Out of the Purse and Into Action: Pepper Spray Pointers!

Out of the Purse and Into Action: Pepper Spray Pointers!

Here, take this!

An 18 year old girl is leaving the house at 10:00 PM, heading out with her friends. Her parents are worried that she is going out so late, but, after all, she is 18. So, to make themselves feel better, they hand her a canister of pepper spray and say…”here, take this, just in case.” She looks at it and then promptly drops it in the abyss she calls her purse.

Far fetched? Of course not. That exchange happens between parents and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends more times than we can even begin to estimate. Though I can’t come up with any hard statistics on how many women have pepper spray somewhere in their belongings, their car, or next to their bed…I can tell you that at least half the women in every class I teach admit to having a can of it somewhere. Almost all of them also acknowledge that it was given to them by someone else and that they have no real idea of how it works.

In the Wrong Woman™ Fundamentals course, we dedicate a small portion of the class to the discussion of ‘Defensive Tools”. The term refers to any external device that a woman can utilize as a means to distract or disable a threat. Pepper spray, kubotans, Tasers, blades, and even Firearms. In our course, we never tell any attendee what they should carry. As a matter of fact, we don’t encourage anyone to carry anything. Our policy is simple. Carrying a tool on your person, or having one in your home, is a personal choice. If, however, you do choose to have one, be educated about it and above all else, LEARN how to use it!

The ABC’s of Pepper Spray!

(Actually it is the KKU & A’s of Pepper Spray – but work with me here!)

K: KNOW What The Heck It Is!

I have to throw myself under the bus here. I, like many women who own Pepper Spray, carried it around for years without having any idea of what it really was. That wasn’t enough for me! I took some time to learn about it and was surprised at what I found out. Now, it is time to share some of my information! Here are some of the facts:

~ The active ingredient in Pepper Spray is Oleoresin Capsicum. Forget trying to memorize that – who has that kind of time?! (though it interesting to me that the latter part of the second word is “sic um!”). What is important to understand is simply that it is a derivative of hot peppers. You don’t need to be sprayed with Pepper Spray to understand how painful it is. You only need to recall the last time you were chopping Jalapeno peppers and then mistakenly rubbed your eyes afterward. Not an experience that you want twice!

~ Pepper Spray comes in three different forms: Liquid Spray, Foam and Fog. Understanding how each one works when it comes out of the canister is crucial to making a solid decision about which to carry.

K: KNOW How the Canister Works!

The only brand of Pepper Spray that Wrong Woman™ endorses is the SABRE RED® Brand. I have met with the owner and can testify to his commitment toward helping women find the most effective and efficient methods of keeping themselves safe. In addition, all of their products are manufactured using only the highest quality controls. That might not seem like a big deal (It’s all pepper spray, right?) but you have to trust me on this one; there IS a difference and SABRE RED® is the only product that should ever make it into your hands.

If you look at their website (www.sabrered.com), you will also notice that they have different types of pepper spray canisters and attachments available. They have one for cyclists, dual athletes, home defense, and basic defense. They even have some combo packs for use in different situations. Depending on your need, these attachments will make it more, or less, desirable to purchase. Take time to familiarize yourself with them. Think of these different products like a cool pair of jeans. If you are a size 8, that doesn’t mean you will like the way every size 8 fits your body or your lifestyle. Pepper Spray works the same way. You have to find the canister type hat works for you! While all Pepper Sprays may have the same base ingredient, how you carry it, the manner in which it is deployed and the deliver method (foam, Spray, or Fog) need to all be taken into consideration when you choose one.

Above all else, don’t let someone buy it for you. Would you let your husband buy all of your clothes? Your boyfriend? Your dad? Of course not. Take charge girls – investigate the products and choose one that works for you!

U: Understand the Limitation of the Pepper Spray!

If you don’t know how it really works, carrying Pepper Spray will make you no safer than carrying a diet book will make you thin. While it can be a very helpful tool, it comes with it’s own dangers and limitations. (As does ANY tool) Be familiar with them.

Don’t Fog Yourself: The “Fog” form of pepper spray is primarily used for large groups that need to be controlled or large spaces that need to be cleared. (ie: riots) Not really intended for civilians to use it for personal defense, this form would be a product utilized more in a law enforcement or military capacity.

