spray up and start shooting. If that’s the case, don’t worry about aiming correctly, or even correcting aim. JUST SHOOT!

Retreat and Escape

The whole purpose of using a defense spray is to stop your assailant immediately, disable him so he can no longer hurt you, and give you the opportunity to escape to a safe place. DO NOT attempt to hold the assailant for the police. In fact, get as far away from him as you can. DO NOT move toward the assailant in any way since you could be affected by the spray, which then could incapacitate you. The best way to escape is by backing away from the assailant as you’re shooting, or immediately after. Do not turn your back on him! Obviously, you need to see where you’re going, but don’t turn your back and run away until you’re at a good distance and the assailant no longer presents an immediate threat. If the assailant attempts to follow you or the first spray wasn’t enough, you must be ready to spray him again. Once you’re a safe distance from the assailant, turn and run quickly
to the nearest safe place, preferably one with people who can help you. Once you reach a safe place, be forceful in your request for help. A command of, “Call the Police now!” will usually do it since people can sometimes be hesitant to help or get involved. DO NOT WAIT! And do not go back to where you left the assailant. He may still be in the area.

Special Circumstances – Multiple Assailants

When faced with multiple assailants, you should use a circular or semicircular spray pattern technique that provides a protective barrier. If the assailants are in front of you, spray the one nearest you directly. His sudden reaction may stop the others when they see the agony he’s going through. As with a single assailant, immediately begin retreating or backing up, never taking your eyes off the assailants, remaining ready to spray anyone else foolish enough to pursue. Retreat and escape to safety as previously described. However, if multiple assailants travel and strike in packs, for protection and dominance. Usually when one or two of them are stopped, the rest will stop as well. If multiple assailants keep coming toward you, even after stopping one of them, put out a 180 degree arc of spray to your front while continuing to back up. You must fight the natural urge to turn your back on the assailants and run. You cannot disable them as well, or as effectively, if you’re running away. The idea is to force the assailants through the spray to get to you. Keep in mind this defense works best at a range of six to eight feet. Any shorter distance and they’re too close. The successful use of the 180 degree spray tactic also depends on the type and range of your spray. Test spray your unit to determine its range and spray pattern. Again, don’t wave the spray around like a fire hose. Lay down a solid, continuous barrier of protection quickly but thoroughly. There’s an exception to the single and multiple assailant tactics just described. If your assailant(s) attack you at a run, your first, and best instinct, is to run as well. But while you’re running, pull the spray, aim it behind you,and shoot. This tactic again forces the assailant(s) through the spray to get to you. Use this only as an emergency measure, however, and only spray when you know the assailant(s) are in the effective range of your spray, usually 8 to 10 feet. Otherwise you’re simply wasting the spray.

Immobilized Victim Situations

The other special circumstance you may be faced with is being grabbed by an assailant before you have a chance to react as previously described. This would typically be the case if you were suddenly attacked from behind or from another direction. The key factor is whether or not you have the freedom to retreat or use the spray on the assailant. In this situation, your best chance is to draw the spray, assume the ready position with your hand on the spray. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and create a fog with the spray to surround you and your assailant. This is the only advantage you have.

No Retreat Situation

There are certain situations where immediate retreat is impossible. The two most common are when there are multiple assailants that have surrounded you, and when you are trapped or cornered with no avenue of retreat. If you find yourself surrounded by multiple assailants you must do two things immediately. First, assuming the assailants are within range, disperse a full 360-degree circle of spray at head level, again creating a barrier the assailants must pass through to get to you. This may break up the pack quickly, or it may not. In either case, your second step is to quickly find the best escape route, and immediately take it since your life may depend on it! In order to do this you may have to target one of the assailants with the spray, spray him, and push past him quickly. This calls for a forward attack with the spray, which means you’ll be entering a spray zone where you’ll be affected. To lessen the effects, take a deep breath, close your eyes briefly, and plunge through quickly. Once you’ve broken out of the circle, face the assailants, ready to spray again if necessary, and continue to back up until you can escape and get help. If you are cornered, the procedure is very much the same as when you’re surrounded. Spray the assailant(s), Hold your breath and close your eyes, and run the moment you see the assailant disabled. When using any tacticwhere you have to enter the spray zone, you will be affected by it. Ignore the effects as much as possible so you can escape and get help. As long as you don’t take a full breath of the spray, and it has only incidental contact with your eyes, you’ll be able to function well enough to escape and get help. In this scenario is that you know what’s going to happen and the assailant doesn’t. In essence you force him to breathe in the spray while you’re not. If done successfully, the assailant will either release or relax his hold on you. The moment he does, break free from him, turn and spray in a controlled manner as you retreat and escape. If the assailant grabs and immobilizes your arms and you can’t get the spray out, fight to free your shooting hand. There is one exception! Don’t fight immediately if the assailant has a weapon. This will be covered in greater detail shortly. A special note: in an enclosed area, such as a car, the spray will fill the space instantly. You must get out of the car to be affected as little as possible. If the assailant has forced you into his car, do not use it to escape. If you have sprayed the inside of your own car, don’t attempt to drive away in it unless absolutely necessary. You’ll be affected by the residual spray and driving could be very hazardous. If this is your only means of escape, roll the driver’s window down to ventilate your car. Drive to the nearest place of safety such as a restaurant, bar, convenience store, or even a residence with a light on; anywhere where there’s going to be people.

