Last updated: August 10, 2021

Have you ever had a strange feeling when you were out alone at night? Do you often feel unsafe or afraid that someone is following you? And even if there is no real danger, the feeling of insecurity can reduce your quality of life. In such a case, it might be a good idea to buy a pepper spray.

In our pepper spray test 2021 we give you a lot of background information about pepper spray. We explain the advantages and the effect, what you can do against this effect, introduce you to different types of pepper spray and also where you can get them. We also explain the factors you should pay attention to when buying pepper spray.




Summary

  • A pepper spray is suitable for defence against people and animals and offers you a feeling of safety at night. The ingredients affect the eyes, breathing and skin.
  • Basically, you can choose between an ordinary pepper spray, a pepper gel, a pepper foam and a pepper spray gun.
  • You should check the filling quantity, the range, the degree of sharpness and the possibility of refilling each pepper spray before buying it.

The Best Pepper Spray: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a pepper spray

What are the advantages of pepper sprays?

The advantages of a pepper spray compared to another self-defence weapon are obvious: The pepper spray is a range weapon, so you can defend yourself from a distance.

It is legally available everywhere for animal defence and can be used from the age of 14. And that's where we come to the biggest advantage: young people, senior citizens and physically inferior people in general can defend themselves with a pepper spray at the touch of a button, without much effort.

Pfefferspay für Mädchen an der Bushaltestelle in der Nacht

A pepper spray offers seniors or physically inferior people protection from potential attackers. If the worst comes to the worst, the spray briefly disorients and incapacitates them. (Photo:
Skitterphoto / Pexels.com)

What is the effect of self-defence sprays?

Self-defence sprays contain the active ingredient oleoresin capsicum (OC). This affects the eyes, breathing and skin. It strongly affects the affected living being, but normally without permanent damage and not permanently.

In the eyes, there is a burning sensation and increased lacrimation, because OC causes the mucous membranes to swell. The eyes are reflexively closed immediately. As a result, the affected person is without sight and disoriented for a while.

When the affected person inhales the active substance, he starts coughing and has breathing problems.

If the irritant is on the skin, redness, burning and itching occur. This effect is achieved particularly effectively by the adhesive pepper foam.

Pepper spray can have a more severe effect on asthmatics or people under the influence of drugs. This has led to a number of deaths after using pepper spray. However, these were rare exceptions and are not the rule.

Did you know that a pepper spray is 1000 times as hot as a jalapeño?

First of all, it has to be said that the name "pepper spray" is completely misleading, as it has nothing to do with pepper. The reason is a translation error, because the English word "pepper" stands for both pepper and chilli. The liquid in pepper spray is organic and is extracted from a chilli bush. Since this liquid is very highly concentrated in the can, it is up to 1000 times hotter than a jalapeño.

How do I use pepper spray?

You press the button on the pepper spray can, after unlocking it if necessary, while aiming the spray head at the attacker's face.

It is advisable to hold the spray straight and with an outstretched arm when spraying if it is a mist, otherwise you risk inhaling the agent yourself. But only do this if the situation allows it. If the attacker is already close to you, he may try to steal the spray can from you.

If you are unsure about using the pepper spray, you can also practise outside, e.g. on a tree or pole. There are also test sprays that do not contain irritants. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding temperature, flammability and expiry date.

Pfefferspray

Before use, it is important to read the operating instructions so that you can act quickly and correctly in an emergency.

What is the range of pepper sprays?

The range of a self-defence spray varies between 1-7 m depending on the manufacturer's specifications and depends on various factors:

  • Type of container (spray can or gun)
  • Type of jet (mist, stream)
  • Consistency (liquid broad spray, gel, foam)

It is certain that a pepper gun can reach a higher maximum range than a self-defence spray. The range is approx. 4-7 m or more.

The range of a pepper spray with a spray jet, also sometimes called a ballistic jet, varies from approx. 2-6 m. The somewhat more expensive pepper gels and pepper foam are also in this range.

A defensive spray with a spray mist has the shortest range of all defensive devices. It is about 1-4 m.

You must also bear in mind that the maximum range is only achieved under good conditions and the effective range is always less than stated. If the target is closer to you, it will also feel a stronger effect.

What pepper sprays are available for women?

The demand for self-defence products for women has increased recently. Manufacturers have reacted to this and thus there is now a special range of small defence sprays in hand size, pink colour or lipstick shape.

The small, colourful pepper sprays are not too heavy and can be easily stowed in a handbag. The lipstick-shaped pepper sprays are particularly well received and cannot be identified as pepper sprays at first glance.

