I constantly receive Email forwards about using wasp spray for self-defense. This is one of the worst myths perpetuated against women!!! I wrote an article about the topic which was published internationally. Please read the article and please DO NOT PERPETUATE THIS MYTH, IT ONLY HURTS WOMEN!!!!!! Tammy

Why You Should Not Use Wasp Spray for Self-Defense

As a professional personal defense instructor who has researched many self-defense products and legalities, I can tell you there are two things very wrong with using wasp spray for self-defense. One, federal law prohibits the use of any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. That means it's a felony to use it on a person. Two, and perhaps most importantly, it DOES NOT WORK!

Women in particular perpetuate this myth by forwarding this Email. It claims that wasp spray is much better than pepper spray because it sprays 20 feet and is a lot more accurate. It claims that pepper spray isn't as good because it doesn't spray as far so the bad guy will overpower you. It claims wasp spray will temporarily blind someone. It also claims that a police department gave this advice. That's an easy one to address: no law enforcement agency is going to advise a woman to use something that's ILLEGAL to use for self-defense!

Let me put it this way – you've no doubt seen police officers on the news spraying rioters with pepper spray. How many of you have seen them spraying rioters with cans of wasp spray?

David Nance is a professional security expert who trains law enforcement officers and the public about personal safety. In this radio interview he intelligently addresses the myth of using wasp spray for self-defense. He poses the question, why would you take the word of an Email rather than actual research? In this video David discusses bear spray versus wasp spray. While he's addressing defending against a bear, the SHU (see below for explanation) of bear spray will be similar (but not as hot) as the pepper spray I endorse below. At the end of the video he invites people to do their own research. You can start by reading the can!

It amazes me that otherwise intelligent women do not stop to consider the fact that wasp spray is poison. There's a number on the can for Poison Control, and half the label details how to treat a human or animal who has come in contact with the contents. I suppose those who believe the myth of wasp spray think that's good because they're using it for self-defense...but we live in a country that has laws, and one of those laws is that you may not poison someone! In no jurisdiction in the United States is poisoning considered self-defense, it's considered (and tried as) premeditated murder!

Before donning your can of wasp spray for self-defense, you should check the statutes of your state to see what your federal prison term may be for using wasp spray on a person. In Oklahoma it's no less than 10 years according to Title 21, Section 651, of the Oklahoma Statutes:

§21651. Poison, attempt to kill by administering.

Any person who, with intent to kill, administers or causes or procures to be administered to another any poison which is actually taken by such other person but by which death is not caused shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary not less than ten (10) years.

If you think about it for just a few moments you'll realize the idea of using wasp spray for self-defense is just stupid! And every time a woman does something stupid like forward an Email about something that does not work and is illegal – or sets a can of wasp spray on her desk for self-defense – it sets us all back.

But worse yet, what really makes me angry, is that some day a woman is going to be attacked and she's going to spray wasp spray on her attacker (because that's what she's believed will work) and it's going to have little to absolutely no effect. So you see, she probably won't even have the chance to go to federal prison for attempted poisoning because her attacker will probably kill her...after he rapes and tortures her.

This is just one more thing women are falling prey to and it makes me furious. I'm about REAL self-defense that a woman can use to STOP her attacker! Gimmicks, myths, stories, and urban legends are rampant. The internet has caused these things to spread like wildfire. And women who are otherwise intelligent send everyone in their address book this urgent Email about self-defense from a law enforcement officer. And it is an urban legend as reported by Snopes. Do all of us a favor, next time you get an Email like this, at least check it out on Snopes before you send it to everyone in your address book because unfortunately there are some women who blindly believe these things and you're putting their life in danger by perpetuating that lie!

Am I insulting some of you? Do I sound harsh? Is it making you mad that I'm being so blunt? I make no apologies because I'm working against the grain in the face of incorrect information to try and get women the actual facts that will save her life! It might be your sister, mother, daughter's life that I save...it might be yours!

Here's how the Email typically reads:

Wasp Spray

I have a friend who is a receptionist in a church in a high risk area who was concerned about someone coming into the office on Monday to rob them when they were counting the collection. She asked the local police department about using pepper spray and they recommended to her that she get a can of wasp spray instead. The wasp spray, they told her, can shoot up to twenty feet away and is a lot more accurate, while with the pepper spray they have to get too close to you and could overpower you. The wasp spray temporarily blinds an attacker until they get to the hospital for an antidote. She keeps a can on her desk in the office and it doesn't attract attention from people like a can of pepper spray would. She also keeps one nearby at home for home protection. Thought this was interesting and might be of use...

Let me break this down piece by piece.

1. No police department will tell someone to do something illegal. Using wasp spray on a human when it says right on the can that it's a violation of federal law to use other than its intended purpose is obviously illegal!
2. Wasp spray does not temporarily blind an attacker until they can get an antidote. In fact, it has very little effect on a person.*
3. What's wrong with attracting people's attention that you're prepared to defend yourself?
4. Keeping a can of wasp spray on your desk will certainly attract the attention of a bad guy who will realize at first glance that you are completely ignorant of what could actually ward him off. (He probably got the Email)
5. Absolutely some, in fact most commercially sold pepper sprays will only spray a few feet – this is why it's important to choose the right pepper spray!
6. Pepper spray is in fact an extremely useful tool – have you ever gotten jalapeno pepper juice on your hands and then touched your eyes? Multiply that five million times!
7. The only thing interesting about that piece of fiction is how many people believe and perpetuate it!

