I Tested And Ranked The Best Pepper Guns In 2023
Since I live alone, I decided I needed some extra protection. I tried out a variety of pepper guns. (And only coughed once!) Here are some hands-on reviews.
FYI, prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.
1. Byrna SD - Pepper Ultimate Bundle
Top-rated: 447 ratings | 125 answered questions
Highlight: Has an effective range of up to 60 ft with an average projectile speed of 300 feet per second. Bundle includes a gun, ammunition and CO2 canisters.
Helpful review: "I have some definite opinions on less than lethal platforms, and I'll save those for after the review. Let's just say that I initially figured a CO2 ball launcher probably wouldn't be effective. I was wrong.
The launcher (I'll avoid calling it a gun, despite the design looking just like one) is of good quality and the polymer they selected is remarkably similar to the polymers found in actual firearms. The controls will be familiar to anyone who has handled a firearm as well. The safety switch is a little wonky and could use some refinement.
I had two people other than me who are experienced in firearms try it out, all three of us thought we switched the safety off but the first time for each of us it had not passed the small, firm detent at the very end of the safety lever travel. Loading the magazine is simple, but not something you'd want to do under duress, but two are included. The "ammo" provided has a few pepper balls and an assortment of inertial (plastic/rubber bullet) types.
We did not test the pepper balls, but I found some pepper/CS combination balls that are the same caliber as this launcher and plan to use those.
When firing the launcher, it pops off with decent authority and hits harder than I anticipated it would. It can penetrate a foam target and heavy packing box.
We thought about someone volunteering to take a shot, but no volunteers after the first test shots. The range and accuracy is impressive, as I 'whacked' a tree at 100 feet with it- with enough accuracy at that distance to center-hit a human width target. At that distance, the energy of the strike would be poor but it would certainly get someone's attention. The 8-gram CO2 cartridges aren't difficult to find, and you can place one in the launcher without puncturing the seal so it's mostly ready to use. Once the seal on the CO2 is punctured, you have a limited time to use it.
Less than lethal technologies have some risks. This LOOKS like a gun and when you pull it on someone, you will escalate the situation if they don't instantly comply. Do they have a REAL gun? If so, you're done. If the threat is on drugs, I doubt the inertial or pepper balls will do a lot- but the intent of less than lethal means is to harass the person into going away. For most people who have no means or intent to harm others, being on the receiving end of this would persuade them to want to get away from you. If the person has a temper and/or violent tendencies they won't be incapacitated enough to stop them from escalating and coming after you.
Do you know what situations you'll face? Some say less than lethal means are more likely to be appropriate than lethal means in most situations. That may be true, as most cases involving a drawn firearm don't require actually pulling the trigger- I've been in two of those situations outside of my professional work. Statistically, this might be all you need, but keep in mind that presenting a weapon that looks like a lethal threat may result in a lethal response.
Ergonomics are excellent. Quality seems excellent. Common size consumables. Fun for plinking, too.
Priced well above many other similar products from legitimate companies. The shape being extremely "pistol" shaped could result in being mistaken for a lethal device. A tool (hex key OR bottom of magazine) is required to puncture the CO2- when you NEED this, you have to crank the cartridge cover down with a tool- which takes time.
A FEW WORDS FROM JACK JERICO:
My thoughts on this item have changed after using it for a few months. Turns out if you don’t use the CO2 cartridge after a few weeks it runs empty on its own from leaking slowly I guess. The big problem with that is there is no way to know this or exactly when it’s empty. So if there comes a time to need it chances are after a week or so not in use it will not fire due to the empty cartridge (which kinda makes the item useless). Only way to be 100% sure it will fire is to change the cartridge every week or so to make sure it works. Which again ends up being pretty damn expensive and annoying. It looks good but it should have an empty cartridge indicator. Just my opinion. It’s about the cost of an actual firearm. So you think it would be a better design." — Sam Rockwell
Get it from Amazon now: $409.99 & FREE Returns
2. Umarex T4E - .50 Caliber Pepper Ball Pistol
Top-rated: 1,087 ratings | 225 answered questions
Highlight: Pepper rounds for less-than-lethal self defense; rubber balls for training; powder balls for a more realistic training experience.
Helpful review: "Shooters of real guns will find their lethal firearms simpler to operate, and more reliable with feeding, but a pepper/rubber ball launcher is a valuable deterrent when less-than-lethal measures are warranted.
First off: when it hits, it hurts like a mother.
I tried inert powder rounds, and rubber rounds. They all left painful welts through a shirt, a flannel, and a coat. I did not feel the need to escalate to feeling its bite with the steel-core rubber rounds; I'd been hurt enough.
I had one failure to feed, in about 5-6 firing tables. In the failing instance, one of the rubber rounds failed to chamber. It was dislodged by slapping the weapon and reattempting to fire, which it then did normally.
