Aerosol defense training: Increasing officer safety & effectiveness

By Aaron Dexter

When verbal commands fail and/or empty control tactics prove ineffective or inappropriate, officers must depend on their “less lethal” equipment to safely and successfully subdue an unruly subject. One of the most common devices used to subdue a resisting/violent subject is aerosol defense spray. Though there are many brands available to the law enforcement community, they all share one common trait — to be effective, the subject’s face must be exposed to the active agent. To achieve this goal, officers should practice targeting the face area with INERT aerosol defense training units.

Selecting which brand an agency should use for aerosol defense training is more complex than simply selecting the inert version of the agency-issued “live” pepper spray. Many aerosol defense instructors and officers have learned that a device that is labeled as “inert” doesn’t make the unit safe.

“I have been a law enforcement/security trainer for several years and have personally witnessed other brands of inert aerosol agents eat away at plastic goggles and stain/discolor clothing. I was never comfortable deploying any of these inert agents on my students. The students had to settle with static training that involved them spraying a stationary target with aerosols. This obviously isn’t safe or realistic.”

John K. Gibson
Personal Protection Initiatives

A training unit is labeled as “inert” because the device doesn’t contain “active agent.”  However, a majority of inert training units still contain chemical carriers, such as isopropyl alcohol or propylene glycol, which can cause skin and eye irritation and damage clothing and training equipment. The presence of these chemicals can also increase the possibility of liability and cost to the agency.

Before purchasing any inert aerosol unit, one should request and review the device’s Materials Safety Date Sheet (MSDS) to ensure that the contents are truly innocuous and will not contribute to an unsafe training environment. One should take caution in using any “inert” or “live” aerosol defense device whose ingredients are not disclosed due to a “trade secret.”

It is interesting to note that a trend has begun in the law enforcement community to train with INERT aerosol defense units that use a ballistic stream firing pattern. In comparison to other aerosol firing patterns, the ballistic stream has the smallest diameter. Therefore, officers who have developed their firing accuracy in training with the ballistic stream will be better able to accurately hit a subject in the face with wider diameter firing patterns.

After the appropriate aerosol defense training unit has been selected, the training officer should develop scenarios relating to use in the field. These practice scenarios should involve both indoor and outdoor environments. By training outdoors, officers can gain a better understanding of the importance of taking wind velocity and direction into account prior to deploying an aerosol device (the velocity and direction of the wind greatly impact firing accuracy). Officers who develop their firing proficiency in windy environments will be better able to accurately hit a subject in the face under similar field conditions. If one is unable to train outdoors, set up a fan in the indoor facility to simulate a crosswind to achieve a similar effect.

It is important to remember that training indoors in a non-ventilated area with units that are not truly innocuous can cause several problems. It is equally important to remember that, regardless of which type of INERT aerosol defense unit is used, officers who simulate a subject should wear protective eyewear at all times.

Many officers are equipped with aerosol defense spray, but few receive the training to properly deploy the active agent to only face of the subject(s). While no departments would arm their officers with a firearm without qualifying them, many departments send officers into harm’s way with out “target practice” utilize defense sprays. Improper deployment can lead to less than optimal results, creating safety hazards and often resulting in the user, fellow officers, and even innocent bystanders receiving a majority of the effects of the “active agent.”

As with firearms training, only a well though-out program of practice and weapon qualification develop by an agency’s Aerosol Defense Instructor can reduce the problems created by missing the target.

If you are an Aerosol Defense Instructor that is concerned about the safety of the current “inert” aerosol defense devices you train with, please email to request complimentary testing and evaluation samples of a “truly innocuous” aerosol defense training units. Please note that a limited number of complimentary testing and evaluation samples are available.

Aaron Dexter is the marketing manager of Enforcement Technology Group, Inc. (ETGI) and its divisions. He was a vital contributor in the development the new LIVE Shotgun Stream® aerosol defense firing pattern and INERT Hydro-Shot™ Aerosol Defense Training Units and the V-4 Control Aerosol Defense Philosophy. ETGI has 55 years combined experience in the manufacturing and distribution of aerosol defense devices. For additional information, please visit

Copyright © 2022 Police1. All rights reserved.