A Brief History of Pepper Spray

While pepper spray is a fairly new invention, the idea has been around for centuries as many ancient cultures used peppers or potent fumes to incapacitate their foes. The Chinese placed ground cayenne in rice paper and throw it into the faces of their enemies.  The Japanese also weaponized pepper in the 1700s in a box called the “metsubishi.”  They would blow into the box to release pepper into the eyes of their foes.

The next big innovation in non-lethal weapons was tear gas.  The first type was known as CN (chloracetophenone) tear gas, and it was discovered and used by the Germans in 1864.  The second type, labeled as CS (orhtochlorobenzylidenemalononitrile) tear gas, was developed by B. B. Corson and R. W. Stoughton in 1928.  By 1960, a new compound was developed at the University of Georgia by Professor James H. Jenkins and Dr. Grank Hayes.  This compound, Oleoresin Capsicum, or OC, is a chemical irritant that causes severe pain and inflammation, as well as tearing and temporary blindness, without inflicting permanent damage.

The OC formula was actually first sold in 1963 as a bear and animal repellant.  In the 1980s, the US Postal Service started equipping their mail carriers with pepper spray to ward off attacking dogs.  After 3 years of research, the FBI authorized the use of OC pepper sprays for its special agents and SWAT teams in 1989, and by the 1990s, the use of pepper spray expanded to law enforcement.

Because of its non-lethal nature and increasing commercial demand, pepper spray manufacturers continue to develop the OC formula for civilian use, focusing on compact forms that make it easy to carry. Most containers are only a few ounces while others will even fit on a keychain. For those who seek the means to defend their personal safety, the mostly low cost and high efficiency of pepper spray is simply invaluable.

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