I also had difficulty unloading a non-fired inert powder round, which got stuck in the back of the magazine and failed to fall out, even with copious jiggling. I successfully unloaded it by firing that stuck round.
Shooting all 6 rounds very quickly worked rather well, despite the warning in the instructions against doing so, because rapid follow-up shots quickly cool the gas chamber, thereby reducing air pressure and projectile velocity. The welt from the 6th rapid shot (its previous 5 went into the ground) is a tad smaller than the other full-power ones, but it still hurt a great deal.
The weapon is well weighted, and the handle has finger contours which make it very comfortable to grip. I am also quite happy with the fiber-optic sights, even though this is obviously a close range weapon.
The whole system is completely ambidextrous!
In summary: this product delivers, for a self defense deterrent under $100. It is not supposed to maim or wound, however, anyone who can feel pain but doesn't prefer to, will have to think twice about facing this launcher head-on. It is not an action-hero's primary weapon system, that would be a real firearm. This is what you use right before you turn your unarmed derriere around, and sprint for all you're worth, as far as you can while saving enough breath for the 911 call.
4 stars for functionality and value-for-price, 1 taken off for the ugly orange slide, and small reliability concern.
P.S. Be very careful while removing a mostly full gas canister. If you only fire a handful of shots and then depressurize it, the spent canister will be dangerously cold.
ON TO A FEW WORDS FROM A FRIEND:
This is one of only a few co2 compressed gas packages with ammo containing, supposedly, very powerful pepper that balloons out as the ball hits a target. This is a possible non-lethat, or at least, less-lethal, tool that can serve in place of a firearm for personal defense. As most objects used as weapons favor the more physical person, there are only a few inventions that all but negate physical advantages of an attacker. A firearm is very effective at this.
Other inventions like mace, pepper spray, and tasers can also serve this purpose. Most of these, IF legal, are limited in the number of tries the user has to make them effective. Pepper spray and mace require aim and are NOT guaranteed to stop a motivated attacker. Tasers require thin clothing and or careful aim at fisticuff range. Winter clothes may make these completely useless and at such close ranges it's likely the attacker and defender will be physically fighting/defending. The type that shoots out darts need to be aimed and usually only has one try, maybe two.
These pepper ball blasters allow for multiple tries. As they release a cloud of pepper gas, they don't require perfect aim to be effective. A close miss can release the particles and achieve the goal of using such a defensive tool, stopping the attack. Even at grappling range, several misses will gas the attacker (and the user but it's better than the alternative) and is almost guaranteed to give them something else to think of.
This model, at least mine, isn't well calibrated for accuracy (though is fine for repeatedly hitting the same place). The rubber practice balls seem to have a different mass than the 'live' defensive ammo. The tube magazine (similar to a lever action) holds only 6 rounds but seems decently designed. The CO² cartridge doesn't come with the blaster. The nozzle of the cartridge needs to point down in the grip, opposite of every co2 air gun Ive used. The plug must be screwed in very securely before it can work. The design is clever as it allows a new cartridge to be inserted but not pierced (allowing the gas to escape) until the device is needed.
The $400, larger pepper ball pistol uses 0.68" ammo, allowing for significantly more pepper gas cargo. Those also allow more rounds at the ready and, when empty, the magazine can be quickly swapped with a full spare. That design also does not pierce the co2 canister until it is needed and requires only an extra trigger pull to fully charge the gas system.
For defensive use in the home (spouses, local laws, lease policies, etc.), I recommend the larger, .68", version. For carry or maybe automobile use, this .50" version is as small as a duty handgun (much smaller than the other) and, with care, can fit in a holster for added safety or convenience. Either way, check local laws as many municipalities. But all in all I really recommend this pepper gun. It gets the job done, but know what you're getting it for." — Samuel Wicker
Get it from Amazon now: $119.99 & FREE Returns
3. Mace - Pepper Spray Gun 2.0
Top-rated: 3,670 ratings | 279 answered questions
Highlight: Easy-to-load design to maximize point-and-shoot accuracy.
Helpful review: "I've carried Sabre pepper spray in the traditional 22 gram bottle routinely for the past 2.5 years. I was drawn to the Mace Pepper Gun 2.0 for the increased range, incorporated LED light, and intuitive operation/form factor. Let me be clear that I did not own the original Pepper Gun, so I cannot compare between the old and this new 2.0 design.
FIT AND FINISH:
Simply excellent. From the moment I opened the gun I was impressed with the materials and craftsmanship. The polymer that it's constructed out of feels durable (not brittle) and has an ever-so-slightly roughened texture that helps with grip.
All of the seams line up perfectly, and the ergonomics and texturing on the pistol grip make the gun feel very solid in hand. The size of the gun is also very reasonable - I've uploaded a number of pictures to illustrate the relative size.