A colour can also be selected for some pepper spray guns. This is good for variety if you find the black and grey shades too serious.

Which pepper sprays are suitable for joggers?

If you need protection while running outside, you can find small, handy pepper sprays with belt clips in the pepper spray selection.

You can comfortably attach them to your clothing and thanks to their light weight, they are not annoying. The handy animal repellent sprays are ideal for a few uses against dangerous dogs you might encounter while running.

What helps against pepper spray?

If you've been accidentally hit by the irritant yourself, you'll need cold water. Rinse the affected area, your eyes and skin, with it. The longer you do this, the better, but it should be at least 10 minutes. After an hour, the symptoms should be less severe.

Cold water helps because it closes the pores so you don't absorb any more of the active ingredient. Water is also best for burning and itching on the skin. It is best to avoid putting cream on the affected area or scratching it.

If the effects and pain have not decreased after one hour, you should consult a doctor.

Pfefferspray

Cold water helps against pepper spray. However, if the irritation does not go away, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.

In which countries is pepper spray illegal?

Possession of pepper spray is illegal in many European countries and is considered a weapon. Apart from Germany, it is only allowed to buy and possess pepper spray in Serbia, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Countries where the possession and carrying of pepper spray is illegal:

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Greece
  • Great Britain
  • Iceland
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Sweden

In other countries in Europe, the purchase and possession of pepper spray is subject to restrictions:

Country Possession allowed
Austria From 18 years
Switzerland From 18 years with registration
France From 18 years
Slovakia From 18 years
Latvia From 18 years
Italy With licence or police permission
Finland With licence or police permission
Portugal With licence or police permission
Spain Only pepper sprays with maximum 5% OC active ingredient

When is the use of pepper spray illegal in Germany?

In Germany, it is illegal for children and young people under the age of 14 to possess pepper spray. From the age of 14, you are allowed to buy and use a defence spray against animals if it is labelled as an animal defence spray.

Using it against people is generally prohibited. However, if you can prove that you are in an emergency situation and are acting out of self-defence, then the use of pepper spray will probably not have any criminal consequences.

In many other countries, pepper spray is not freely available and possession is illegal. So if you are going to travel, find out about the legal situation in the respective country beforehand. (For more information, see the section: In which countries is pepper spray illegal?)

Defence sprays are considered weapons in many countries and are therefore prohibited when entering the country, and they are also not allowed on planes.

Did you know that you are not allowed to protect yourself from police pepper spray attacks?

Some people protect themselves from pepper spray (for example at a demonstration) by using ski goggles, swimming goggles, breathing masks or wet cloths. However, this is not allowed and can be punished with a fine or a year in prison. This is what the law on assemblies wants, as the police and the judiciary are of the opinion that this spray is suitable as a firearm and, according to the circumstances, is intended to ward off enforcement measures by a holder of sovereign powers.

What are the alternatives to pepper spray?

Pepper spray is not the only means of self-defence. If you want to protect yourself in another way, take a look at our list of other self-protection options.

These are suitable for personal defence from the outset:

  • Pocket alarm
  • Stun gun
  • Kubotan (small baton)
  • CS irritant gas (tear gas)

How much does a pepper spray cost?

Small pepper sprays are sometimes available at very low prices, starting at just under 2 euros. Of course, the price depends on the size or brand. The larger the filling quantity and the higher the quality of the brand, the more expensive it is.

Many self-protection sprays are made for the average consumer, so you will find many in the price range below 10 euros.

For professional use, the price goes up and you can buy some defensive sprays for 20-30 euros. The price range of pepper spray guns usually starts at around 30 euros and ends at 200 euros.

Pfefferspray in der Nacht für Frau als Schutz

Pepper spray at night for woman as protection. (Photo: Free-Photos / Pixabay.com)

Decision: What types of pepper sprays are there and which is the right one for you?

Basically, there are three different types of pepper sprays:

  • Pepper spray
  • Pepper gel and pepper foam
  • Pepper spray pistol

In the following, we will introduce you to each type of pepper spray and explain their individual advantages and disadvantages.

How does pepper spray work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The pepper spray is suitable for every person. This is due to its easy application and high hit safety, which is based on the wide spray jet.

Since you just have to press a button to spray, it is easy to use.

The range of the irritant spray usually varies between 1 - 5m depending on the manufacturer and the spray jet. The spray cans also come in different sizes, so you should consider how much you need. And also for what purpose: Do you need a defensive spray for sports activities like jogging or hiking, to carry around in your bag or for emergencies in a building?

