Should you carry OC spray?

I’m often asked by folks new to concealed carry or self defense in general about OC or “pepper” spray and whether or not they should consider carrying it.

I’m by no means anything close to being the leading expert on the utility and use of OC spray. (Chuck Haggard of Agile Training and Consulting puts on some splendid classes about OC spray) That being said, I see OC spray as a valuable defensive tool for the average citizen and I encourage people to carry it.

To explain why, let me tell you about a situation where it came in handy for me.

A few months ago I pulled out of a parking lot on to the main road. Shortly after I pulled out a woman in an older Ford pickup pulled out from a parking lot across the same road and began flashing her lights and swerving around behind me. She was visibly very agitated and pounding on the steering wheel of her old truck as she got right on my bumper. When stopped at the next stop light, she laid on her horn behind me and continued to flash her lights, apparently screaming the whole time. I’m not much of a lip reader, but the bits and pieces I could make out through my rear view mirror were not very lady-like.

I had absolutely no idea why on earth this woman was in a tirade behind me but I had no desire to figure it out. When I see storm clouds of stupidity forming I’m not going to stick around to see if the funnel cloud is heading for my trailer park, you know? When the light changed I used the traffic around us to get distance from her old truck. I used a couple of last minute turns and some quick lane changes to get her out of sight. Then I drove on to the store I was originally going to when this all started. I got out of the car and was heading into the store when I saw her truck pull into the parking lot.

The store had some of those concrete pylons in front of it designed to prevent thieves from smashing through the store front, so I placed those between myself and her truck because I had a very real worry at that moment that she was going to try and run me over. Her behavior to that point didn’t make me think that she had doggedly followed me for at least ten minutes so she could tell me about Jesus.

She pulled right up to the pylons, screeching her truck to a halt and got out of it screaming obscenities at me for, in her mind anyway, cutting her off. This woman was in her late forties or early fifties and from her dress and demeanor I got the impression that she was a couple of ants shy of a picnic. Other people going into and out of the store stop in their tracks wondering what in the world is happening. At this point the woman balls up a fist and approaches screaming her intention to physically assault me.

Let’s ponder the situation this presents me: I’m larger, stronger, younger, and clearly saner than this woman. Even though I’ve done absolutely nothing to provoke this behavior from her, who do you suppose society at large will place the burden of responsibility on? I’m not legally required to let this woman hit me, but laying hands on this crazy witch is highly likely to be a losing proposition for me. In the moment I got the impression that she wanted me to get physical and that she would immediately try to play the victim to bystanders and the inevitable law enforcement response. Like the computer once said:

At that point I aimed my little canister of Sabre Red at her. This movement surprised her and she stopped in her tracks. I very calmly told her that if she took another step in my direction I was going to blast her in the face with this OC spray and then press assault charges on her when the police got there.

She reacted to this by getting even louder…but crucially, she backed away from me, got in her old truck and took off. The bewildered bystanders were sympathetic. “If that had been me, I would have punched her right in the face!” I’m quite certain the bystander who told me that would not have been as sympathetic had I actually decked her.

There are situations where the only option available to you is to draw a lethal weapon and use it with as much violent intent as you can muster…but those situations will not be the only ones you face. Sooner or later in life you will likely encounter some form of belligerent idiot intent on doing you some level of harm, but not enough harm to justify pulling a gun on them. If confronted with that sort of belligerent idiot the ability to spray some liquid pain and then get yourself away from them has a pretty high chance of successfully stopping their attack with the absolute minimum risk of serious injury to you or said idiot.

Manufacturers of OC spray products are making potent products in any number of convenient carry-friendly configurations these days, and I’m sure at least one of them would work out for you. I’ve found the little Sabre Red “Spitfire” pictured and linked in this article is convenient to carry and requires the right sort of deliberate effort to trigger. It even survived an (accidental) trip through the washing machine and worked afterwards.

Our goal in self defense is to preserve our life and the quality of it from criminal assault. We rightly spend a lot of time thinking about the most violent and threatening sorts of criminal injury that can be visited upon us, but it is also worthwhile to have a plan for dealing with less severe problems that still require using some level of force in response. For those problems that don’t require using your gun but do require doing something more than calling the police, OC spray is, I believe, a worthwhile investment.