5 Best OC Sprays for Staying Safe and out of Jail [2023] Home / Pistol 101 / OC Spray

5 Best OC Sprays for Staying Safe and out of Jail [2023]

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / April 14 2023

If you use a gun on a non-deadly threat, what do you get?

Jail, or worse.

Pepper spray should be part of your daily defensive tools. I'll show you why, when to use pepper spray, and how to use it, so you can choose the right tool for the job, stay safe, and stay out of jail.

On this Page:

  1. Why OC Spray?
  2. What Makes Good OC Spray?
  3. Tips for OC Spray Use
  4. OC Spray FAQ
  5. 5 Best OC Sprays
  6. References

Why OC Spray?

Minimizing Risk to the Attacker

Even if you're not ethically concerned with minimizing harm to your attacker, it's another way of reducing your own legal risk.

In the video below, an unstable woman wouldn't stop harassing a homeowner and his family. See how he resolved it with pepper spray. How might have things gone if all he had was a gun?

OC spray causes extreme pain, but no lasting injuries in nearly all cases.
Unlike a stun gun, baton, or knife, OC spray:

  • Has more effective range
  • Reliably stops threats immediately
  • Doesn't carry a risk of killing the perpetrator
  • Can be legally carried in more places
  • Can be casually carried in-hand without drawing attention
OC Spray Stun gun Baton Knife
Effective Range 10-20 ft. 1-2 in. 1 ft. 3-4 in.
Stops threats immediately
No risk of killing the perp
Perp takes no lasting injuries
Legal carry in most places
Held without drawing attention

Reducing Legal Risk

Legal disclaimer: This article is intended for an audience in the United States. Check the laws in your local jurisdiction. Nothing in this article or website constitutes legal advice. Self-defense claims depend heavily on the facts of a case, and it is impossible for any general guide to replace the counsel a good lawyer can provide. If this is an emergency, call a competent lawyer in the relevant jurisdiction.

A gun is the right response to deadly force: an imminent threat a reasonable person would expect to cause maiming (broken bones or worse), kidnapping, rape, or death. This can manifest itself when seemingly "unarmed" people stomp you when you're down, slam your head into pavement, or outnumber you, but there are many more situations. (For a full explanation, sign up for my FBI Transformation course, or read The Law of Self Defense by attorney Andrew Branca (2016) .)
The Law of Self Defense, by attorney Andrew Branca.

Everything else is non-deadly force - the imminent threat is unarmed and has similar or lesser:

  • Size
  • Strength
  • Numbers
  • Skill

Non-deadly force can be met in kind: with unarmed skills and OC spray.

OC spray is non-deadly force? Yes, generally speaking, it's legally the same as using unarmed skills as long as you use it in lawful self-defense.

However, if you use OC spray unlawfully, you can face aggravated assault charges, as though you were using a weapon. Why? Criminals started using OC spray to aid in their crimes, and the laws adapted.

Reducing Your Personal Risk

What if you haven't spent the months or years it takes to become competent in unarmed skills?

Pepper spray is fast and easy to learn. How well does it work?

OC spray immediately stops a non-deadly threat about 90% of the time after 1-2 sprays, and police departments across the US found that officer injury rates went down after introducing OC spray.

OC spray doesn't totally replace unarmed skills, but even the most skilled martial artists have less risk of injury by using pepper spray if they can.

What Makes Good OC Spray?

Spray Type

OC spray can be a fog/cone, stream, or gel.

For a self-defender, stream is the best choice. Why?
Stream Cone/fog Gel/foam
Aim required Medium Low High
Acts immediately
Doesn't linger and hit you/bystanders
Safe to use indoors
Resistant to wind

The other types are best for niche applications in military and law enforcement, like riot response or prisoner control. What's best for them is not best for normal people. Stream OC spray is the best for most people.

Major Capsaicin (MC) Content

Major Capsaicin content listing on OC spray

MC content is the active ingredient in OC spray - it's what stops threats immediately. More is better, but some states and jurisdictions set limits. If it's legal, get OC spray with at least 1.3% MC content.

OC spray may contain other ingredients, like CS tear gas, but those do not act fast the way MC does.

Don't buy an OC spray product unless it lists Major Capiscum content and is verified by an Independent Laboratory for quality assurance. Brands that make the cut:

  • Sabre Red
  • Defense Technology First Defense
  • Zarc International Vexor
  • POM Industries

Shroud / Flip-top Safety

OC spray needs a safety to prevent accidental discharge. Pepper spray going off in your pants or vehicle is a sure way to ruin your day.

Not all safeties are equal. A shroud or flip-top safety is the best kind. Other kinds are slower to deploy, and unreliable for stopping accidental discharges.

Ease of Carry

It needs to fit in a pocket, purse, or laptop bag and be quick and easy to draw.

Further, how it's drawn needs to lead to quick, easy use. It should allow a draw to first blast on-target in 1.5 seconds or less.

Some OC spray has a pocket clip, but flips the canister upside down, adding more steps to draw. Watch out.

Marking Dye

Marking dye shows up with a UV light. It helps police investigate and arrest anyone whose actions forced your defensive use of OC spray.

