There are a variety of spray patterns used in pepper sprays including: Cone/Fog,
Foam and Stream. They each have their benefits and drawbacks.
- Cone & Fog: Range: 4-8 feet. Depending on canister size and the amount of propellant. People can sometimes confuse the terminology, but cone and fog are the exact same thing.
Benefits: Because of their large spray pattern (similar to a shotgun pattern), they do not require precision aiming. The physiological effects are usually faster due to smaller spray particles, immediately depositing on mucous membranes. This pattern is great due to the spraying distance.
Drawbacks: Because this spray pattern atomizes and causes a mist while in the air, this pattern is more susceptible to wind movement and isn’t stable while airborne. In a windy situation, the spray may actually blow back in your face. Because they are made of smaller airborne particles, they can be inhaled and will therefore affect the respiratory system, or they may enter into indoor ventilation systems and affect innocent bystanders.
- Foam: Range: 6-8 Feet. Depending on canister size and the amount of propellant.
Benefits: Foam has somewhat similar characteristics as Cone & Fog, with the exception that it has a minimal effect on the respiratory system and may be used indoors. When sprayed at an attacker, the foam will coat their face, rendering them completely incapacitated for enough time for you to get away.
Drawbacks: The Foam pattern is extremely messy due to its soapy nature and will cause further contamination when it gets on clothing, furniture, or patrol car seats. There is a potential for gagging and vomiting as the bubbles enter the respiratory system during rapid inhalation.
- Stream: Range: 12-20 feet Depending on canister size and the amount of propellant.
Benefits: Stream can be used indoors and due to its narrow pattern, does not atomize. This pattern is less susceptible to wind movement than other patterns. A stream pepper spray is less likely to blow back in your direction.
Drawbacks: If you use a stream pattern in an indoor setting, you may risk inhaling some of the spray or getting splashed. Due to the small circumference of the stream pattern, it is difficult to aim and cover both eyes at once. Therefore, multiple shots may be required.