One of the most popular categories of less-lethal self-defense tools is electroshock weapons (ESWs). This category includes well-known options, such as Tasers and stun guns. These weapons are popular alternatives to lethal force items like knives and firearms. Law enforcement officers routinely carry Tasers, giving weapons in this category additional credence as self-defense tools.
However, you may wonder if they are effective or suitable for your specific self-defense needs. Explore the different electroshock weapon options, the technical differences between each type, and situations where they may be most appropriate.
What Are Electroshock Weapons?
An electroshock weapon (ESW), sometimes known as an electric defense weapon, is a broad category of self-defense weapons designed to deliver less-lethal force with electric shocks.
While the original electroshock weapon is the electric cattle prod, it was initially a farming tool for animal control, not designed for use on humans. One of the first ESWs designed for self-defense was the “Night Stick with Electric Shock Means,” the predecessor to modern stun batons.
Today, numerous self-defense tools use electricity to enhance their defensive capabilities against assailants. They include stun knives, shock collars, electroshock belts, modern stun batons, and many more. However, two types stand out as the most well-known and widely available: the stun gun and the Taser.
What Are Stun Guns?
In the broadest sense, a stun gun is any weapon or device designed to project less-lethal force and induce compliance or incapacitation. Under this broad definition, a stun gun can include numerous self-defense weapon families, including Taser devices, defensive sprays, or tranquilizer guns.
The more common definition of a stun gun is a close-contact weapon capable of delivering electric shocks. Under this definition, a stun gun is part of the conducted electrical weapon (CEW) or conducted energy device (CED) family.
Most stun guns are small, portable handheld devices powered by an integrated battery and fitted with two metal prongs. When the button or trigger is pressed, the stun gun draws energy from the battery and causes electricity to flow between the prongs. It generally results in bright arcs and a loud snapping or crackling sound.
As they are close-contact weapons, stun guns are only effective within touching distance of an assailant. To use a stun gun, press the prongs into the target’s body and press the button or trigger until the threat stops. The electric arc and snapping noises can also serve as deterrents, potentially preventing an attack.
Stun guns can produce various voltages depending on the model, size, and technologies employed. Compact and miniature stun guns typically range from 50,000 to 100,000 V, whereas full-sized models can reach over 1 million V.
There is no single standardized stun gun design. Stun guns are available in numerous sizes and form factors, each with its own capabilities and features. For instance, many stun guns also double as impact-resistant flashlights, allowing you to use one as a baton or illuminate dark areas.
What Are Tasers?
A Taser is part of a family of conducted electrical weapons (CEWs) or conducted energy devices (CEDs) designed and produced by the Axon corporation, formerly TASER International. Although Tasers are sometimes called stun guns, it is important not to confuse the two.
According to Cover, “TASER” was originally an acronym that meant Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle, a name inspired by the 1911 Victor Appleton novel Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle. Despite its name, every Taser device is handheld, resembling a large flashlight or a typical semi-automatic pistol.
The original Taser device used gunpowder to launch a pair of electrode projectiles, each connected to the device’s batteries with insulated copper wires. It was notable for allowing the user to remotely deliver a powerful electric shock to an assailant, enabling less-lethal self-defense at range.
The electric shock of a modern Taser is in the tens of thousands of volts and is sufficiently powerful to cause electro-muscular incapacitation for up to 30 seconds. This incapacitation causes involuntary muscular contractions, sometimes referred to as muscle lock-up. A “tased” target’s body appears to go rigid.
The gunpowder propellant caused the ATF to classify the original Taser as a firearm in 1976. Consequently, all models produced afterward use small, compressed nitrogen charges to fire the electrode projectiles. The compressed gas propellant allows the Taser to avoid classification as a firearm, making it legal for adult civilians to possess and use under federal law.
Types of Tasers
Whether official Taser-branded products or equivalents from other manufacturers, most Taser devices fall into two type categories: flashlight-type and cartridge-fed devices.
Flashlight-type Taser devices
Flashlight-type Taser devices are battery-powered devices that function as a combination of a standard stun gun and flashlight. These devices also often feature multiple lighting modes.
A flashlight-type Taser possesses a crown of prongs and recesses surrounding the lens, through which electrical energy can flow. When the stun button is pressed down, these devices emit high-voltage energy (10,000 V or higher) with visible and audible electrical arcs. Because of this, flashlight-type Taser devices are closer to standard stun guns in design and purpose.
Cartridge-fed Taser devices
Cartridge-fed Taser devices are the better-known type and the most popular. All cartridge-fed systems are based on the original prototype and function according to the same principle: the ability to fire electrodes and deliver sustained shocks to a target from a distance.
These Tasers resemble single-shot pistols and must be fed with an appropriate Taser cartridge, generally inserted into the muzzle. The cartridge contains a nitrogen gas charge, a pair of electrodes, a fixed length of wire, and anti-felon identification (AFID) confetti. When connected to the device, the wires and electrodes can receive energy from the battery in the device’s grip.
