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Hot Shots

Manufacturers are making OC sprays more powerful, and this may require you to adjust your tactics and training.

October 01, 2003  |  by Gary T. Klugiewicz and Dave Young


Co-author Gary T. Klugiewicz takes a shot to the face.

Pain, suffering, blindness, choking, and panic are probably your memories of the first time you were exposed to or contaminated by OC spray. Most of us can remember vividly our initiation into the wonderful world of oleoresin capsicum. And if you're like most new officers, you probably imagined that there was no way that anybody could fight through the effects of this stuff.

You weren't alone. When the aerosol weapon commonly referred to as "pepper spray" first arrived in the police arsenal, it was believed by many experts that this control tool would be a "magic bullet" that would revolutionize police tactics and negate the need for other, more intrusive, intermediate weapons such as the baton or specialty impact munitions.

Unfortunately, as with most such breakthroughs, the results were not quite so dramatic as we thought they would be. OC spray has proven to be a useful, often effective control tool in the law enforcement arsenal but, as with all control tools, its effectiveness is based on a number of variables, including method of deployment, strength of the formulation (some people can withstand an awful lot of pain), and the manner in which the OC sprays from the canister (stream, fog, foam, etc.) In addition, there are tactical considerations such as how to take the subject into custody and how to avoid spraying fellow officers.

New Formulas

OC has come a long way since it first arrived on the law enforcement market about a decade ago. Back then the chemistry was basically the same from brand to brand and your only options were fog or stream patterns. In other words, pepper spray was just pepper spray.

Not anymore. Today, there are a wide variety of formulas, sizes, and systems that are common to the law enforcement market.

And manufacturers keep working to develop improved deployment methods, more effective formulas, and more accurate spray patterns. Let's take a look at some of the more interesting OC products that are now available or in development.


Aerko’s Punch III Micro Bubble OC dispenses from the canister as a stream and foams on the target. It was developed to give officers the range provided by a stream and the protection from cross-contamination afforded by a foam.

Punch III from Aerko is now available in a "Micro Bubble" spray pattern that combines the range that you get with a streamer with the protection from cross-contamination afforded by a fogger. The "Micro Bubble" starts out as a stream, hits the target, and is transformed into a shaving cream-like foam.

Combined Tactical Systems has just come out with an OC spray line to complete its less-lethal munitions product line. The CTS sprays are available in both OC and OC/CS blends.

Enforcement Technology Group's V-4 Control combines the range of a streamer and the coverage of a cone spray. V-4 starts out as a stream but hits the target with an expanding splatter that Enforcement Technology calls a "Shotgun Stream."

Security Equipment Corp. produces a line of OC aerosols that also includes an ultraviolet dye so that suspects can later be identified. The company's Sabre line features sprays that range in potency from 500,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) to 2 million SHU. Sabre Red is quality controlled with high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) testing so that it contains precisely 10 percent OC, yielding 2 million SHU.

Zarc, the maker of Cap-Stun, has announced the development of Vexor, an extremely powerful formula that will be available soon. The company promises that this product will revolutionize the market with "Micro Spin" technology that almost eliminates "blowback" from the spray and a formulation that hits with the power of 15 million SHU. According to Zarc, Vexor produces more "consistent results far beyond the performance of current pepper sprays." The authors look forward to an opportunity to evaluate this product.

CONTINUED: Hot Shots «   Page 1 of 3   »

Tags: Less-Lethal Force, OC Spray

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