I'm just going to say it: 2020 was weird, and 2021 has shown zero signs of being, well, much different. Not only have I feared for my safety, in terms of my health with the pandemic, but I have also had to reevaluate my safety on another level as a single female living and traveling alone. In fact, I was physically assaulted by a homeless man earlier this year and ended up in the hospital with several stitches. I was lucky.
If you've been watching the news, you've likely learned that there's been an increase in gun violence and assaults across the United States, including COVID hate crimes against Asian Americans, just to name one example. So, if you're anything like me, knowing how to protect yourself (and having the means to do so) feels empowering and more important than ever. (Related: The Pandemic Is at Turning Point - But to Me, As An Asian American, Things Feel Worse Than Ever)
For starters, a self-defense class is a great idea, since it teaches you techniques, skills, and ways of analyzing situations - including psychological awareness, verbal confrontation, safety strategies, and physical training - that can enable you to successfully de-escalate, slow down, resist, and escape violent attacks. On top of physical conditioning, another thing that can provide comfort and offer some peace of mind is carrying a weapon, like a canister of pepper spray (aka mace or OC spray), if you choose to go that route.
All About the Sabre Red Pepper Spray Keychain
Whether you're starting to travel more for work, are planning a solo trip, or want to feel safer taking public transportation or walking to your car at night, customers have discovered the Sabre Red Pepper Spray Keychain (Buy It, $10, was $12, amazon.com), Amazon's best-selling self defense keychain. (Also, check out this safety guide for hiking solo.)
The 0.5 ounce canister has a 10-foot range with 25 bursts, which is up to five times more than other brands. It has a quick release key ring - if your car keys are in the ignition, for instance, and you need to use your pepper spray - and a twist lock for safely storing it in your purse or backpack. Plus, there's UV dye in the spray that marks your attacker with ultraviolet dye that is only visible under a black light, which helps police identify the suspect.
Pepper spray contains capsaicin - or Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) - a derivative of cayenne pepper. It can cause temporary blindness and a painful burning sensation in the eyes and mouth that incapacitates attackers - allowing for you to escape a seedy situation. While your attacker may be able to open their eyes 10-15 seconds after being sprayed, they'll constantly want to close them and flush them with water, distracting and disabling them. The effects can last up to 45 minutes to an hour, and there are no longterm effects.
Sabre's pepper spray is twice as hot as other brands, and is 67 times hotter than hot sauce. Not to mention, Sabre claims to be the number one brand used by police worldwide. (Related: How Defunding the Police Protects Black Women)
With nearly 49,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, it's also the retailer's best-selling self-defense keychain, so you know you'll be in good hands. Reviewers note how compact and convenient it is as a keychain attachment, that they love the safety feature that keeps it from accidentally going off in your bag or pocket, and have shared that it's saved their lives - and even the lives of their pets.
"Saved my dog's life when another dog attacked him on a walk," wrote a shopper. "I sprayed it on [the] attacking dog, which caused him to drop my dog from his mouth. I was able to rush my dog to [the] vet and save his life. Note, [the] attacking dog was fine once the sting went out of his eyes, so not to worry about that, but it did disable the attacking dog temporarily just in time. Had I not had it, my dog would have been killed."
Another said, "I got a can about a year ago and it was on my keychain. I was riding my motorcycle one day, and while at a gas station, a man with a knife walked up to me and threatened to stab me if I didn't give him my wallet. I had no choice but to spray him in the face and call the cops. He dropped instantly. If I didn't have this stuff, I'd probably not be sitting here right now writing this review.
Is Pepper Spray Legal?
While pepper spray is legal in all 50 states for self-defense purposes, buying it (especially online) can be challenging, since it's considered a weapon. Just like with knives and firearms, there are restrictions on where you can purchase pepper spray, how you can use it, and how much you can carry.
You must be at least 18 years old to carry pepper spray, and the mace must be used for personal defense. In many states, canisters must be pocket-size and cannot exceed a certain number of ounces. While you can road trip with your mace, it is federally banned from any and all air travel, so be sure you don't toss it in your carry-on. (Related: Why Every Woman Should Add Martial Arts to Her Fitness Routine)
In case Amazon isn't allowing you to ship the Sabre pepper spray to your current address, you should know that there are several states that ban shipping of pepper spray: Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. In some of these mentioned states, pepper spray can only be purchased locally from a licensed firearms dealer or a pharmacy, and you must have a firearms identification card.
