During my self defense seminars, someone invariably asks for my recommendations regarding Mace/pepper spray. My unequivocal recommendation is this: pepper spray is great, if you HAVE it and CAN USE it when you NEED it.
If you’re going to buy pepper spray and let it roll around in the bottom of your purse for 6 years, don’t bother. If you get a keychain canister, but don’t carry it because it’s big and inconvenient, forget it. If you go for a run but have your pepper spray zipped up in a pocket or otherwise stashed out of reach…you get the point.
Some common objections:
“I don’t know what kind to get.” True, you have a lot of options. There are large canisters, which are more often used by law enforcement, or to deter animal attacks. Keychain canisters are much smaller and more convenient for carrying on a regular basis. Some have breakaway clips so that, for example, if your key is in your car’s ignition, you can quickly and easily disengage the pepper spray without turning off your vehicle. Pepper spray is available with a belt clip as well. There are pepper spray containers that look exactly like a tube of lipstick, if you’re self-conscious about carrying it or need a very compact size. Some canisters offer a retractable cord so you can attach a clip or button to a purse or pocket and easily find and deploy the pepper spray if needed. Consider how you’ll be carrying it and how you want to deploy it in a self defense situation. Do you want something with a “safety” on it? A button on top you can easily depress? A switch you can slide forward? The bottom line: Get something that YOU are comfortable carrying and using.
“I don’t want people to think I’m paranoid.” I get that. A potential rapist or abductor doesn’t want you to think about fighting back, either. Pepper spray and other personal defense items exist for your personal defense. Carry them when appropriate (not in the airport, please), when you’re prepared to use them (test-fire, anyone?), and don’t let social pressures sway you. Better safe than sorry!
“I don’t know how to use it.” Well…pepper spray is very affordable, and available at almost any sporting good store. Buy one or more items to test fire. OUTDOORS, PEOPLE. It is important that you know whether it sprays, streams or shoots a gel…and what the range is. If you already own pepper spray but haven’t test-fired it, do yourself a favor and clean the nozzle before doing so. If the nozzle is blocked, you’ll get to “enjoy” the blowback when you test-fire it.
Like any item with propellant (hairspray, sunscreen, WD-40), it has a shelf life and an expiration date. The pepper spray you bought 10 years ago? Please replace it…you wouldn’t trust a can of corn that was a decade old, so don’t trust out-of-date pepper spray either. It’s a small investment that can pay off big time.