How to Use OC Spray

How to Aim Stream OC Spray

Aim for the eyebrows, drawing a line from one to the other. Why? The stream's liquid will drip down into their eyes, bypassing any protective eyewear. If they try to wipe at their eyes with their hands, it will just make it worse.

How to Grip OC Spray

How to hold OC spray

If you're a professional hairdresser, you can hold OC spray like you do hairspray, and call on your muscle memory for better aim.

Otherwise, hold OC spray like the above, using your thumb to activate it. Why? It's a more secure grip in case the attacker tries to knock the OC spray out of your hand. It's also less conspicuous when you're holding your OC spray before you're 100% sure you need to use it.

Other Tips

  • Unlike a gun, you can carry OC spray in your hand without people noticing.
  • If you feel there's any risk of non-deadly harm, get your spray in hand immediately, so you can use it in time.
  • Unless you're using 360º OC spray, hold your spray upright as you use it, or it won't spray well.
  • If using Cone spray, back away and leave the area immediately after using it, or it will get you, too.
  • Have a post-spray plan: Either get to a safe place within 5 seconds, or carry a gun in case the threat resists the OC spray and escalates to deadly force.
  • After using OC spray, call 911 as soon as you get to a safe place, so the attacker doesn't call them first and act like the victim.

If you've never used your OC spray before, practice drawing and spraying with an inert trainer unit. That is, a unit loaded with just water, not OC.

Time your OC spray draw to first blast with an inert trainer. Get it to 1.5 seconds or less. It should be even faster if you're starting with your hand in your pocket, or already holding the spray.

OC Spray FAQ

Does Pepper Spray Work on Dogs?

Yes, like with people, OC spray stops aggressive or attacking dogs around 90% of the time after 1-2 sprays. Aim for the eyes and nose.

How Long Does Pepper Spray Last?

The worst of OC spray wears off after 30-120 minutes. Your eyes and lungs may sting for hours afterward.

How to Get Pepper Spray off of Eyes and Skin?

A mix of 3 parts water and 1 part baby shampoo can cut the effect time to 15-30 minutes. For something you can carry, Sudecon wipes can cut the effect time to 10-15 minutes.
Sudecon decontamination wipes
Wipe away from the eyes, then turn the wipe so you use a different part, and wipe away again. Make sure you don't reuse a part of the wipe. It can take 3-6 wipe pads. Also beware that around 1 in 20 people find that Sudecon wipes don't help, they make the effects worse!

Can You Bring Pepper Spray on an Airplane?

Generally yes, in checked baggage for domestic flights. The OC spray must be 4 oz. or less. Some airlines may have more restrictions. Check with your carrier before the flight.

Does Pepper Spray Expire?

Pepper spray expiration dates, near the bottom or on the side of the canister.

Yes. After 3-5 years, OC spray loses pressure, cutting your effective range. The expiration date is printed on the canister, so check that and mark your calendar for when to buy new OC spray.

Can OC Spray Kill You?

After thousands of uses, the only recorded deaths to date involving OC spray have come from repeated and/or extended use of OC spray in law enforcement use on someone with pre-existing asthma, plus other underlying health and/or drug issues.

At the time of this writing, there aren't any recorded instances of civilian use of OC spray directly causing death.

Can You Go Blind from OC Spray?

OC spray causes involuntary eye closure, anywhere from 15-120 minutes. Unless you damage your own eyes by scratching at them in response to OC spray, the risk of permanent blindness is nil. Extended or repeat OC exposure in a short time can cause some damage.

Can I Leave Pepper Spray in My Car?

It depends. OC spray canisters can only take temperatures from 32° F (0° C) to 120° F (48.88° C). Go beyond that, and the canister will leak or burst! Like leaking OC in your pants, this will ruin your day.

If you must stow OC spray in a car, put it in a plastic bag, inside a small, insulated cooler dedicated to emergency gear .
Coleman 30 can cooler, useful for storing emergency gear in your car trunk.

If you're in a warmer climate, consider quality IR-blocking window tinting to keep the temperature down, extend the life of your car's AC unit, and offer concealment to everything inside your car. It costs around $250-300, but is worth every penny.

Does OC Spray Replace a Gun?

No. You still need an answer for times when OC spray doesn't work, because they're the deadliest. Among offenders determined enough to kill, OC spray only stops them around 20% of the time.

5 Best OC Sprays

The best OC spray depends on how you'll carry it.

  1. Best Keychain OC Spray
  2. Best Pocket OC Spray
  3. Best OC Spray for a Belt or Belly Band Holster
  4. Best OC Spray for Large Purses & Laptop Bags
  5. Best OC Spray for Home or Business Defense

Best Keychain OC Spray

If you have no pockets, you can still put OC spray on your keychain. If one of your keys is in a door, you can use the quick-release button.

Otherwise, hold the OC spray while it's on your keychain, or rip the OC spray off your keychain for immediate use.

The POM can be a bit small for those with ogre hands, but if keychain carry is your only option, it's the best.

