If you must walk into a dark parking lot or some isolated place you should have the tear gas canister in your hand and finger on the trigger. Surprise assaults happen very quickly and usually without warning. If the canister is not in your hand you simply won’t have time to retrieve it.
The effective range of most spray canisters is approximately 3-10 feet depending on whether the canister emits a mist or stream. In my experience, when a person properly carries pepper spray they become hyper-vigilant. Most people soon realize they will never need the spray because of their heightened awareness of their surroundings.
When alert, it is difficult for an assailant to surprise you. It is better to think of alternatives to avoid a confrontation in the first place like relocating your car, changing your work schedule, or setting up a buddy system when walking in secluded urban areas.
Pepper spray should be directed at the assailant’s face at close range either in a stream, spray, or mist and never sprayed wildly at a crowd in congested areas.
Most pepper spray victims instinctively fall immediately to their knees and start rubbing their eyes (which makes it worse). The pain has been described as two red-hot pieces of steel being pushed into your eyes and a blow-torch applied to your face.
Be aware that pepper spray has a blinding effect…so make sure your victim does not accidentally fall downstairs, walk into the street, or operate a motor vehicle. Pepper spray causes the eyes to shut very quickly and you sometimes have to use your fingers to pry them open. Be wary of spray backsplash or blown-back from the wind.
Try to avoid contact with the assailant as the oily spray can transfer to you and cause you distress. Once you use the spray, get out of there and call the police. If pepper spray gets on you, rinse the affected area repeatedly with cold water.
Tearless baby shampoo sometimes works to cut the oily resin from your face and hair. Wash your hands several times with soap and water and wash your clothes separately for other items.