Lather Up: Who hasn’t washed their hands with a foam soap? It was my number one choice for hand soap when my kids were little. Why? It gets everywhere, sticks to their skin and they have to work hard to remove it. The result for a small child using foam soap is very clean hands! Apply that same principle to someone who is using a foam Pepper Spray and the situation changes. In a struggle, the foam may end up everywhere. If it ends up in your eyes, your ability to protect yourself is eliminated.

Like Spittin in the Wind: What would a blog about pepper spray be without bringing up the ol’ pepper spray and wind theory? If you haven’t heard it before – just think of your little brother spitting out the front passenger window while riding in a car on the highway. If you are in the back seat, passenger side, with the window down, well….you will be wearing that spit. Now, shift the situation to you directing the liquid version of pepper spray toward an attacker while wind is blowing toward you. Depending on the force of the wind, yes, there is chance that you may end up wearing some of the spray. Some trainers actually make a point to instruct users to test the direction of the wind before spraying. Haha! Yea, right. I really wouldn’t bank on that happening! If you have time to check the direction of the weather patterns, chances are you can get away without ever using any defensive tool. The best piece of advice I can offer regarding the wind issue is this: Understand that in a struggle, and depending on your immediate environment, you may encounter the effects of the spray. That is a fact. It is also why I encourage women to attend a training course in which they will be exposed to a small amount of it during class. Excellent training courses will ensure that participants know what to expect. In the likely event that some of the spray does end up on you, you will be prepared for it and can continue to fight for your safety.

Distance Does Matter: One of the greatest lessons that women learn in our Pepper Spray class is that timing, and distance, is important. The “window” of opportunity to use it is quite small. Unlike a firearm or a Taser that can be utilized up to and including contact with another person, the window for pepper spray is much smaller. Once you deem someone a threat, the you must be able to take the spray out, remove the safety mechanism, orient to the threat and then deploy…all before the threat is within two arms reach. Once they are up close and personal, the risk is too great that a large amount of the spray will adversely affect you as well.

A: Save the Spray from the Abyss of your Purse!
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. The things that we find in our backpacks and our purses can both frightening and disgusting. Books, make up, food, kleeenex, papers…you name it! Once I actually found cheerios AND milk in the bottom of my backpack. (For the record, my kids put it there – not me.) The point is, don’t bother. If you throw it in your purse, you might as well throw it in the garbage on the way out the door. It will be as useful there. The concept of anyone finding the spray at the bottom of the purse, correctly orienting toward the threat, and then utilizing the spray in a few second time span – while under stress – ludicrous.

So, the bottom line?

While I spent a great deal of time joking about the things that can go wrong with Pepper Spray, it is important to understand that it absolutely can be used as an effective defensive tool when the individual understands exactly how it works, the limitations it has, and the most effective environments for it to be used. Remember, it is an active, hands on tool. You CARRY it in your hand or in a very accessible place on, or very near, your body. I am not suggesting that we all hook a canister of spray to our belt loops. Let’s face it, that’s a hard fashion accessory to pull off! With so many choices of types of canisters though, you can choose one that suits your activity. If you are biking, hook one onto the bike frame. (Yes, they sell it just for that!). If you are a dog walker, have easy access to in your pocket or in your hand. Runners can carry them while they run – or even in an arm sleeve. If you are a college student attending classes at night, or you leave work in the dark, simply carry it to your car. The simple act of acknowledging that it is in your hand will automatically put you in a better state of awareness as you cross the campus or the parking lot.

Lastly, and by far, most importantly, regardless what you choose to carry – learn to how to use it! Once you have it, you must find a place to practice! Wrong Woman offers a training class in which participants engage in role paying scenarios. We ensure that our women are knowledgeable about all facets of carrying, and using, the spray.

If you aren’t in an area where our courses are available, you can find a list of certified instructors on the SABRE RED® website.

Good Luck everyone, and don’t forget – When someone is looking for a victim, Make sure you are the Wrong Woman™!


  1. Teresa Jenkins says:

    Thank you Master Kelly for an informative and enlightening post. Who knew? I didn’t !

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