Who could have thought half a century back that the pepper we use so extensively for seasoning and for making our food taste spicier and hot could one day be used as a weapon for self defense? Yet, here we are with an innovative self defense spray known as the pepper spray and it's a real tear jerker! Pepper as we all know, can make our eyes tear due to the spicy quality. So when this very quality of the spice was harnessed by modern day scientists to create a product that could potentially halt the stride of the miscreant, it was hailed as a very big achievement. Over a period of time, scientists further worked to capture this quality of pepper in a marketable form that was easy to use and store. Thus was born the pepper spray. In the modern times pepper spray is not just used by women world over for the purpose of self defense but, also for riot control, crowd control, and for providing defense against animals like dogs and bears. With so many varied and interesting uses, the history of pepper spray also makes for an interesting read. So if you want to known when the pepper spray actually came into existence, read on.
Although the use of pepper spray can't be dated back too long ago, but history reveals that red chili pepper was being used for self defense in ancient India and China. In ancient India, it was not as popular as it was in China. Chinese people and even warriors had their own innovative method of using this spice; and it included wrapping grounded cayenne in rice papers so that they could throw it at the faces of their enemies, opponents, or intruders. It was accepted as a weapon of choice for self defense because of its ability to incapacitate a person temporarily. A secret martial art society of people in ancient Japan called the Ninjas has been using grounded pepper for disabling their opponents for a long time. Historical evidence reveals that in the Tukagawa Empire era in Japan, the police used a weapon called the "metsubishi." Metsubishi was, basically, a box consisting of chili pepper and the police used to use this box for blowing hot pepper into the eyes of people who were found guilty of some crime. There is even historical evidence of the use of chilies in Mexico that dates back to 7000 BC. According to the evidence collected, Mexican Indians were cultivating peppers in 5500 BC. Some of the types of pepper grown during that time include chiltecpin, jalapeo, ancho, paprika, serrano, cayenne pepper, as well as bell pepper in different colors. The fact about whether they used these different peppers for self defense or as weapons of defense during those times is unknown. Some of the more recent examples of the use of pepper as a weapon can be dated back to the 14th and 15th century when slavery was rampant.
Chili pepper was used not only as a weapon of self defense but also for treating wounds and during torture. As a matter of fact, pepper became a popular method for torturing people, criminals, and slaves. It was only in the 1980's that pepper began being used as pepper spray and became a legalized non-lethal weapon. Law enforcement agencies also recognized pepper spray as a non-lethal weapon capable of incapacitating just about anyone. This was also the time when the postal workers started using pepper sprays against dogs and other pets.
Civilian Use Of Pepper Sprays Pepper spray is also known as oleoresin of capsicum (OC) spray and it was actually introduced not by the lawmakers but by the US Postal service in the 1980's. The FBI was able to endorse it as an official chemical agent only in 1987 and it took another 4 years before it could be legally accepted by the law enforcement agency. But when it comes to civilian use, not all brands or types of pepper sprays can be used. There are some states in the US and some countries as well that forbid the use of pepper sprays by civilians. For example: it is illegal to use pepper spray, mace or tear gas in Canada. In the US, there are two types of pepper sprays that can be used by civilians and they are CS (orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile) and CN (chloroacetophenone). There is a third type called the CR but it has not yet been recommended for civilian use. The fourth option is the standard pepper spray that has been made from an extract of chili peppers used for making oleoresin capsicum. The process basically ensures that the main ingredients, which cause irritation in the eyes is gained from the chili. OC or oleoresin capsicum is insoluble in water and is normally dispersed using aerosol cans. The pepper spray was actually imported from Canada to the US and it was being used in Canada by civilians as a bear repellent spray and not against human intruders. The modern day civilian pepper sprays are safe as well as legal weapons for self defense. Considered to be extremely effective, it has become quite handy for women the world over and they can use it to repel the actions of single or multiple attackers. It has worked wonders for civilians because when sprayed on the face of the attacker/s, it can cause intense pain for as long as 45 minutes including swelling and burning in the eyes.
For civilians, pepper spray is restricted in a few states in the US and they are:
New York: Civilians in New York can purchase defense sprays other than pepper sprays only from a licensed Firearms Dealers or any other licensed Pharmacist within the state.
Massachusetts: In Massachusetts, civilians can only purchase certain types of defense sprays from a licensed Firearms Dealer within the state.
Michigan: Partial ban on pepper spray. Civilians in this state can only use an OC Pepper spray that is not more than 2% concentrate.
Wisconsin: Pepper spray used by civilians should not be any stronger than 10% and the weight should not be more than 15-60 grams.
California: In California, civilians need to ensure that pepper spray canisters are less than 2.5 ounces.
Washington D.C.: Civilians in this state have to first register possession of pepper spray with their local law enforcement agencies before they can use them.
Pepper has been used by law enforcement officials from a long time but pepper sprays came into existence only in the 20th century. The FBI was one of the first law enforcement agencies to use the pepper spray in the 1991 followed by NYPD. In NYPD (New York Police Department), the use of pepper spray was restricted to their emergency services unit only. The pepper spray was replaced by mace in October 1994. Today 97% of the law enforcement officials including the police use pepper spray as a non-lethal weapon for tackling attackers, mobs, and other unsocial elements. In 1973, pepper spray (OC) was developed as an aerosol spray and used by FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) for incapacitating animals as well as humans for temporary duration. Since then the US department of Justice has been successfully using pepper sprays. When pepper spray was introduced for the first time in the US, law enforcement agencies like NYPD purchased a specific brand of pepper spray canisters that was made by DTA or Defense Technology of America. Each of these canisters contained around 0.63 ounce of a specific solution that included 10% oleoresin capsicum (OC).
It was in January 1997 that NYPD switched from this brand to a new brand. This new brand also consists of 10% solution of oleoresin capsicum but the solution used in this comprised of primarily water, denatured alcohol, and antifreeze. The canisters for this new type of pepper spray were larger than their DTA cousins and could hold at least three times more of the solution and were capable of being effective within a range of 3-15 feet. In fact, pepper spray was not only being used by the law enforcement agencies in the United States but also across the world. In 2003, police officers in Netherland were given the go ahead to use the pepper spray (OC). In the early part of 2001, Sussex Police in the UK were armed with pepper sprays to fight miscreants and attackers. They trained 400 police personnel's for using pepper sprays safely and effectively.
From law enforcement an agency to NYPD to the UK police, to the common man, the natural sting action of pepper has made it a weapon of choice for many. There are many wonderful plants, spices, herbs, in nature that have some fantastic properties, which can be used for the benefit of mankind. If only we have time to look for them.
James D. Anderson is the Director of Technology with CCU, Inc. A Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer and a Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor, he is an expert in the field of personal self-defense, defensive weapons and residential & commercial security equipment.