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The Ultimate Tear Gas Grenade Guide

In 1914, tear gas found its place on the battlefield. First used by the French army to slow the progress of their German invaders, the use of tear gas (unfortunately) opened the door to other, more deadly gasses being used in WWI. 

The Geneva Protocol Treaty, which most countries have signed, prohibits the use of gasses on the battlefield. Interestingly, the use of CS or tear gas on civilian populations is not addressed by the treaty, and we have reached the point in the US where we see proof of that almost every summer!

Although pulled from the battlefield, the modern tear gas grenade gets plenty of action in the realm of riot and crowd control. So in this article, we'll be covering the exact components of a tear gas grenade, the different types, how it's used, and how to protect yourself should you be exposed to one.

For more information regarding other CBRN agents, check out our Top 4 Common CBRN Threats article. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • 01

    What’s Inside of Tear Gas Grenade?

  • 02

    Different Types of Tear Gas Grenades

  • 03

    Tear Gas for Home Defense?

  • 04

    Civil Unrest and You

  • 05

    Preparing to Deal With CS Gas Grenades

  • 06

    Tear Gas Decontamination

  • 07

    Conclusion

  • 08

    Frequently Asked Questions

What’s Inside a Tear Gas Grenade?

A variety of chemical compounds are called “tear gas” but none of them are actually a gas. These chemicals react with the moisture in your nose, throat, mouth, and eyes.

Six chemical compounds are used as tear gas. These chemicals are also sometimes combined.

  • chloroacetophenone (CN)

  • bromobenzylcyanide (CA)

  • dibenzoxazepine (CR)

  • chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS)

  • chloropicrin (PS)

  • capsaicin

These same chemicals are used in products like mace and pepper spray, which are also great less-than-lethal chemical deterrents.

The concentration and duration of exposure determine how bad the effects of tear gas are. Highly concentrated formulas have more serious effects, but exposure to less concentrated formulas can also have serious and lasting effects.

The Effects of a Tear Gas Grenade

Image courtesy of New York Times

Tear gas is effective because of its short-term effects. These effects are immediate and debilitating. For this reason, tear gas is used worldwide to disperse riots.

  • watering, burning, and redness of the eyes

  • blurred vision

  • burning and irritation in the mouth and nose

  • difficulty swallowing

  • nausea and vomiting

  • difficulty breathing

  • coughing

  • wheezing

  • skin irritation

Many studies have examined the long-term effects of tear gas. Long-term exposure can be deadly or have long-lasting effects like chemical burns, blindness, or respiratory failure.

Additionally, severe injuries can be caused by the kinetic force with which tear gas canisters are launched. That is, the impact of the canister itself can cause serious harm.

Different Types of Tear Gas Grenades

Here, we look at the many types of tear gas grenades on the market. We cover CS smoke, powder, aerosol, and combo-gas grenades.

CS Smoke Grenades

These tear gas grenades spread smoke over a wide area. Smoke is a very effective dispersal method, and it affects visibility, which can also effectively disperse a crowd.

Triple Phaser CS Smoke Grenade

The Triple Phaser CS Smoke Grenade is one of the best tear gas grenades on the market. It’s called “triple phaser” because it’s actually three canisters pressed together.

These three canisters spread out when the tear gas grenade is thrown or launched. This results in the smoke being spread over a massive area, so it’s the best bang for the buck when it comes to smoke-based tear gas grenades.

(Images courtesy of Combined Systems)

CS Powder Grenades

Powder-based grenades are another effective tool for dispersing tear gas agents. Powders function best for close quarters or tight groups. The powder is strong, and powdered tear gas grenades can be effective with as little as 1.5 ounces of an active ingredient.

Instantaneous Blast CS Grenades

These powder blast grenades are incredibly powerful for use indoors and for isolated groups. If used outside, consider the wind direction as it will either help or hurt your efforts. These have an internal detonator that splits the canisters at six machined grooves. This tear gas grenade delivers 1.5 ounces of active ingredients upon detonation.