Date Rape

Use of a defense spray to prevent date rape is done much the same way as any other assault. The only difference is that you must first recognize what is happening, then verbally attempt to stop the man’s behavior. Once you say “Stop!” in a forceful way, and he doesn’t comply, you have every right to stop the continued aggressive behavior with a defense spray. Even in situations which seem non-threatening, you must have the spray available to you. If you need to retrieve it from a purse or jacket pocket, it is a good idea to rehearse a reason in advance to avoid finding yourself unable to get to the spray when you need it. When you shoot, do so quickly with surprise. Then, as with any other defense measure, leave quickly.

Use of Defense Sprays Against Knives

One situation that requires considerable judgment involves assaults with a knife. The rule of thumb is this: if you are at least two of your arm’s lengths away from the assailant, use the spray as you normally would. Whatever you do, don’t move toward the assailant for any reason. You must keep a gap between the two of you of at least 4 to 6 feet. If the assailant is within arms length of you, he can slash out with the knife and strike much faster than you can react! The moment you see a knife, back up, quickly, and continue backing while you use the spray. Don’t stop to take aim unless the assailant stops. A person with a knife has but one thing in mind when he attacks – to close the gap! He must do this in order to hurt you with the knife. If you don’t give him a chance to close that gap by stepping backward, then laying down a spray barrier, you’ll probably be able to keep him from continuing the assault. DON’T EVER TURN YOUR BACK ON AN ASSAILANT WITH A KNIFE! You must know where that knife is and how far away it is! As with a gun, if you are surprised by an assailant with a knife, particularly from behind, don’t use the spray immediately. If an assailant has a knife next to your body don’t make any sudden moves or attempt to spray the assailant; not as long as the knife is within striking distance.

Use of Defense Sprays Against Guns

There are circumstances when you absolutely should not use the spray immediately, even though it’s instantly available to you. If you are confronted by an assailant with a gun don’t suddenly pull the spray out, as he may think it’s a weapon and shoot you! Don’t make any sudden moves when facing a firearm. Do what you’re told! If that means giving up a purse or wallet, do so! (Exception: If an assailant tries to force you into an isolated area or into a car at gunpoint, run away! You have a 98% chance of survival if you run, compared to 50% if you go with the attacker.) Don’t expose your hand by showing the spray or threatening the assailant with it! That doesn’t mean, however, that you must not look for an opportunity to use the spray. If the assailant puts the gun down to assault you or attempt rape, then use the spray; but only if you feel you have a good chance of escaping the situation without being hurt. Although it’s risky, you just might be saving your life. If the assailant lets his guard down, puts the knife or gun down, or steps away from you, use the spray swiftly for maximum surprise. This can involve significant risk and you must determine if your life is in danger.

Special Notes

In all cases of an attack from the rear you must know if there is a weapon involved! Don’t spray the area in a panic. The assailant may be affected by the spray, but if he’s close enough he may strike with the knife or shoot the gun. A special note to women about rape attempts. If you are assaulted with a weapon, a gun or knife, at close range, keep in mind that, at some point, the rapist may be preoccupied with the rape itself. He may assume your fear will keep you in line. Let him continue thinking that and at the first opportunity get the spray and disable him, so you can escape. JUST BECAUSE THE RAPIST DOESN’T USE A WEAPON AGAINST YOU INITIALLY, DOESN’T MEAN HE WON’T LATER. HE MAY ATTEMPT TO SERIOUSLY HURT OR KILL YOU AFTER THE ACT ITSELF. DON’T GIVE HIM THAT CHANCE! Finally, keep in mind that an assailant in the act of striking you may not have enough control to keep you from breaking free. If you can, break free at the first opportunity and use the spray. Also, if you feel at any time that the assailant isn’t going to let you go or let you live, you must attempt to get away using the spray, even if the assailant has a gun or a knife.

