ASP Key Defender – second impressions

Last month I revisited the notion of carrying pepper spray. I settled on the ASP Key Defender system, made my purchase, and a couple weeks ago did my first spray tests with some disappointing results.

But maybe it was a fluke. I mean, it couldn’t have been on the market this long if it was a dud product, right? All duds eventually get weeded out so…. I wasn’t willing to give up.

I bought a few more inserts, both “heat” and “test” inserts. They just came in a few days ago.

Today I was speaking with some folks at work on the topic, so I took a quick break and gave a spray test of another test insert and another heat insert.

Results were much better!

The test insert did have a little sputter, but overall it worked well enough.

The heat insert worked pretty well. In fact, I got a snoot-full of spray because the wind suddenly shifted. That was mighty uncomfortable.

Once I recovered, I finished out the insert. When I did that, I had positioned myself relative to the wind which also happened to position my view of the spray cloud against the sun just right so that I really saw the spray pattern. It’s actually a pretty impressive pattern.

So I’m feeling better about things now.

One thing I wondered. The spray hole in the end cap is small. Could it have been clogged? After the first tests I washed the tube and endcaps to ensure all residue was removed. Maybe there was something in there that was flushed out? I wonder because the way the thing sputtered and “sprayed” was like a clog or other failure. I mean, it’s just aerosol, and if you’ve worked aerosol cans in your life you basically know how things will work or how they will malfunction. It was very akin to that. I obviously cannot say for certain, but it makes me wonder. My recommendation at this point is for people using this system to check the endcap hole – even as periodic maintenance – to ensure it’s clear.

And get this. Reader/commenter gteague made mention about expiration dates on the inserts. I didn’t see any. The remaining test insert I have doesn’t have any either. But the 3 remaining heat inserts? They all have a stamp of “Aug 18”. So… not sure what to make of the fact some inserts don’t have stamps – too old?

Anyways, I’m feeling more positive about the system. Sure, it’s still limited. Sure my confidence isn’t 100% still, but I am feeling better about it.

Frankly, I’m kinda curious to buy a ASP Street Defender (the “large” model) and see how it carries in my pocket.

13 thoughts on “ASP Key Defender – second impressions

  1. tks for the update. they do counterfeit ham radio antennas which sell for like $12, so perhaps there are counterfeit inserts floating around? or maybe the manufacturer outsourced some and that factory sucks at making them.

    i have one more test insert still in the packaging (thus i can’t see if it has a date) bundled with another heat insert. i’ll give that a try before i turn this palm defender into a pipe bomb or something but i don’t intend to spend another $8 on an insert which gives me only 2 sprays anyway.


    • Counterfeits? Maybe, but I doubt it. it does make me wonder tho why some have the dates and some do not. My guess was “old stock”… but I really don’t know.

      When you use the other inserts, I’ll be curious to hear how it goes. And yeah, try ensuring the spray hole is clear, just in case maybe that was the cause. Again, it’s only a hypothesis on my part. I’m sure from the Palm version you won’t get some massive cloud, but hopefully it won’t be a sputter and drip like last time.

      FWIW, I did order a Street version. Am curious how it will fare as the canister is a lot larger. I didn’t realize that the Street is not just a little longer, but it’s also a larger diameter. Supposedly 30 sprays (vs the 6 in a Key)

  2. that street version is getting so large that you’d do better to get a can of hornet spray from the local lowes instead. [g]

    and if indeed the hole does get obstructed, that would immediately disqualify this defender series unless you carry them in a vaccum bag without any clogging materials in the immediate atmosphere.

    no, so far i think these devices were not logically designed and implemented at all. i see very little in them other than the heavy duty materials and form factor to endorse their existence. pending a minimum or maximum of two more tests, that is. i’m not throwing any more money towards testing i should never have to do anyway–at least not for function, i can support such testing for familiarization purposes.


    • The Street is larger, but it may still be small enough that I could carry it. My wife may not be able to, but I might. I’m curious. We’ll see.

      And wasp spray… I do hope you’re not serious about that recommendation (not that I’d carry it… but rather to even consider it as a self-defense option).

      And yes, I totally agree — if there is something getting into the hole, that is bad. I mean, it’s carried in a purse or a pocket, and stuff is going to get in there — lint or whatever. If such a mundane thing can defeat the product, then it’s really not viable.

      Actually they were logically designed and implemented — if you consider ASP’s entirety of their product line. It fits with that. So, maybe fits from a product orientation, but maybe not so much from an engineering/utility perspective. 😉

      But I agree in general with your assessment. To me, I’m still willing to give it a shot because I see a lot of utility in the design — if it can work out. I mean, any aerosol-type device could fail — so maybe there was a fluke (tho that I have problems, you have problems… ). So I’m still wary, but hopeful. We’ll see. I’m certainly not married to it — I want something that solves the problem and is effective, y’know?

