Why I don't carry pepper spray

Brillianter has been talking about pepper spray for a few days now, and has made a good case for why he thinks people should carry an OC/pepper spray.  Looking at the title of this post, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m going to go ahead and go in the opposite direction of those posts.  I actually had a really long and drawn post written for this, but then I realized that it could be pretty easily summarized in a few points.

  1. I’ve been pepper sprayed.  It’s unpleasant, but it didn’t take me out of the fight, and I’m not a hardened street criminal.
  2. 99% of the situations in which I would want or need pepper spray can be avoided by being situationally aware.  Keep your head up in the garage and you’ll see the guy behind the car.
  3. It’s awkward.  The pocket or belt space taken up by pepper spray would be better utilized by carrying a proper tactical flashlight with a strike cap (more on that later).
  4. If I’m in a fight that could not be avoided by being smart and aware, my day has taken a rather statistical unlikely turn, and there is a better than fair probability I’m fighting for my life. If I’m fighting for my life, I don’t want to give someone a skin rash.

Back to the flashlight for a second – I’d recommend a flashlight as a defensive tool before pepper spray.  A good tactical flashlight can give you stand off capability by temporarily blinding and disorienting your attacker, allowing you to get away.  If you fight closes to to close range, the flashlight with a proper strike cap provides you with a better close-in weapon than your fist.  A very simple “swim motion” strike technique can be taught to most people in 10 minutes, allowing them to deliver effective blows with the light.  The final reason I’d rather have a flashlight than a can of pepper spray is because if I spray someone and the fight closes to hand to hand, I am now in danger of my own spray getting on me and imparing my ability to fight.

Brillianter makes some good points, but ultimately I disagree about the effectiveness of pepper spray.  You’re better served by a good flashlight, situational awareness, and carrying a spare magazine for your heater than you are with pepper spray.


  1. The other issue it brings up is one of liability.

    “So why did you shoot him if you could have attempted to defuse the situation by pepper spraying him first?”

    If you have a continuity of force, you’re expected to use it in increasing levels of severity.

    In the meantime, it also creates mental hesitation – grab the pepper spray or the gun?

    If that’s all your allowed, it’s better than nothing, particularly if it’ll stain the skin and leave evidence.

    Plus, my wife already calls my lower clothing the “Bat-pants” for all the stuff I’ve got on the belt/in pockets already.

  2. Also I fail to see a situation where I wouldn’t use a gun, but would use OC spray that I couldn’t just walk away from.

    I’m glad Cops have OC and Tasers because their job often requires them to deal with obnoxious and POTENTIALLY dangerous people. Not my job. I just walk away, and call the cops when I get to safe place and let them bring the hot-sauce.

    If I can’t walk away from the situation safely then I’m in a deadly force situation.

    Also It’s not like I have pockets for all this shit. I’m certainly not leaving my gun at home. If I can carry a reload (or better yet TWO) I’m gonna make that a priority. Coupled with my other necessities, Keys, wallet, pocket knife, phone, where exactly am I to tuck a bulky can of OC spray? Moreover even some of the better designed cans don’t present the best ergonomics, they might be designed so you can’t easily spray your own face, or hose your pants pocket down, but to draw point and spray it would also require me to check and re-orient the can.

    If I can’t carry a gun, my next choice is my Ka-Bar TDI defensive knife. It’s light, small, doesn’t count as a “Weapon” under any state law I’ve ever read (outside of TSA security theater) .

    I’ve been giving my OC collection away over recent years.

  3. In light of the Harold Fish case, I’d consider carrying OC as a dog repellent.

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