Pepper spray is effective and easy to use because the irritant comes out as a broad jet (also called a jet) or fog. A jet has a longer range than the fog. But above all, the fog spray is advantageous in situations of inaccuracy. In stressful situations, panic can quickly cause you not to aim accurately. The spray mist is therefore also very suitable for beginners.

Advantages
  • Easy to use
  • Available at a reasonable price
  • Available in various shapes and with practical accessories
  • Partially refillable
Disadvantages
  • Impairment of use in windy conditions
  • Safety risk: possible effect on the user himself
  • Not suitable for indoor use

One disadvantage, however, is that you yourself can also be affected by the irritant, e.g. if you are outside and the wind is blowing unfavourably. Use indoors is also not particularly recommended because the pepper spray spreads and cannot dissipate quickly.

If you need self-protection while walking or running, you can buy a pepper spray with a belt clip. There are also practical holders or holsters for pepper sprays. Of course, you can also just buy a small spray that fits into a running belt or fanny pack.

Also worth noting are, for example, the variants of pepper sprays in lipstick or biros form. There are also pepper sprays that contain a dye to mark the attacker.

Certain irritant sprays have cartridges that can be replaced or refilled. So if you need a lot of pepper spray, such a defence device is a good idea.

How do pepper gel and pepper foam work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Pepper gel and pepper foam are used in the same way as pepper spray. They differ from pepper spray in their more solid consistency. The pepper irritant comes out as a foam or gel.

Their firmness makes these types of irritant sprays more suitable for indoor use, as the active ingredient OC does not disperse into the air. They are also more resistant to wind. The disadvantage, however, is that small targets cannot be hit as easily.

Advantages
  • Suitable for indoor use
  • More resistant to wind
  • Sticks better and therefore harasses the attacker more
Disadvantages
  • More expensive than pepper spray
  • Aiming accuracy required
  • Not available everywhere

The gel comes out as a narrow spray. With foam, too, the spray is not quite as wide as with pepper spray mist. Therefore, the foam and the gel are not recommended for inexperienced users.

However, you can see exactly where you hit the attacker.

The effect of the pepper foam is particularly strong, as it can completely cover the victim's vision and stick to him or her, causing persistent irritation of the skin.

How does the pepper spray gun work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A pepper spray gun is a pepper spray in firearm form. This makes it very easy to use this defensive device, as it intuitively fits correctly in the hand.

Unlike the spray cans where you have to hold down a button to spray, with the pepper spray gun you pull the trigger once and an irritant shot is released.

With the pepper spray gun, the irritant is fired under higher pressure and therefore has a longer range, depending on the model. The shot is also more resistant to weather and has a higher penetrating power and could also penetrate through fabric.

Advantages
  • Long range
  • Resistant to resistance (weather)
  • High penetrating power
  • Available with replaceable cartridges
Disadvantages
  • Risk of injury at close range
  • Partially prohibited to carry in public
  • Higher cost

However, you should be accurate for a pepper spray gun, as the jet is very precise.

There are a few models where you can replace the pepper spray cartridges. Since the guns are relatively expensive, it is a good idea to take advantage of this and simply buy the cheaper cartridges when they are empty.

But note the following: Some of these defensive pistols are so similar in appearance to real firearms that it is forbidden to carry or use them in public. However, you may still use them on your private property.

In the USA, pepper spray guns are mainly used against bears. They are really effective against animals and should not be used against people.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate pepper sprays

To help you find the right pepper spray for you, we have put together a few criteria for comparing and evaluating pepper sprays.

The criteria are based on these characteristics:

  • Spray type
  • Filling quantity
  • Size
  • Weight
  • Sharpness level
  • OC content
  • Range
  • Dye
  • Belt clip
  • Shape
  • Colour
  • Suitable for indoor use
  • Refillable

You can read about these buying criteria below:

Spray type

The spray type of a pepper spray is an outstanding feature that strongly influences its use. The spray type of a pepper spray can be divided into mist, jet and shot. Think about how confident you are in using pepper sprays and whether you can aim well.

As explained in another section, the mist spray is more suitable for you if you are inexperienced in using pepper spray and have imprecise aim. The mist spray is broad and covers the target with the irritant, so aiming accuracy is not necessarily required.

The spray jet, on the other hand, is suitable for you if you have practice with pepper sprays and can aim well. The jet is comparable to a water pistol jet, for example. The pepper irritant comes out as a bundled jet and therefore you have to aim well at the attacker to get an effective effect.

A gel jet refers to a pepper gel, which is more solid in consistency than pepper spray. Therefore, the gel is also suitable for use in windy conditions or indoors.

