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flaming hot pepper

Both chili peppers and self-defense pepper spray can be measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) to rate their “hotness” or “heat.” This rating scale was named after the American chemist Wilbur Scoville. The presence and amount of the chemical capsaicin are responsible for the degree of heat. This can be pleasant or unpleasant, depending on if you are talking about delicious hot wings or running from an assailant with pepper spray dripping from his face.

For all you chili eaters or other culinary folks, sweet bell peppers are rated 0, containing no capsaicin. The widely popular but comparatively not-so-spicy jalapeno peppers rate around 2500-8000. BAM! Pure cayenne pepper typically packs enough capsaicin to reach 30,000-50,000. But wait, there’s more. If that is not spicy enough, have no fear. For more intense and fiery mouth-burning hotness in your dish, check out the pepper charts below! You are sure to find one to match or exceed your heat tolerance.

SHU of Common, Popular Pepper varieties

1,400,000–2,200,000 – Carolina Reaper
800,000–1,041,427 – Ghost Pepper
100,000–350,000 – Habanero, Scotch Bonnet
70,000–100,000 – Charleston Hot
50,000–100,000 – Thai Pepper
30,000–50,000 – Tabasco Pepper, Cayenne Pepper
10,000–23,000 – Serrano Pepper
2,500–8,000 – Jalapeño, Chipotle Pepper
2,500–5,000 – Cherry Bomb
1,000–2,000 – Poblano
1,000–1,500 – Ancho Pepper
1,100–1,200 – Peppadew
100–500 – Pepperoncini
0–500 – Banana Pepper
0 – Sweet Bell Pepper

Top 10 Hottest Peppers
3,180,000 – Pepper X
2,480,000 – Dragon’s Breath Pepper
1,400,000-2,200,000 – Carolina Reaper, Komodo Dragon Pepper
1,200,000-2,000,000 – Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Trinidad Scorpion Chocolate
923,889-1,853,986 – 7 Pot Douglah
800,000-1,853,396 – 7 Pot Brownf
544,000-1,598,227 – Dorset Naga
1,000,000-1,500,000 – Naga Morich


Capsaicin tops the charts at 15-16 million SHU in its purest form, five times as hot as Pepper X.

You might wonder if some of the hottest peppers in the world could kill you. While you may feel like you are dying when eating off the top end of the chart, a 150-pound man would need to choke down nearly 3 pounds of dried and powdered Ghost Pepper, Carolina Reaper, or Pepper X, eaten in a short period to actually die.

Capsaicin is a neurotoxin, and in large quantities, it can cause difficulty breathing, seizures, heart attacks, or death if you eat enough. However, eating a single pepper or plate of extra-hot chicken wings probably won’t cause your death. But you may suffer for several hours or days of self-inflicted discomfort as your body struggles to digest this culinary punishment.

Standard police-grade pepper sprays usually reach Dragon’s Breath Pepper range at 2.5-5.3 million SHUs in the US.

Pepper sprays are inflammatory, unlike Mace, which is an irritant. Inflammatory agents will cause immediate closure of the eyes and will induce coughing, choking, and nausea. Temporary blindness due to dilation of the eyes and the mucous membranes will swell up, effectively preventing all but life-support breathing. Depending on the pepper spray’s strength, the effects may last from 20-45 minutes.

Major Capsaicinoids

As far as defensive pepper spray products go, the Major Capsaicinoids (MC) are the true heat measure we care about. MC are the chemical components of peppers that make them hot. Measuring by MC is a laboratory-conducted and very accurate test for gauging hotness. Oleoresin Capsicum is the oil extracted from peppers containing Major Capsaicinoids. The FDA states that 2% MC may cause permanent eye damage.

Pepper Sprays

heat chart

WildFire Pepper Spray is one of the hottest on the market at 1.4% Major Capsaicinoids. Pepper Shot Pepper Spray is made with 1.2% Major Capsaicinoids. In addition to causing an attacker pain, The WildFire 10% and Pepper Shot 8.5% oleoresin capsicum formulas swell the mucous membranes, which makes breathing difficult and swells the veins in the eyes, causing the eyes to close. It’s made from 2,000,000 SHU’s of raw pepper; these effects can last up to 45 minutes and cause no permanent damage. It has a UV-identifying dye to help aid in the identification of an attacker. Don’t be fooled by others using misleading pepper math. Some may claim they use raw pepper at 5,300,000 SHU, Major Capsaicinoids at 35%, and formula using 2%. But they don’t finish the equation that their MC would only be 0.7%, just half of what our Wildfire is.

Guard Alaska® ultra-hot Bear spray has been proven so effective in repelling bears; it is the only one registered with the EPA as a repellent for ALL SPECIES of bears! Requiring a higher concentration for those that venture into the woods, it boasts 20% OC and 1.34 Capsaicinoids in its super-hot formula.

There are even triple-action Mace self-defense sprays incorporating OC pepper, CN tear gas, and a UV marking dye. This potent combination sends your assailant into an uncontrollable fit of coughing and choking while his eyes are slammed shut. The CS tear gas causes profuse tearing to the already affected eyes and an intense burning sensation to the face. The UV marking dye marks the assailant and may assist in identification once apprehended. Quite a painful 1, 2, 3 punch in the face!

Conveniently, many pepper sprays come on key chains. These are great since most people usually have their keys with them. But don’t forget about the times you don’t have your keys. The small investment in additional pepper spray may save your life or the life of a loved one and it is easily clipped to your belt! It would be best if you always had pepper spray within easy reach. Pepper spray is also sold in gel stream formulas instead of liquid sprays. Gels have the advantages of long distances, stronger pepper, very sticky on the target’s face, and less contaminating overspray.

Practice, Practice, Practice

However, the best, strongest, and farthest-ranged pepper spray in the world will amount to the SHU rating of that bell pepper if you fail to do three simple things:

1) purchase some pepper spray
2) carry your pepper spray wherever you go
3) practice drawing, activating, and deploying it.

We also sell inert practice defensive sprays to help you fine-tune your technique, gauge the range of your product and improve your spraying accuracy. If you are going to undershoot or hit the wall next to an attacker, you mind as well pack your pockets with pimentos. Of course, with the affordability of peppered self-defense products and the peace of mind you gain by being prepared, if you do ever find yourself in a pepper, err, pickle… you can hardly consider it a waste of time.

It would be nice to believe that nothing will happen to you, but the reality is that an ounce of protection could be worth more than a pound of cure.

Don’t be afraid to spice up your self-defense; stay safe and be prepared!

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