The irritant chemical OC is extracted from pulverized peppers and concentrated. The micro-pulverized OC is then contained within a liquid solvent so that it can be sprayed. It is concentrated in the manufacturing process to a specific percentage of OC and capsaicinoid content that is much hotter than any natural pepper. Standards in the industry are rated on a SHU (Scoville Heat Unit) scale. With Scotch Bonnet (habanero) peppers rated at around 300,000 SHU’s, pepper sprays are usually at least one million SHU’s. Some sprays list an SHU level of over five million.
The main target for officers when using pepper spray is a subject’s eyes. When the eyes are successfully targeted, the “standard response” to being sprayed with pepper sprays is involuntary closure. The suspect typically will cover their face with their hands and bend over. Although this may not take the fight completely out of a determined suspect, it certainly improves control. Other effects include breathing difficulties, inflammation of the mucous membranes, and pain. These sprays inflict a painful burning sensation to the skin that can be tremendous. Regardless of their form or concentration, OC products can be effective at controlling suspect resistance. My own agency uses an OC product that achieves control more than 80% of the time on the street.
A large factor in OC spray effectiveness is how resistive the subject is. The effects of the pepper spray in many ways mirror allergic reactions to food or bee stings. Anaphylactic shock symptoms include swelling of the mucous membranes, redness of the face, difficulty breathing, etc. The standard first aid for persons experiencing these reactions, to bee stings for instance, is the EpiPen auto-injector. The EpiPen introduces epinephrine into the system which combats the physiological effects of the allergic reaction. When we spray someone who is enraged and in the fight-or-flight reflex, that person already has the epinephrine in his or her system to fight the effects of the OC products. This partially explains the occasional failure of these sprays against enraged suspects: They simply have the chemical defense already in their system to fight the spray.
Enter The TigerLight
Another factor in street failure is the spray-dispenser design and draw. Typically, these are two- to three-ounce canisters that are belt carried in some type of holster. Some holster designs are better than others in facilitating drawing the spray canister from the belt; others require almost a two-hand draw, which can be disastrous on the street. The suspect is given a few seconds to react to the officer drawing the spray. This allows a street-smart suspect to turn their head, block the spray with their hands, pull a ball-cap down over their eyes, raise a t-shirt over their head or simply turn and run.
The TigerLight solves these problems by eliminating telltale canister-drawing motions and the time necessary to accomplish the draw. TigerLight is a unique design that carries the OC canister in the end of a quality flashlight. The flashlight is usually in the non-gun hand during interactions with suspects. If resistance is perceived, the officer inverts the flashlight head and sprays. Surprise, which is an important part of suspect control, is substantially enhanced because the thumb motion required to actuate the pepper spray dispenser is minimal.
In 2006 the LASD (Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department) concluded a study on the effectiveness of the TigerLight. LASD deputies assigned to road patrol and corrections assignments in the study found that the TigerLight performed as designed with a reduction of significant force being applied while the use of OC increased. The result was that the LASD approved the TigerLight for carry by its deputies.
The TigerLight is a solidly built flashlight made from aluminum, with a durable anodized finish. At 23 ounces, the TigerLight is light enough to be carried on routine patrol but of a stout enough design to withstand the abuse it is likely to receive in LE work. The light is well crafted, with the use of gold-plated contacts inside and out. The rechargeable battery pack uses six nickel-metal hydride batteries with a maximum power output of 7.5 volts. The max light output is an impressive 375 lumens. The halogen bulb is pre-focused with a very bright center that can easily disorient the suspect by flashing the beam directly in their eyes.
Unlike most flashlights, the TigerLight switch is located toward the center of the flashlight body. The preferred flashlight hold is a reverse grip with the bulb facing downward (similar to a Harries flashlight shooting hold). In this location the light actuating push button is operated by the little finger or ring finger (depending on hand size). The thumb actuates the pepper spray lever which is located under a flipper-protective cap on the end of the flashlight. This hand position is vital to gain the advantage of surprise that the TigerLight design offers. Although using the little finger to operate the light seemed uncomfortable at first, I was able to actuate the pepper spray lever and work the light in very short order and with a lot of control.
TigerLight does not manufacture pepper spray, but offers quality OC products from reputable manufacturers such as Sabre Red, Guardian and Fox Labs, which are installed in the TigerLight. These products are of the 2% OC configuration with SHU levels in excess of 2,000,000. To install the spray container the light’s end cap is unscrewed and the 2-ounce spray canister inserted into the hollow end tube. The swivel cap is rotated to the desired position for the user and the cap is screwed tight. Although stream spray dispensers are available, TigerLight recommends the use of cone projectors. Cone sprays inflict more disabling respiratory effect on the target than a stream version.
Since OC spray has long been in the police market, TigerLight offers an 8-hour training program that can be reduced in length if attendees are already OC spray certified. In order to facilitate realistic training, the pepper spray manufacturers that TigerLight uses have inert training canisters available.