Taser devices intended for civilian use generally feature short-range cartridges with a maximum range of 15 feet (5 yards). Military and law enforcement models may use longer-ranged cartridges, extending the Taser’s range to 35-45 feet, depending on the model. For example, the LE/Military-only Taser X26 has an effective range of 35 feet.
In addition to being ranged, less-lethal weapons, most Taser devices also feature a “Drive Stun” mode. While this feature was initially included in law enforcement and military Taser models, current civilian Taser devices offer a similar feature.
When set to Drive Stun, a Taser device with a depleted cartridge or without one inserted can still draw energy from its battery to power side prongs. Pulling and keeping the trigger depressed allows the user to drive the device into a target’s body and continuously deliver electric shocks. While painful, these shocks are not as powerful; their primary purpose is pain compliance.
Legality of Stun Guns and Tasers for Self-Defense
As they are not firearms, the use of a stun gun or a taser for self-defense is generally not prohibited or regulated. However, it is crucial to remember that while they are generally considered less-lethal weapons, their use may constitute the use of force.
If you are considering using a Taser device or a stun gun for self-defense, the most important legal aspect to consider is regulations at the local and state level.
If they are defined in the law books, state legislation may not necessarily differentiate between regular stun guns and Taser devices. In such cases, they will be referred to under the same term, such as “stun gun” or “electric gun.” Refer to your state’s weapon laws for specific definitions.
Are Stun Guns and Tasers Legal to Possess in My State?
As of August 2023, Rhode Island is the only state prohibiting civilians from possessing stun guns and Taser devices outright. The Rhode Island General Laws (Section 11-47-42) lists stun guns among other non-firearm weapons the state deems illegal for a state resident to possess.
Some states make it legal to possess and carry a stun gun or Taser device only in specific circumstances, such as having an appropriate permit or within your own home. These states include:
- Illinois: As with firearms, residents of the state must have a valid Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) to possess a stun gun or a Taser device. (430 ILCS 65/2)
- Indiana: The Indiana Code specifically defines Tasers, stun guns, and other “electronic stun weapons” as distinct weapons under the law. Indiana law only explicitly permits the purchase and ownership of stun guns for adults over 18 (IC 35-47-8). Weapons other than those legally defined as stun guns may not be legal to possess or use in self-defense in Indiana.
- Michigan: Tasers and stun guns are defined as “a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave, or beam may be directed” and which is “designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure, or kill.” Michigan residents may not possess or sell such items unless they have a valid Michigan Concealed Pistol License. (MI Penal Code 750.224a)
- North Carolina: While stun guns and Tasers are generally legal to possess in North Carolina, carrying and using one in public for self-defense applications is prohibited. Even having a concealed carry permit does not make it legal to conceal-carry a stun gun or Taser device, as the law only carves out an exception for handguns. (NCGS 14-269)
- Wisconsin: Tasers and stun guns are defined as “electric weapons.” Wisconsin residents are prohibited from possessing, transporting, selling, or “going armed” (carrying in public) unless they hold a valid Wisconsin concealed carry weapon license. (WI 941.295)
In addition to state-level regulations, local governments (cities, municipalities, counties, and parishes) may impose their own restrictions regarding possessing or carrying stun guns and Taser devices. Always remain up-to-date on all applicable laws and regulations in your area before purchasing and carrying a stun gun or Taser for self-defense.
Stun Gun vs. Taser Device: Which is Right for Me?
While stun guns and Taser devices can be efficient self-defense tools, they have different methods of operation. The effectiveness of each device varies depending on the context and intended purpose.
How to Use a Stun Gun
All non-Taser stun gun devices are contact weapons, meaning you must press the stun gun’s prongs against an attacker’s body to deliver an electric shock.
Although contact with any body part will cause pain, the best way to incapacitate and deter a potential attacker is to aim the stun gun at a sensitive, nerve-filled part of their body. Ideal target areas include the neck, the chest, the underside of the arms, the upper shoulders, the groin, and the upper hip, above the beltline and under the ribcage.
Once the prongs contact the assailant’s body, press the trigger or button for 3 to 5 seconds. The larger the assailant, the longer you should discharge the stun gun.
It is generally safe to come in contact with the attacker’s body while delivering a shock. For example, you can use one arm to defend yourself from blows or hold the attacker while holding a stun gun with the other hand. The current shouldn’t pass back to your body unless you touch very close to the shocked area.
What to Expect From Standard Stun Guns
Because there is no standardized stun gun design, they come in various styles and sizes, each with its own ergonomic characteristics. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and familiarize yourself with your device’s features.
● Full-Sized Models
Full-sized stun guns are typically bigger, heavier, and feature larger batteries. These models can deliver higher voltages and have higher battery capacity. Many full-sized stun guns come in durable, impact shells, allowing you to use them as blunt weapons in their own right.
Products such as stun batons or stun baton-flashlight combos are among the most useful for personal safety applications. They are highly durable, ergonomic, and designed to be used as a striking weapon or a less-lethal stun device.
● Compact and Concealed Models
Many stun guns are designed to be small and easily concealed. While these devices typically double as short batons or small flashlights with wrist straps, many others take on different shapes specifically suited for self-defense.
