> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Non-Lethal Defense: Cold Steel Inferno



Non-Lethal Defense: Cold Steel Inferno

Pepper spray has its uses. If you can't legally carry a handgun or circumstances prevent carrying, pepper spray provides you with a ranged option for self defense that you wouldn't otherwise have. Not a long range, but better than nothing. Even if you can carry, pepper spray gives you an intermediate, non-lethal option for dealing with threats. For example, the neighbor's angry dog--yes, you could blow it away and deal with the consequences, or you could give it a hose down with OC and send it running.

The world of pepper spray is full of hype. Companies throw out numbers, brag about formulations, effectiveness, stopping power, staying power. Some have dyes, some have tear gas. They come in foams, sprays, dissolving foams, and streams. They come in all sizes, from key chains to giant bear deterrent sizes.  There's a lot to consider and decide between.

Cold Steel - the knife/sword company - released their own line of pepper spray fairly recently; 2007 is when it first hit the market, I believe. Most other products on the market have been out for a decade or more. Say what you will about Cold Steel, they do make some good, rugged self defense products.

Cold Steel Inferno has some interesting qualities. The formulation is 8% 2 million Schoville Heat Unit OC (the hot stuff) and 2% black pepper; the black pepper is supposed to induce sneezing and get the subject to suck the more of the OC into their lungs. I've personally made the mistake of getting a face full of black pepper at one point (HINT: don't blow into a pepper shaker to see if it is empty), and it sucked.

I haven't sprayed myself with Inferno at this point, so I can't describe the actual effects of the spray. There are a bunch of demo videos from Cold Steel up on YouTube, though. I am always suspicious of videos like this, because people may be acting and exaggerating the effects. The people do look pretty legitimately out of it/hurting during the "recovery" portions of these videos, though.

Inferno is a dissolving foam; the idea is that with normal foams, the target can wipe the spray off and toss it back at you. Inferno is supposed to dissolve on contact, preventing that. I like foam because it does the best in the wind and there is supposed to be the least chance of blowback that you can get with cone sprays and streams.

Another one of the strong points of Inferno is that there are readily available inert trainers in a variety of sizes. These replicate all of the qualities of the Inferno spray, minus the bad stuff. So you can test it out, practice the mechanism, aiming, see how far the spray goes, what the spray pattern is and so on. I believe you should train with anything you plan on defending yourself with; tossing something in a bag or pocket and planning on figuring it out WTSHTF is a bad idea. People generally take this approach with pepper spray; with Inferno, you can pick up a trainer and test things out.

I picked up a 1.3 ounce live unit for my wife to carry recently, and picked up a matching trainer at the same time. We did some informal testing with the inert trainer, here are my thoughts:
  • The mechanism is easy to work. Inferno uses a "flip top"; there's a springy hinged top that blocks/protects the firing button. You just slide your finger/thumb under that and depress the firing button. Pushing the button requires about as much force as working any other aerosol can - shaving cream, etc.
  • I don't think you would accidentally fire the spray if you carried it in a pocket or pouch by itself. However, I wouldn't carry it in a pocket with something like a set of keys--I could see a key working its way under the flip top and depressing the mechanism when you sat down.
  • No problems with activation; no sputter on the first blast; good, healthy spray.
  • Range is limited. You're really at around maybe three yards, even with the foam formulation, if you want to get much accuracy. 
  • Within range, aiming is easy and instinctive. Point and shoot.
  • Outside of the range the foam stream becomes more of a chaotic spray...foam kind of everywhere. You would still hit a person, but getting the spray in the face would be a bit more difficult.
  • Within range, a short burst with a side-to-side motion does a good job of hosing down the target area with spray. 
  • The 1.3oz is pretty good sized; travel shaving cream is what it reminds me of, scale-wise. It fits in the hand well and is a good size for pocket carry. I would be hesitant to go much bigger for on-person carry on an EDC basis.
  • Payload is ok...it's about what you would expect. You get maybe 15-20 seconds of spray (we did a bad job of tracking this), which is more than enough to soak down a few bad guys.
  • As the Inferno begins to run low, range stays about the same, the unit just begins to spray out less foam. The stream gets less thick/heavy. This is good...you don't get the "low pressure" effect where range really drops. At the very end of the bottle, you get the sputtering/zero range effect, where your hand it getting the brunt of the spray.
  • The foam dissolves, but not as rapidly as you'd want, especially when it is in big globs. I think there's the potential of having the target wipe some of the foam away. They would still suffer the effects of the spray, though, as it is partly liquid when it hits. And honestly, a wipe would probably just get the spray all over their hands. They would need to get an especially big glob to try to throw it, and the spray isn't really thick enough to throw. Most of the other foams that I've seen are almost shaving cream like in consistency, and Inferno is definitely much thinner/liquid than those. 
Inferno has its downsides. I don't know offhand of any Law Enforcement agencies that use it, versus brands like Fox Labs or Sabre. The inert trainers cost just about as much as the live sprays, which feels like a bit of a rip off. It also doesn't have any dyes in it, which can be useful in IDing an attacker after the kind. I was deciding between Fox Labs 5.3, Mean Green and Inferno; I ended up going with Inferno mainly due to the easy availability of inert trainers, which, as I mentioned earlier is a big deal to me...I wanted to give my wife the opportunity to practice with the spray and feel comfortable using it. So far, looks to have been a good buy.