I know people who desire some sort of tool to aid in their personal safety, but seek non-gun options. So the notion of a TASER comes up a lot.
A few days ago, someone asked me what I think about using Tasers instead of firearms for personal defense. My answer: It’s complicated.
1 – If I had access to a nice little Star Trek phaser that could be set to “stun” and would work without fail to drop attackers in their tracks with no possible negative consequences to either myself or the attacker, so the criminal justice system could grab them and choose the appropriate disposition for them with no risk to my own life, I’d hang up my defensive handgun and never carry it again. But that reliable, effective, no-consequences tool does *NOT* exist in this world. No matter what the ad copy says.
2 – Most “tasers” sold to ordinary people are *not* Tasers at all. They are simply low-power electric shockers that require physical contact. And no matter what the packaging says, most of them are about as powerful as the handheld buzzer your joker of a big brother used to use to make his buddies jump when they shook hands. Waste of money.
3 – A true Taser — which comes from the TASER International Inc. and costs about as much as a firearm — will in fact lock up the attacker’s muscles by blocking signals from the nerves back to the brain. Having one used on you feels about like a full-body muscle cramp. Not pleasant! Despite this, it’s *not* a pain compliance tool; it actually functions by blocking the nerve signals. That’s the upside.
The downside: You get exactly one shot, and it fires two projectiles at once at a relatively slow speed. Both probes have to hit. If they hit too close together (as they will if the attacker is too close to you) the signal isn’t blocked that well and the attacker will likely keep coming. If they spread too far apart (as they will if the attacker isn’t right on top of you), one of the probes may miss the attacker — which means you might as well have missed entirely.
Taser advertises that many of their products have a “drive stun” capability, meaning if you miss with one or both probes you can just shove the end of the Taser gun into the bad guy’s body and disrupt the nerve signal that way. This is painful for the attacker, but … it won’t get the same solid lock up and he can fight through that pain.
If you do hit him with both projectiles, the Taser will keep the electrical pulse going through the wires for a short while. The company suggests you leave the pulse going, drop the Taser product, and run away at this point while the attacker’s muscles are still locked up. Better hope you can run faster and farther than your attacker can follow in that amount of time, because as soon as the current shuts off, he’ll be able to follow you.
And finally, there’s this: because Tasers fire projectiles with wires attached, stuff like what happened in the news report below, can and does happen. That’s why law enforcement officers always have access to deadly force whenever a Taser may be deployed.
4 — Bottom line? A Taser can be a good tool for some situations, but it isn’t magic. The products can and have saved lives, mostly lives of law enforcement officers, or suspects being arrested. When LEOs use these things, most of them have backup officers on hand who can and will immediately use deadly force if the Taser fails to subdue the suspect. For us, who don’t have that kind of backup on hand, it’s more dicey.