I was sitting around the other night reading all about the latest air rage incident, and a peculiar thought popped into my head: can I bring pepper spray on a plane?
I mean…a friend asked me this. I (a true manly-man) would never admit to needing assistance to bring down a hallucinogenic 290 lb guy on meth who is attempting to punch a hole through the fuselage at 37,000 feet.
Anyway, I decided to do a bit of research about pepper spray and airline travel. Here’s what I found:
First of all, it’s perfectly legal to carry pepper spray in all 50 states. There’s nothing illegal about that. However, the TSA prohibits passengers from bringing it with them inside an airplane. Which is an unfortunate thing if I (I mean my friend) ever comes face to face with a lunatic hell-bent on bringing the plane down in blaze of drug-induced glory.
That being said, there is a way to take pepper spray with you on airplanes. Read on to find out how…
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How to bring pepper spray on a plane (without getting arrested)
Whether you’re a first time flyer or not, most people are surprised to learn that bringing pepper spray on a plane is simple (and legal) as long as you know what you’re doing (just as there are strict rules to follow when flying with a cat). The following is a step-by-step guide that will explain how to make sure your pepper spray doesn’t get you flagged at the gate. Or worse.
Step one: choose the right pepper spray
Airlines only permit passengers to carry certain types of pepper spray on board (in the cargo hold only – not as a carry on item). According to TSA regulations, canisters should be smaller than four fluid ounces and must have some sort of safety mechanism built into the design. Otherwise, airlines run the risk of an accidental discharge.
In a cabin filled with recirculated air, a discharge of pepper spray would cause severe discomfort and even respiratory distress in sensitive passengers. It’s important for the health and safety of everybody onboard that any mace you back is capped and fastened before packing. You may even want to seal it in an airtight bag just to be safe.
Airlines also prohibit any pepper spray that contains more than two percent tear gas, regardless of size. Unlike pepper spray, which is composed of natural components, tear gas spray contains harsher man-made chemicals, such as CS or CN. It tends to reach farther and cause more serious side effects, which is why tear gas sprays are banned by most airlines.
Step two: pack correctly
While pepper spray is legal to take on a plane, you can’t keep it in your carry-on luggage. A canister of mace left in a purse, suitcase, or backpack may discharge into the cabin, disrupting both passengers and staff. It may even force an emergency landing, especially if it causes any medical emergencies.
It’s easy to forget mace in your purse or backpack, so always be sure to take special care to store it properly before traveling. Make a point of adding it to other forbidden items, such as sharp objects or large containers of fluid. This way, you’re less likely to get stopped at the security checkpoint and delayed for your flight.
And don’t think you’ll be able to to outsmart the TSA agents. Just as how airport scanners can detect drugs, they can easily detect mace and pepper spray as well.
You must pack any mace you bring on your trip in your checked luggage (to be stowed in the cargo hold). The compartment is sealed from the cabin so that if there’s an accidental discharge, it won’t end up causing harm.
This rule is enforced for the safety of cabin crew and other passengers. Airlines don’t want mace anywhere an unruly or hostile traveler (such as a prisoner being escorted by law enforcement) could easily reach it. Yes, transporting prisoners on planes is more common than you might think.
On a related note, have you ever wondered how to spot an air marshal? One of the easiest ways is to look for someone scanning the cabin for passengers with prohibited items (such as pepper spray). Even if you somehow manage to bring pepper spray on a plane with you, it would be easy for an air marshal to spot – and you could get in serious trouble for it.
Finally, even though you and your fellow passengers are safe from mace and pepper spray stored in the cargo hold, it’s still good practice to seal the canister in an airtight and watertight bag or container. It can be hard to get the stain and smell of mace off of clothing, and so you may end up with a bag full of unusable luggage.
Pepper sprays and accessories for travel
Ok. Now that you know it’s technically possible to bring bring pepper spray on a plane for your next trip, it’s important that you pick the right gear. The following is a list of my top choices for travel-safe pepper spray options and accessories that will make it easier to travel safely.
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When traveling by plane, you want to make sure that any pepper spray you pack is small and securely packaged. It’s best to look for something with a sturdy plastic or metal casing and a lockable lid. You may also want to look for a case that makes it easy to replace the interior canister when it’s empty or expired.
1. Mace Brand Personal Pepper Spray
Mace brand is one of the leading names in personal defense sprays. As a matter of fact, it’s the brand used by law enforcement divisions worldwide. This pepper spray is accurate, easy to use, and offers a range of up to 12 feet. It’s also TSA and FAA compliant, making it safe for travel (assuming you pack it in your checked baggage of course).
2. SABRE Pepper Spray Keychain
Sabre is another trusted name used by both civilians and law enforcement alike. This defense spray can reach a distance of up to 10 feet, and it boasts an impressive shelf life (up to four years). It’s small enough to pack in your checked baggage, and has a locking cap for added safety.
3. Mace Brand Kuros! Pocket Pepper Spray
This compact pepper spray from Mace Brand has an extra-secure case with a locking flip-top. It offers accurate and effective protection of up to 10 feet. Better yet, it comes with a free personal alarm that you can carry in your purse, backpack, or other carry-on luggage.
4. SABRE RED Lipstick Pepper Spray
If you’re looking for something a bit more subtle (though perhaps a bit less manly), this pepper spray from Sabre comes disguised as a tube of lipstick. It’s attractive, discreet, and sprays up to 10 feet. Better yet, it’s small enough to be TSA compliant.
A pepper spray holster makes it safer and easier to pack in your checked baggage. Most are designed to fit securely around the canister, keeping the cap firmly in the “locked” position.
1. ROCOTACTICAL MK3 Pepper Spray Holder
This basketweave holster is made of durable trilaminate while the Coptex knit lining keeps your mace snug and secure. A top flap with velcro holds the canister firmly in place. This holster is designed specifically to fit small, travel-sized pepper spray containers.
2. Safariland Duty Gear MK4 Pepper Spray Holder
This sleek mace holster looks good for either personal or professional use, making it a good choice for those who travel for business. It boasts a durable, water-resistant body and a secure snap closure. With its small size, it holds travel-sized pepper sprays snugly.
Flight-safe alternatives to pepper spray
If you’re not sure whether or not pepper spray is right for your travel situation (for example, it’s illegal in some European countries, but not all), it’s important to know that there are other flight-safe self-defense options.
Tasers and stun guns are also fine to pack in your checked luggage, and they don’t pose a risk of discharging irritating spray into the air. However, just as with pepper spray, the legality of carrying a stun gun may be questionable in some foreign countries. Do plan ahead!
There are huge consequences to getting caught, and if you ever find yourself in that situation, you might want to start asking other questions such as: can I fly with a warrant?
You can find other, non-irritating self-defense sprays that are legal throughout most of the world (ones which may even be acceptable to pack in your carry-on). Most of these contain a dye or foam used to mark or incapacitate an attacker.
At the very least, you can always carry a safety whistle or personal alarm on your person. Both of these are designed to emit a loud noise to either scare away your attacker or attract help in an emergency. Most of these devices are airplane-safe, though you should take care to make sure that they don’t go off during your flight. That would be embarrassing.