Post Assault Considerations – Police Involvement

Once you’ve escaped from an assailant, get to safety as quickly as possible. CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY! There are several reasons for this. First, there’s a good chance the assailant will be apprehended, particularly if you’ve sprayed him with an OC spray with dye. This is important because it takes the assailant off the street, at least temporarily, and it just may prevent a second assault; either on you or someone else. A second assault, on you? Yes! While many assaults are crimes of opportunity, some are the result of premeditated planning on the part of the assailant. He may have been watching you, your routines, your residence, etc. He may have been stalking you specifically. While this isn’t something we like to think about, it is nonetheless true in some cases. By getting the police, involved you may just deter the assailant from coming after you again. If, in the assault, the assailant gets away with your purse or wallet or anything else which can identify who you are and where you live, you must get the police involved. If they don’t apprehend the assailant and he gets your wallet, checkbook, keys, etc., YOU MUST ASSUME HE WILL BE COMING TO YOUR RESIDENCE, OR WILL ATTEMPT TO STEAL YOUR CAR! As you can see it is very important that the police become involved immediately. Avoid the temptation to go back after the assailant yourself! That’s not a job for you or your friends. It’s a job for the police. Let them handle the situation and give them your complete cooperation.

Spray Replacement

You should test spray your defenses spray unit once a month. Spray it outside, downwind for a brief “spurt” then release. Note how far the spray goes and see if it’s as full as it was when new. If the range is less than 3 to 4 feet or the spray seems to be thin or weak, replace it immediately. Do not rely on it! Most sprays, even ones that have an indefinite chemical shelf life, can lose their pressure over time, much the same as a fire extinguisher. If you use the defense spray against an assailant, replace the unit immediately. In the excitement of the assault, you may not realize just how much was sprayed. If you have to use it again, there may not be a sufficient amount of chemical or pressure to do the job. Most units cost between $10.00 and $20.00 dollars, which is a small price to pay for the peace of mind knowing the unit is new and ready to protect you once again.

Residential Defense

Use of a defense spray for residential protection is considerably different from its use for personal defense. The biggest difference is the inability to retreat and escape. While this is possible and necessary in some cases, most residential defense relies on providing a barrier to prevent intrusion.

Storage of Defense Sprays in the Residence

Where you keep defense sprays within your residence should be determined by the type and layout of the residence, the number of residents, location and number of access points, the likely points of entry, and any other security measures in place. The type of residence you live in is a key factor. An apartment, for instance, with only one door and two windows on a second floor is much easier to defend than a ranch-style suburban home with three or four doors and several windows at ground level. Consider the landscaping, which often times provides concealment of an intruder. Another factor is the number of residents and their age. If children are in the home their safety must be considered in the tactics applied to deal with an intruder. If all members are adults, they need only to have the knowledge to properly protect the residence. The two primary locations that should be considered for storage of the defense spray are by the bedside, where it’s readily accessible, and by the main entrance or entrances most likely to be targets for intrusion. You will need to determine the best locations to store the defense sprays based on your own evaluation. Wherever you decide to store the spray, it should be kept out of sight and, if at all possible, out of the curious hands of children. Often a door unit can be kept high on a closet shelf and a bedside unit can be kept either in a nightstand drawer or on a closet shelf. If neither of these storage places is suitable, consider attaching the unit to a wall or door frame with Velcro* or other attachment device.

Residential Tactical Use

The primary purpose for having defense spray for protection in a residential setting is to create a barrier to prevent the intruder from getting inside. There are two types of barriers with two different and distinct functions. The interior barrier is created by spraying into an area of entry just prior to retreating to a “safe room” inside the residence. The door and window defense is similar to personal defense on the street. It is used on an intruder when he is entering, or is already in the residence.