*The active ingredient in wasp spray is pyrethrins. Here's what an Ohio State University bulletin has to say about the affect of pyrethrins on humans: "Because of their low level of toxicity, however, pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroids usually cause only irritation to the skin and eyes."

How do you feel now about forwarding that Email to all the women you know, do you think she can stop the violent rapist by irritating his skin and eyes? Do you think you can?

Let me also add that violating the law in an act of self-defense is not an automatic free pass. This is why it is never acceptable to break the gun laws of your state, even while defending yourself. For example, Oklahoma law is very supportive of citizens using lethal force to defend themselves in their home ("Make My Day" law) and away from home ("Stand Your Ground" law), but it does not support a citizen chasing after a bad guy and wildly shooting as bystanders dodge bullets! What I tell my students when I teach the legal portion of the conceal carry class is to consider ahead of time what you will say to the judge and jury if you have to defend yourself. It will be more difficult to explain why you chose something that says on the label that it's a violation of federal law to use for other than its intended purpose than it will be to lawfully defend yourself with a gun or pepper spray, both which are clearly self-defense tools.

In all self-defense applications you must choose your tool wisely and you must train in its use.  I have a four-hour pepper spray class in which I teach my students the differences in pepper sprays, deployment distances, and put them through drills using inert spray on a mock attacker charging them. During the drills, one hundred percent of them hit the mock attacker in the chest, not in the face. In a panic, you don't always squirt it where you want it (whether wasp spray or pepper spray).

Now, if you have a pepper spray that’s sold on the commercial market, you typically have a mixture of chemicals and/or the contents are inadequate in quantity and/or heat, so it may or may not have much effect.

And then there are the variables...

The wind can blow it away. You may not have enough in the canister so you spray it all out without hitting him. You might be too far away. He might move and you miss all together. You may have a twist top lid and spray yourself because you can't see in the dark which way the can is facing (sadly very common). The list could go on with any number of possibilities.  

But without a good tool, none of that matters.

Which is why I ONLY carry and endorse** Fox Labs 5.3 pepper spray. Fox contains pure food grade Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), which is the oil extricated from various hot chili peppers. Scoville Heat Units is the rating used to measure the heat of peppers, and Fox contains 5.3 million SHUs whereas the highest SHU of other brands available commercially is 2.0 million (some brands like Sabre only sell the higher SHUs to law enforcement whereas Fox makes the hottest OC available to both civilians and law enforcement). Pure food grade OC has the instantaneous physiological effect of permeating the eyes, skin, mucous membranes and pores, which allows the active ingredient (OC) to work on contact.  A person sprayed with 5.3 million SHU will think they’re dying – they’ll choke, they’ll gasp for air, their eyes will slam shut – but in reality it causes no physical harm. Your attacker can’t come back and sue you when you’ve caused him no harm!

This is not simple skin and eye irritation, this is serious incapacitation. Here's a video of a woman spraying her husband and his two friends with Fox 5.3 from about 15-20 feet away. Watch the man in the middle, he runs into a tree and you can hear the smack as he hits it. He's short and her spray goes more over his head than hitting him in the face...while he's not as miserable as the other two, he's incapacitated badly enough that if this were a real self-defense situation she'd have time to get away. The other two men...well, watch the video for yourself. After over six minutes one of them is still so blind he has to be led onto the porch. You can hear the other guy ask if he's in the sun (he doesn't know cause he can't open his eyes!). These men have the advantage of being sprayed right away with a water hose and they're still incapacitated! The bad guy won't have this benefit.

With Fox 5.3 the bad guy will also have a difficult time explaining why he is stained with the invisible UV dye found in Fox 5.3. Only the person who attacked you whom you sprayed will glow purple when a black light is shined on him. This helps law enforcement ID the perp. While some brands of pepper spray (including Fox) offer a visible stain, I prefer the invisible UV dye because bad guy won't know it's there and won't be trying to wash it off, or hide because he knows it's there.

**I only teach what I do myself based on my own research, testing, and utilization of any given tool or technique. I've acquired my skill and technique from over 40 years of practicing personal defense plus professional training. I am quick to point out gimmicks because they harm women since she can't adequately defend herself with such practices or tools. However, I acknowledge there are things I don't promote which are valid self-defense tactics and tools. My goal with teaching is to simply teach what I know first hand works for myself, which means it will work for all women.

One of the arguments against pepper spray is that it can blow back in your face. Well, yes, it can, and so can the ineffective toxic wasp spray. 

