Wasp Spray For Defensive Purposes?

February 21, 2013

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I have seen a few emails and Facebook posts popup about the use of wasp spray as a defensive weapon against home invasions and the like. The advice about using wasp spray has some variations, but usually has this tidbit in the message:

Val Glinka teaches self-defense to students at Sylvania Southview High School . For decades, he’s suggested putting a can of wasp and hornet spray near your door or bed. Glinka says, “This is better than anything I can teach them.” Glinka considers it inexpensive, easy to find, and more effective than mace or pepper spray. The cans typically shoot 20 to 30 feet; so if someone tries to break into your home, Glinka says “spray the culprit in the eyes”. It’s a tip he’s given to students for decades.

The first time I read through an email advocating wasp spray for self defense, my gut instinct was this is not a good idea. After putting some thought into why this might not be a good idea, I became more convinced using wasp spray as a cheap alternative to pepper spray is a bad idea.

Let me state up front, if you are in a situation where you have no defensive weapons at your disposal. Then you absolutely must use what’s around you. Rocks, lamps, pens, sticks, dirt and yes… even wasp spray if it’s available.

That said, I do not think there is any defensive weapon that adequately replaces or is a good substitute for firearms.

Contrary to what politicians may say, you have a right to defend yourself with deadly force. Guns level the playing field against violent attackers in such a way no can of wasp spray can match.

All other things aside, if you can’t afford a gun, can’t have one or don’t want one, is wasp spray the way to go?

In my view, wasp spray is not a good self defense option for the following reasons:

  • Reliability of the nozzle is a big question for me. You are betting your life on a flimsy, plastic nozzle that can break, fall off, get clogged, or just not function correctly.
  • Another reliability question I have about wasp spray relates to the pressure and effectiveness of the spray. The pressure in the can is affected by use, external temperature and age which means you may not get a 20 foot spray that will effectively disable your attacker. Further not all wasp sprays are created equal, and they certainly have not been tested extensively or certified for defensive use. It is definitely an off label use, user beware.
  • To my knowledge there are no research studies about the effectiveness of wasp spray for self defense. We do not know if wasp sprays in general are equally effective from one person to the next. I am doubtful wasp spray will adequately stop someone high on drugs or is otherwise determined or in an altered state of mind.
  • Assuming wasp sprays have some level of effectiveness, how quickly is effectiveness achieved? A slow effect is likely to allow a determined attacker the opportunity to continue the attack. Not to mention  if the attacker gets to water to wash his face and flush his eyes, that may end any effect wasp spray has allowing a determined attacker to quickly return to the fight better prepared.
  • I have reservations about anyone using wasp spray at distances of 20 feet or more under duress and in dark or low light conditions. Fumbling in the dark to activate the spray nozzle is a recipe for disaster given my first point about the spray nozzles being easily broken or knocked off.
  • Another concern I have about using wasp spray under duress is the chance for the user to spray themselves  instead of their attacker. There is also a chance for the user to spray a nearby obstruction like a wall or lamp causing the stream to splash back at their face.

The emails or posts I have seen about using wasp spray for self-defense have been presented in context of being a cheap substitute for pepper spray. Aside from the fact that were talking about the difference of a few dollars, I don’t think its much of a comparison when you consider well designed, well made pepper sprays are far more reliable and easier to use under duress and will have a known effectiveness in shutting down an assailant.

Even then I would not stake my life on pepper spray given the nature of violence and the criminal element.

If you are able, acquire a firearm and train to be proficient with it for self defense. If having a non-lethal option is still important to you, then add pepper spray as your backup option or added layer of security as opposed to making it the only option or layer of security you have.

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