Pepper Spray Vs. Bear Mace

Guest Article by Joe Humphries from

When it comes to using a chemical spray for personal protection from human and animal attackers, you may think that all sprays are equal. There are all kinds of personal safety sprays available such as bear, pepper, and dog sprays. While it might be tempting to take a one size fits all approach to carrying sprays, using the wrong spray on an attacker can put you in real danger.

For instance, the differences between bear mace and pepper spray and how they should be used are major. Both bear mace and pepper spray use oleoresin capsicum as the active ingredient that causes the painful, burning effects of the self-defense spray. Oleoresin capsicum is produced in chili peppers; it’s the capsaicin, the inflammatory agent, that makes them hot. Capsaicin is also used in topical pain relief creams to reduce swelling and ease muscle pain.

Since both pepper spray and bear mace have this common ingredient, wouldn’t it make sense that either one of them would work on a bear just as well as a human attacker, and vice versa? The answer is no. A good pepper spray should contain 10% of oleoresin capsicum. Bear mace has a concentration of 1-2% of the same ingredient. That’s a big difference, right? When you spray an attacker with pepper spray, these are the effects that you should see on them: trouble breathing, temporary blindness, tearing eyes, swollen eyelids, and intense pain from the excessive burning sensation of the pepper spray. That’s what happens when you spray a person with pepper spray because of the higher concentration of oleoresin capsicum.

Now imagine pulling out your bear spray and using it to stop your attacker. Recall that bear mace has much less oleoresin capsicum. If you are lucky, the shock of getting sprayed with something will make the criminal run away. The alternate outcome is that the bear spray will cause them just a slight irritation around the eyes, nose, and mouth but that they will not be incapacitated. In fact, using bear mace on a human could make them angry and increase the possibility of further violence against you.

Bear mace carries a lower punch when it comes to the chemical ingredient oleoresin capsicum because it is not intended to hurt the animal, but instead to get them to run away from you. While the physical symptoms of pepper spray used on humans lingers for about 20 minutes, bear mace when used correctly on a bear should last at least 30 minutes (giving you a chance to get out to safety). Bear mace when used right should deter it from attacking you, but not harm it.

There is also a difference in canister sizes and spray ranges between bear mace and pepper spray. Pepper spray is made for personal defense and can be found in easy to carry, compact sizes. Bear spray is much bigger given the fact that you will be using it on a very large animal. Pepper spray can fire in a stream from 8-12 feet, and a cone spray from 6-12 feet. Bear spray range can be up to 35 feet but short-range bursts to the animal’s face are better for defensive tactics. The bottom line: use the right spray for your best defense.

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One Response to Pepper Spray Vs. Bear Mace

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