The shot is fired from a pepper spray gun. For this use, you have to aim and pull the trigger. Here, as with the jet, it is an advantage if you can aim well.

For self-defence, the flushing mist is particularly suitable. Women in particular will probably not have enough experience in using pepper spray. The success rate for defence is definitely high in this case.

Filling quantity

With regard to the filling quantity, you should consider how much pepper spray you need. Do you want a pepper spray for an absolute emergency situation that may and hopefully never occur? Or are you often exposed to a dangerous situation, e.g. because you hike or run a lot and regularly encounter biting animals?

Many of the small pepper sprays have a capacity of around 40 ml. Depending on the size of the attacker, distance and duration of the spray, this may only be enough for about one application.

If you can assume that you will only need to use pepper spray in exceptional cases, then a pepper spray with a small filling quantity that also saves space is sufficient for you.

If you need pepper spray more often, you can also buy one with a larger filling capacity. These are larger than the size of your hand and of course weigh more. So you have to weigh up whether you want to use a larger spray bottle with more content for your use, but which is also heavier and larger.

Size

As with the filling quantity, the size depends on how often you want to use the pepper spray and how much space it can take up in your home. You must also bear in mind that the larger the pepper spray, the more it contains and the more weight it has.

The small-sized pepper sprays have a height of around 10 cm. They fit easily into a pocket or trouser pocket without taking up much space. Since their number of sprays is very small, many of the small pepper sprays can also be bought in packs of 5 or 10, for example. This way, you have a stockpile in case you use up the pepper sprays quickly. Or you can share them with family members or friends.

You can buy the larger defence sprays if you don't mind the size and weight and have room for them, either in your bag/backpack or in your home.

Weight

The weight depends on the size, capacity and housing/spray bottle of the pepper spray. If you don't want to carry a lot of extra weight around, then a small pepper spray is a good choice, as it is of course lighter.

Columbia offers a true flyweight of pepper sprays for sale with its hand-sized pepper spray. The Werewolf Columbia weighs only 31 g and is hardly noticeable when carried.

Heavier are the pepper sprays from e.g. FOX Labs, which on the one hand have more filling capacity of 90 ml and a height of 14.7 cm. This is then noticeable in the weight, which is 132 g. The TW 1000 pepper spray also weighs 222 g, which is considerably more, although it is similar in size to the FOX Labs defence spray (14 cm). The difference is due to the pepper spray housing.

In summary, we can say that the three criteria filling quantity, size and weight are interconnected. You have to weigh up your needs and find out what is optimal for you.

Sharpness level

The degree of heat is indicated by some manufacturers in Scoville or SHU (Scoville Heat Unit). The higher the number, the hotter the pepper spray irritant.

Are you looking for a particularly strong pepper spray? Then you can pay attention to this number. It indicates how much water would be needed to neutralise the irritant.

Many pepper sprays have 2 million Scoville, some manufacturers also advertise a spiciness level of 3 million (e.g. FOX Labs). It is not clear whether the effect of pepper sprays with 2 and 3 million Scoville differs significantly. It also depends on the concentration of the active ingredient oleoresin capsicum (OC).

OC content

The active ingredient oleoresin capsicum (OC), which is extracted from the Tabasco plant, is contained in pepper sprays in varying amounts. Mostly the concentration is 10-11% according to the manufacturer's instructions and therefore there are no significant differences on this point. Look for a high concentration if you want a strong and irritating pepper spray.

Some manufacturers specify OC concentration and capsaicin concentration. FOX Labs, for example, has two specifications and gives an OC concentration of 6%, but also 20.4% capsaicin, which results in the high Scoville number (3 million)

Capsaicin alone is the substance from the chilli plant that causes a strong and painful irritation in living creatures. Oleoresin stands for the resin oil of the chilli plant from which capsaicin is normally extracted.

Look for a high OC content in your favourite pepper spray if you want a very effective spray.

Range

Do you want to spray and incapacitate your attacker from a distance? Then pay attention to this parameter when buying. The spray types also make a difference here. A mist spray has a shorter range than a concentrated spray.

Pepper sprays with a mist jet usually do not have a range of more than 3 metres. But there are a few self-defence sprays with a powerful spray jet that achieves a longer range. This also applies to pepper gels. The range can then be as much as 4 or 5 metres. However, you have to be able to aim well.

Pepper spray guns have the highest range and are therefore often used against bears in the USA.

In order to be prepared to defend yourself, you should definitely practise shooting with the respective pepper spray types beforehand.

Pepper spray - spray type range in metres
Pepper - gun 4-7
Spray 2-6
Spray 1-4

Dye

Do you want to see where you sprayed or even mark the attacker? Then the pepper sprays that contain dye are right for you.

