A major challenge confronting emergency response, border control, and other security-related functions is the accurate, rapid, and safe identification of potentially hazardous chemicals outside a laboratory environment. Raman spectroscopy is a rapid, non-intrusive technique that can be used to confidently identify many classes of hazardous and potentially explosive compounds based on molecular vibration information. Advances in instrumentation now allow reliable field - portable measurements to be made. Before the Raman technique can be effectively applied and be accepted within the scientific community, realistic studies must be performed to develop methods, define limitations, and rigorously evaluate its effectiveness. Examples of a variety of chemicals (including neat and diluted chemical warfare [CW] agents, a CW agent precursor, a biological warfare (BW)-related compound, an illicit drug, and explosives) identified using Raman spectroscopy in various types of containers and on surfaces are given, as well as results from a blind field test of 29 unknown samples which included CW agent precursors and/or degradation products, solvents associated with CW agent production, pesticides, explosives, and BW toxins (mostly mycotoxins). Additionally, results of experimental studies to evaluate the analysis of flammable organic solvents, propellants, military explosives, mixtures containing military explosives, shock-sensitive explosives, and gun powders are described with safety guidelines. Spectral masks for screening unknown samples for explosives and nerve agents are given.