I'm a man with medium-sized hands (I wear medium latex/nitrile gloves), and I would say that the gun feels "compact", but definitely not small. The barrel width feels a little chunky (~1.5 inches). This is limited by the size of the spray canisters, which are the same ones used for the original pepper gun.
The ambidextrous safety and barrel release are nice and crisp. The trigger pull is quite heavy, especially for the first spray from a new canister, but I don't see this as a problem.
The LED light looks like it's unchanged from the previous version. It comes on automatically when the trigger is partially depressed (and will work with the safety on). The first pull causes it to come on and remain illuminated until you release the trigger, whereas holding the trigger a second time results in a rapid strobe light.
I consider the brightness of the light to be completely satisfactory and on par with a cell phone LED. It would be sufficient to illuminate and mildly disorient someone in a dark setting.
The original unit that I received operated properly in all respects except that the spray stream shot significantly off to the left of where the gun was pointed. I would estimate that the spray hit about a foot to the left of the target at ~10-12 feet away.
For the price of the gun, I did not feel that this was acceptable, so I reached out to Mace via their online contact form and explained the problem.
Mace customer service responded promptly, and after a few unsuccessful suggestions for fixing the problem, they proudly stood behind their 100% satisfaction guarantee by sending a replacement unit with two spare water canisters to compensate for what I used while testing the suggested solutions.
Their communication throughout the process was clear, professional, prompt, and sincere. My replacement unit functioned flawlessly and was in hand within the same week that I originally contacted them - outstanding.
ALL IN ALL:
I highly recommend the pepper gun 2.0 for anyone looking for pepper spray in the form of a compact handgun. The product is well designed, and although I had an issue with my original unit, I feel even better knowing that Mace stands behind their products so confidently.
A FEW WORDS FROM A FRIEND:
I bought this product because I spend some time in a few bad neighborhoods for work and when I occasionally go out to parties. Anyway I was leaving a party with two girls (which I told them I would give them a ride home).
As we were walking away from the party, a fairly big guy kept following us, until I turned around and asked what he was doing. The man revealed that his intentions were to rob us and possibly force himself onto the girls I was driving home.
I revealed the pepper spray gun still in the protective case (which looks very much like a real gun with the black case and the black handle and all) and I said "very funny, keep talking and I will give you a mouth full of lead!" (leading them to the conclusion that I had a lethal weapon such as a Glock) and he said no way that's a real gun and as he continued to approach me I said "go ahead call my bluff go head see what happens CALL MY BLUFF! This will only end one way for you!" and the assailant left.
This to me seemed like the right call; however, I was wrong. He returned with nine of his friends to rob us. I told them that I felt threatened and please just let us into my car and we will be out of your hair.
My attempts at talking my way out of this seemed unsuccessful. The people seemed extremely irrational and violent. Two men came at me, one punched me in the face. At this moment I took out my non-lethal weapon and shot both of them in the face, the gun proved extremely accurate and effective, and the other people launched themselves at me.
The gun is very good and I estimate I was about five feet from the people at the time I shot the others. As we obviously couldn't take on TEN people we ran. A man went to tackle me and I shot him and he fell. Another person came at me as I shot into his eyes and he still managed to tackle me and was able to throw one good punch at me until the pepper spray became too overwhelming for him to continue. As at this point I had dropped the gun(when I got tackled) and we were fairly far from the rest of the people, the faster people had been pepper sprayed and were now laying there screaming in pain:).
We ran back to my car and drove away to safety still hearing people screaming with pain as we drove off. Overall I learned a few things and have some advice.
(1) This gun is excellent in range and effectiveness; even though it did take approximately 2-3 seconds for the pepper to take effect. This to me seemed very good depending on how much adrenaline is rushing and to take down a few larger men.
(2) I would never show off this gun because well it looks so much like a real gun and especially don't show this to anyone with police present (obviously) and make sure the weapon is concealed. Only take the weapon out when you have to and should be your last defense against threatening individuals. I must have pepper sprayed five people and all the people screamed and even got some pepper spray on my hand which burned a lot (I can't even imagine that in my eyes).
(3) Tell the menacing person(s) that you feel threatened and to please go away, still don't mention that you have a weapon of any short with you because in my situation this made people not only more prone to violence, but this made the guy think of a plan and to bring more people to assault me. If you have to pull this weapon during an unpleasant event and if the police gets involved it will go a lot better if you told your assailants that you feel threatened and to please go away! This will make sure you don't get charged with misusing your weapon and it will make it easier for you to charge your assailants with assault.
Thus, this weapon is excellent in delicate situations and I highly recommend this product for self defense ONLY. Thanks for reading!" — Mike Samuels
Get it from Amazon now: $37.80 & FREE Returns