“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This popular quote, attributed to Abraham Maslow, is particularly relevant for concealed-carry permit holders. When you’ve opted to arm yourself with a handgun, it tends to become your go-to option when you feel threatened. However, sometimes your gun is neither a tactically sound nor legally defensible option.
A concealed handgun could save the day when faced with a deadly threat, but drawing it when the threat is less significant could exacerbate the situation, sending you down a slippery slope that could ultimately lead to unjustifiable injury or death to your assailant and your subsequent incarceration.
As a case in point, let’s assume an unarmed person of your approximate size were to point at you and threaten to “kick your ass.” Are you going to draw your gun in response? Sure, depending on other facts and circumstances, doing so may be warranted. However, if we were to take this scenario at face value, bringing your gun into play to thwart the mere threat of physical violence could be difficult to legally justify.
In such case, having a reliable, less lethal option would be ideal. Something like pepper spray could enable you to temporarily incapacitate the would-be assailant while maintaining distance and allowing you to escape. For those unfamiliar, here’s a thumbnail of what pepper spray is and how it works.
Oleoresin capsicum, better known as OC spray or pepper spray, is derived from the cayenne pepper plant. Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent that affects the eyes and mucous membranes, typically resulting in temporary blindness and an intense burning sensation.
When you get a face full of pepper spray, you are in a world of hurt. I’ve experienced this on both the receiving end in training and on the giving end as a patrol cop. I can assure you it’s better to give than to receive.
Nothing is foolproof, but in my experience, pepper spray is a highly effective deterrent for a suspect or a would-be attacker. Most people I’ve seen sprayed instinctively bring their hands to their face then comply, usually while screaming in agony.
The pain and vision disruption gradually diminish until a period of about 45 minutes, at which time the sprayed individual is pretty much back to normal. This period can be shortened by fresh air and cool, running water.
Most pepper spray is housed in a canister that either clips to your pocket like a folding knife or is worn in a belt-mounted holster like a police officer carries. However, Kimber, a company known primarily for its excellent 1911 pistols, took a different approach with the Pepper Blaster II.
The Pepper Blaster II ($40) is a lightweight, compact device, with a profile reminiscent of a compact pistol, albeit with an even smaller grip and considerably taller front end. Rather than a muzzle, the Pepper Blaster II contains two charge nozzles. The sights and trigger will also be familiar to handgun shooters, which reduces the learning curve.
Unlike a handgun, the Pepper Blaster II has a unique swing-away trigger guard. When in place, the guard prevents anything from contacting the face of the trigger, which could potentially lead to an inadvertent deployment of the pepper blast. To access the trigger, your index finger simply presses the swing-away guard to one side.
Approximately 6.6 pounds of pressure on the trigger results in a blast of 10 percent OC pepper solution racing toward the target at 90 mph, leaving little time for the assailant to evade the blast and leaving little opportunity for wind to dramatically alter its course. Although not waterproof, the unit is water resistant, and rain should not interfere with its operation.
Having used several types of pepper spray over the years, I was eager to test the Pepper Blaster II. Kimber warns against deploying the unit within two feet of an attacker due to the risk of eye injury. The stated maximum effective range of the unit is 13 feet, and at that distance the blast is intended to cover a foot-wide circle.
I started about seven feet from my training mannequin, BOB (Body Opponent Bag) and aimed at his eyes. As soon as I pressed the trigger, the red-colored pepper solution doused his face and neck. I was impressed with the volume of solution and how quickly it reached the target. I realized the impact was a little lower than my point of aim because the unit fires first from the bottom nozzle, which is about two inches below the sights.
After the first nozzle was deployed, the white painted release point on either side of the trigger was no longer visible, an indication that the unit had been fired at least once.
The second burst, expelled from the upper nozzle, impacted at my point of aim. The results were equally impressive. As soon as the trigger was pressed, the solution covered BOB’s face. This delivery method seemed superior to the spray stream police officers are usually issued.
The Pepper Blaster II comes in gray or red, and each uses the same red-dyed solution. Carrying the unit would not be nearly as convenient as a compact pepper spray canister designed to be clipped to a pant pocket, but then again the Pepper Blaster II is easier to aim thanks to the pistol-style sights. It also delivers much more pepper solution on target and does so more rapidly than would a compact pepper spray canister.
Kimber also offers a carry pouch for the Pepper Blaster II for $20. In addition, there are several aftermarket holsters, including Kydex and nylon models, that would enable you to carry the Pepper Blaster II inside your waistband or on your ankle.
When it comes to your safety, it’s best to have options. In addition to being aware of your surroundings, it would behoove you to develop your empty-handed skills and carry a less-lethal option like the Pepper Blaster II to augment your handgun. Fortunately, most kinds of trouble you may find yourself in won’t necessitate deadly force. In those instances, it’s nice to have the right tool for the job.