Which is why I train my students in my pepper spray class to spray and then move. Movement is CRUCIAL in any self-defense. If you swipe someone in the face with the keys on the end of a kubotan, he’s going to involuntarily lurch forward – if you’re still standing there, guess who gets slammed in the face as his head comes down. If you spray someone with pepper spray, they will very often run forward due to reflex (as seen in the above video), and if you’re still standing there, you’ll get run over.  

So it’s not the tool alone that protects you, it’s TRAINING PLUS the tool.

But remember, Fox 5.3 uses OC which consists of organic pepper resin – if you do get some on yourself, it's going to hurt but it won't harm you...it will wear off.

Here are some of the things you need to know about pepper spray…

The little keychain pepper spray units don’t have enough spray in them to make a difference unless you get a direct hit. The contents are equivalent to a teaspoon full of some chemical mixture. If you spray and miss, it’s all gone and that’s that. The Fox 5.3 I recommend is two ounces (shot glass size in volume), small enough to carry in a hand or purse, but big enough to dose several people with it...if you miss and need to spray it again, you’ve got more! For home use, I recommend the 4 ounce firemaster top – most of my students keep these by their entry doors. Now that's something worth having at your bedside or on your desk! That will get the attention of a bad guy who will know full well what it is!

Beware twist top lids – in the dark, which is when most attacks occur, it’s extremely easy to get a twist top can turned around and spray yourself in the face. I recommend the Fox 5.3 flip top, which provides a safety (won’t go off in a purse or pocket), is very easy to deploy when needed, and impossible to accidentally spray yourself in the face. Twisting the top of a keychain model is a fine motor skill; hitting the button on the flip top unit is a gross motor skill. In a crisis with adrenaline pumping, you need gross motor skills!

Avoid stream spray as it requires precise aim, which is extremely difficult for a woman in an attack situation. Fox Labs makes a cone fog which has particles so fine it hangs in the air, yet can deploy to a distance of fifteen feet. If there are multiple attackers (more likely than not) spray a half moon arch above and in front of you and anyone who walks through that arch will breathe in the OC hanging in the air. Even hitting someone at chest level with inert spray is enough to choke the person (I know, I have been that person), so with actual 5.3 SHU of pure OC, they’ll be crying like a baby on the ground for at least thirty minutes even if you hit them in the belly button (as see in the above video). See the differences in cone fog and stream here.

The Fox 5.3 I carry and recommend my students carry is the 2 oz flip top cone fog, it is affordable and available to the public. The Fox Labs website also recommends this for civilian use. This is the firemaster top that I recommend you keep by entry doors. No other brand makes such a powerful pure grade pepper spray available to the public (other brands reserve those for law enforcement only).

Another benefit of pepper spray is that it will have the same effect as a skunk does on a dog. A direct hit will cause them to foam at the mouth, they’ll rub their face on the ground, they’ll probably sneeze for awhile, but it will wear off and the dog will be fine. The dog won’t even cry out. For animal lovers, this is a way to be safe while out walking and not cause permanent harm to a dog if it tries to attack you. Not all dogs that attack are vicious – it’s not uncommon for an otherwise peaceful dog to attack someone's dog who’s walking with their person on a leash (dog’s are notoriously territorial).  

I mentioned using a kubotan – kubotans are miniature batons, about five inches long, with a key ring on the end.  It is a breakaway tool, used to get someone off of you if you’re grabbed or about to be grabbed. If grabbed jab it into the back of a hand, or muscle on the top inside of the elbow and push down with both hands. You can also twist it on top of the radial bone (wrist). If about to be grabbed, a swipe with the keys on the end across the eyes or face can inflict enough pain to cause a person to back off. Jabbing the blunt end of a kubotan into any soft area can result in enough pain that he’ll let go. And once he lets go, GET AWAY!  Remember what I said about movement, don’t just stand there and give him time to compose himself and grab you again, get out of there!

It is important to understand that the kubotan is a close quarter break away tool. When I put my students through close-up drills with a six foot three male mannequin who isn’t moving and trying to kill them, it’s very difficult for them to make contact in a way that effects enough of a result to accomplish anything. There are two reasons for this. One, they are all extremely uncomfortable getting close enough to actually make contact, and two, women simply do not have the strength to overpower a man (or mannequin!). This is why it is so important for women to choose their tools wisely and learn how to properly use them. Training is crucial.  This is the kubotan I carry. These inexpensive colored kubotans are very popular with my students.

Not all men are predators, but all women are prey. Therefore, women must be well trained with effective tools whatever they may be. A good pepper spray, such as Fox 5.3, is a highly effective tool, and with a distance of fifteen feet you can keep the bad guy far enough away. Crucial to self-defense is not allowing an attacker to get close enough to lay hands on you, but if he does, a tool such as a kubotan could give you the chance to get away. 

Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, and I encourage my students to carry it IN their hand when walking out to the parking lot or anywhere there may be danger (which is everywhere). I’ve received feedback from students who say women walk right by, but men always notice the can of pepper spray in her hand and make a wide berth around her. This is very interesting...and very effective. After all, if the man doesn’t get close enough, he can’t do anything to hurt you, can he?  

Tamara L. Pinkston, Founder and Instructor
Oklahoma Personal Defense Academy for Women

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