FOX Labs MEAN GREEN pepper spray already says with its name that green colour is involved. But the pepper sprays Werwolf Columbia, ProSecur by WALTHER or stopnow Pepperdefender also contain substances that make the pepper spray content visible on the target.

In the case of the WALTHER ProSecur pepper spray, however, the marking is only visible under UV light.

Belt clip

A pepper spray with a belt clip can be particularly practical if you are often on the move and want to have it quickly to hand. You can simply clip the pepper spray to your belt or, for example, to your backpack. That way you have it right at hand. You don't have to search for and retrieve the pepper spray.

The BALLISTOL KO-JET 24430 has an integrated belt clip and is suitable for running and hiking because of its size and lightness.

If the pepper spray you are looking for is not available with a belt clip, you can still look to see if the manufacturer offers similar models with belt clips or extensions.

Shape

The shape of pepper sprays is simple and usually basically similar. Most pepper sprays are shaped like a spray can with a push-button lid. Some also bear resemblance to a fire extinguisher. And others, however, stand out because of their special shape.

For example, SABRE Red has pepper sprays in lipstick shape or as key rings. This is particularly appealing to women because they are small and handy. Moreover, the lipstick-shaped pepper spray is not immediately recognisable as a pepper spray, which can be an advantage in some situations.

But the TW1000 in the RSG6 case may also be appealing to you if you want to hold a handy pepper spray in your hand, as the police do with this case.

Pepper spray pistols such as the Piexon Guardian Angel II are also pleasant to hold, and their use is very intuitive due to the shape of the weapon.

Furthermore, there are also pepper sprays in pen form, which are accordingly slim and small.

Colour

The colour of the spray has nothing to do with the function or effect of the pepper spray. Nevertheless, it can be an influencing factor in your decision. If you personally like it more colourful or if you want it to match your bag or other accessories, there are also pepper sprays in pink or rose.

SABRE Red, for example, offers such. And if you like the SABRE Red key ring pepper spray but don't like pink, you can also buy it in black.

If one person likes it colourful or flashy, the other person may feel uncomfortable if he or she is seen with pepper spray. In this case, go for an unagitated, inconspicuous colour.

Suitable for indoor use

Think about where you want to use the pepper spray. Not all pepper sprays are made for indoor use. The more firmly and purposefully the irritant comes out of the pepper spray, the less danger there is that you or other people will accidentally get some of the pepper spray.

The mist spray is generally not suitable for indoor use. A pepper gel or pepper foam, on the other hand, is. However, some manufacturers also advertise their pepper spray models for indoor use.

The KO-Jet pepper spray from BALLISTOL, for example, is such a model with a concentrated spray jet, so that you can also use it inside four walls. Also suitable are, for example, the TW 1000 pepper gel because of its firmer consistency and pepper spray pistols from which targeted shots hit the attacker.

Refillability

If you use pepper spray frequently, then a refillable pepper spray may be of interest to you. Some pepper spray models use cartridges that can be replaced. This way you can save money and don't always have to buy a whole new defence device.

The TW 1000 pepper spray in the RSG6 case, for example, can be replaced by another pepper spray, but the case remains the same.

Facts worth knowing about pepper sprays

Which is the most powerful pepper spray?

The strength depends on the degree of sharpness specified by the manufacturer. However, these are not always specified uniformly. The strongest pepper spray can therefore not really be determined.

However, you can simply pay attention to the manufacturer's specifications and choose a pepper spray with the highest possible Scoville value, which indicates the degree of spiciness, and a high percentage OC active ingredient concentration.

For understanding: A pepper spray with the indication 2 million Scoville means that 2 million drops of water would be needed to neutralise the effect of the pepper spray.

Whether a pepper spray with 3 million or 2 million Scoville heat level has a big difference in effect is not clear. At a certain point, it simply affects the living being and impairs it, no matter how high the degree of pungency.

The main thing is that you use the pepper spray correctly and can quickly escape the dangerous situation unharmed.

How long have pepper sprays been around?

The pepper spray has only been around for a few decades.

The use of the spray began in the USA in the 1980s thanks to the invention of the spray can in the 1930s.

Police forces at that time first made use of the property of the irritant spray to be able to incapacitate anyone. Postmen and postwomen used it to protect themselves from aggressive pets.

However, the chilli pepper irritant was used long before that as a means of combat and restraint or torture.

For example in China and India, where "pepper bombs" were built to throw at the enemy and incapacitate him.

Photo source: 123rf.com / Matthias Ziegler

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