Most times you want the protection a gun provides, but there are other times you want protection but non-lethal. As far as self-defense non-lethal options…I have always found the options lacking. Nothing was ever strong enough to feel safe.
Recently I took a closer look at various pepper sprays and soon began checking out pepperball launchers. We looked at three models; the Salt Pepperball Launcher, the Tippmann TipX, and the newer Byrna HD Self Defense Teargas Ball Launcher.
After watching reviews online and studying the specs, I decided that the Byrna was the best bet. Mainly because the Byrna looks like a gun and is small enough to be concealed like a gun. Also, because it appeared to have the highest manufacturing standards- and because it hits harder than a paintball gun.
After receiving the Byrna in the mail I began testing it out, and here’s what I found.
The Byrna comes with the unit (teargas launcher), 5 self-defense rounds, 5 practice powder rounds, 5 solid practice rounds, and 2 co2 cylinders. It comes in a good quality case that’s easy to transport.
I bought ten extra co2 cylinders and a pack of 50 solid plastic rounds. My main concern was that the co2 cylinders might have a high failure rate. Co2 cylinders for other similar launchers will fail at about a 10% rate. At this time, I have been through 11 co2 cylinders and none have failed.
The number of shots one cylinder will push out hard enough to hurt varies between 10 (two magazines worth) and 15 (3 magazines worth). For practical purposes, I do not recommend trying to fire more than 10 rounds on one cylinder in a defense situation.
So the cylinders are good, Check.
Now onto the gun. The Byrna feels nice and solid in the hand. It looks like a gun, which has its pluses and its minuses. I went with the full black color scheme because most potential self-defense situations can be diffused by simply brandishing a gun.
Bear in mind, the Byrna only looks like a gun until you get a close look at it. But, of course, if your attacker gets a close look at it- you have bigger problems.
After shooting through two co2 cylinders in the same session, the gun gets cold enough that reliability becomes a problem. But you should not be switching to an additional cylinder in an emergency- you should be running or switching to a deadlier weapon.
The gun occasionally sticks, but this is fixed by bumping the magazine upward. The main downside to that is you can’t handle it one-handed- you must use both to overcome that problem.
Finally, onto accuracy. The manufacturer says the Byrna is accurate and effective up to 60 feet, or 20 yards. While it is accurate with the solid practice rounds, we found that the teargas rounds and the practice powder rounds are far less accurate. We believe this is because the powder inside the round gathers to one side during flight, causing it to wobble. A good fix for this is to consider the gun accurate at no further than 7 yards.
That was a disappointment. But the Byrna is still superior to any pepper spray gun on the market right now. My advice is if you can afford to spend $400 on a high-end self-defense item- get the Byrna.