Updated hourly

@ POM Industries

POM Keychain OC Spray
Check price @ Amazon
10 ft. 10-12 ft.
10 sec. 10 sec.
4"H x 1"D" 4.25"H x 1.5"D"
  • Contains water only, so you can practice with it safely
  • Recommended: Take the bottom off of your live POM unit and put it on the inert trainer when practicing your draw
  • Keychain attachment is secure, but can be ripped off in an emergency.

Best Pocket OC Spray

The POM pocket clip model is the pocket pistol of OC spray. The clip can be turned, so you can set the alignment for a fast draw, whether you're left or right-handed. And unlike other clip-equipped pepper sprays, the POM's clip orientation is correct for getting a proper grip right away when drawing from a pocket.

Unless you have huge hands, POM is the right choice for everyday carry.

Updated hourly

POM OC Spray
Check price @ Amazon

@ POM Industries
10 ft. 10 ft.
10 sec. 10 sec.
4"H x 1"D" 4"H x 1"D"
  • Pocket clip design conceals your OC spray and offers a fast draw.
  • Contains water only, so you can practice with it safely
  • Recommended: Take the bottom off of your live POM unit and put it on the inert trainer when practicing your draw

Best OC Spray for a Belt or Belly Band Holster

MK-3 is a form factor used across many OC spray brands. It's small enough to fit comfortably in most pockets and purses, making them easy to carry all day, every day.

You just need a holster for it, since it lacks a pocket clip, and it's a half inch thicker than the POM. If you have huge hands, the extra size helps with gripping it.

Updated hourly

Mk3 OC Stream
@ Red Hot Pepper Spray
Compare Prices

Mk3 INERT Trainer
@ LA Police Gear
Compare Prices
10-12 ft. 10-12 ft.
10 sec. 10 sec.
4.25"H x 1.5"D" 4.25"H x 1.5"D"
  • No belt/pocket clip. Needs a dedicated pocket or holster.
  • Contains water only, so you can practice with it safely

Best OC Spray for Large Purses & Laptop Bags

MK-4 is another cross-brand form factor for OC spray. It's too tall for most pockets, but it fits well in a laptop bag or large purse. You may need a dedicated pouch, organizer slot, or holster, depending on your bag.

Even if you carry a smaller OC spray for defense, the MK-4 is the most cost-effective choice for target practice at home.

Updated hourly

Mk4 OC Stream
@ Red Hot Pepper Spray
Compare Prices

Mk4 INERT Trainer
@ Galls
Compare Prices
10-12 ft. 10-12 ft.
20 sec. 20 sec.
6.25"H x 1.5"D" 6.25"H x 1.5"D"
  • Best capacity.
  • Too big for carry in most pockets or small purses.
  • Contains water only, so you can practice with it safely
  • Most cost-effective for training/practice

Best OC Spray for Home or Business Defense

The MK-9 is another common OC spray form factor. It has great range and capacity, but is too big for daily carry.

So why include it? It's a great fit for your home or business when you need to repel a non-deadly threat. At home, you can keep it on the nightstand or near an entry door.

At work, it can stay under the counter, or in a cabinet with other emergency tools. Just don't keep it right next to a fire extinguisher, as they look pretty similar! If you try putting out a fire with OC spray, it might work, but everyone nearby will get a dose of the hot sauce.

Updated hourly

Mk9 OC Stream
Check price @ Amazon

Mk9 INERT Trainer
@ LA Police Gear
Compare Prices
18-20 ft 18-20 ft
14 sec. 14 sec.
9.15"H x 2.6"D" 9.15"H x 2.6"D"
  • Best range and stream size.
  • Good capacity.
  • Too big for everyday carry.
  • Contains water only, so you can practice with it safely

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.

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  1. OC Spray / Less Than Lethal Instructor Course for Non-LE by Chuck Haggard
  2. The Shocking Truth About Stun Gun Injuries [infographic] by Mareck Law (2020)
  3. Chuck Haggard on Pepper Spray at the ASP National Conference (2019)
  4. How to Pepper Spray by Chuck Haggard (2018)
  5. Pepper Spray 101- Finger Grip Advantages (2018)
  6. Use of Pepper Spray in Policing: Retrospective Study of Situational Characteristics and Implications for Violent Situations (2017)
  7. The Law of Self Defense by attorney Andrew Branca (2016)
  8. Injuries from pepper spray used for self defense: analysis of 15 cases managed in an emergency chemical decontamination area (2016)
  9. Dogs Attack Officer - OC/Pepper Spray Deployed - Meridian Police Department Idaho (2016)
  10. Pepper spray injury severity: ten-year case experience of a poison control system (2014)
  11. Self Defense Products - Types of Pepper Spray (2011)
  12. A Multi-Method Evaluation of Police Use of Force Outcomes: Final Report to the National Institute of Justice (2010)
  13. Less Lethal Weapon Effectiveness, Use of Force, and Suspect & Officer Injuries: A Five-Year Analysis (2008)
  14. Deaths in Police Confrontations When Oleoresin Capsicum is Used (2004)
  15. The Effectiveness and Safety of Pepper Spray (2003)
  16. Pepper Spray Evaluation Project: Results of the Introduction of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) into the Baltimore County, MD, Police Department (1995)