Navigating Self-Defense: Pepper Spray vs. Mace ® vs. Bear Spray

When you hear about self-defense products, it’s hard to figure out all the different types. Especially when people use the terms Pepper Spray, Mace ®, and Bear Spray interchangeably. It makes it difficult to know what self-defense product is right for you.  


Pepper spray is made with oleoresin capsicum (OC) – a natural substance derived from the resin of chili peppers that causes inflammation to the eyes, skin, and nose - and can deploy multiple shots at a distance to deter multiple attackers. These effects may temporarily incapacitate the attacker, which could allow you an opportunity to escape to safety.


Frequently, the term "mace" is used interchangeably with "pepper spray," yet it's vital to understand that "Mace®" and "SABRE®" are both trademarked brand names. They don't represent distinct categories of self-defense sprays by themselves.

what is bear spray

Bear spray is a deterrent designed to cause the swelling of a bear's mucous membranes, shortness of breath and create psychological effects such as panic, causing the bear to turn away and seek relief from the nearest water source. It is also made with oleoresin capsicum and contains a higher concentration of the active ingredient than pepper spray does.

Can I use them interchangeably?

We do not recommend using pepper spray and bear spray interchangeably. Pepper spray is designed to be used against human attackers while bear spray is designed to be used against bears. When pepper spray is used properly against a human, it can cause involuntary eye closure and intense irritation to the eyes, allowing you an opportunity to escape to safety. If you were to use pepper spray against a bear, it would not yield the same effects. Pepper spray has a shorter range than bear spray (10-12 feet vs. 30-35 feet), which means you could be allowing a bear to get dangerously close to you. It also contains a smaller amount of the active ingredient oleoresin capsicum, making it weaker than bear spray and not strong enough to stop a charging bear.

Similarly, bear spray is formulated to work against bears – not humans. It is not recommended or encouraged to use bear spray against a human.

which is stronger?

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. SABRE’s pepper spray is made with 1.33% Major Capsaicinoids while SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray contains 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids, making it about 50% stronger than SABRE pepper spray.

To learn more about the differences between Pepper Spray and Bear Spray, read our blog post. As you make your selection for personal safety during your next adventure, always reserve the Bear Spray for potential bear encounters and pepper spray for your everyday personal safety spray. Embrace confidence in every step of your journey with SABRE by your side, and remember to LIVE LIFE CONFIDENTLY™. 

Shop SABRE® Pepper Spray Products

Shop Frontiersman Bear Spray and Accessories