4 Less-Than-Lethal Options for Defense

Stocking pepper spray opens up a bigger customer base than most firearms.

4 Less-Than-Lethal Options for Defense
iStock photo by Zoran Kolundzija

It might surprise many shooting sports retailers to learn that a lot of gun owners — even those who carry a concealed firearm on a daily basis — also frequently carry less-than-lethal options along with them, whether on their person, in a purse or backpack, on a keychain or in their vehicle. Consequently, having an inventory of such devices could result in increased sales in an area you hadn’t before anticipated.

Before we go into some of these less-than-lethal devices that you might choose to have behind your gun counter, let’s first take a look at the topic in a little broader sense. In decades past, Mace came onto the scene and was a favorite of many young women who frequently found themselves alone in parking lots, on campus and anywhere else their day or night might take them. Traditional chemical mace (CN) is classified as an irritant and is similar to tear gas.

Nowadays, pepper spray is the less-than-lethal option of choice for most companies making self-defense products for the civilian market. Pepper spray, unlike Mace, is classified as an inflammatory agent and will almost immediately incapacitate just about any assailant. The main ingredient of pepper sprays is oleoresin capsicum, the same thing that causes some people to tear up when eating hot peppers that are just a little too spicy.

Oleoresin capsicum can cause an attacker to experience a burning throat, dry cough, shortness of breath, as well as make them gag, wheeze and gasp for air. Hit with a direct shot in the eyes, an assailant or attacker will be temporarily blinded, giving a person under attack even more time to escape to a safer location. Some companies add additional ingredients to their pepper spray that kicks up the effect and makes breathing it or coming into contact with it even more temporarily debilitating.

Incidentally, while pepper spray might seem like a modern self-defense tool, the concept has actually been around for a very long time. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Chinese flung bits of pepper at their enemies in combat in hopes of debilitating them. That being the case, modern pepper spray and the means by which to deliver it both accurately and effectively have come a long way from those days.

The Case For Less-Lethal

The question that many who have chosen to carry a concealed firearm might ask is why carry pepper spray when they already have a functional firearm and have trained long and hard to be able to handle it safely and efficiently even under dire circumstances. There are several good answers to that question.

For one thing, you can carry pepper spray in many locations where a firearm is not allowed under restrictive federal, state or local laws. You won’t be arrested for having it in your vehicle in the pick-up line at school, and walking around campus with a canister of pepper spray typically won’t get you expelled or, worse yet, prosecuted.

Pepper spray also helps alleviate some of the potential liability even those in the right can face after a self-defense shooting. Overzealous prosecutors in large, anti-gun cities like to try to make an example out of people using guns for lawful self-defense, and just because a shooting is justified doesn’t mean the person practicing self-defense won’t be dragged through years of court drama and bankrupted as a result.

Self-defense shootings can also result in mental and emotional trauma to the person forced to use their firearm in self-defense, even when within their rights to do so. PTSD for those involved in any kind of shooting is a very real thing, and killing someone — whether right or wrong — can leave an emotional scar.

A few other reasons many choose pepper spray include the fact that just about anywhere you might go with your pepper spray, there is no government permit needed to carry it. Additionally, there are no waiting periods like there are tacked on to firearms purchases in some jurisdictions, nor are there government background checks like there are on guns when purchased at the retail level.

Additionally, pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, although some states and localities do have a few restrictions on the books. It’s wise to know those laws so you can help your customers better understand the situation and stay within the law.

Interestingly, the use of some pepper sprays to stop an attack actually helps law enforcement personnel find the perpetrator later. Many companies add marking dyes to their pepper spray, meaning whoever is hit by it will be temporarily marked until they can wash off the dye.

Many companies now offer their pepper sprays in a couple different forms. While canisters shooting out spray or gel are among the most popular, some offer firearm-like launchers that shoot pepper balls at antagonists, with the resulting splatter incapacitating an attacker for a long enough period that the threatened person can make his or her way to safety. While carrying such launchers is similar to carrying a firearm, they are excellent for home defense in the case that someone breaks into your home and you need to protect yourself.

With all that said, here’s a rundown of some of the top manufacturers and some of their most popular offerings.


Byrna offers their top-quality Bad Guy Repellant, a potent combination of pepper spray, tear gas and UV dye, in several different sizes from large canisters to small pocket-sized versions that you can easily fit into your pocket. The combination of ingredients is very potent and will cause an assailant to gasp for air, and have a burning throat, dry cough, shortness of breath, burning of the eyes and lungs and even nausea. Those symptoms obviously make continuing an attack quite difficult.

Byrna’s firearm-like launchers have been adopted by over 300 law enforcement agencies around the world. The pistol-style launchers fire pepper balls at around 300 fps and have an effective range of 60 feet, well beyond grappling distance. Their rifle launchers are even more potent, sending pepper balls at about 325 fps with an effective range of 100 feet. (byrna.com)

Fox Labs 

Fox Labs is a very popular pepper spray manufacturer that also has various products suited to different needs and lifestyles. The Fox 5.3 Keychain Pepper Spray is a favorite of many, as it is light, easily concealed and very effective, with a maximum police strength spray measuring 5.3 million SHU (Scoville Heat Units). With an 11-gram capacity providing 10 half-second bursts, you won’t be left lacking with this unit.

Fox also offers a number of other configurations ranging from large to small, with most in the $25 to $30 range. A 16-ounce model of the company’s One Point Four spray is suitable for crowd control. Note, however, that some states limit the size of pepper spray that civilians can carry, so check state and local regulations. (foxlabs.com)


Sabre’s Tactical Pepper Gel with Holster offers a 20% greater range than traditional pepper spray and helps prevent blowback when used in windy conditions. The ergonomic flip top gives the user complete control. And a smaller version, Sabre’s Pepper Gel with Snap Key Chain, sells for only about $12. 

The company also offers a number of models for home-defense purposes, including a pistol-like pepper gel deployment system and a large Home Defense pepper gel with an effective range of 18 feet and that deploys 12 maximum strength pepper bursts per container. Like many companies, Sabre offers practice canisters of some of their products so users can become familiar with them and practice before carrying them for self-defense. (sabrered.com)


Asp’s Metro Defender D1 is a tiny, easily concealable keychain unit that packs a big punch. Made of aluminum and designed to law enforcement standards, these little pepper spray dispensers use replaceable aerosol inserts, including both pepper spray canisters and inert test canisters. They’re available in a number of colors, and discharging the system requires two separate and distinct operations to disengage the safety and activate the insert, making it super safe to carry.

The company’s new Sport Defender is even smaller and lighter, with a polymer housing instead of aluminum. Along with being used as a keychain, it includes a pocket clip to be carried like an ink pen and is packed with the exact same OC irritant used by law enforcement. Inert test spray canisters are also available for the diminutive, value-priced unit. (asp-usa.com)

Effective Alternative

In the end, there’s no better defense against violent attackers than a quality handgun carried by a person well trained in its use and in self-defense laws of their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, that’s not always within the realm of possibility. Pepper spray, however, is an effective alternative when carrying a gun just isn’t possible for whatever reason, or as an additional level of protection.

No matter what pepper spray brands you might choose to have in your inventory, it’s important that both you and your customers realize that these items are not toys. Used wrong, they can hurt, at least temporarily, the user or someone who the user doesn’t intend to target.

If you’re not carrying pepper spray in your inventory, you might be missing out on sales to those who prefer to carry such products every day or even just when they visit someplace they can’t carry their firearms. There are a lot of upsides to pepper spray and other less-than-lethal products, and one is the potential customer base for these products is much broader than that of firearms.


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