Posted by: konradbaumgarten | March 14, 2010

Are you carrying a pepper spray?

As gun control laws in Switzerland preclude me from even thinking of carrying a gun, I always carry a pepper spray (a Key Defender, that is). I cannot think of any more low-profile and more effective defensive tool. The most important thing about it is however in my view to have it quickly available when a situation arises (I have a white-collar-and-tie job, so there are some constraints as regards possible tactical equipment 😀 ). The Key Defender perfectly fits any pocket (you can also slip it inside the waistband) and it can easily be mistaken for some pen or torch, it is thus perfectly socially compatible.

I can therefore only subscribe to this post:

I was really surprised to see how few of the respondents carry pepper spray. I am guessing that people don’t really understand what a valuable defensive tool it can be.

Low level of force. The real value of pepper spray is that you can apply it very early in a potentially dangerous situation. Because it is such a low level of force it can be used much sooner and with less discrimination than higher levels of force. If somebody was closing the distance with you in a dark parking lot as soon as you command them to stop and they don’t you can spray them. You would have a hard time justifying the use of your firearm, but spraying them would be entirely reasonable.

Stand-off capability. Even with good unarmed combative/martial arts skills you will still need to be fighting at contact distance. Pepper spray could stop the fight before anyone is grabbing or striking you.

Deterrent value. Pepper spray separates the casually interested assailants from the truly motivated ones. Many of those who would be willing to fist fight (and escalate from there) will quit when they get sprayed, as soon as they get sprayed. Those that want to continue after an application are at least continuing the fight with a handicap.

Effectiveness. A common complaint is that doesn’t work all the time, but in fact shooting people doesn’t work all the time either. Just as with firearms, pepper spray is more effective with good training and tactics. Most people make the mistake of threatening to use it, rather than simply spraying and using the element of surprise. Giving the assailant the opportunity to mentally prepare for getting sprayed reduces its effectiveness.

A backstop for other levels of force. Even if pepper spray didn’t produce a “one shot stop”, using it before applying a higher level of force (such as striking) will provide some legal protection. This is the same process that law enforcement uses (situation permitting), to try and gain compliance with the least amount of harm. If doesn’t provide the desired result you haven’t lost anything.

Broadly legal. In most places pepper spray doesn’t have anything like the number of restrictions that other weapons do. Where I live the only place I can’t carry pepper spray is a courthouse or similar ’secured’ area. According to state law here, a 14 year old can carry pepper spray with their parents permission.

Why not? I really can’t think of a reason not to carry pepper spray. From the poll results I see that some people are carrying multiple handguns, but no less lethal tools? You have a far greater chance of needing a low level force option than you do of needing a primary handgun, let alone a secondary. Pepper spray isn’t the tool for a deadly force confrontation, but a handgun isn’t any help until the situation reaches that point.


  1. Hello, I was mugged Wednesday night in Basel and the attacker had a can of pepper spray. I am now looking for more information about how I can protect myself. I knew that I was in danger minutes before he approached me and I had ample time to spray him before he grabbed me.
    I have heard from some people that it is illegal from others that I need a permit. Can you please tell me where I can purchase this devise you highlight and if I need any special permission to carry it on my person.
    Kind Regards,
    Cara Rynerson

  2. Dear Cara, I am sorry to hear that. I will respond to you this weekend.

  3. Mr. Baumgarten,

    Thank you for checking in with me. I wanted to let you and your readers know that I have acquired a pepper spray. I posted this for my other english speaking friends in Basel…

    “SCORE! I am now the proud owner of the ASP Key Defender. I went to the police station and 2 police women looked up the name, address, and opening times of the store I needed to go to. N. Bürglin Jagd & Sportwaffen, Theatrestrasse 14, between the Heuwage and Theatre tram stops. It was CHF 72, and I had to present my Swiss ID, give my address and DOB, and sign a form.”

    There is a lot of confusion. Some people thought it was illegal. I thought I needed a permit. I knew that I couldn’t buy it in the US and bring it back to Switzerland in my luggage. I still don’t know if it is possible to order the refills online and have them shipped via UPS. The price in Basel is 3x-4x what we would pay in the US for the exact same product.

    Thank you for the information you provide on Swiss Law regarding self defense. Things are changing here. It isn’t so surprising to an American to witness or be a victim of a crime. What is distressing is not knowing your rights and how to defend yourself within the confines of the law.


  4. Yes you might not be able to carry it in government buildings. But generally speaking there is no problem with those sprays. Anybody may carry them. I have bought a lot them and distributed them around me, especially to the women in my family. In addition, Key Defenders are very “low profile”, many people think they’re a Maglite. So you do not need to answer too many questions, they are socially acceptable. I got my Key Defender with me nearly all the time, at work, on shopping tours, in my car, etc. The thing is you need to integrate the fact of carrying it into your daily life, and especially have it handy if you realize that a situation might get hairy (thus have it with you all the time).
    I hope you are not too traumatized after the attack on Wednesday. If you are interested there are excellent courses available in Switzerland on topics such as personal security awareness, facing knife threats, or shooting firearms (especially pistols). I’d be happy to provide you with any details if you wish.

  5. Hi,

    My daugther is studying in Switzerland and she will have an internship in Switzerland in next week. She is staying alone in Switzerland now. I am worrying about her safety and I would like to buy her a pepper spray. Please tell me how she can buy the pepper spray in Switzerland and how she can apply for the register for carrying and own the pepper spray in Switzerland. She has asked it from the airport counter and her school office but no one can answer her. If I ask my friend to buy the pepper spray in USA, can the peppy spray sent by airmail or other forwarders, eg., Speedpost or UPS, to Switzerland to my daughter.

    Thanks for your help in advance.


  6. Hi Agatha
    Apologies for my late comment. If she is past 18, then your daughter can freely buy and carry a pepper spray in Switzerland.

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