  3. tested my palm defender again. i had a package container 1 ea of a /heat/ and a /test/ canister. the /heat/ canister has the first date i’ve seen of the four i’ve examined (2x/test/ and 2x/heat/) and reads ‘oct 18′ which i take to mean that it expires towards the end of 2018. the /text/ canister packaged with it had no date nor did the package itself. the duo is labled #54914 palm heat/test.

    i inserted the /test/ canister and inspected the exit hole while i had the cap off. i ran a toothpick through it and then verified i could read text through the tiny hole and could see a perfect circle. there were no obstructions, thus negating one theory of why the spray might not work correctly.

    i again stood on a bare floor with 10-15’ clear in front of me and held the defender at between shoulder and eye level. this test went somewhat better than the first, but it couldn’t have gone worse than the first one.

    this time i saw an actual sort of ‘cloud’ that formed about 6-12″ in front of me and extended out to an absolute maximum of 4′, but might have been closer to 3′. it wasn’t a very opaque cloud, but was absolutely better than my first test where it just dribbled. i’d estimate the size at about 2′ long by 6-8″ high.

    but that was all she wrote. after that one spray which lasted about 1/2 of a second and went about 3′, subsequent sprays just dribbled out with the droplets falling on my shoes.

    this is truly a pathetic result and even at the best you’d only have one spray per cartridge and you’d better be about 2′ away and get the cloud in their eyes to have any effect. personally, i doubt this would deter an enthusiastic kitten, let alone a dog or a human attacker.

    i intend to write this purchase off as a failed experiment and trash the device so that i’m not tempted to use it to actually, you know, try to defend myself. i still have many of the traditional sabre canisters and have replaced this defender with a titanium tactical pen instead. it’s not like the defender had much range over the pen and the pen can do some real damage to soft tissue. and it has a glass breaker (which i’ve always wanted for the car) and writes upside-down and underwater thanks to a ‘space refill’. [g]

    thanks mucho for the tests and reviews, but no positive review will convince me to return to this brand. nor will i give this device to anyone else as i’m not willing to put them in danger by relying on it.


    • So, things worked better, which is good. But it also sounds like you’re up against the limits of the canister. It’s SO TINY, I mean, how much can it hold — both the chemical AND the propellant, y’know? And then how much can it really do? Better than nothing, but it seems just barely.

      I mean, the Street (the large one) seems about minimum for me. Key (medium) is ok, but I do feel better with the larger Street for the reasons you give. There’s more projection, there’s more capacity — it certainly lasted a LOT longer. I think the marketing materials rate the Key at like 6 sprays and the Street at 30 — that’s telling.

      I think it was a good experiment. No failure, really. Just results that confirm this is not a preferred option.

      So I’ll take your results coupled with my results and say: Palm? No, would not recommend. Street? If you can carry it, recommend. Key, if you can’t carry the Street. BUT no matter WHAT you do — even if it’s a totally different OC option — be sure to try it out and ensure the results are satisfactory BEFORE YOU NEED IT. In fact, if it’s a first time for you, buy a bunch of different options (e.g. keychain canister, 2 oz canister, cloud, stream, gel, etc.) and try them ALL out. Spend the money to actually try the things, be able to compare and constrast, and pick the one that is going to provide you the best results. Just don’t buy, throw it in your purse/pocket, and hope for the best — because as we can see from our experiments, you may be less than happy with the results, and your life deserves better.

      Thanx for doing and sharing, Guy!

      • np whatsoever. as mythbusters is fond of saying, ‘a failure is a result’. and results are good.

        yeah, that was about the conclusion i came to, about the size. that canister evidently has only one good shot in it with a maximum range of about 5-6′. this possibly could deter someone not drunk or on drugs or who wasn’t committed to his or her actions and given there was no wind. but that isn’t good enough for me. thus i’m going to employ alternate strategies as the street is much larger than i wish to mess with.


  4. I’ve carried an ASP Key Defender for about 16 years now and that is my favorite personal carry OC. It is rugged and the safety is very secure. It’s also impossible to point or activate the unit when held backwards. It doesn’t spray as far as the larger duty canisters but most Pepper Sprays are deployed up close and personal at about 3 feet or less. I have found that the TEST inserts don’t always perfectly replicate the HEAT insert but they are still valuable training aids. When I teach a civilian OC class I have the students practice deploying the Defender with the TEST insert. I wear Safety glasses and the glasses are always coated with so much of the test Formula that I can’t see out of them. So I feel that the Defender is a great up close and personal option. Also, if the OC doesn’t work you still have the ability to use the Defender as a Kubotan/impact weapon or key flail. I was sprayed with a short 1/2 second blast from a Palm Defender for a demo in 2011 and it was everybit as effective as the duty sized MK 4 unit I was sprayed with in training. I’m getting 8 short bursts from the Palm unit and 12 from the Key Defender. Street Defender has a little over 30. The beauty of the Defender is it is most likely to always be carried and accessible at all times instead of left behind in a glove box, bottom of a purse or at home.

    • I’ve been carrying it for over a year now, and find it’s an OC solution that works for my needs. I have gravitated to the Street Defender because of the size: more capacity, longer distance, and then fits better in my hand as a striking tool (vs. the Palm, where it just disappears into my hand). I think the Key is a reasonable size as well, but I’m able to work with the Street so it’s what I go with.

      Only surprise I had was about a week ago, withdrew keys from my pocket to find that somehow the tailcap came totally unscrewed from the base! No idea how it happened, but it did. Added some blue Loctite on the threads, which should prevent that from happening in the future.

      Thank you for sharing your impressions and experiences.

  5. I just tested two OC inserts and two test inserts in my Palm Defender. My experience with it has been that the performance varies a lot with the temperature: if the insert is too cold, it does not work very well. When it’s cold, keeping the Defender in a pocket warms the insert up to the right temperature and ensures a good quality spray.

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