Pepper Spray Vs. Bear Spray

What’s the difference between bear spray and pepper spray?

Bear spray and pepper spray are both made with the same active ingredient, a substance made from peppers called oleoresin capsicum. The difference lies within the strengths of the formulas. Pepper spray is designed to temporarily incapacitate a human attacker. Bear spray contains a higher concentration of the active ingredient – making it the stronger spray - and is designed to be shot at a further distance from the attacker. Bear spray can cause the swelling of a bear's mucous membranes, shortness of breath and psychological effects such as panic, causing the bear to turn away and seek relief from the nearest water source.

Which should I carry - Bear Spray or Pepper Spray?

Our bear sprays are approved by the EPA to use against bears in the wilderness. We do not recommend using bear sprays against humans or dogs, but instead would recommend our SABRE pepper sprays or Protector dog sprays for your everyday situations. If you try to use pepper spray against a bear, you possibly will have allowed the bear to get dangerously close. We recommend carrying bear spray when hiking on trails or camping in the woods and pepper spray for your everyday use when out and about or for home security as well.

Which is stronger – Bear Spray or Pepper Spray?

The strength of pepper spray is determined by measuring the Major Capsaicinoids level, which are a better indicator of heat than oleoresin capsicum percentages as they measure the strength of the entire formula. Oleoresin Capsicum, on the other hand, only measures the amount of raw pepper in the formula. Our pepper sprays range from 1.0% (Dog Spray) Major Capsaicinoids to 1.33% (Human Spray) while our Bear Sprays measure 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids.

SABRE's Spray Comparison Chart


  Amount of Major Capsaicinoids in Formula Compared to other SABRE Sprays
Protector Dog Spray 0.5 - 1.0% EPA Maximum Strength Dog Spray
SABRE Pepper Spray 1.33% 33% stronger than Protector Dog Spray
Frontiersman Bear Spray 2.0% 2x Stronger than Protector Dog Spray 50% Stronger than SABRE Pepper Spray

Which is More Effective - Bear Spray or Pepper Spray?

Bear spray should only be deployed against bears because bear sprays can contain up to 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids, making bear spray much more potent and effective. Studies (Outside Online) have also found that because bear spray requires less aim, due to its fog delivery, covers more ground, and can be immediately accessible (numerous carrying holsters options) that the success rates of using the spray range from 90-98%. Meanwhile, humans are injured in 50% of bear confrontations when firearms are used to deter the bear.

Pepper sprays can be incredibly effective against warding off human attackers. They’re an easy and quick form of self-defense (learn how to use pepper sprays in this video). When correctly used, pepper spray causes temporary blindness and can also cause intense irritation to the eyes, nose, and mouth – giving you the opportunity to escape to safety. However, if you tried to use a human pepper spray against a bear, it would likely not be effective. Instead, you would likely have to get within 12 feet of the bear which would put you at an increased risk of danger. Always take bear spray with you when in bear country and leave pepper spray for protecting yourself against humans.

Are They Easy to Carry?

Both SABRE’s pepper sprays and bear sprays come with options making them easy to carry. We offer a variety of pepper sprays and gels with key rings, snap clip keychains, quick release keychains, holsters, or a belt clips. Our bear sprays are available with Velcro-free holster options, including a belt holster, chest holster, and a 3-in-1 holster (belt, chest, and carabiner) for all your carrying needs.

Bear Spray Vs. Pepper Spray Comparison Chart


  Pepper Spray Bear Spray
Does it expire? Yes (4 years) Yes (3 years)
Ease of use Ergonomic finger grip (some models), hand straps, easy to use safety mechanisms Safety, handle grip
Distance 10-25 feet (model dependent) 30-35 ft. (product dependent)
How it affects the attacker Can cause involuntary eye closure and inflammation to the eyes, skin, and nose. (For a complete list, click here) Can cause swelling of a bear's mucous membranes, shortness of breath and psychological effects such as panic
Speed of efficacy Eyes close upon impact and inflammatory effects start quickly after contact Inhalation effect is immediate. Eyes, nose, mouth and panic can set in quickly after contact.
Safety Twist Lock, Twist Top or Flip Top Safety Safety Release Mechanism
Level of discretion Select models include keychains to clip onto purses, backpacks, or wallets or belt holsters. Small enough to carry in purse or jacket/coat pocket. Available with Velcro-free, quick draw holsters to limit sound when retrieving the spray. Velcro can startle the bear.
State restrictions Legal for sale in all 50 states (view pepper spray state laws here). Always check with your state and local restrictions regarding size limits or other important details. EPA approved in all 50 states for use against bears. Please check with your local and national parks for specific regulations.

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