The Worst Self-Defense Advice Ever

As I get to teach self-defense seminars and run courses around the country, I often spend time talking to students about self-defense advice and/or tips. I get a lot of “I was told to do X, what do you think about that?” Sometimes people are given good advice, and sometimes people are given poor advice. But THE WORST self-defense advice I’ve ever heard of is this: Use Wasp Spray for Self-Defense.

You may have seen this advice circulated in e-mails and social media in the past. Candidly, I was excited when I was finally teaching college aged self-defense courses and the participants HADN’T heard this terrible advice. But unfortunately this bad information seems to be experiencing something of a resurgence.  So let’s talk about the touted benefits for wasp-spray and we’ll deal with them one at a time. The e-mails claim:

 Wasp spray has a longer range than pepper spray: Incorrect, although some spray patterns like a cone or mist may be shorter range, 5-8 feet for example; some sprays formulas like Pepper Gel have a range up to 20 feet. Additionally, longer range doesn’t necessarily mean better. Although longer range is good in that it allows you to affect a threat before it gets close to you, such a long range spray patter also means that you must be more accurate under stress. It also means that the product will not atomize as well, won’t affect the threats respiratory system as much, and won’t affect them as quickly.

Wasp spray is more convenient than pepper spray: Incorrect. Consider your average pepper spray canister. It is often the size of a roll of coins. Contrast that with the monstrous size of the wasp spray container. The average pepper spray canisters is significantly smaller and more convenient to store and carry.

Wasp spray is more effective than pepper spray: Incorrect. I’ve been contaminated with pepper spray 8 times now, either in training or in the field of law enforcement (I’m not moonlighting as a mugger I swear). And almost all of those experiences were god-awful. I was also accidentally contaminated with wasp spray when I was younger. Those two experiences were not even remotely similar. Although you could test this out for yourself, you should probably should just look it up on Youtube. There you can find a bunch of people with more enthusiasm than sense have contaminated themselves with both, and compared the effects.

 Wasp spray may be legally allowed in environments where pepper spray isn’t. Doubtful. Although there might be some work environment where pepper spray is not allowed (they are rare), wasp spray simply hasn’t been effective in real life applications. In fact because this advice has been around for so long, there are more and more cases of people attempting to use it for personal protection, and it fails miserably. So don’t bet your safety on it! Another aside: It is technically a violation of federal law to use wasp spray for self-defense (it says so right on the can!) and not a single maker of wasp spray advocates it as being a good self-defense product.

Pepper spray really can be an excellent self-defense tool. The problem I think comes from people who simply don’t understand the many available options and effectiveness of pepper spray. If you are considering pepper spray and have questions, please see me. As a state certified O.C./Pepper spray instructor I can get you started in the right direction. Be safe!   ~Jon Penny

P.S. Just for fun I thought I would comment on the origin of this advice. The original e-mail stated it was from a "Self-Defense Expert" who taught P.E. and self-defense at a high school local to Northwest Ohio.   The complete truth is before he taught at that school, he taught at the same high school I went to! He decided to give himself the title of "self-defense expert" after years of putting on the boxing gloves and beating up all the incoming Freshman. (Specifically, he was notorious for using his P.E. class to beat up all the Freshman, and then tell war stories about how tough he was.)

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