Imagine that you're walking in the park when you suddenly see someone nearby acting suspiciously. The person’s appearance and movements tell you this might be someone with bad intentions.
Fortunately, you're prepared — you're carrying pepper spray. But do you know exactly where it is in your purse, backpack or briefcase? Because if you can't easily and quickly access your spray, it will be more difficult to aim it once you have it in hand.
This is one of the most common causes of misfiring pepper spray. You know how to grip the dispenser, which way to point it, how to release the safety cap and how to depress the button. But in a tense moment, you nervously fumble to find your spray, which reduces the time you have to fire. It also increases the chance of misfiring the pepper spray at your attacker, or even accidentally spraying yourself.
In any situation where you’ve decided to reach for your spray, you’re probably going to be nervous — perhaps even panicky. Here’s how to be prepared and best avoid a pepper spray misfire.
- Keep your spray handy. Know precisely where your pepper spray is and how to quickly get your hands on it. Practice the entire procedure, from grabbing the canister to checking it in your hand to spraying it.
- Buy practice spray. Where pepper spray products are sold, you can often find water-filled defense products to help you practice your pepper spray self-defense skills. It’s a great way to get comfortable with the sequence of motions that you’ll go through to spray an attacker.
- Take a class. Sign up for a training class. Pepper spray training courses are available in many U.S. cities and are typically led by members of law enforcement. A class will help you become familiar and comfortable with the use of pepper sprays and could provide strategies to keep you calmer if your safety is ever compromised.
If you need to use your spray, remember to aim for the face and try to spray your attacker from ear to ear. Then get out of there. With practice, you’ll be prepared to act and minimize your risk of a misfire under pressure.
- DougDoug Melzig is sales director of law enforcement and international accounts for Mace Security International.
If you’re concerned about self-defense, you owe it to yourself to explore the differences among the most common tools — pepper sprays, stun guns and personal alarms — as each method offers advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the type of dangerous situation you’re most likely to find yourself in, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each tool. We’ll help you sort them out.
What it is: A personal safety alarm is a small device that emits a loud shriek.
Pros: The devices are easy to use, and you don’t have to worry about aiming them. A simple pull of a pin or push of a button will activate the device.
Cons: If you are in a remote area, loud noise probably won’t deter a potential attacker. You also may have to rely on someone who hears the alarm to call for help, and the noise doesn’t disable the attacker.
What it is: A stun gun is a weapon that delivers a strong shock through its prongs.
Pros: A stun gun can be used anywhere on an attacker’s body. The shock will incapacitate the attacker and give you time to flee. Stun guns come in a number of sizes, are often lightweight, are easy to use and can be clipped on a belt. The devices can be used several times before needing to be recharged.
Cons: Stun guns are only effective if they make direct contact with an attacker. That means you need to get very close to your assailant, which could give him or her plenty of time and opportunity to do you harm.
What it is: Pepper spray is a device that emits a chemical that, when sprayed on an attacker, will irritate the eyes, causing tears, pain and temporary blindness.
Pros: Pepper spray can thwart an attack from up to 15 feet away. It’s easy to carry, can be clipped on clothing or a bag and comes in a number of shapes and sizes. Pepper spray is very easy to use — just point and shoot.
Cons: Wind could prevent the chemical from hitting an attacker and cause the chemical to blow back into your face.
No matter which type of self-defense method you choose, it is important to practice using it so you are comfortable operating it in a stressful situation. In addition, before purchasing any item for self-defense, check with your local police department to find out if your community has any restrictions.
Doug Melzig is sales director, law enforcement and international accounts, Mace Security International Inc.