How to Avoid Pepper Spray Misfires

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.

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