As far as non-lethal self-defense products go, pepper spray is by far the most popular. Pepper spray, or OC spray is a liquid, gel, or foam that is contained in a canister and released at an attacker causing immediate discomfort. The active agent in these formulas is the natural chemical Oleoresin Capsicum; found in hot peppers, hence the term pepper spray.
Pepper sprays are sometimes confused with other types of defense sprays. There are three different incapacitating formulas commonly used in defense sprays:
OC (Oleoresin Capsicum)
CN was the chemical makeup of the original Mace spray. Known as Chemical Mace, this formula was originally distributed by Smith & Wesson in 1962. CN was researched extensively in the first half of the twentieth century by the U.S. and was used by forces in Vietnam and quite possibly in earlier conflicts. A lachrymatory agent, CN causes tears, pain, and often temporary blindness by stimulating the corneal nerves in the eyes. It can take any where from five to thirty seconds to work, and if the aggressor has training, is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or has a high tolerance for pain, it can be comletely ineffective. CN sprays have come to be generically known as mace, or tear gas.
CS spray was discoverd by two scientists whom the spray was named for, Corson and Stoughton. CS is a solid white powder at room temperature and is combined with a solvent, quite often MISK (Methyl Isobutyl Ketone) to deliver the desired effect. CS smells of pepper and is often wrongly referred to as pepper spray. Like CN, CS is an irritant to membrane tissues. Research has shown exposure to CS and the solvent MISK to have harmful long term affects. Increases in asthmatic episodes, even heart attacks have been reported as side effects of exposure to CS. Other research has shown CN and CS to possibly cotain carcinogenic properties.
OC, other than being the most natural of the choices, is also the most effective. An inflammatory agent not an irritant, when sprayed with OC two things happen almost instantly. First, the attacker’s eyes will slam shut like they have just been glued together. If the assailant is then still somehow able to open them he will not be able to see, because OC dilates the capillaries of the eye, causing temporary blindness. Second, the breathing tissues flare up, causing intense coughing and the restriction of all but life support breathing. Quite frankly, spraying OC is like putting a kung-fu master between you and your attacker. The effects of OC can take up to thirty minutes to wear off and have been shown to cause no long term side effects.
OC pepper spray is made by many companies and comes in all different configurations. Mace Security International is one of the leading suppliers of pepper spray products. Mace is the most recognized name in defense sprays, and because mace has come to be the generic term for chemical defense sprays, it is confusing to understand MACE brand also manufactures OC pepper spray. Someone may allude to mace, meaning either a CN/CS spray or OC spray. OC sprays are the only types of sprays still widely available to the public and the only defense sprays that should be considered for civilian home defense.