The “heat” or “hotness” of chili peppers and consequently pepper
sprays is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) or the Scoville
scale, named after the American chemist Wilbur Scoville. The
presence of the chemical capsaicin is responsible for this
pleasant or unpleasant degree of heat, depending on if you are
talking to a hot wings connoisseur or an assailant with pepper
spray dripping from his face.
For all you culinary folks or chili eaters, a sweet bell pepper
is rated 0, containing no capsaicin. A pimento or pepperoncini
is only mildly spicier with a 100-500 SHU rating. Green pepper
Tabasco sauce may yield 600-800, regular pepper Tabasco at 2500-
5000, and super spicy habanero Tabasco sauce topping out at 7000-
8000 SHU. Widely popular jalapeno peppers rate around 2500-8000.
BAM! Pure cayenne pepper typically packs enough capsaicin to
reach 30,000-50,000, compared to more exotic 50,000-80,000 Thai
peppers. Speaking of more exotic peppers, a Naga Jolokia pepper
from India ranges from 850,000 to 110,000 and a Dorset Naga may
reach 1,600,000 SHU, or 1.6 million units of fiery mouth burning
Capsaicin in its purest form has a Scoville rating that ranges
from 15,000,000 to 16,000,000. Yes, that reads 16 million! The
standard grade pepper sprays in the US usually achieve 2 to 5
Pepper sprays are inflammatory, unlike Mace which is an irritant.
Inflammatory agents will cause immediate closure of the eyes and
will induce coughing, choking and nausea. Temporary blindness
due to dilation of the eyes and the mucous membranes will swell
up, effectively preventing all but life support breathing.
The effects may last from 20-45 minutes depending on the pepper
spray’s strength. Popular pepper spray products, such as Pepper
Shot are rated at 10% strength, boasting a SHU of 2 million. The
Wildfire 18% contains enough Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) to achieve
nearly 3 million Scoville Heat Units of stopping power. Bear
strength Guard Alaska requires a higher concentration for those
that venture into the woods, with at least a 20% concentration
of capsicum firepower.
There are even triple action self defense sprays incorporating
OC pepper, CN tear gas, and a UV marking dye. This potent
combination sends your assailant into an uncontrollable fit of
coughing and choking while his eyes are slammed shut. The CS
tear gas causes a profuse tearing to the already affected eyes,
as well as an intense burning sensation to the face. The UV
marking dye marks the assailant and may assist in identification
Conveniently, many pepper sprays come on key chains. This is a
good idea since most people will usually have their keys with
them. But don’t forget about the times you don’t have your
keys. The small investment in additional pepper spray may save
your life or the life of a loved one! Then you will also always
have your pepper spray within easy reach. You can also find
covert pepper spray products such as pepper batons (kubotans),
pepper pagers, lipstick spray, “Stunning Ring“, and hand weight
Hot Walkers for walking and jogging. Pepper spray is also sold
in gel stream formulas instead of liquid sprays. Gels have the
advantages of longer distance, stronger pepper, very sticky on
the target’s face and less contaminating overspray.
However, the best, strongest, and farthest ranged pepper spray in
the world will amount to the SHU rating of that bell pepper if
you fail to do three simple things: purchase some pepper spray,
carry your pepper spray wherever you go and practice using it.
This means buying extra pepper spray and actually “waste” it by
discharging practice sprays to gauge the range of your product
and improve your spraying accuracy. If you are going to under
shoot or hit the wall next to an attacker, you mind as well pack
your pockets with pimentos. Of course, with the affordability
of peppered self defense products and the peace of mind you gain
by being prepared, if you do ever find yourself in a pepper, err
pickle… you can hardly consider it a waste.
It would be nice to believe that nothing will happen to you, but
the reality of it is that an ounce of protection could be worth
more than a pound of cure. What is Worth Protection to you? Your
belongings? Your family? Your personal well-being?
Don’t be afraid to spice up your self defense, stay safe and be
Yours in Safety,
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