Although there are several types of pepper spray canisters, there are only a few types of triggers and safety types. The two most common safety/trigger configurations are the “turn and press” and the “flip and press.” Those aren’t the technical names, but they are pretty good descriptors, so I’ll stick with them. You can click on the pictures below to get a better look. “A” is the “turn and press” and “B” is (surprise!) the “flip and press.”
As you can see, when “A” is in the “safe” position, meaning you can’t make it spray, the trigger (or the “hot button” as I like to call it) is blocked (by a portion of the frame) from being pressed. This is important since you don’t want that button being pressed down by your sun glasses while its still in your purse! To get it ready to shoot, you simply take your thumb and turn the trigger tab to the right. Once you do that, there is an open space under the trigger tab allowing the trigger to be pushed down. Of course that is what causes the pepper spray to shoot.
Before you buy pepper spray with a “turn and press” type of safety, here’s a few things to consider.
Since you women come in such a glorious mix of shapes and sizes, your hands and fingers also come in different sizes. With the canister still in the package, hold the canister in your hand and place your thumb on the HOT button. Does it look like you would have any problem pressing the trigger? What you’re looking at here is the width of your thumb vs the width of the trigger and the frame around the trigger. The trigger button size will be pretty similar on most canisters. The frame AROUND the HOT button will be different depending on the size of the container. So, on the particular canister you’re holding, is your thumb wide enough that it could cause you ANY challenge at all when you need to press the trigger button? What about on a larger or smaller container?
Another thing to think about is your fingernails. If you have a long fingernail on your thumb (whether its real or a press-on), could it cause you ANY challenge in pressing the trigger button?
I saw a girl the other day with a piece of jewelry on her thumb. Because of its size and position, I think it would have caused her a problem if she was trying to use the “turn and press” style of safety. She could have turned it, but I’m not sure she could have pressed the trigger button (on some models) far enough to make it shoot. Do you wear any jewelry that could cause a problem with the trigger? If you wear one of those “thumb rings,” maybe you should leave it off, or just put it on one of your toes!
Now, even if you have a REALLY wide thumb, or a REALLY long and well airbrushed thumbnail, since the trigger has a tab that sticks out a little, you could probably still be able to get the canister to spray (IF the safety is in the “off” position). But just look at it and see how you feel when you’re holding it and have your thumb on the hot button.
As you consider the issues I’ve mentioned, remember this: Chances are, when you have an actual need to pull your pepper spray out, you will be scared. What happens to your hands when you are really scared? That’s right! They tremble or outright SHAKE! That could make getting that safety “off” and shooting it a little more challenging.
Now, on to the “flip and press!” (Doesn’t that sound like a gadget you’d get from a late-night infomercial?)
The “flip and press” has the trigger button covered by a flip-up lid. On the model I have, and this is very common, the lid is spring loaded. If you flip it up, it will snap back down into the “safe” position when you release it. In the picture, I have the top locked in the “up” position with a paper clip, for ease of viewing. On some models, you may have to press it back down into the “safe” position before putting it away.
The HOT button on the “flip and press” model is generally much wider than the ones on the “turn and press.” That means that there wouldn’t be the same concerns with the size of your thumb or even if you were determined to wear that massive thumb ring! But you would still want to consider the effects of having a long thumbnail. Now I’m not talking about what you might consider a “regular” size or length of thumbnail. I’m talking about you women who have nails that extend more than ½ inch from the tip of your finger. To get the “flip and press” trigger to work, you have to put your thumb INTO the space over the trigger and under the flip-up safety cover. If you have those REALLY long nails, in a scary situation where you’re already shaking and maybe not focusing as well as you should, that long nail may catch on the flip-top and keep you from getting your thumb on the HOT button OR it may keep you from getting enough of your thumb into the space above the trigger to actually be able to press it.
One thing I really like about the “flip and press” canisters is that it is so easy to correctly orient it. What I mean is that even if you can’t see your canister, because its dark or because you’re pulling it out of your purse, once you’ve grabbed it and put your thumb under the flip-top safety, you KNOW the nozzle is pointing in the right direction (away from you). In a tense situation, that’s just one less thing to worry about as you’re trying to protect yourself!
Both of the safety types are very simple. However, whichever one you decide to purchase, buy at least TWO so you can practice with one to get familiar with how it sprays, how far it sprays, and how to turn the safety ON and OFF (making it ready to shoot). They are very inexpensive and the extra cost to be able to practice what COULD be a life-saving action is REALLY worth the small investment of buying an extra canister! As part of familiarizing yourself with your personal protection pepper spray, put your hand in your purse (or pocket, or backpack or wherever you keep that canister) and get familiar with how it feels. Without looking at it, you need to be able to know which way it is pointing so that when you pull it out you don’t have to spend ANY time fooling with it. You want to be IMMEDIATELY ready to point and spray, even in the dark!
Pepper spray is just one of many personal protection device options. But, regardless of which one you choose, pepper spray, baton, stun gun, or a firearm, you MUST MUST MUST practice with it and become proficient. Remember, you are learning to SAVE YOUR LIFE! So please take the time to practice.
I just realized that I’ve said “thumb” over and over rather than “finger.” Well, there’s a very good reason for that. However, since this article is already pretty long, I’ll explain the importance of using your thumb to shoot your pepper spray in another post.
Until next time,
Chief LaBCaF Guy