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Is Pepper Spray Good for a Long Time?

Pepper spray (also known as oleoresin capsicum spray, OC spray, or mace) is a chemical that irritates the eyes, causing a burning sensation, pain, and temporary blindness. It is used in self-defense during emergency and dangerous situations, riot control, crowd control, and policing, including against dogs and bears. Its inflammatory effects cause the eyes to close, obstructing vision temporarily.

Its inflammatory effects cause the eyes to close, obstructing vision temporarily. This temporary blindness allows officers to restrain suspects more easily, and it allows people in danger to use pepper spray in self-defense as a means of escaping. It also causes temporary discomfort and a burning sensation in the lungs, resulting in breathlessness.

Pepper spray was originally developed as a repellent for bears, mountain lions, wolves, and other dangerous predators, and is commonly referred to as bear spray.

There is a shelf life for pepper spray. A pepper spray's shelf life is usually 3 to 4 years. The canister of most defense sprays has an expiration date stamped on it. The chemical compound OC, or Oleoresin Capsicum, is primarily responsible for a pepper spray's effectiveness. Pepper Spray gets its name from OC, which is a natural chemical made up of various hot pepper plants. Although the OC does not degrade over time, an expired canister may not spray as far as it should, and in some cases, the unit may not spray at all. When a spray is kept past its expiration date, the aerosol propellant may leak out, making the spray less effective. Smaller sprays, such as keychain and pocket versions, are more prone to leakage.

Because the chemical potency of pepper spray is so important to its effectiveness, it's best to replace it well before its expiration date. It's also a good idea to test your spray canister on a regular basis, at least once every six months. To avoid self-contamination, a simple test would only require a one-second burst sprayed outdoors while standing upwind. Regularly checking the expiration date and overall condition of a spray will ensure that a powerful and reliable protection device is always available when needed. 

The old canister of OC spray makes a great training and practice tool once the time for replacement has been determined. Setting up a target outside and practicing spraying the old spray to test aim and gain confidence when using a defense spray in a real-life situation is always a good idea.


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