For the third Arlo Finch book, I was considering having one character use bear spray on a non-bear adversary. Since the books take place in the mountains of Colorado, it was very believable that the character would have it handy.
I also assumed that bear spray is stronger than conventional self-defense pepper sprays because, well, bears.
But it turns out, I was wrong:
Although pepper spray and bear spray contain the same active chemical, they are not the same thing. Bear spray has a much lower concentration of oleoresin capsicum, and should only be used as a bear deterrent.
Pepper spray is a self defense weapon intended to incapacitate human threats, and it is very effective at doing this due to its higher concentration of oleoresin capsicum. If you are serious about self defense, go purchase some pepper spray. If you are a hiker or camper in bear country, buy some bear spray.
What’s more, bear spray is designed to put out a wide cloud, filling the air with droplets, discouraging the bear from attacking. On the other hand, pepper spray is a targeted stream designed to incapacitate a person close to you.1
Bear spray isn’t designed to fend off humans, but one reason you might see people carrying it for self defense (in real life and in fiction) is that it’s legal in places where pepper spray isn’t. It just isn’t as effective.
You’ll have to wait until book three to see if and when oleoresin capsicum gets used.
- I really want “incapacitate” and “capiscum” (pepper) to have the same word origin, but it appears they’re not especially close. ↩