What is Pepper Spray?
Pepper spray is also known as OC Spray, OC Gas, or Capsicum Spray. The “OC” stands for Oleoresin Capsicum. Capsicum is the active ingredient which is a derivative of hot cayenne peppers. That’s where we get the name “Pepper Spray”. Pepper spray is made up of an active ingredient called OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) and other inert ingredients.
Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent that irritates the eyes causing immediate closing of the eyes and temporary blindness, tears, pain, nausea, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing. The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours.
No one is immune to pepper spray which makes it a very effective non- lethal self- defense tool. Pepper spray has proven effective against people on drugs, insanely violent or seemingly impervious to other types of pain. OC is effective against all attackers; even attackers who cannot feel normal levels of pain (psychotics, drug abusers, alcohol abusers) will be affected by pepper spray. Pepper spray is also the best deterrent against attacking wild or vicious animals.
Pepper spray comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried or concealed in a pocket or purse. Many such canisters also contain dyes, either visible or UV-reactive, to mark an attacker’s skin and/or clothing to enhance identification by police.
Determining the strength of different manufactures of pepper sprays can be confusing and difficult. Statements a company makes about their product strength are not regulated. A method using the Capsaicin and Related Capsaicinoids (CRC) content of the product is unreliable as well, because there are 6 different types of Capsaicinoids, varying in different levels of heat (Capsaicin), which manufacturers do not state which particular type of Capsaicinoids are used The OC percentage only measures the amount of peppers contained in the defense spray, not the strength, pungency or effectiveness of the product. Personal pepper sprays can range from a low of 0.18% to a high of 3%. CRC does not measure the amount of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) within the formulation. Instead, CRC is the heat bearing and pain producing components of the OC.
In 1912, Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacologist, developed the standard for measuring the power of capsaicin. The Scoville Organoleptic Test was used to determine the temperature of peppers. Scoville conducted his research by measuring the ground pepper into a mixture of sugar, water, and alcohol. He then took the mixture to a panel of tasters who then gave the mixture a grade between zero and 5,000,000 with a majority needed to assign a proper value. This is now referred to as an SHU or Scoville Heat Unit. The measure of heat is SHU (Scoville Heat Unit). Other companies may show a high SHU. The SHU is measured at the base resin and not by what comes out of the aerosol. The rated high heat of the resin may be diluted down depending on how much of it is put in the can.
Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states but some states have restrictions. In Nevada pepper spray is legal with restrictions. Nevada law prohibits possession by minors or felons. For use by adults with no more than 2 fluid ounces in the form of an aerosol spray designed for your protection.
In California the restrictions include selling to a minor, and a provision limiting the size to 2.5 ounces by weight. To be legally purchased, possessed or used in California, any canister must have a label that says “WARNING: The use of this substance or device for any purpose other than self-defense is a crime under the law. The contents are dangerous–use with care”.