Friday, August 24, 2012

Self-Defense: Ways to Measure Effectiveness Of Pepper Sprays - Are You Confused Yet?

Recently we did an article on some of the considerations you should take into account when choosing a pepper spray. In that article we touched on the amount of product in the canister, the range of the spray, the shelf life, cost and the safety devices of the pepper spray.

In that article we also touched on the percentage of major capsaicinoids, the percentage of oleoresin capsicum and Scoville heat units. In this article we will talk about those three in particular in much more detail. The reason these are more important is because they determine the ouch factor-how much pain is inflicted. That is a key reason people but defensive sprays for personal safety and personal self-defense.

And this discussion in no way diminishes the importance of checking the contents of the spray to see how many shots it has, what the range of the spray is, what the shelf life of the product is, to see what, if any, safety devices there are. Those are all very important considerations for a self-defense product,

But I have to admit for years we only judged the effectiveness of a pepper spray by the amount of oleoresin capsicum in the product, assuming that the hotter it was, using that as a criteria, the more effective it was. That assumption as it turns out is incorrect or better said, it doesn't present the whole picture.

First, let's define some terms. Scoville heat units or SHU is a common term of measurement of the relative hotness of any particular product. Almost all pepper sprays are at least 2 million Scoville heat units. Oleoresin capsicum or OC for short is the main ingredient in all pepper sprays. Usually the minimum amount in a pepper spray is 10%. And CRC-Capsaicin and Related Capsaicinoids-is the actual heat-producing elements in the spray. Are you confused yet?

It gets worse because as it turns out the oleoresin capsicum gets mixed with emollients to make it a spray, foam or whatever the disbursement method is-it could even be a gel. What that does is dilute the oleoresin capsicum percentage so that the OC percentage right from the get-go is a misleading measurement.

There is one independent laboratory that has been used by the US government for over 40 years called Chromtec LLC. They perform independent tests on a variety of products. For pepper sprays they came up with something called the CHR or certified heat rating. This measures the effectiveness, in terms of hotness, at the point of impact when it hits an attacker. It is the pain producing component of OC.

One problem associated with this is that, as far as we know, there is the only one major manufacturer of pepper sprays that uses this methodology for documenting the hotness of their products so there is nothing to compare it with.

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