The 6 Best Pepper Sprays

We’ve researched the best pepper sprays, highlighted their pros and cons, and provided a breakdown of the legal restrictions in each state.
Written by | Updated January 29, 2019

When it comes to non-lethal self-protection, pepper spray is hard to beat. Whether you need to fend off an assailant or frighten an animal, we’ve researched the best pepper spray brands, so you can buy and carry with confidence.

Pepper spray is a powerful substance containing capsaicin, a derivative of cayenne pepper. Also known as Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), when sprayed in the eyes, it causes an excruciating burning sensation—incapacitating an attacker and allowing for a safe getaway. It’s important to note that pepper spray is legal in all 50 states (when used as a self-defense weapon), but some states have strict regulations.

The Best Pepper Sprays for Self-Defense

Product
Price
Size
Number of Uses
Carry Method
OC Strength
Range
Best Overall
Budget Pick
Best Keychain Spray
Best Alternate Brand
Most Discreet
Best Gun-Style Spray
image of Sabre red pepper gel with black carrying case image of black canister of Sabre pepper spray image of turquoise pepper spray canister image of black canister of fox labs pepper spray image of slim, black keychain pepper spray image of red gun-shaped pepper spray
Sabre Red Pepper Gel Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray Sabre Kuros! Pepper Spray Fox Labs Flip Top Spray ASP Key Defender Kimber Pepper Blaster
Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Amazon
Fits in pocket or purse Fits in pocket or purse Fits in pocket or purse Fits in pocket or purse Pen-size, fits in pocket or purse Palm-size, gun-shaped
18 bursts 35 bursts 25 bursts 18 bursts 6 bursts 2 bursts
Clip-on holster Clip-on canister Keychain No clip or keychain Keychain Gun holster
10% 1.33% 1.33% 2% 10% 10%
18 ft. 10 ft. 10 ft. 17 ft. 10 ft. 13 ft.

Pepper Spray Reviews

1. Sabre Red Pepper Gel

Best Overall
image of Sabre red pepper gel with black carrying case

This pepper spray is the single most talked about, ordered, and reviewed pepper spray out there. Touted by Sabre as one used by law enforcement, this self-defense weapon stands out from the pack because it’s a gel (instead of a traditional spray). This makes it more accurate and gives it a higher concentration of oleoresin capsicum (OC). The gel formula also has less blowback, so it’s safer to use.

Pros

  • Gel Spray
    The most common worries and complaints with pepper spray have to do with accuracy and blowback from the bursts. The gel not only allows for a high OC concentration but, since it’s a heavier liquid, also has less blowback and shoots in a straighter line.
  • Affordable Price
    At just under $12, this pepper spray and holster combo is a great deal.
  • Long Range
    With an 18-foot range, Sabre’s pepper gel has one of the longest ranges on the market. The longer range means you won’t have to wait for an assailant to get close to protect yourself.

Cons

  • No Practice Canister
    Some pepper sprays include a practice canister so you can get used to firing your pepper spray without using up the actual product, but Sabre only sells these separately.
  • Possible Dripping Issues
    Some users reported that their canisters dripped after the initial use, which is a common complaint with many pepper sprays. Keeping the canister in the holster can help with this.

2. Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray

Budget Pick
image of black canister of Sabre pepper spray

This product from Sabre is a traditional-style pepper spray. It’s called a 3-in-1 because it includes a mix of the traditional capsaicin-based pepper spray, tear gas, and a UV dye for marking an attacker. It’s also easy to carry and has decent range.

Pros

  • Lots of Shots
    Sabre’s 3-in-1 has 35 bursts per canister, which is the most shots available on the market.
  • Super Affordable Price
    Priced at less than $10, this is a pepper spray that’s easy to buy and easy to replace when it expires.
  • Trusted Brand Name
    Even though this product has a lower OC percentage, it comes from a trusted brand and is highly rated by reviewers.

Cons

  • No Holster
    This pepper spray comes only with a clip to hook it to your pocket or the edge of your purse. A holster would make for much easier carrying, and they are available, but you have to buy them separately.
  • Low OC Percentage
    With 1.33% OC, this pepper spray has a lower percentage than others on the market. Sabre says that OC percentage is not the best indicator of the strength of a product (the company prefers to measure major capsaicinoids), but it is one used by many in the industry, so it’s worth noting.

