Best Pepper Spray for Self Defense

There are a lot of non-lethal options for defending yourself, but few as lightweight and effective as pepper spray. It comes in various sizes, mixtures, and strengths all tuned to get one job done: disable a person (or animal) with a burning stream. The best pepper spray will do this every time, not just 70% of the time since we found that low-quality brands showed degradation in a recent study.

There are plenty of brands of pepper spray to pick from. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best pepper spray, put them to the test, and now the results are in: the overall best, an upgrade option, and a canine option. If you want to disable an attacker without lethal force, one of our picks will be a trusted tool.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray

The Best Pepper Spray

Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray

Lightweight, Proven, and Effective

Consistent quality in a small lightweight canister to effectively disable attackers at a moment’s notice.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Sabre is a well-known brand that has been supplying pepper spray since 1975 to police and everyday folks. They are ISO:9001 certified, meaning that their products meet stringent manufacturing requirements, guaranteeing their quality. We talk a little bit about why quality is so important below in our What to Look For section, but variability is not great for the shelf life of the spray.

Here is how the Sabre measures up:

  • Pepper spray, CS tear gas, UV dye mixture
  • 10-foot range
  • 25 bursts
  • 4.5″ H x 1.25″ W x 1.5″ D
  • 0.8 ounces

With reliable quality at an affordable price- it’s easy to see why the Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray is the best.

Mace Tripe-Action Police Pepper Spray

Upgrade Pepper Spray

Mace Triple-Action Police Model

Long-Range, Effective, and Compact

Trusted by LEOs, this spray disables and marks anyone getting out of hand quickly and effectively.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Mace was founded in the 1960s with the invention of their signature pepper spray product. Since then, many advancements have been made- including their popular triple-action that blends CN, OC, and UV dye.

Here is how Mace measures up:

  • OC spray, CN tear gas, UV dye mixture
  • 12-foot range
  • 20 bursts
  • 4.5″ H x 1.25″ W x 1.5″ D
  • 0.7 ounces

If you are looking for a professional solution, Mace Triple-Action Police Model is what you need.

Sabre Dog Pepper Spray

Dog Pepper Spray

Sabre Dog Pepper Spray

Powerful, Proven, and Effective

Stop canines in their tracks with this specially formulated spray for rogue dog encounters.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Aggressive dogs can become a problem quickly if you don’t have personal protection. Dog spray is an effective way to stop them in their tracks with a high level of Capsaicinoids- just under bear mace levels.

This dog spray from Sabre has a uniquely stable mixture, where they guarantee a 4-year shelf life that is ensured with their ISO 9001:2015 certification.

Here are the full specs:

  • OC spray, tear gas, UV dye mixture
  • 12-foot range
  • 14 bursts
  • 4.1″ H x 0.9″ W x 0.9″ D
  • 0.8 ounces

If you are looking for reliable dog defense, get Sabre Protector Dog Pepper Spray for your hikes, walks, and everyday interactions.

Everything We Recommend

Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray

Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray

Consistent quality in a small lightweight canister to effectively disable attackers at a moment’s notice.

Where to Buy

$10* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Mace Tripe-Action Police Pepper Spray

Mace Tripe-Action Police Model

Trusted by LEOs, this spray disables and marks anyone getting out of hand quickly and effectively.

Where to Buy

$17* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Sabre Dog Pepper Spray

Sabre Dog Pepper Spray

Stop canines in their tracks with this specially formulated spray for rogue dog encounters.

Where to Buy

$11* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

The Sprays We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several brands and types of pepper sprays that we compared: Sabre, Mace, UDAP, Counter Assault, Byrna, SprayShield, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a wide range of pepper sprays but ended up comparing ones at the higher end of the capsaicinoid scale. I’ve had extensive experience with OC, CN, and CS running a gas chamber while in the military.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have a pepper spray that you swear by, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.

What to Look For

The best pepper sprays have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Content Mixture
  3. Bursts
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Quality

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a spray that you can rely on to disable an attacker. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the pepper sprays that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like pepper spray shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. It would be hard to do since pepper spray isn’t expensive, but you still want the best bang for your buck.

You never want to spend too much money on one thing when it comes to self-defense and security. It’s better to diversify your spending and budget to make sure you are protected in a wide range of scenarios.

Content Mixture

Most pepper sprays are pressurized chemicals, but the specific chemicals used and proportions can vary. The most common ingredients include:

  • Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) – Capsicum is derived from peppers, ground up, and suspended in liquid to be able to spray. This is the literal ‘pepper spray’ ingredient.
  • Phenacyl Chloride (CN) – The original Mace formula, this is an aerosolized tear gas. Considered a riot control agent, this is no longer used alone for concerns of toxicity.
  • 2-Chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS) – An ‘upgrade’ from the older CN formula, this is the newer conventional tear gas used with higher potency and less toxicity than CN.
  • Propylene Glycol – Emulsifier used to liquefy agents for pressurization and spray.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol – A more penetrating emulsifier, but with a risk of fire.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each mixture, but many manufacturers have developed potent yet reasonable mixtures for fast-working compounds.


The number of bursts in a canister is relative to the size, pressure, and output volume. The more spray bursts you have the better you will be able to disable attackers or even multiple attackers.

Size & Weight

Size and weight matter- you don’t want to be lugging around a fire extinguisher-sized canister just to keep attackers at bay. The best pepper sprays for everyday carry are lightweight and small profile but still have enough power and bursts to take down the bad guy.


Emulsified chemicals can degrade over time. A recent study by Utah State University showed that shelf life has a sharp fall-off with lower-quality pepper sprays. You don’t want your pepper spray just tickling the other guy when you need to rely on it to sting.

This is why large manufacturers place such a big emphasis on quality and consistency. The manufacturing ISO 9001 standards are a good starting point when you’re looking at quality, as well as checking out negative reviews. It takes just one misfire or degraded batch to create a bad situation for you.

Pepper spray is generally legal for civilian use in the United States, although the specific regulations can vary from state to state. The majority of states permit the possession and use of pepper spray for self-defense purposes.

In some states, there are restrictions on the size, concentration, and method of deployment. Other more strict states have age restrictions or require individuals to obtain a permit to carry pepper spray.

Where Pepper Spray is Legal in the US

Who Needs Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray may not be for everyone as it is just one weapon in a wide variety of self-defense tools ranging from knives to CCWs. Because they are non-lethal, legal in some capacity in all states, easy to use, and very inexpensive they can be an attractive option for anyone.

We suggest you consider pepper spray for these survival kits:

Similar to a fire extinguisher, it is helpful to know how to use the spray ahead of time. Even the simplest tasks, like removing the guard tab, can be more difficult under stress or attack.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best pepper spray are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Boivin, R., et al. (2021). The stronger, the better? A natural experiment on the effects of pepper spray concentration levels. Policing: and International Journal. Volume 44. Issue 1. Pages 106-117. (Source)

Brown, L., et al. (2000). Corneal abrasions associated with pepper spray exposure. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Volume 18. Issue 3. Pages 271-272. (Source)

Kaminski, R., et al. (1999). Assessing the incapacitative effects of pepper spray during resistive encounters with the police. Policing: an International Journal. Volume 22. Issue 1. Pages 7-30. (Source)

The Final Word

Self-defense is always a top priority, and pepper spray is a cheap non-lethal solution with wide applications. Grab some for your EDC, survival kits, car, or anywhere else you may find yourself needing a quick and effective incapacitating weapon.

Here are a few other guides and reviews our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray to be the best option given its value, content mixture, bursts, size/weight, and quality.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Pepper Spray

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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