Mace vs Pepper Spray: What’s the Difference?

You may have come across the terms ‘mace’ and ‘pepper spray’ when searching for a self-defense tool. However, didn’t we all think both were synonymous with each other? 

That’s not true. Therefore, you must understand the head-to-head comparison between mac vs pepper spray in order to use them efficiently and responsibly. In this article, we will talk about the differences and similarities between mace and pepper spray. It will help you make a choice between them and also guide you to their usage. 

What is Mace?

Mace Spray Brand

Just like we think Band-aids is just another name for bandages, similarly, we think a mace is just another word for pepper spray. 

However, Mace is a brand name for an aerosol spray invented in the 1960s by Alan Lee Litman. Litman’s concept incorporated phenacyl chloride (CN) tear gas saturated in hydrocarbon solvents into a tiny aerosol spray.  It was powerful enough to physically hurt an attacker. 

The original composition contained 1% CN gas in 2-butanol, propylene glycol, cyclohexene, and di propylene glycol methyl ether as a solvent. Oleoresin Capsicum is now included in several formulations (the active ingredient in pepper spray). The original CN formula has been discontinued for a long time due to the toxic nature of CN gas. It was outlawed due to the scores of wounds it caused, both to people who were sprayed and to the authorities who used it. Furthermore, the conventional mace was useless against persons who were intoxicated, which is the prime objective of mace.


  • Mace is the name of a brand
  • It is made of CN gas formula developed during World War I
  • It was invented during the 1960s by Alan Lee Litman
  • Originally named as “Tear Gas Aerosol Spray Instrument”
  • The CN gas formula is toxic in nature


  • Temporarily blinds a person and causes long term respiratory issues
  • Can dissipate within the canister over a period of time
  • The canister should be shaken regularly in order to maintain the chemical composition
  • High probability of spray back



  • Helps in self-defense
  • Although mostly used by the police, it was originally developed for women


  • Does not affect intoxicated people
  • Not legal everywhere
  • Takes nearly 20 to 60 seconds to start showing its effect

What is Pepper Spray?

Lifeshield Pepper Gel Spray

Originally designed as a defense tool against bears, wolves, mountain lions, and other dangerous animals, pepper spray is a lachrymatory agent. This means that it is a substance that burns the eyes, causing stinging pain, discomfort, and temporary eye damage. 

It allows policing agents to control suspects easily, while those in danger as a means of escaping. The active ingredient in a pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum (OC) which is extracted using ethanol. It is suspended in propylene glycol and pressurized into an aerosol canister. 

Pepper sprays usually come in handy in tight situations and can be used in self-defense keychains. These keychains may also have a couple of other tools like a swiss knife or a taser that will help you protect yourself in a dangerous situation.


  • Originally developed for protection against wild animals
  • Made of oleoresin capsicum
  • It is pressurized into an aerosol canister


  • Temporarily blinds a person by forcing an attacker to voluntarily shut their eyes
  • Low probability of spray back
  • Does affect intoxicated people
  • Has an immediate effect


  • Protects against wild animals and human attackers
  • Does not lead to long term health issues
  • Is legal everywhere


  • Low probability of spray back does not mean no possibility of spray back


  • Protection against animals
  • Defense against human attackers
  • Available in small canisters that you can carry in keychains

Mace vs Pepper Spray: Are they legal?

Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states of the United States. However, some states like California have restrictions on canister size (2.5 ounces). Even New York has regulations around the purchase and supply of pepper spray.

Is it now against the law to ‘mace’ anyone? You can count on pepper spray rules to steer your judgments if you’re utilizing the new OC formula. Tear gas, on the other hand, is prohibited in several states. If you’re in Wisconsin, Hawaii, or DC, it’s illegal to ‘mace’ others with a CN solution canister.

Call your local laws before purchasing pepper spray to ensure you’re in conformity.

Pepper Spray vs Mace Spray: How to Use?

It’s critical to understand how and when to use pepper spray safely once you’ve determined which kind of sprays are authorized in your location. Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to get pepper spray quickly, and you won’t have time to struggle with the cap. Practice grasping and disabling your pepper spray in a matter of seconds. Practicing locating and aiming your canister with your eyes shut can be beneficial.

Check the label on your canister to determine how near you must be for the chemicals to work. Some variants have a maximum range of 12 feet, while others demand you to be within 8 feet of your aim. When spraying pepper spray, always aim for the face, and once you’ve struck your target, take advantage of the moment they’re startled to flee to safety.

These days, pepper spray and mace are created from the same essential chemicals, but mace is still a well-known brand. Are you unsure about which canister is best for you?

Mace Versus Pepper Spray


Pepper Spray


It is a product It is a brand
It is an inflammatory agent that shows immediate effect. It is an irritant that can take between 20 to 60 seconds to show effect.
It is powered by oleoresin capsicum. It is powered by CN tear gas.
Affects intoxicated people. Does not affect intoxicated people.
It is legal in all 50 states of the United States. It is not legal everywhere, for example, in Wisconsin.



Now that you have read all about the differences between mace and pepper spray, read their advantages and disadvantages, you must have figured out which one is best for your self-defense.

Yes, it is pepper spray. Pepper spray has several advantages over mace including that they have a higher spray range, immediate response time, and are legal. Check out the list of the best pepper spray for self-defense. These options offer several helpful features like a long spray range and UV dye. 

Check out the list of the best pepper spray for self-defense. These options offer several helpful features like a long spray range and UV dye.

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