Alternatives to Pepper Spray

Updated July 20, 2017

As more street crimes are reported, awareness of the dangers that occur while being out in public is rising. For this reason, more people are starting to carry self-defence devices for their own safety. Pepper spray is the most recognised self-defence device and can be purchased at most sporting goods stores, but it is still important to know the dangers and risks of pepper spray as well as easier and slightly safer alternatives.

Problems With Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is not always the most effective, even though it is the most widely sought after self-defence tool. Wind and device malfunction are the most common problems. If the victim is standing downwind from the attacker, the spray will back fire cause severe pain in the eyes and lungs for the victim. Also, most devices have a locking system for safety when the spray is not needed, but this can often make it difficult to use in a high-stress situation when fast action is necessary.

Electronic Devices

Tasers and stun guns are good alternatives because wind is not a problem. When delivered, the attacker is given a short shock that would stop muscle movement momentarily and cause a significant amount of pain, allowing a victim to escape. Even though these are relatively easy to use, there is more danger to the attacker than with pepper spray and deaths have been reported as caused by Taser use, leading to steep consequences for the device carrier.


In most states it is legal to carry a small knife only 1 inch long--please check with your local government for specifics. For this reason, many people are resorting to keeping small, fold-up knives with them. The challenge is that this is an extremely close-range weapon that can really only be used when in close contact with the attacker. And then the victim risks cutting themselves in the process unless she has some previous training with knives.

Keys And Key Chains

Keys and key chains are easily the most overlooked tool against an attacker. For example, if caught in a situation where someone does not feel safe and has no other tools for self-defence, then the person should clutch his keys with the jagged part sticking out between the fingers. If need be, one swift punch will bring any attacker down. Another self-defence tool is the "cat key chain," which is growing in popularity. This is a small plastic key chain in the shape of a cat's head with sharpened ears. While walking in dangerous areas, the person would put their index and middle finger through the cat's eyes, efficiently creating a weapon out of a key chain. This device is much less dangerous than a knife but has the same result if needed in an attack.


Any device used for self-defence is best paired with physical defence skills. Taking a self-defence seminar or a martial arts class is highly recommended to use any of these devices efficiently, because there are always dangers with carrying a weapon, regardless if it is pepper spray or a miniature knife. Also be aware of your state and local self-defence laws because what might be legal in one state is not always the same for the rest.

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About the Author

Nicole Miller is a law student and writer living and studying in Boston. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University, Northridge and is a published writer who has contributed to "Inside Kung Fu Magazine" and various websites.