For example, stun knuckles allow you to wear one like a brass knuckle, enabling you to deliver shocks alongside punches. Even smaller models resemble single-finger knuckles, vaguely resembling rings. Other, more unusual stun guns are specifically designed to resemble everyday objects, such as stun gun canes or fake mobile phones.
How Effective Are Stun Guns for Self-Defense?
Most stun guns are frequently advertised with many features or impressive voltage numbers. However, you may wonder whether they are effective in a real-world self-defense scenario.
A stun gun can be an effective deterrent, particularly against less-determined assailants. The electric arc and loud clicking noises produced by a stun gun are designed to deter the target. If it isn’t enough to repel an attacker, delivering a well-aimed shock causes significant pain and a burning effect, which can push back all but the most determined opponents.
However, not all assailants are equally affected by the pain. The primary limitation of a standard stun gun is the lack of other recourse if the initial shock isn’t sufficient. Individuals with high pain tolerance or under the influence of alcohol and drugs may instead become more determined to carry out the attack.
In these instances, you may benefit from using a larger model that can double as a blunt weapon, such as a stun baton. Such products offer all the benefits of using batons for self-defense while retaining the option to use electric shocks.
How to Use a Taser
Most cartridge-fed Taser devices available to civilians today resemble semi-automatic pistols. They generally feature a grip, a trigger, iron sights, and a safety lever. Many also possess an auxiliary aiming device, such as a laser sight, which can help you visualize whether the device is pointed in the right direction.
Some older Taser models, such as the classic Air Taser, were stick-shaped devices that more closely resembled flashlights. However, besides a differently-shaped grip, such models function similarly and have the same features.
To use a Taser device as intended, you must first load an appropriate cartridge into the device’s muzzle. Take the cartridge out of its clear plastic container, point the device in a safe direction, then insert it into the muzzle with the plastic trapdoor pointed forward. Ensure the cartridge is correctly seated into the muzzle before proceeding.
While the maximum range of a typical civilian Taser cartridge is about 15 feet, the recommended shooting distance is approximately 7 feet. This is because the longer the distance with the target, the further apart the electrodes will spread.
Both electrodes must hit and remain embedded in the target’s body to deliver shocks. If one or both miss or only make a shallow penetration, electricity cannot flow from the device to the assailant.
Once fired, you may remove the spent cartridge and replace it with another. Alternatively, leave the muzzle unloaded and use the device as a contact stun gun.
How Effective Are Cartridge-Fed Taser Devices for Self-Defense?
A cartridge-fed Taser device has three primary advantages: they are ranged weapons, the shock effect is more powerful, and they can still be used as contact stun guns in a pinch.
Taser devices are the only type of ESW that lets you defend yourself from a safe distance. This advantage allows you to use firearm-adjacent training, carrying, and aiming techniques with a less-lethal tool.
If the electrodes correctly land, pulling the device’s trigger lets you administer a powerful shock that can induce electro-muscular incapacitation for up to 30 seconds. This effect leaves enough time to run from the assailant and get to safety.
While these features can be advantageous in the right conditions, remaining within the Taser device’s effective range can be challenging. Determining distances is difficult in a real-world confrontation. Some assailants may close the distance quickly, leaving you unable to fire on time. Like firearms, practicing aiming and shooting at targets is crucial to ensure the electrodes land correctly.
While you can use a Taser device as a stun gun, doing so has the same limitations. Taser devices are not intended to be used as blunt weapons, leaving you with only a lower-powered shock mode designed for pain compliance.
Should I Use a Stun Gun or a Taser for Self-Defense?
A stun gun and a taser are practical choices for self-defense if you do not want to use a lethal weapon such as a knife or a firearm. They are also not affected by the wind or air currents, like pepper spray.
They come in various forms and styles, making them easy to carry and fit for anyone looking to purchase one. In terms of self-defense, a stun gun or taser can be just as effective as other tools, depending on your preference and familiarity.
Stun Gun Considerations
Stun guns are more effective when used by physically fit people. To successfully use a stun gun, you must press the prongs solidly into the target’s body and ensure that the electricity correctly flows into the target’s body. It also requires you to come into close proximity with an actively resisting assailant. Weaker individuals may have trouble keeping control of the attacker to deliver a shock.
If you lack the physical strength to use a stun gun efficiently or want the advantage of a ranged weapon, consider using a Taser device instead. However, a Taser requires careful aiming and consideration for the cartridge’s effective range. These factors assume the user has the skill and visual acuity to operate the trigger and levers and achieve the needed accuracy.
Buy Stun Guns at Uppercut Tactical
Uppercut Tactical aims to provide law-abiding American citizens with everything they need to prepare for the worst situations in life. We carry a wide selection of self-defense equipment and survival gear to help you cultivate the spirit of preparedness. Protect yourself and your loved ones with one of our self defense stun guns.
Disclaimer: The information provided is intended for general educational purposes and may not reflect current legal restrictions; always check local stun gun laws before acquiring or using a stun gun or Taser device.
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