Is Mace And Pepper Spray The Same Thing

Is Mace and Pepper Spray the Same Thing?

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Mace and pepper spray are a pair of non-lethal arms that can stun the assaulter temporarily by irritating their eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin.

Although they both serve a similar purpose, mace and pepper spray have several differences concerning their active components, consequences, and legality. Knowing these differences will guide you in making an appropriate choice according to your personal security requirements. Let’s examine whether mace and pepper spray are the same thing.

Active Ingredients

The active ingredient in mace is phenacyl chloride (CN) or a similar tear gas agent. When sprayed into the attacker’s eyes and respiratory system, it causes severe pain, tears, blurred vision, and coughing. Mace was one of the first chemical sprays developed in the 1960s for civilian use and law enforcement.

Pepper spray contains oleoresin capsicum (OC), an oily extract from hot peppers. On contact, it causes intense burning pain in the eyes, nose, lungs, and skin. The active component capsaicin tricks pain receptors in the body into feeling an intense burning sensation, distracting and incapacitating attackers. Pepper spray was introduced in the 1980s as an improvement over mace.


The effects of mace and pepper spray are pretty similar – both cause pain, respiratory distress, and temporary blindness when sprayed at the attacker’s face. However, pepper spray is considered more effective due to the following reasons:

●       Pepper spray causes almost immediate swelling of the eyes and eyelids, making it difficult for the attacker to see. Mace takes a few minutes to take full effect.

●       The oily nature of pepper spray makes it harder to wash off than mace.

●       Pepper spray causes severe coughing fits, making it difficult to breathe. The coughing effect of mace is less pronounced in comparison.

●       The burning sensation of pepper spray lasts 30-60 minutes. Mace effects may subside a little later than pepper spray.

While both can effectively stop an attacker, pepper spray provides faster action and longer-lasting effects than mace.


Legality plays a vital role in determining whether mace and pepper spray are the same thing. Pepper spray is generally legal to buy and carry for self-defense purposes in most US states without special permits. Nevertheless, mace can be governed by state laws as an offensive weapon. Only certain high-strength mace products are legal for civilian use in small aerosol canister sizes. Some states have regulations for civilian use and ownership of more extensive tear gas spray weapons like riot crowd control grenades and broad wide spray canisters.

Purchase Considerations

When purchasing mace or pepper spray, ensure you get it from a reliable source. Look for something with an effective range of at least ten feet so that you are kept safe from the attacker. Additionally, consider its spray pattern—a broader fog pattern could be better than a narrow stream, depending on the conditions and distance needed.

Usually, these sprays have marking dye, which helps the police recognize the criminal in the future. Thus, it’s important if your product comes with a quick-access keychain holder or clip, making it easy to deploy in an emergency situation.


Though both mace and pepper spray are chemical irritants that render attackers helpless, pepper spray is faster-acting, has more prolonged effects, and is less restricted legally, unlike mace. Highly concentrated OC pepper spray remains the most popular and overall best self-defense spray for civilians.

U-Guard Security Products 3-n-1 pepper spray includes both OC and CN for the most effective self-defense spray. It also includes a UV marking dye to identify an attacker later, even if the spray is washed off.

However, ensure that you consult your state’s regulations and select a good-quality item from a trustworthy provider. You should also properly train on how to safely use the spray. Be vigilant and ready to defend yourself at all times. You can refer to the pepper spray law page for additional details.

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