3. Sabre Kuros! Pepper Spray

Best Keychain Spray
image of turquoise pepper spray canister

The Kuros! spray comes in a keychain-style canister. Small, lightweight, and a bright blue color, this canister easily attaches to or detaches from your keychain. It’s also an ethically minded product: a portion of each purchase goes to providing pepper spray to a woman in a developing nation.

Pros

  • Stylish
    A lot of pepper sprays are no-nonsense, black canisters with black holsters or clips. There are a few on the market that are more decked out, but those are often poorly rated. The Kuros! from Sabre is an effective product with a little bit of style.
  • Inexpensive
    Priced around $10, this product won’t break the bank.
  • Easy to Keep Track Of
    Though the keychain option means your keyring will be a bit bulkier, your pepper spray will always be handy and so will your keys. You certainly won’t lose this in your purse!

Cons

  • Low OC Percentage
    Again, this product has a lower OC rating, but Sabre says its level of major capsaicinoids is higher than competitors. A 1.33% OC could mean lower strength to irritate, though, so it is worth noting.
  • Practice Needed
    Since it’s hooked to your keys, you might need to practice not only firing the pepper spray but also attaching and detaching it from your keys quickly (in case an assailant appears when you’re unlocking your door).

Runners-Up

4. Fox Labs Flip Top Spray

Best alternate brand
Fox Labs is another well-known brand in the pepper spray world. The flip-top spray is a basic, high-quality option for a non-lethal self-defense weapon. Reviewers love that this product has a flip-top design for safety. It also has a 2% OC rating and costs under $20. The biggest drawback is that this canister does not come with any carrying options—no clip, holster, or keychain attachment. You’ll have to buy one of those separately.

5. ASP Key Defender

Most discreet
The ASP Key Defender is one of the sleekest pepper sprays. It looks like a penlight, and it’s an easy addition to your key ring that won’t weigh it down. It has a 10% OC rating, meaning it’s one of the stronger sprays on the market. And it also comes in a lot of different, fun colors. But it doesn’t easily detach from your keys, so if you’re using your keys during a potential attack, you’ll need to pull the key out of the lock or car ignition to use the spray. It also has only two bursts, so you’ll probably want to buy more than one in order to practice and have an adequate amount of defensive spray.

6. Kimber Pepper Blaster

Best gun-style spray
The Kimber Pepper Blaster is a unique option in the pepper spray world. Instead of offering a traditional canister, Kimber’s Pepper Blaster is built like a small handgun or stun gun. It can be carried in a gun holster and is fired like a typical handgun. People who go with this option like it because it’s more intimidating than a pepper spray canister and it’s easier to aim. Many reviewers also report less blowback and scatter with a pepper blaster. But this is only a single-use gun. It will fire two bursts of 10% OC pepper spray, but after that, you’ll need a new one. And they are on the pricier end—retailing for around $40.

FAQS

What is OC?

OC stands for oleoresin capsicum, an oil derived from the inflammatory compound in chili peppers. The same element that makes a chili spicy is what makes pepper spray dangerous. OC percentage is one way the intensity of pepper spray is ranked.

What does SHU mean?

SHU stands for Scoville heat units, and it’s how peppers are typically ranked for spiciness. A low SHU, like bell peppers, means a pepper is not spicy at all. A high SHU, like a ghost pepper, means it’s extremely spicy. Some pepper spray manufacturers will use this scale to explain the stinging and irritating abilities of their spray.

What about using bear spray for self-defense?

Bear spray is a popular answer to questions about self-defense and non-lethal weapons. Bear spray is similar to pepper spray but it comes in a bigger canister. Bear spray cans are typically around the size of a spray paint can or fire extinguisher. They can be useful for outdoor enthusiasts and anyone working or living in areas with large animals, like bears or coyotes. However, bear spray isn’t usually useful for self-defense because of its size. It just isn’t practical to carry.

Is pepper spray legal?

Yes. Pepper spray is legal in all fifty states, but some states have regulations about types of sprays, strengths of sprays, and size of canisters. This document from Cabela’s offers a more thorough explanation and a state-by-state breakdown. If you are at all uncertain about what the pepper spray laws are in your state, you can always contact your local police department.  

Can anyone buy pepper spray?

In most states, you’ll have to be at least 18 to buy pepper spray. Some states have restrictions on people with felonies. Check the link above for more information on each state’s policies.

What do I do if I get pepper spray on myself?