Interior Barrier Defense

This defense is used if you become aware of an intruder still outside, in the act of breaking in, or if he is already in the residence. In order for this spray defense to work it is necessary to have a “safe room,” an interior room such as a bedroom, bathroom, or a closet that can be securely locked and will resist break in by the intruder. It should also have a phone to call the police. If a break in is in progress or is imminent, spray the entry area the intruder must come through, then retreat to your safe room. If there are children or others in the residence, gather them together in the safe room with you. Once there, be ready to spray anyone who breaks through the door. Don’t go from your safe room for any reason as you don’t know whether the intruder is armed, his mental state, or his intentions. Inside the safe room, don’t wait directly in front of the door, but rather to the side of it, ready to spray anyone who enters.

Door and Window Defense

The big difference between door and window defense and an interior barrier defense is the amount of preparation or warning time. The only time you should use a spray defense to stop an intruder from coming through a door or window is when the intruder is already in and you’re in imminent danger. A good example would be waking up to find an intruder climbing in through your bedroom window or actually in the residence. The tactic you should use for window defense is similar to that of spray defense during a personal attack on the street. However, you will not have a place to retreat. If you catch an intruder coming through a window, or if he’s already in the residence, spray him directly in the face, then get out of the room, either to a another room or to a hallway. Shut doors behind you if possible. If the intruder comes through the door, spray him again and leave the house. The exception to this is if you have children or other residents in the residence that must be protected. In that case retreat to a position where you can defend them from the intruder should he press the attack. Use any means available to you to warn the others and facilitate their escape. Spray defense at a door is much the same as at a window, as you directly spray the intruder as he enters the residence. Don’t try to open the door suddenly, spray the intruder, then shut it again. Like the street assault, you want the spray defense to take the assailant/intruder by complete surprise. If you spray an intruder and surprise him as he comes in, the chances are good he’ll immediately run away. If the intrusion takes place at night do not turn on the lights if the intruder is inside. If he’s still trying to break in turn the lights on. This will probably scare him off which is exactly what you want. The best form of preparation for defending against an intruder is to rehearse what you should do in various situations. This rehearsal can be very effective, particularly if you find you have to use a spray defense in the dark. It’s very important to include all residents in the procedure and practice drills. As mentioned previously, the best type of spray to use for residential defense is a large fogger type. Their range is usually about 15 to 20 feet, and they emit a fine mist, remaining in the air for several minutes. Living in the residence for the next few hours maybe uncomfortable, even after you’ve washed the area down and aired it out. But that is far better than becoming a victim of a violent assault, which has effects that can last a lifetime.

Travel Considerations

Use of a defense spray while traveling is basically the same as any other residential situation. The only real difference is lack of a prepared safe room. This problem is easily remedied by using the bathroom of your hotel or motel room. In most rooms calling the police is easily done on the room phone. Dial 911, not the hotel or motel switchboard! If you’re traveling in an RV or motor home, the door defense applies. Let the intruder know you’re aware of him and spray him if he manages to break in. This is if you’re in an RV park and hooked up to the facilities. If you’re not hooked up, just drive off!


Neither the best spray available, nor extensive knowledge of tactics can substitute for two invaluable necessities: carrying the spray wherever you go and practicing it’s use. Go over in your mind all the scenarios you can think of, and plan how to handle these various scenarios. When you read of a personal assault in the newspaper, figure out what you would have done using the defense spray to protect yourself in the same situation. The main thing to remember is that there’s a difference between simply having the spray with you, and being ready to use it at a moment’s notice. The difference is one of attitude, and of preparedness. Being prepared includes knowing that you would be the next victim. It is the conviction that your health and well-being, your very life in fact, could depend on being able to successfully protect yourself in a hostile confrontation. Defense sprays are only tools. The best defense you have is your knowledge and your attitude, and having the determination to survive an encounter. It’s an attitude that says, “I refuse to be a victim!”

By Doug Lamb

Defend Yourself using Pepper Spray

June 18, 2007

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

Choosing a Defense Spray – Pepper Spray or Tear Gas

June 15, 2007

Over the last several years, the popularity of self defense sprays, mistakenly called tear gas or Mace, has grown tremendously. The rising rate of violent crime, the publicity and media coverage of such crimes and the reasoning that “if it’s good enough for the police, it is good enough for me” has led more and more citizens to rely on these devices. The demand for defense sprays has become so great that today there is literally dozens of different brands, types, and size to choose from. And, to make matters worse, there are three basic chemical compositions used, only one of which is worth considering for civilian self-defense.