Some states also regulate who can carry pepper spray; some say convicted felons cannot possess mace, while other states require someone to have a concealed weapon license. Cities can also have their own regulations. The best course of action when doing your research on pepper spray prior to purchasing is to contact your local law enforcement agency to verify the pepper spray shipping and possession laws in the area.
How to Use Pepper Spray
So, you've got the information you need, and now you might be wondering if carrying pepper spray is a good option. According to Mary Beth Wilkas Janke, speaker, and self-esteem mentor, and author of The Protector: A Woman's Journey from the Secret Service to Guarding VIPs and Working in Some of the World's Most Dangerous Places, it could save your life and is a smart idea - with the caveat that you truly know how to use it.
Think about this: If you buy pepper spray, and don't know how to deploy it, it's not going to work in your favor. Knowing the anatomy of the pepper spray canister - what direction to face it, how it is effected by wind, how the safety feature works, etc. - is critical. Not to mention, it's important to actually know how it works and how it disables an attacker. (Related: Self-Defense: What Every Woman Needs to Know)
"More often than not, people - because they don't understand or haven't truly thought it through - end up spraying themselves," says Wilkas Janke. "Their intention was to spray the person, or perpetrator, but they haven't practiced, so they end up spraying themselves." Her recommendation for the best way to learn? Spray someone and have someone spray you.
You think she's joking, but she's not. Her training with pepper spray was literally getting sprayed in the eyes and face with mace, with a huge bucket of water on standby. She ran straight to the bucket of water to flush her eyes out, cry-laughing - because the pain and effects are temporary. But she was grateful for the experience, because she then knew how it works and what it's going to do to a potential attacker.
On top of experiencing pepper spray first-hand (as painful as that sounds), practicing with your canister is also key. "For everything - be it self-defense moves, firearms, or pepper spray - it's muscle memory," says Wilkas Janke. "You can't just buy something and assume when you need it, it's going to work for you. [Pepper spray] is a weapon, although a non-lethal weapon, and you have to treat it as such, and be responsible. And that means training with it," she adds. (Related: How Keri Russell Got in Fighting Shape for The Americans)
When using pepper spray, hold it at arms length, and use your other hand to block your face (but not your vision) as a defensive stance in case your attacker goes to punch or hit you. Be ready to punch, block, and defend with your hand not holding the mace.
Wilkas Janke suggests buying two canisters - using one for training and one for real life. Take your practice canister out every day, as if someone is about to attack you as you're walking to your front door or to your car, and spray it, so that you're cognizant of the wind, direction, and where your finger is. This way, it'll come naturally should you need it.
You can also watch informational YouTube videos to familiarize yourself and get tips for using mace. Sabre Red Pepper Spray Keychain also comes with links to free training videos and safety tips to maximize your personal safety and self-defense. (Related: How to Travel Alone (Safely) Right Now)
Be sure to have your canister readily accessible - not sitting in the bottom of your purse with your forgotten Chapsticks. When your adrenaline is rushing and you're panicked in a life-threatening situation, how would you find it in time? "If you're going to carry it, carry it," says Wilkas Janke. Clip it to your purse, clip it to your belt loop, or clip it to your keys - keeping it in a position where you're ready to use it.
Final Thoughts On Pepper Spray
Even though your attacker is not going to be expecting a face full of mace, it's important to follow through after spraying, since it effects individuals differently. Wilkas Jenke recommends spraying your attacker, and then running to a safe place and reporting the incident. "Just because you spray someone doesn't mean you're safe," she points out. You have to use your voice and scream, "Can somebody help me?", go to a safe place, and to report it, she says.
If you're wanting to increase your personal safety and confidence - whether you're traveling alone or want some additional comfort for walking to your car in a parking lot or while riding the subway home from work in the evening - check out the Sabre Red Pepper Spray Keychain on Amazon.