Bear spray for home protection?
January 7, 2013 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Can I keep bear deterrent pepper spray as protection against (human) home intruders?

I already have bear spray, so why not keep in accessible just in case, right? Is this stupid? What happens if I spray it indoors? Is it legal to use bear spray on a person in self defense? Would it even be an effective deterrent against an armed intruder? I live in California and don't live with any children or pets.
posted by domnit to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Having discharged pepper spray accidentally indoors, I can safely tell you that this is not a good means of disabling an intruder while remaining able yourself.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:12 PM on January 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

It's pretty much the same thing as pepper spray, so in theory yes, but bear spray doesn't shoot a mist, it shoots a long narrow jet up to distances of 15-30 ft. That's fine if you're aiming at a 600 lb grizzly, but not as good for an intruder. Also, it will ruin your house for ages (boss's son accidentally triggered a can of bear spray in their living room once). Also, I'm not sure of California regulation, but in Canada it's illegal to use bear spray on people, or to own it with the intent of using it on people.
posted by furtive at 5:36 PM on January 7, 2013

Thanks for confirming my hunch that this is a Bad Idea - it is back in the outdoor gear closet!
posted by domnit at 5:49 PM on January 7, 2013

Bear spray is a Bad Idea, but garden variety self-defense spray is legal in CA, and a relatively safe "security blanket" home defense measure. As a deterrent, it will likely work as well as a firearm, which is to say, less effective than a pet dog... But it will generally make the Ninjas slink away to find someone else to assasinate in the night, or the drunk jerk find another door to bang on. "I have pepper spray" and a display of the cannister is all you'd likely need. Firing it off will usually require some professional cleanup or a true dedication to DIY home maintenance to remove the stains and the smell and the irritant, so don't play with it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:34 PM on January 7, 2013

I'm not sure that using bear spray on an intruder is any more illegal than a gun, baseball bat, golf club or can of hairspray. You can use any weapon at your disposal to protect yourself, keeping in mind the danger said weapon may be to the wielder, and in that regard, bear spray is not a good idea. So, I would keep it with the outdoor gear and if I got hassled in the woods by something other than a bear, I would use it. And if I were chased into my outdoor gear closet by a maniac, I would use it then too.
posted by shoesietart at 6:40 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

the goal isn't necessarily to be able yourself, only really to disable the intruder. i'd guess the better accuracy of a bear spray would be better at medium distance, say across the living room, than at close distance like a pepper spray. the pepper spay seems more appropriate for when someone is very close to you, but if you hypothetical intruder has a gun you may not be able to get close enough to use pepper spray.

regardless, the more important effect is your feeling of safety. no matter what form of home protection you want to use it is very unlikely that someone will try to get into your home in the first place. just make sure your bear spray can't accidentally be used by a child.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:34 PM on January 7, 2013

An ordinary carpenter's hammer kept discretely within reach would be more predictably useful than bear spray as deterrent and/or weapon.
A hammer is also much easier to swing with effect than a baseball bat in a confined space.
posted by islander at 9:39 PM on January 7, 2013

also not to pile on but if a stranger is coming through your window your chances of spraying the dude versus misfiring and spraying yourself are like 50/50. i like the hammer idea, very difficult to accidentally kill/maim yourself with a hammer, added bonus.
posted by facetious at 11:52 PM on January 7, 2013

You cannot prep for all contingencies. Even armed people leave their guns in their purses in their cars and don't have them available when needed. (That's from an actual event in Texas at a Luby's cafeteria.)

What you have at your night stand is useless if you are in the garage or yard. Where do you stop?

Having good self-defense skills, fitness, attitude and judgment go everywhere with you, including to bed. However, I'd feel perfectly fine with bear spray, a shotgun, a baseball bat, a pipe wrench, whatever, if it met my need to delude myself into thinking I was safe. It's an illusion, but so is being in danger.

Have you thought about self-defense classes? Have you done a realistic assessment of the threats you reasonably face? Do you have a specific fear?

If you have bear spray, how do you know how it works or if it does? Have you test sprayed it to see if the can is any good or what it feels like to use/aim it? Do you know how you'd point it in the dark?

Questions are better than answers, and I urge you to ask yourself some more questions. Answers will come but you are refining a solution here instead of accurately defining a problem. The problem isn't "what should I use?", but "what am I trying to accomplish?".
posted by FauxScot at 1:43 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you do get bear spray (or a hammer, or gun, or a knife or whatever) the biggest determinant of its effectiveness is practice. Many people think 'i have a weapon, and know i am safe because i can defend myself'. This is like thinking I bought a guitar, I am now a musician. Weapons are tools and as such they require practice to use correctly. How you swing a hammer (or any hand held melee weapon) as weapon is different than how you swing it when building a house (at least based on years of experience in the SCA).

So anyway, take your bear spray out in the woods somewhere and use it. See how it sprays, see what effect it has on you, its range, how hard you have to press the trigger, how easy it is to ready it for use. I keep one of the big jogger handheld sprays by the door and a gun or two ready to use by the bed. The chance I will need either one is very, very small but if needed nothing else will really being prepared is not the worst idea in the world. Just practice with your chosen tool.
posted by bartonlong at 9:12 AM on January 8, 2013

FauxScot, I agree - for better or worse I already am not very fearful of a home invasion, and I think I'm decently fit and coolheaded. But I already have bear spray, so I was basically asking "closet or bedside?"
posted by domnit at 6:25 PM on January 8, 2013

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