The Difference between Mace, Pepper Spray & Tear Gas

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Published: 17th June 2015
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Depending on your background, when we talk about a self-defense spray it may be called mace, pepper spray or tear gas. However these are three entirely different products and one has even been removed from the market place.

First I’ll discuss Mace or Chemical Mace as it was known when it was developed in 1965. In 1965 Allan Lee Litman developed Chemical Mace for a division of the Smith and Wesson Company, a firearms manufacturer, as a self-defense spray to be used by the police. Mace Chemical is a form of tear gas mixed with an aerosol spray and designed to be sprayed in the attacker’s face. The name was abbreviated to Mace, however it was not totally effective at disabling a criminal for enough time to either subdue the criminal or to get away to safety. Also it was found to be almost totally ineffective against people who were under the influence of drugs, alcohol or were psychotic. Today the original Mace has been removed from the market place with a history of many police officers being injured when they relied on Mace alone to subdue the suspect. Today a spray sold under the brand name Mace® is actually an OC pepper spray that may include CN tear gas and a UV marking dye, and is very effective and should not be confused with the generic name Mace.

Tear gas was developed for the military during World War II and designed to disable crowds of groups of people also being referred to as riot control gas. This gas followed the “Rules of War”, and was used to replace such things as nerve gas or mustard gas used in World War I. Tear gas that was developed for the military is a white crystal in large a percentage and various other chemicals. Tear gas immediately causes the eyes to shut closed, watering of the eyes and burning, all of which is very painful. Tear gas also enters the nasal cavities and causing choking and a painful burning sensation. Later this was refined to be used in the civilian populace as CN gas or Mace which is in a much less concentrated amount than that of tear gas. Also when used in the military it was expected to be used against other military members that most likely would not be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. As mentioned before, it was found to not be a satisfactory agent for use against criminals and the general public.

Pepper spray was developed to overcome the short comings of tear gas, CN or Mace gas. While Mace was an irritant, pepper spray is an inflammatory agent causing immediate incapacitation. Pepper spray works just as well on people who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or those that may be psychotic. Pepper spray causes inflammation of the capillaries in the eyes and skin and will cause temporary nausea, blindness, breathing difficulties and an associated intense burning sensation.

Today almost all commercial self-defense sprays are based on pepper spray and can have other agents such as tear gas and a UV dye agent to help disable and identify the assailant. Most of these pepper spray products are a convenient spray that is carried in the pocket, purse or car. There are gel sprays that overcome the effects of wind, Pepper Guns that will shoot a longer distance and have a laser sight, and a can that generates a fog that is extremely effective in crowds or against bears. Today these self-defense sprays are readily available and highly effective for non-lethal defense against rape, attack and robbery. They are safe enough for young adults in college and quick and simple enough to use for any man women or aged adult.

Like any self-defense product, you need to carry it to use it. This is facilitated by containers ranging from ˝ oz. to 12 ounces that can be disguised as a lipstick or a pen and hung on the wall or a sun visor. The pepper spray gun is non-lethal using a laser sight for aiming and will shoot from 15 to 20 feet away.

It is legal for you to carry a self-defense spray, but you must follow local laws and restrictions on purchasing, size and shipping. In most instances you will not be allowed to carry a self-defense spray on your person in an airplane or out of the United States. If you check with your local authorities and follow the rules you cannot be sued for using a self-defense spray to protect yourself or your property. Ask a local law enforcement officer and he will most likely tell you he would much rather subdue a criminal with a defense spray than pull out a gun and shoot them. However there are times a gun or deadly force is required. Don’t feel a sense of power that will allow you to get into a dangerous situation, just because you carry pepper spray. Pepper spray is designed to be used to stop an unexpected attack and allowed you to escape and contact the authorities.

Doug Harper is the owner of SharperSafety.com.

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