Blowback is a big concern with pepper spray, especially when you’re just practicing with it. If you get it in your eyes, blink rapidly and let your eyes tear up to flush out the irritant. You can also flush your eyes with water. If you only get it on your skin, washing with soap and water is your best bet. Be careful not to touch your eyes after using pepper spray or getting it on your hands—it can leave a residue that will irritate for a long time.

Is pepper spray gel lethal?

Pepper spray gel is new on the market and preferred by a lot of users because it has less blowback and it’s more accurate. It can also carry higher concentrations of OC. Because of that, people may worry about whether they could be held liable for someone’s death when it’s sprayed. This is a myth, though. Deaths from pepper spray are extremely rare and often involve other compounding factors (like asthma). Pepper spray is almost always non-lethal.  

State-by-State Pepper Spray Laws

All 50 states have made pepper spray legal when used in self-defense. However, some states have restrictions on how you can use it, how much you’re allowed to carry, and the minimum age range in which you’re permitted to use it. And on a federal level, you’re never allowed to take pepper spray onto an airplane, or you could face a $25,000 fine. Take a look at state pepper spray laws below, so you can learn exactly what’s required of you in your state.

Alabama Legal with no restrictions
Alaska You have to be over 18 to possess pepper spray. You’re also not allowed to bring pepper spray to school unless you’re 21 or older.
Arizona Legal with no restrictions
Arkansas You can’t carry more than 150cc of pepper spray (about 5 ounces).
California You can’t carry more than 2.5 ounces of pepper spray. If you break this law or use it illegally, you can get up to a $1,000 fine or three years in jail.
Colorado Legal with no restrictions
Connecticut Legal with no restrictions
Delaware Minors may not use pepper spray.
Florida You can’t carry more than two ounces of pepper spray.
Georgia Legal with no restrictions
Hawaii Only people 18-years and older can carry pepper spray, and no more than half of an ounce.
Idaho Legal with no restrictions
Illinois You have to be over 18 to possess pepper spray. Carrying pepper spray in Chicago is illegal.
Indiana Legal with no restrictions
Iowa Legal with no restrictions
Kansas Legal with no restrictions
Kentucky Legal with no restrictions
Louisiana Legal with no restrictions
Maine Legal with no restrictions
Maryland Legal with no restrictions
Massachusetts You can only purchase pepper spray from licensed firearm dealers.
Michigan You can’t have pepper spray with more than 10 percent Oleoresin Capsicum (OC).
Minnesota Legal with no restrictions
Mississippi Legal with no restrictions
Missouri Legal with no restrictions
Montana Legal with no restrictions
Nebraska Legal with no restrictions
Nevada You have to be over 18 to possess pepper spray, and it can’t be more than two ounces.
New Hampshire Legal with no restrictions
New Jersey You have to be over 18 to possess pepper spray, and it can’t be more than three quarters of an ounce.
New Mexico Legal with no restrictions
New York You have to be over 18 to possess pepper spray.
North Carolina You can’t carry more than 150cc (about five ounces) of pepper spray
North Dakota Legal with no restrictions
Ohio Legal with no restrictions
Oklahoma Legal with no restrictions
Oregon Legal with no restrictions
Pennsylvania Legal with no restrictions
Rhode Island You have to be over 18 to possess pepper spray.
South Carolina You can’t carry more than 50cc of pepper spray (about 1.69 ounces).
South Dakota Legal with no restrictions
Tennessee Legal with no restrictions
Texas Legal with no restrictions
Utah Legal with no restrictions
Vermont Legal with no restrictions
Virginia Legal with no restrictions
Washington You have to be over 18 to possess pepper spray, or 14 and older with parent permission.
West Virginia Legal with no restrictions
Wisconsin Pepper spray can’t contain UV dye or a combination of spray types. It also may not have more than 10% Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) concentration or be camouflaged. Wisconsin is pretty strict, so it’s best for residents in this state to check with local law enforcement to ensure they’re following the law.
Wyoming Legal with no restrictions

* This data was used from Cabela’s pepper spray database. Everyone who purchases pepper spray should double check with local police departments to verify state laws.

How We Evaluated the Best Pepper Sprays

To evaluate the best pepper sprays, we talked with people who were in the market for pepper spray and read multiple online forums and reviews. We also looked at technical specifications and recommendations for pepper sprays. For more information on our research practices, see the SafeWise Methodology.

Written by Laura E. Hilton

Laura is a writer, teacher, and mother based out of Utah. She is passionate about making and maintaining strong, safe, healthy communities. To learn more, visit her website at lauraehilton.com. Learn more

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