Chemical Composition

There are three basic chemical compounds used in self defense sprays:
– CS (Orthoclorobenzalmalonitrile)
– CN (Alphachloroacetaphenone)
– OC (Oleoresin Capsicum)

OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) is the newest of the three, by far the most effective, and one you should definitely consider for self defense use.

Comparative Effects

CS and CN are irritants to membrane tissues. They cause stinging pain and tearing, and take from 5 to 30 seconds to be effective. In cases of persons who are drunk, on drugs, suffering a psychotic episode, or otherwise cannot feel pain, there may be no effect at all. For years, the field experiences of police officers have been riddled with accounts of total failure of CN and CS products when used as a self defense spray. The reduced ability of CS and CN to subdue those who can’t feel pain, coupled with their delayed effectiveness (5 seconds is an eternity if you’re being attacked with a knife), make these two chemicals too unreliable for use by untrained, possibly physically limited, persons. OC is not an irritant. It is an inflammatory agent; and this makes all the difference in the world. When a person is sprayed with OC, two things happen instantly. First, the person’s eyes clamp shut, instantly. If they do manage to force them open, they still can’t see because the OC dilates the capillaries and causes temporary blindness. Second, an immediate fit of uncontrollable coughing doubles the person over since the OC causes instant inflammation of the breathing tissues, restricting all but life support breathing. OC, in effect, puts up a brick wall between an assailant and the victim. As one police trainer has put it, “It’s like being hit with a flame thrower!” An assailant, who’s sprayed with OC stops what they’re doing, stops what they’re thinking – period. This is true even for those who are drunk, on drugs, or psychotic. OC works extremely well on animals, although most versions are not made for this purpose.

Other Considerations

In addition to not being as effective as OC, CN and CS take longer to wear off and the chemical residue can last for days. They are both man-made chemicals and are identified as possible carcinogenic agents. Long term skin problems and toxic reactions have also been documented. OC, on the other hand, is a natural chemical derivative of various hot peppers. It has not been found to be toxic in any way, and absolutely does not harm delicate tissues. The effects of OC, depending on the concentration and the availability of fresh air, take about 20 to 30 minutes to wear off. The assailant makes a full recovery, with no after-effects unless the OC spray contains an identifying dye. This usually lasts a week or more, but is harmless.


For the reasons outlined previously, we recommend a defense spray containing OC in any formulation and concentration over a CN- or CS- based spray for self defense by law enforcement and civilians. Combination sprays are very effective as long as it contains a good quantity of pepper spray.

Purchase Considerations

Once proven that OC was superior to CN and CS (the number of suppliers and brands of OC spray multiplied quickly. And with their increased numbers, came different concentrations, formulations, sizes, nozzle types, and spray patterns. Even if a buyer of defense spray chooses OC, there are still several other critical considerations.

Size and Capacity

Size generally ranges from approximately one half ounce up to four ounces. Small units work well as a key chain or clipped onto a pocket. A medium-size 2 oz. unit works well in a purse or on a belt. The large 4 oz. size can also be carried in a purse or on a belt, but tends to be bulky. These are made primarily for law enforcement purposes. The size of the unit generally determines its capacity- how much compound can be sprayed for what length of time. Other capacity indicators are the number of shots per unit and how far the unit will shoot. This is where it may get confusing. To simplify things, two factors are fairly flexible: the range and the number of shots available. The range needs only be 6-to-8 feet, the distance at which most personal assaults take place. Keep in mind, that the greater the distance the unit is fired from, the more accurate the aim must be, something that can be difficult in a time of stress. The number of shots available is not critical, as a good one- to two-second burst will disable almost any assailant. Even the smallest units have enough compound in them to handle multiple attackers if done correctly.

Nozzle and Spray Pattern

Much more important than capacity, is the spray pattern and dispersal-density of the unit. There are generally two types of spray patterns: a stream pattern which gives good range but requires aiming directly at the face; and a cone mist, also known as a fogger, which has a shorter range but does not require true aiming. In addition to these factors, there are two other important comparisons. First, if there is a breeze, the stream spray is more controllable. The cone mist can be blown off target or even back at the sprayer. The second question is how easily the mist can be inhaled. OC works best when it hits the eyes and when inhaled. The cone mist is inhaled instantly while the stream may require longer exposure to cause coughing spasms. With all types of sprays, it is critical to hit the attacker in the face!


