Hello again! In my earlier post, What’s So Hot about Pepper Spray, I told you about the effects of pepper spray. But once you’ve decided that you want to purchase a container of pepper spray, there are a few other things to consider. The most important decision (in my opinion) is whether to purchase a pepper spray container that shoots a stream or a spray.

Each has its positives and its negatives. I’ll go over them, but ultimately you should purchase the one that YOU feel will work best for you in most situations. So, just to be sure we’re on the same sheet of music here, although there are other types of delivery, the two most common are stream and spray (also called mist or fog). Think of “stream” as what you would see coming from a water pistol or squirt gun. When we say “spray,” think of what comes out of an aerosol can of room freshener or a can of hair spray.


Spray or Fogger






There’s no real difference in the chemical makeup of the either type (not including the “foaming” stream, but we’re not going to cover that one today). The only difference is in the type of nozzle that is used on each particular container.

The issues I’ll talk about for each are: range, amount of liquid hitting the target, blow back, aiming, avoidance, and group targeting.

  1. Range. This basically means how far it will spray. Some “streams,” depending on the brand and container size, can shoot up to 8 or even 10 feet away. But I would say that if someone is THAT far away, you shouldn’t be trying to spray them anyway, regardless of whether you’re using a spray or stream! Remember that your target is the eyes, nose, and mouth. You’re really only aiming at a target that is about the size of a music cd. That’s a pretty small target, especially at 8-10 feet! Some of the “sprays” will also get out to 7 or 8 feet, but the spray is spreading out while the stream is staying, mostly, together. So I would suggest NOT using your pepper spray until your target is just outside of HIS arm length (unless he’s running AT you, then 8-10 feet will become 2-3 feet VERY quickly). That means that BOTH stream and spray would be effective.
  2. Amount of Liquid. What I mean here is how much of the liquid is actually getting on your target. Since the “stream” stays together instead of spreading out like a “spray,” you will get more liquid on your target using a canister that shoots a stream. However, I can tell you from personal experience (we had to be sprayed with it in law enforcement training) that it doesn’t take much pepper spray to get the job done! And, since you’re wanting your target to be closer to you before using your pepper spray (since that will help you aim AND it also makes it more clear that he was actually intending to harm you), the choice between “stream” and “spray” on the issue of “how much liquid hits your target” is really a toss-up. Within arm’s reach or closer, both types will get PLENTY of the liquid on the bad guy.
  3. Blow back. When you shoot your pepper spray at someone, there is a chance that some of it will get on you, especially if there is wind involved. That pepper spray that is coming back at you is what I’m calling “blow back.” As you might guess, the “stream” will be FAR less likely to come back on you, even in moderate wind. So, if you live in a very windy location, the “stream” delivery might be better for you.
  4. Aiming. As I mentioned earlier, your target is not very big, and as luck would have it, your target is probably MOVING too! But at close-in distances, 1-4 feet, aiming gets much easier. Think of it like this: the “stream” is coming out in a thin line while the spray is coming out in an ever expanding cone. It would be like the difference in trying to hit a target on the wall with a laser pointer (the stream) vs hitting a target on the wall with a flashlight’s beam (the spray). Even if you miss the target with the center of the flashlight beam, your target is probably still within that bigger circle of light coming from the flashlight. At close range, it shouldn’t make too much of a difference, unless you are the kind of person who shakes dramatically when scared. In that case, the “spray” would probably serve you better.
  5. Avoidance. When your kids try to shoot you with a squirt gun (stream), sometimes you can duck out of the way, AVOIDING getting a bunch of water right up the nose! So a “stream” of pepper spray can be, may be avoided by your target (unless he is practically touching you). It is much harder to avoid that wide cone of pepper “spray!” Plus, you have to remember, many of the personal carry sizes of pepper spray are only ½ to 1 ounce, which may only give you 4-6 ½ second squirts, which is another reason to NOT try to squirt a target that is farther away!
  6. Group targeting. This refers to the possibility of there being more than one person you are trying to defend yourself from. The “stream” just isn’t very good for this situation. Even if you get one guy, there is so much coming out in the stream that you probably won’t have enough to effectively squirt his buddies. Plus, they will then be focused on trying to AVOID your streams of pepper spray. When using the “spray” type, you can affect several people much easier. Even though you may not get as much on the others, even breathing a small amount of the pepper spray can cause intense choking and eye watering. Of course if they get it directly IN their eyes, there will also be the loss of vision for a short time.

With all that in mind, here’s my suggestion ONLY to adults who don’t have breathing issues AND don’t wear contacts (BUT DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK): find a pepper spray container that is comfortable in your hand and then buy a “stream” model AND a “spray” model in that size, some poster board, and some splash resistant safety glasses or goggles and some baby shampoo – in case you get pepper spray on you, and experiment and practice with them. The BEST way to do this is to find a class where you can be directed, supervised, and helped by a knowledgeable person. Check with your local law enforcement agencies to see if classes are available in your area.

If there’s no classes you can attend, you can try the following (be careful if you choose to do this, keeping in mind that some spray may get on you, so do this at your own risk):

Take the poster board and draw several circles (about 6-7inches across) on it. You could even draw or paste a face on each target. Then take the poster board OUTSIDE and thumbtack it to a tree (or something) so the circles are about 5 feet from the ground. You could also just thumbtack several paper plates up as well.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: many pepper spray mixtures come with a marking dye in them to help identify the person you were defending yourself against. That dye is very difficult to get off of your skin or anything else you spray, so you probably shouldn’t put those targets on your house or close to your car, etc!!!)

Then, once you have your targets up in a safe place where nothing else and NO ONE else will get sprayed, put on your safety goggles, take 3 good steps backward (that should be about 6 feet from your target to your extended arm) and shoot a ½ second shot at one of the targets. Do it with the stream and then with the spray. See how many shots it takes you to get a “direct hit” in the target “face.” Then, try hitting 2 or more of the targets with a single 1/2-1 second burst. Be aware that when you use the “spray,” you will probably end up breathing a little (remember “blow back”?). If you do, just get some fresh air and your choking and coughing will stop shortly.

Keep on practicing until your containers run out. This should give you a good idea of which one you like better AND how much you can spray out of that container you purchased. Now that you know which one you like better, go and buy yourself another one to carry with you. Luckily, pepper spray is quite inexpensive, so you could even practice this a few times a year.

By the way, you’ll want to let the pepper spray on the targets dry before you remove them. Even then, you will still want to wear gloves to keep from getting any on your skin. Remember, pepper spray is an oil based mixture. That means if you try to “wipe it off,” you will only smear it, causing it to “burn” you even more! If you do get it on your skin or eyes, use the baby shampoo and COLD WATER to wash it off.

Here’s another IMPORTANT NOTE: if you do get pepper spray on you, DO NOT GET UNDRESSED AND GET IN THE SHOWER. That oil based pepper mixture will happily run down your naked body (with the water) and it will get in (and burn) every nook and cranny you have! Its pretty funny to hear about, but it IS NOT funny when it happens!

You’ll also want to be sure to do this where your pets can’t get into the pepper spray that ended up on the ground. Although it may just get on their fur, you won’t be happy when you pet them and then touch your eyes, face, toilet paper, etc. You probably won’t like it when they rub their pepper spray dyed fur on your furniture or on your 6 month old niece either!

So there you have it. Now you know the positives and the negatives of both the “spray” and “stream” types of pepper sprays. You also know to try each out and how to practice with them. There’s one other pepper spray topic I really want to cover (in another post, of course) and that is the 2 types of safety mechanisms that are common on pepper spray containers and what to consider when picking one out for yourself.

Until next time,


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