(Image courtesy of Defense Technology)

CS Aerosol Grenades

This specific aerosol grenade is designed for indoor use and is effective for up to 1,500 square feet. It is not suitable for outdoor use as it will not have the necessary effect. These grenades are designed for things like cell extraction and/or indoor barricades.

(Image courtesy of Defense Technology)

Tear Gas for Home Defense?

To defend your family from a home invasion, you want something that won’t burn or seriously damage your home. Also, these gas grenades can be purchased without a license. The Clear Out Tear Gas Grenade is the perfect option.

(Image courtesy of Keep Shooting)

At just under $30 each, Clear Out tear gas grenades have 6 ounces of a 1% OC and 1% CS gas mixture. In terms of the affected area, this grenade will affect 23,000 cubic feet. The levels of OC and CS gas are approved by military tests.

Beyond all that, these grenades are incredibly easy to use. Simply remove the lid, lock down the top, and throw it toward the target area.

Licensing and Laws for Tear Gas Grenades

Owning and using tear gas grenades requires a bit of research. Many of the tear gas grenades mentioned in this article require a license to buy. That’s why we included the Clear Out, which is perfect for civilians to own.

Along with researching licensing requirements, you also need to learn the rules and regulations for owning and using tear gas grenades. The last thing you want is to wind up in trouble for buying, owning, or using tear gas grenades.

Laws vary from state to state, and even from locality to locality.

Civil Unrest and You

In recent years, civil unrest has become a fact of life in America. The rule of law is frequently challenged, and this can affect you and your family. You want to protect your family, but the use of firearms can have steep consequences.

However, less-than-lethal tear gas options can render attackers defenseless and potentially disperse civil unrest that is getting too close to home for comfort.

If firearms ownership is simply not an option or you do not feel comfortable having one, the use of easily accessible products like Clear Out or even pepper balls that can be fired from a paintball gun can be an alternative, defensive solution.

Again, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the laws on civilian use of tear gas grenades in your area, but this is certainly a method that deserves your consideration.

Preparing to Deal With CS Gas Grenades

In mid-2020, we saw “mostly peaceful” protesters arriving at protests with gas masks. This was in preparation for the tear gas grenades that police use to disperse crowds.

If you find yourself having to deal with tear gas grenades, either as an unfortunate bystander or someone just trying to escape the chaos, you will want the same appropriate gear within reach.

Masks

CM-6M Tactical Gas Mask

(Image courtesy of Ridge Host)

We start with the ultimate gas mask for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats, the MIRA Safety CM-6M Tactical Gas Mask. This professional-grade full-face respirator is trusted by industrial workers and law enforcement officers around the globe, specifically designed for long-term durability even in toxic environments.

The full face protection provided by the bromobutyl rubber shields the users from airborne irritants while its full face panoramic visor offers an unobstructed field of view. With the right filters, these masks offer all-day protection against CBRN agents like CS gas.

The CM-6M can be used with all NATO 40mm gas mask filters. So, you can choose the one that will best mitigate the irritants you expect to face.

TAPR with Goggles

((Image courtesy of Gunspot.com)

If you’re looking for a more affordable mask, consider the Tactical Air-Purifying Respirator (TAPR). This half-face mask is a lightweight system that can be outfitted with any NATO standard 40-mm filter.

Its simple mesh head harness is compatible with riot control helmet systems, so you don’t have to worry about canisters or other things being thrown in a crowd.

The TAPR is a smaller mask that does not protect your eyes. To enhance your protection, you'll want to don some form of full seal goggles or eye protection. While this will not be as effective as a full-face respirator, it is still better than nothing and can help in a pinch.

Filters

P-CAN Police Gas Mask Filter

The P-CAN filter was specifically designed for use by law enforcement. The police use CS and tear gas grenades to disperse crowds, so they depend on this filter to keep them safe. It only makes sense that you would want the same filter!

This canister has three times the carbon of its competitors. The P-CAN has the typical 40mm specs, so it can be used in your TAPR and a slew of other gas masks on the market.

This mask also protects you from CN and OC pepper spray, making it the perfect filter for surviving civil unrest.

Gloves

We tend to touch our face and eyes often. It’s easy to do without even noticing. You might mask up completely to protect your face during an attack, but if you don’t cover your hands, you could rub your eyes or nose with the active agent on your hands and suffer residual effects.

