Defensive pepper sprays are a popular non-lethal self-defense tool that can keep an attacker away quickly and effectively. Unfortunately, many people who buy this product are unsure how to use it.

Think of pepper spray as a weapon. You need to understand and train with the product, just like any other tool.

These tips will help you become more familiar with the product while helping you deploy it correctly.

Hold the Container Correctly

If you watch people on TV shows or in movies deploy pepper spray, you often see them holding the container vertically while disbursing it with an index finger. This method looks like the hand is in the shape of a claw. You don’t want to do that because it could be knocked away.

Hold the container with a firm grip. Use your thumb to disburse the pepper spray while the other four fingers secure the canister to your palm. Your hand should look more like a fist.

Understand the Actuator

Many of today’s best pepper spray products use an actuator-style design to prevent accidental disbursement. It helps to practice flipping the protective lid with the thumb while securing the canister in your hand to become familiar with the motion. Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Hold the canister in an upright position.
  2. Turn the actuator counterclockwise to ensure the safety isn’t activated.
  3. Press the actuator firmly to discharge the pepper spray.
  4. Use a short burst (about one second), then adjust as the attacker moves.
  5. Attempt to spray the upper body and face of the attacker.

Be Aware of the Dispersal Pattern

Four different dispersal patterns are available for pepper spray products today. The most common option is a stream you direct to the face, but foam, gel, and fog options are also options.

Imagine you need to defend yourself on a windy day. If the breeze blows in your face, a fog or mist will go to you instead of toward the attacker once deployed.

Foam products stick better because they look like shaving cream, but this style has a lower effective range than a full stream.

Keep the Product Accessible

If you need to fiddle around in a purse or a backpack pocket to find your pepper spray canister, it’s already too late if an assailant heads in your direction. You only have seconds to respond, which means this self-defense tool needs to be readily accessible. Think about keeping it on a keychain, in a holster, or clipped to a pocket or bag to ensure you can respond appropriately. The goal should be to limit cross-contamination with your storage options whenever possible.

All self-defense tools have potential limitations to consider. If you use an aerosol-based canister, a lack of pressure in the can will prevent it from dispersing. The product could be past its expiration date, or weather conditions in your area might change its operations. That’s why it helps to have a backup option if something happens.

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