There are a number of chemical agents available for civilian self-defense or LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) use, including CN (Chloroacetophenone), CS (chlorobenzylidene malononitrile), PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillylamide), OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) or wasabi horseradish derivative. CN is commonly referred to as mace, which consists of crystals in a pressurized liquid medium, and has an onset of action of three to 30 seconds, causing the eyes to burn and water. This should not be confused with Mace brand OC spray. CS is commonly referred to as tear gas. It is a micro-pulverized powder which is irritating to the skin and mucus membranes, may cause vomiting and choking, but is not effective against canines, as they no lacrimal glands, or tear ducts (Mcgoey, 2008). PAVA is used in the UK, and is a synthetic analogue of capsicum, with similar effects to OC. Wasabi derivative spray, brand name Sabre Green, is available for law enforcement use only in the US, and has similar effects to OC, but is much shorter acting: about 10 minutes vs about 45 minutes for OC (Sabre, 2015).
OC is a derivative of hot peppers, which has been available as a self-defense spray in the US since 1977. It is an oily liquid, minimally water-soluble, with up to up to 15% active ingredient and a rating of about three million Scoville units (Mcgoey, 2008. Scoville units are a measure of the perceived heat from capsicum; e.g. Tabasco brand pepper sauce has a Scoville rating of 2,500 to 5,000. This means that 2,500 to 5,000 cups of water would be needed to dilute the Tabasco sauce so that it would no longer be perceived as hot (Greenaway, 2013). OC is over well over 1,000 times hotter than tabasco sauce.
OC is classified as a lachrymatory agent, or a neurotoxin, depending on which source you consult. When OC contacts mucous membranes in the nasal cavity and mouth, or epithelial tissue of the eyes or face, it activates heat receptors, (thus the classification as a neurotoxin) which creates the perception of a burning sensation, without actual tissue damage (Vesaluoma, Müller, Gallar, Lambiase, Moilanen, Hack, Belmonte, and Timo, 2000). The eyes will lacrimate, or release tears, the mucosa of the nasal chambers will become rhinitic, or over produce thin mucus, and if OC gets in the mouth, the bronchial tubes will constrict, making breathing difficult. The skin will feel like it is burning, the blood vessels of the eye will dilate, and the eyelids will involuntarily close. This effect will persist for about 45 minutes, with some residual effects for up to four hours, with a gradual decline in severity. Most persons exposed to OC will be incapacitated for 20 to 45 minutes. OC exposure will demoralize most aggressive individuals long enough to allow their intended victim to escape. OC can be present as a liquid of varying viscosities, from watery to a sticky gel or foam. The advantages of a gel or foam include greater persistence. Apparently, OC does not produce permanent harm. A study of n=10 volunteers who were exposed to OC revealed that there was no permanent damage to their corneas or visual acuity (Vesaluoma, et al, 2000).
Many OC delivery systems for civilians and LEO’s involve a canister typically pressurized with nitrogen which propels a stream of OC. Cold may adversely affect the delivery of OC from a pressurized canister, pressure may degrade over time, and a cross wind may blow the stream off target, or a headwind may blow the OC back into the defender. The OC stream may be blocked by protective eyewear or a face mask. These disadvantages are circumvented by several OC delivery systems which employ a pyrotechnic charge to propel the OC at a higher speed, longer range, and offers the advantage of superior ergonomics for easier and more efficient handling. This article will review the Kimber Pepper Blaster II OC delivery system.
The KPB II (Kimber Pepper Blaster II) is available in red, or gray, or an orange inert training version (Wagner, n.d.). It is made of a tough polymer, and is pre-loaded with two cartridges containing a small pyrotechnic charge and OC. There are rudimentary front and rear sights, and the device is discharged by a trigger enclosed by a trigger guard with a plastic push-away safety tab. It is inexpensive, retailing at $31.96 on Amazon as of January 2016 (Amazon.com, 2016). I purchased mine at a gun shop for about $36. It measures 3 x 5 inches, weighs 4.2 oz., and has a four-year shelf-life. It comes in a metal storage box emblazoned with the Kimber trademark, and includes an instruction manual. A holster can be purchased separately, or there is a belt clip available (Kimber, n.d.).
The KPB II can propel six milliliters (Palm Beach Shooting Center, 2011) of 10% (2.4 % capsaiconoid with benzyl alcohol) OC gel at about 90 mph (Wagner, n.d.) to 112 mph with a range of about 13 feet (Kimber, n.d.). It is designed for only two discharges, and is not designed to be reloaded. It has a durable design, as supported by another reviewer. Horman, (2012) reported that he ran over the KPB II with a compact car, then a truck and it did not crack or leak, and was still operational. The push away safety tab can be easily put back into position for future use if the KPB II is not discharged after the safety is disengaged.
I have not had to use mine in a self-defense situation, so I cannot comment on its terminal performance. There are a number of videos on YouTube ** (see end note after references) demonstrating its effectiveness. I can say that it is concealable, lightweight, and comfortable to carry in a clip-on, clamshell holster, reasonably priced, and simple to operate. I would like to see several changes in the KPB II, maybe on a future model:
- A conventional crossbar safety, or lever safety, for training cross over benefits. I recommend practicing drawing it from a holster, pushing the safety tab out of the way, and acquiring a target to develop muscle memory.
- A longer pistol grip for people with big hands, and to promote retention through better grip.
- More prominent open sights for easier acquisition.
The KPB II is a less-than-lethal alternative to carrying a firearm, which offers many advantages over OC canisters, but there is some room for improvement in the opinion of this reviewer. Carried in a clamshell holster, it is easily concealed with minimal printing. Check your local laws for the legality of carrying the KPB concealed or open, or if a permit is required.
Amazon.com. (2016). Kimber Pepper Blaster. Amazon.com. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from http://www.amazon.com/Pepper-Blaster-II-LA98001-Kimber/dp/B003L75SSI
Greenaway, T. (2013). How Hot is That Pepper? How Scientists Measure Spiciness
smithsonian.com. Retrieved January 21, 2016 from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-hot-is-that-pepper-how-scientists-measure-spiciness-884380/?no-ist
Horman, B.G. (2012). The Kimber Pepper Blaster II. American Rifleman. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from http://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/2012/4/30/the-kimber-pepper-blaster-ii/
Kimber. (n.d.). Pepper Blaster. Kimber. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from http://www.kimberamerica.com/pepper-blaster
Mcgoey, C. (2008). Self defense: tear gas and Pepper spray. Crime Doctor. Retrieved March 27, 2011 from http://www.crimedoctor.com/self_defense_1.htm
Palm Beach Shooting Center. (2011). Kimber Pepper Blaster 2 in the face.
Sabre. (2015). SABRE Green – A New Kind Of Law Enforcement Spray. Sabre. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from https://www.sabrered.com/blog/sabre-green-new-kind-law-enforcement-spray
Vesaluoma, M, Müller, M., Gallar, J., Lambiase, J., Moilanen, J., Hack, T., Belmonte C., and Timo T. (2000). Effects of Oleoresin Capsicum Pepper Spray on Human Corneal Morphology and Sensitivity. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 41, 2138-2147.
Wagner, S.W. (n.d.). Kimber Pepper Blaster II: Double –Barrel, High Velocity, OC Defender. USCCA Blog. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/kimber-pepper-blaster-ii-double-barrel-high-velocity-oc-defender/
** Kimber Pepper Blaster 2 in the face – Palm Beach Shooting Center