OC normally comes in concentrations of 10% and 50%. Due to a number of formulation differences, the percent of concentration is not always a good indicator of effectiveness. One of the biggest misconceptions about defense spray is that the higher the percentage, the better it will work. The percentage has nothing to do with the actual “heat” the spray, as that is rated in terms of Scoville Heat Units.


Although each individual should purchase what they feel is best for them, a medium-size with a cone-mist spray is probably the overall best choice for most people. Since most people carry a keychain, a keychain unit is a good choice. In addition, a large fogger type unit & unit with a cone spray should be in the home, either at bedside or by the front door. This will be covered later.

Legal Considerations

As nice as it would be to think we have the right to protect ourselves with a non-injurious device no matter where we are, such is not the case. Despite the fact that OC spray has never been found to injure anyone, and in fact has been responsible for preserving life and limb of law enforcement officers and civilians alike, there are still some jurisdictions that have outlawed all defense sprays. Most of these laws are based on the history and perception of old-style tear- gas sprays. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you check with local law enforcement officials before purchasing, carrying, or possessing a defense spray of any kind.

Age Consideration

At what age should a person be allowed to carry a personal defense spray? The answer depends on several factors. First, the maturity of the person should be considered. The young person must understand that defense sprays are to be used for defense purposes only. They are not toys, or something to brag about to their friends. And they’re certainly not to be used to play practical jokes, etc. Second, the environment of the young person should be considered. If they regularly live, work, attend school, etc. in an area where they are at risk, then a defense spray could provide the protection they need. Parents need to understand the need and personality of their child before they allow him/her to carry defense sprays. If the parents of a 16-year-old girl feel their daughter is mature enough to go out on dates, she should be mature enough to carry a defense spray. This, provided, she’s been taught how and when to use it. Those same parents may have a wild, sometimes uncontrollable 17-year-old son who, if given a spray, would likely show it off to his friends, spray people as a prank, and might even possibly use it to commit an assault on someone else. The key question a parent must ask, is whether or not their child needs the spray, and whether or not they have the maturity to respect and use the device for self-protection only. Another consideration is your local and state laws. These need to be checked before you purchase defense spray for yourself or your children.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Copyright By D. Lamb

Riot Control Tactics and Crowd Management Techniques

June 11, 2007

Police and military forces are better trained and better equipped to handle crowds that get out of control. In handling riot situations, it is important to know what causes riots, how police approach crowd control problems, and what equipment they use to clear the streets safely.

What Makes a Riot?

First we must understand how a riot develops in the first place. A riot is a crowd that takes aggressive and illegal actions as a reaction to fear or anger. The crowd takes on a mob mindset and does things they normally would not do because the crowd makes them anonymous. Being anonymous and seeing the actions of the others makes them feel like they can damage, burn or harm whatever and whomever they want.

The fuel for a riot builds up over time. In many situations, this can take years or even decades of racial prejudice, unfair treatment or abuse. When people have no effective way of dealing with these issues or bettering their situation, an undercurrent of anger and frustration grows stronger and stronger.

Once the situation is at a breaking point, almost anything can set it off. An incident that angers one group can immediately turn them against another group of people. Sometimes an actual incident isn’t even required and it may just a rumor that spread through a group to turn anger into a violent outburst.

Sports teams losing or winning a major game can sometimes cause riots. In this case, the fuel doesn’t build up for a long time and it’s mainly the result of alcohol. The drunkenness of the crowd contributes heavily to these riots and is simply sparked by the excitement or disappointment.

Riot Control Tactics

The tactics used to control riots in the past were very simple. The success was based on the fact that the police were almost always better armed than the rioters. The tactics they used basically consisted of forming a line and charging into the crowd. The police today are even better armed, but the techniques have advanced significantly and usually prevent the injuries that we have seen in the past.

When a riot is in full swing, police will arrange themselves in a square formation with a command team at the center. The command team is protected on all four sides by echelons of troops deployed in groups of 10 or 12 officers. There is also an arrest team at the center of the square.

This riot control unit is very mobile and can adapt quickly to changes in the mod or situation. If a threat suddenly appears in a different direction, the echelon facing that direction is designated the front of the unit. The entire team can change direction without a lot of reorganizing. The echelons can also cover each other when the team moves to take new positions. If a section is under attack, the whole team does not move together. One echelon moves while the others provide covering fire or an actual physical screen using riot shields. Then another echelon moves up into position.

