Any amount of force-on-force and managing unknown contacts training quickly illuminates the usefulness of OC Spray. Consider it a eye jab in a can. Being able to poke an aggressor in the eyes before he is at contact distance is a good thing. Yet, OC Spray gets ignored, or even belittled, by all but the most open minded and experienced of practitioners. My theory for why is this: there are no “OC fights” in movies. There are thousands of gunfights and fistfights that have graced the silver screen, but when does the good guy drop the hammer with OC Spray? If there is a portrayal of OC Spray on screen it is usually done so in a comic fashion. Therefore, OC gets no love. However, for those who are able to overcome the influence of movies, the value of OC should be self-evident.
A growing trend that has been fostered by notable ex-special forces people is the concept of a dual weapon system comprising of a handgun and fixed blade knife. Often, the blade is worn on the support hand side. The knife is most commonly worn forward of the hips. The blade, especially if accessible to the support hand, dramatically increases the fighting capability of the individual at contact distance. For contact distance fighting this makes sense and I don’t oppose it (I have written about and demoed the benefits of the support side knife here) but I do caution the civilian self-defender to remain realistic about how practical or useful this is. In the context of civilian self-defense, the blade is an unlikely, and potentially problematic, solution.
During periods of social stability in which society is functioning in most areas, which it still is as of this writing (for how long, who knows), the primary weapon for dealing with lethal assault is certainly the handgun. Beyond this, most citizen self-defenders are better off working a second weapon into their carry that is a tool for dealing with less lethal threats. OC Spray is the obvious candidate here. If you look at statistics on assault, as well as the nature of both simple and deadly assaults, the need for a blade at contact distance is infinitesimal. The need for a tool to deal with a simple assault (not legally considered lethal force) is prevalent. In fact, over 80% of assaults that occur every year are simple assaults in which the deployment of firearm or blade would not be justified.
OC Spray is a tool that proves effective most of the time in giving the self-defender a significant advantage in dealing with aggressive, though not yet deadly, behavior. An aggressor who can’t see is easier to deal with than one with full faculties. The need for such a force multiplier is infinitely more pressing than the need for an edged weapon to settle civilian oriented inter-personal violence. The benefit of spray is that it fosters a preemptive strike before contact is made. A significant portion of assaults start as a criminal actor, or just an angry road rage perpetrator or the like, approaches aggressively with the intention of closing distance and making contact for the assault or robbery. Spray can short circuit this approach and give the self-defender the ability to simply break contact or escalate to higher force, if needed. Spray is not 100% effective, so being able to move immediately to Plan B is essential, but it tends to have at least some deterrent effect most of the time.
Am I suggesting that you don’t carry a knife? Absolutely not. A blade is an essential preparedness tool for emergency cutting, such as cutting someone free from a seat belt, a rope, cutting clothing free from machinery, and the like. Cutting flesh is a very secondary concern in a realistic outlook. I simply suggest that the dual weapon system of the prepared citizen self-defender should be the firearm for lethal, and a less lethal tool for simple, assault.
OC Spray offers two significant benefits: first, it is a lower level of force than a firearm, a blade, impact weapons, or even your hands; it proves to be a deterrent that you can justifiably use to take the fight out of an aggressor that is acting violently, but has not yet crossed the line into lethal threat territory. The second benefit is that it can often prevent the conflict from going hands on. even if you are very skilled in combatives you always risk injury or death if you go hands on. You are also much more likely to inflict serious injury on an adversary with hands than with spray. while OC is certainly not 100% effective, it does have an effect most of the time and it t is easier to break contact with an aggressor if they can’t open their eyes.
Let’s stay realistic in our decisions. Knives are valuable and they are essential rescue tools that a prepared individual must carry, but for civilian self-defense OC Spray will be far more useful most of the time. I propose that the dual weapon system for the citizen self-defender is the handgun and OC Spray.