You can invest in high-quality tactical gloves or you could roll on simple rubber gloves and remove them carefully when you’re out of harm's way. We recommend the MIRA Safety HAZ-Gloves for a professional-grade solution. No matter which gloves you choose, wash your hands thoroughly after taking them off.

Tear Gas Decontamination

The priority in any riot scenario is to get away from the gas clouds and violence. But once you have evacuated to a safe area, you will then need to immediately decontaminate yourself. Fortunately, there are several ways to go about this.

Cold Water/Cold Shower

While you might read recommendations about using milk or adding baking soda to water to mitigate the effects of tear gas, plain water is the best. Cold water is best for initially treating your eyes and the immediate effects but you should get away from the gas quickly and then use soap and water.

When you get home, remove your contaminated clothes and leave them outside. Take a cold shower. Avoid hot water as it will open your pores and let the chemicals seep in, spreading the effects of the tear gas across your body.

Use soap and be thorough. The cold water will also cool down the irritated and burnt areas of the skin.

MDG-1 Decontamination Glove

If you want professional DECON gear for your pack, then carry the MDG-1. It’s purpose-built to decontaminate skin after exposure to a wide variety of CBRN threats.

The decontamination glove is lightweight and easily fits in your pack or even in a pocket. The fingerless glove weighs just 5.3 ounces and is in a package about the size of an iPhone. Each glove can decontaminate a total surface area of around 1 meter. Simply rub the glove over the affected area.

(Image courtesy of Blue Line Syndicate Group)

The MDG-1 remains effective in its packaging for up to five years! So, toss these in your backpack, bug out bag, or even into your glove box and be prepared for rapid DECON.

Area Decontamination

In most cases, tear gas is used outside on crowds that will not disperse or have simply become too rowdy. However, tear gas grenades can also be used to deal with people barricaded inside a room or building.

If a tear gas grenade came crashing through your window, you would not only have to deal with the effects of tear gas on your body and face, but also on the contaminated surfaces of your entire home.

The severity of the contamination depends on the type of grenade used. After such an attack, your home will also need to be decontaminated.

Decontaminating your home after a tear gas attack

  1. Ventilation

    First, open all doors and windows for several hours to clear the gas out. Fans can speed up this process and can be used in another step of the decontamination process.

  2. Clean All Surfaces

    Using a 5% bleach solution, clean all hard surfaces thoroughly.

    For carpets and furniture, use a carpet cleaner with a simple detergent. This will draw out the contaminants so you can simply dump them down the drain. Use the fans again here to speed up the drying process.

  3. Heat the Building

    This might seem strange, but closing up the building and heating it up as much as possible will help neutralize the tear gas. You should shoot for 95°F as temperatures this high will degrade the agent very quickly.

  4. Dry Cleaning/Laundering Affected Clothing

    You might consider dry cleaning or home laundering any clothes that may have been exposed to the gas as residue may remain.

  5. Remove Exposed Foods

    Tear gas can even penetrate thin plastics, which is why a high-quality gas mask is so important. If your food could have been exposed to tear gas, you should throw it away.

Conclusion

(Image courtesy of Blue Line Syndicate Group)

The history of chemical weapons like tear gas is both perplexing and horrifying. Once again, this is a chemical warfare agent that went from being banned for wartime use to being regularly used upon the civilian population.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen a massive rise in civil unrest in this nation, accompanied by an explosion of tear gas use on protestors and rioters. In such times, it’s a good idea to have a plan for escaping a protest-turned-riot and the billows of tear gas that could be in the area.

Another way of looking at tear gas and protective gear is as a deterrent to keep people away from your home. If lethal defensive tools are not in the cards, defensive civilian-grade tear gas could be an effective alternative to keep would-be-attackers off your property.

Finally, understanding how to decontaminate yourself assures that you can mitigate the effects of tear gas. Dealing with tear gas is no fun, and you’ll want it over with as quickly as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a tear gas grenade?
Why are tear gas grenades controversial?
Can you buy tear gas?
Are there civilian tear gas grenades?
Can civilians own tear gas?