This layout is not meant to be an impenetrable wall of police. Actually, the riot team leaves an escape route to let rioters run past. The officers can take a passive stance by spreading out and leaving a large opening between each officer. The crowd can then easily filter through them. If an overly violent person or group moves toward the officers, they can immediately close the gaps and form a tight line.

As the officers move forward into a crowd, they push at anyone who doesn’t respond to verbal requests to move away by. If they still refuse to move, the unit continues moving forward, but the front line opens up and passes around the protesters. Once the specific people are inside the square, the unit stops and the arrest team processes the rioters. The front line closes and the unit can continue moving.

Riot Control Technology

When crowd control units get ready to engage, the first thing required is protective gear. The full outfit typically consists of:

* Helmet with face shield
* Body armor
* Large body shield

The body shield and face shield are typically made of a material called Lexan. If thick enough, it can be bullet proof. But in this application, it basically protects against thrown objects or attacks with sticks and similar weapons.

The most basic offensive weapon a riot control officer has is a baton. These are usually between 24 and 42 inches long and are made of various materials. Expandable batons or expanding batons are also used because of their size when closed. They can fit into holsters and worn on the belt similar to handcuffs. There are also batons that are fashioned after stun guns and referrer to as stun batons. Most crowd control units use some type of baton instead of rifles because the presence of guns are likely to escalate any situation. If someone manages to take a gun away from an officer, the results could be disastrous.

If guns are being used, the police typically employ a variety of non-lethal rounds. Although these are not generally considered fatal rounds, anything fired from a gun has the potential to be deadly. But, they are trained to use these weapons in ways that minimize the risk of death or serious injury.

These rounds are commonly fired from a 40mm single shot or multi-round gun. They are similar to military grenade launchers.

Riot Control Rounds

Some of these non-lethal rounds include:

* Blunt-force rounds – These rounds cause pain when they strike, but they don’t penetrate the skin. They are often fired at the ground so the round skips off the pavement and strikes the rioters in the legs. Each round is filled with small discs. When officers skip the rounds off the ground in front of the crowd, they separate and tend to hit multiple rioters. It can cause a lot of pain, but has a lesser chance of doing damage as compared to a solid piece of the material. The objective is to cause enough pain to make the rioter comply with the officers.

* Bean Bag Round – These are square-shaped bean bags that have a long-range but they tend to be inaccurate. There are teardrop-shaped bean bag rounds with a tail that are geared toward accuracy.

* Sponge Round – Bullet-shaped round with a sponge tip. They are all-purpose with average range and accuracy.

* Stinger rounds – A Stinger round is loaded with small, rubber pellets that disperse on impact.

* Pepper ball rounds – A paint ball gun is slightly modified to fire pepper spray pellets instead of paint balls. When these strike someone, the severe burning sensation in the eyes and nose will incapacitate most people without doing permanent harm. When children or elderly people might be present in a crowd, the police can use water pellets instead. It still stings to get hit with water pellets and sometimes people are afraid they have actually been hit with pepper spray, so the crowd disperses.

* Aerosol grenades – These are metal canisters that are activated and thrown like regular grenades. They spray tear gas or pepper spray gas over a wide area. Officers rarely throw these directly into a crowd since it can increase panic. They typically use the gas to create a type of barricade to direct the crowd’s movements in a certain direction. A gas grenade might be thrown into the crowd if a particular group is extremely violent or attacking a single victim.

* Ferret rounds – Ferret rounds are made to penetrate windows or wooden barricades, where they can then deposit the gas. These are used to flush people out of barricades and other standoff situations.

* Dye rounds – Sponge rounds, ferret rounds and pepperball rounds can all be filled with marker dye. These are used to mark certain people in a crowd so that other officers can identify them or so that they can be caught later if they leave the scene. In a riot, the leaders are often tagged with marker-dye rounds so the arrest team can pick them up later.

* Gas rounds – These rounds are loaded with a gas that causes severe irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and even causes contact skin burns in some cases. These most commonly contain pepper spray or tear gas. Officers don’t like to use gas rounds, because they know they’re going to experience some of the effects of the gas themselves. Still, they wear gas masks and goggles to protect themselves in case the need arises.

