It’s always good to have options. When it comes to self-defense strategies, more options are always better – and a firearm isn’t always the best solution. Besides, in some places or situations, guns aren’t a viable option at all, so you might have to, or want to, resort to different non-lethal choices. Enter the LifeLite Non-Lethal Personal Defense Launcher. As the company name (Pepperball) implies, it’s a pepper “spray” system… with a bit of added velocity. Seizing on the proven technology behind paintball markers, the company has packaged one in a large flashlight – with an internal surprise.

pepperball lifelite co2 canisters on wooden table
The LifeLite comes with extra CO2 canisters, inert PepperBalls, and live PepperBalls. That allows you some safe practice.Tom McHale

Buried in the same body is a CO2 canister-powered "paintball" launcher that will fling five shots as fast as you can press the trigger. You aim the unit with a laser that activates when you disengage the sliding safety, so it's easy to get hits on target from any position – you don't need to bring the unit to eye level.

red trigger safety on pepperball lifelite
When you slide the safety forward, the laser turns on and exposes the red trigger.Tom McHale

The package includes everything you need to get started: the LifeLite itself, a sleeve of five PepperBalls, a couple of sleeves of practice PepperBalls filled with an unknown inert power that smells an awful lot like baby powder, a spare canister, and batteries for the flashlight.

I should note that the batteries are for the flashlight and laser sight portion only – the PepperBall functionality is completely mechanical and gas-driven so if your batteries die, you can still fire. Of course, the laser sight would be inoperable until you get some new CR123 batteries. The company does offer a rechargeable battery kit if you prefer.

pepperballs and equipment for the lifelite
The LifeLite is a semi-automatic – you can load five PepperBalls and fire them as fast as you can press the trigger.Tom McHale

Operating this thing is simple. A cover with a folding ring on the front unscrews, allowing you to drop a CO2 canister in place. Screw the cover back on and it's charged with power. However, to extend readiness life, the CO2 canister does not get pierced until you press the trigger for the first time.

On the back is another round cover that opens to access the five PepperBall magazine. Drop those in, replace the cover, and you’re ready to go.

the extra safety feature on the pepperball lifelite
This extra safety block allows safe, longer-term storage.Tom McHale

For longer-term storage, you can insert a pin that completely blocks the sliding safety. If you’re going out for a walk, remove this pin, and you can slide the safety lever into the fire position if necessary. When you do this, a laser activates to provide an aiming point. I found the laser to be dead on and it required no adjustment—but, you can adjust for windage and elevation if needed.

Once the safety is disengaged, press down on the “trigger” with your thumb and a PepperBall launches. You can fire five shots as fast as you can press the trigger.

target used for pepperball lifelite test
The PepperBalls spread their contents over a fairly large area when they make impact.Tom McHale

As you see in the video above, the balls explode on impact and spread a healthy dose of powder all over the contact area. As a result, I would prefer to use this outside. If I had to use it indoors in a house or office environment, I would ideally want to engage the target from at least 15 feet away to avoid any self-contamination. Then again, if you're in trouble, it might be worth the risk!

The PepperBalls themselves are filled with 2.5 percent PAVA powder. That’s a synthetic version of capsaicin (the natural pepper compound) and is widely used for crowd control and dominating irritable suspects.

I didn’t try any on myself, but it’s designed to cause extreme eye irritation and, as a result, functional incapacitation. Fortunately, the company includes (and sells) inert PepperBalls so you can practice as much as you like without unplanned emergency room visits.

They also make other projectiles filled with a stronger concentrations of PAVA and one with a mix of CS and PAVA.

pepperball lifelite looks like a flashlight
The LifeLite looks like a regular flashlight and in fact, includes a 350-lumen LED light.Tom McHale

The niftiest thing about the LifeLite is that it looks completely benign. There’s no pistol grip, visible sights, or trigger—it’s just a flashlight with a bonus, so no one will give a second look if you carry it while walking the dog, driving, camping, or whatever.

For those whose careers may limit firearm-related self-defense options, like truck drivers, delivery drivers, etc., the LifeLite might present some level of protection that can remain covert. Be sure to carefully check any and all employer policies first, of course.

Legality

Laws change faster than Roseanne changes TV shows, and in some states, you may find that local, county, or city regulations come into play regarding products like the LifeLite.

We can’t possibly cover all of the variances here, so it’s up to you to check legality in your area. With that said, information from the company indicates that this device is definitely illegal in California, New York, and the District of Columbia.

While not comprehensive, here are a few factors to research about the laws related to pepper “spray” products in your location.

  • Some locations ban these types of self-defense products outright.
  • The concentration of the active ingredient might also be regulated. For example, this one is a 2% product. Others can range up to 10%. Be aware that the concentration level may be a restriction where you live.
  • Intent might be a factor. Using something that's designed to be a "weapon" as a weapon might get you in trouble.
  • While you might be able to order "animal sprays" in some states, using those against humans might be illegal. Or not. It depends where you live.
  • Minors can't use pepper spray in most, if not all, places.

Here's one more very important point. Consider products like this one as “less lethal” rather than “non-lethal.” Larger amounts of pepper spray can kill, and you never know exactly how someone will react to exposure. Just as with other means of self-defense, be very careful about where, when, and under what circumstances you press that trigger.

Non-Human Aggressors and Takeaway

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about this product, at first. I wasn’t at all confident that it would be easy to aim and shoot targets with a “flashlight” held below eye level. However, as you can see from the accompanying video, getting hits even at the maximum listed range of 60 feet was easy – and that was in daylight conditions where it’s harder to see the dot from the red laser sight. At night, I suspect speed and accuracy would only improve as the laser would offer a bright and unambiguous beacon for proper pepper application.

I’ve already started using this on my nightly dog walks. Where I live, bad-intentioned people aren’t so much of a problem – it’s rare to see anyone else when I’m walking my street at night. However, we have a regular parade of foxes, raccoons, and the occasional coyote.

As the homeowner’s association would likely frown on my torching off .357 SIG rounds to discourage critter attacks, the PepperBall is a great option that’s orders of magnitude quieter that won’t leave any permanent marks or put any people or pets in the neighborhood in danger.

So, here’s the net-net-net. The LifeLite adds options. For pure last-resort self-defense against a potentially armed attacker, I’m not going to choose something like this over a firearm. However, there are situations where firearms simply aren’t an option where the LifeLite would be far better to have than nothing. That might be a result of state or local laws or perhaps employer policies.

The LifeLite also makes a great addition to a firearm as part of an overall defensive strategy. I would have no problem carrying my concealed firearm and this type of device in certain situations—like in the car or while on my nightly dog walks. It's too big for all day, every day carry, but for times when you would be using a flashlight anyway, it's a great defensive tool.