When less-than-lethal force may resolve a situation, it’s good to have options. And PepperBall launchers large and small can be a great self-defense tool when deadly force isn’t called for. PepperBall launchers offer greater standoff distance than a Taser, as well as the ability to deliver multiple follow-up shots. The demand for PepperBall launchers, much like that for guns and ammo, outran supply initially. However, supply has been catching up. And the new PepperBall Compact single-shot launcher would make a great addition to everyday carry gear.

About the PepperBall Compact Single-Shot Launcher

The PepperBall Compact single-shot Launcher is designed for easy and discreet carry. At only 6.9 inches long and weighing only 2.5 ounces, the low-profile Compact looks more like a vape pen than a self-defense device.

Length: 6.9 inches
Width: .7 inches
Weight: 2.5 ounces
Max launch: 30 feet
Capacity: 1 round
Impact: 7-14 Joules of energy

The PepperBall Compact has no aiming device or sighting system. This keeps it compact and inexpensive at just $24.99. It is reloadable after firing; however, it cannot be rapidly reloaded.

How the Compact Works

The PepperBall Compact consists of three parts and comes fully assembled, loaded and ready to use. The black handle contains the safety ring and firing button, as well as houses a nitrogen propellant cylinder inside.

The silver “barrel” comes preloaded with a single SD projectile containing 2 percent PAVA. Refill kits contain replacement Nitrogen cylinders, a clearly labeled PAVA SD barrel and an inert Talc projectile barrel for practice.

There is one extremely important thing you need to know about reloading the PepperBall Compact launcher: Do not under any circumstances try to unload the compact with an unfired barrel in place! Attempting to unload a loaded Compact will result in a round discharging. A close-range hit to the face or head by a PepperBall round could cause life-changing damage.

The black reusable handgrip includes an ambidextrous twist ring safety and the firing button. The orange plastic firing button requires 8.5 pounds of pressure to discharge. This is because a needle valve punctures the cylinder top, causing the Compact to fire and discharge the entire cylinder. The nitrogen cartridge propels the PepperBall to a maximum range of 30 feet — much farther than aerosol OC sprays or civilian Tasers.

Testing the Launcher

Because of the loading/unloading procedure, my first shot was fired using the live SD round. I placed a target on my utility shed and backed off to 20 feet. I wouldn’t recommend deploying the Compact beyond 20 feet as accuracy is impaired and the effect of impact will be reduced.

After rotating the safety off, I lined up on the silhouette target. I recommend using a gut point of aim with any PepperBall launcher. The gut is an easier target, and the impact effect of the projectile will be greater from a gut punch than getting hit in the rib cage. The PAVA powder still disperses well enough to affect an aggressor.

*Note: Impact with an attacker is not necessary to be effective. Upon hitting a hard surface, a potent pepper cloud will release.

I held the Compact straight out with my wrist slightly bent and used the base cap as the sighting reference. When I pressed the firing button, the result was a pleasant “whoosh” sound. The PAVA projectile hit the belly area of the target with a “whack.” I could see the PAVA powder on the target. Thinking it was safe to approach, I walked closer to the target and caught a large whiff of the PAVA. This resulted in coughing and sneezing, which (as my wife pointed out) shows the powder is effective.

After recovery, I reloaded an inert cartridge and nitrogen cylinder for an additional practice shot. This time after impact, I only smelled talcum powder.


I’ve been comfortably carrying the PepperBall Compact Launcher along with a handgun nearly every day in my trouser or coat pocket. I believe it can certainly disrupt a threatening individual.

In closing, the PepperBall Compact provides the user with an inexpensive yet powerful additional layer of defense for a very low price. Multi-shot civilian PepperBall launchers are available as well. While there are a number of other OC projectile solutions out there, stick with PepperBall. It performs the best and has been in service with law enforcement since 1996.


PepperBall: PBLifeLite.com

About Scott W. Wagner

After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.