Crowd Control Prevention

Today’s riot control units are not usually called riot squads anymore; they are crowd-management units. Rather than trying to beat the rioters in battle, the police just try to calm them down and get them to go home. The use even non-lethal force is a last resort.

The first step in crowd management is making sure a riot doesn’t happen in the first place. Although riots can erupt unexpectedly, they are frequently tied to a planned protest or organized demonstration. When the police think a situation could potentially get out of control, they contact the organizers of the protest ahead of time. They set up ground rules that the protesters are to follow and they designate a specific area for the event to take place. The police assign specially trained officers to monitor the event and to ensure that everyone stays safe. The police will only take action if the ground rules are broken.

If the officers disagree with the opinions of the protesters, they are still trained to maintain an unbiased attitude. The officers try not to look at the protesters as enemies. Instead, they recognize that the rioters are part of the same community that the police are entrusted to protect and serve. There is fine balancing act.

Even though police are trained to be polite, they are careful to not give off an impression of subservience. They have to be seen as being in charge and in control at all times, even while they stay passive and allow the crowd to operate within the ground rules set out ahead of time. Occasionally these preventative measures don’t work and a riot breaks out despite police efforts to keep everyone peaceful.

Crowd Control Conflict

If a crowd gets disorderly and starts taking violent action, the police will switch to a more aggressive approach. They understand that most riots are lead by a few individuals who feel strongly or have something to gain from a violent confrontation. The majority of the people are present either because something exciting is going on or they are simply bystanders that get caught up in the mob mentality. The likelihood of arrest or confrontation with police usually prompt them to escape and go home.

The first step is simple intimidation. Riot police stand in strict formations and act with military precision. Once they form the lines of barriers, they tap their batons on their shields or stomp their feet in unison. The result can be quite intimidating to unarmed civilians. It can appear that the group is getting ready to attack. In reality, this display is meant to scare off as many of the rioters as possible without the officers ever getting near them.

Police do not try to arrest every person in the riot. Their first targets are those who are leading the riot because the crowd will often disperse without their leaders encouraging them. Everyone seen breaking a law are also targeted for arrest, especially if they injure someone.

When the officers are actually in conflict with the rioters, the objective is still to disperse the crowd. A combination of advancing lines of officers and the use of gas is used to move the crowd in a particular direction. The crowd is never pinned down and always given an escape route. The main purpose of the crowd management team is to get the people to disperse.

Essential Techniques in Women’s Self Defense

June 1, 2007

Criminals are brighter than we give them credit for when it comes to their choice of victims. They do not typically choose a victim at random, but rather when they see a good opportunity available to them. It’s the same scenario as the low hanging fruit or the mentality of a predator when he sees an injured animal in the wild. They will prey on those who are vulnerable, unaware, or viewed as an uncomplicated target. If you act as if you are familiar with your surroundings, show strength, and walk with confidence, a criminal will not want to put in the extra effort to fight you.

Keep your attention on everyone around you. Do not assume that a well-dressed gentleman cannot be an attacker. If someone is approaching you in a confronting manner, look them square in the eye, and yell “Stop” or “Go Away”. Almost every assailant that has agreed to an interview says that they will not pursue a woman if she shows self-confidence and the mental fortitude to fight back.

Verbal self-defense is a very strong weapon and many who have used this as part of their strategy say it was very effective when used in a strong and assertive voice. Using pepper sprays, stun guns and other such personal defense weapons can work in the same manner. Just by pointing it at an attacker and telling him you have the device can neutralize the situation.

Self-defense items are very valuable in addition to right mindset. However, it’s important that you practice and have the item available. In some cases, the element of surprise is the best advantage with a defense product. If you would like to see the full range and types of self-defense products available, there is a very good site at .

If you decide to use pepper spray or tear gas, practice a few times on a tree or similar target. It’s important to know how far and wide the spray will go with your particular model. If you are using a stun gun, practice how you can position it and how to hold it firmly. Stun guns in particular can deter an attacker by simply firing a short blast in the air. The higher-powered models will blast a bright electrical arch and create a very menacing sound.

Understanding how verbal self-defense works is necessary whether or not you choose to use additional self-defense products. The power of your voice shows your confidence, willingness to defend yourself and your commitment to use any item you have. If you do choose a personal protection item, it’s important to check with your local law enforcement to see which products are legal in your area. Fortunately, most states allow some type of defense product for personal use.

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