I remember the first time I deployed Smith and Wesson Chemical Mace™ against a criminal suspect who was resisting arrest. It was in 1982. The small projector unit I was using, an MK-V I believe, had a protective flip top cap and dispensed the CN gas in a pinpoint stream to a distance of about 10 feet. The CN had the effect of causing the suspect to have some difficulty in seeing, and slowing down his resistance-although his resistance level picked up after he wiped his eyes. I had to re-apply the Mace so that my partners and I could finish the arrest.
While the original CN Chemical Mace products as made by Smith and Wesson and others usually proved marginally effective, and tended to mostly contaminate other cops when deployed in a melee, they still proved somewhat useful as self-tools for civilians, especially in the era before “shall-issue” permits became available. Smith and Wesson divested themselves of their chemical division around the early 1990’s and sold the “Mace” trade name and product to a new company, Mace Security International. MSI still uses CN teargas in some of its blended aerosol defense products.
Starting in the late 80s and early 90s, OC sprays hit the law enforcement market. Short for Oleoresin Capsicum, it’s the natural resin of ground red pepper. It’s not a gas, but rather a contact inflammatory. As a contact agent, the aggressor or suspect must be directly sprayed in the face (eyes, nose, and mouth). However, when that happens, the results are nothing short of spectacular (assuming a quality product is used). In 1991, I was the first one at my former police department to use an OC product, while conducting an arrest with an extremely uncooperative suspect. His last words were, “Go ahead and spray me with Mace, I ain’t afraid of that!” followed by a profuse stream of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Little did he know that the days of CN Mace had passed, and he was faced with a harsh new reality. He apologized throughout the rest of his arrest, and during his arraignment in Mayor’s Court the next day. We never had a problem with him again. I was sold on the stuff after that. A hit with a quality OC spray is devastating compared to CN teargas.
Having less lethal options available to the CCW holder are just as important as they are to the cop. Not every situation justifies deadly force. Today, there are a large number of OC’s sprays on the market. Now, the storied Smith and Wesson name is back in the chemical defense market, although this time their name is a trademarked property licensed to a company named CampCo™. The new Smith and Wesson sprays are OC pepper, not CN Mace.
There are three basic OC spray patterns:
1) The cone shaped mist. This is the fastest acting and usually the most overwhelming, but more vulnerable to blowback.
2) Pinpoint stream or splatter type stream delivery. Slower acting but less blowback.
3) Foam, which is the slowest acting but easy to see.
The new Smith and Wesson line of OC sprays have a high percentage of OC in their water based/Taser™-safe formula (15%), and are rated at 2 million Scoville Heat Units (a measure of heat produced). The flip top safety cap, critical for protection against accidental discharge when carried in a purse or pocket, still allows for quick deployment in emergencies. My four-ounce sample law enforcement-style canister will deliver up to ten one-second blasts in a splatter stream for distances of 15 to 20 feet.
Currently, CampCo has a number of different size Smith and Wesson sprays in its product lineup, which is being updated. The smaller sprays currently use a safety system that is not practical for self-defense. It requires the user to rotate the sprayer nozzle from safe to fire, which is impractical at best under the huge levels of stress someone experiences in an emergency situation. I’m told that the Smith line will be updated entirely to flip top-styles very soon. Until then, the four-ounce, three ounce, two ounce and ¾ ounce “Jogger” styles have the flip top.
It is good to see the Smith and Wesson name back in this arena. Even though they don’t make their own product, they don’t lease their name to companies who produce junk. I’m impressed enough that my police department will likely switch to the legendary Smith and Wesson brand name for duty use.
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