Tasers Vs. Stun Guns: What's The Difference & What’s Better
By Jeremy Pollack
At most self-defense workshops, I inevitably get the question from a participant: “Should I get a stun gun taser, so I can shoot an attacker full of electricity?”
“That’s a trick question,” I answer. “Because a stun gun is not a Taser.” In fact, a stun gun does not shoot anything (despite its misleading name). On the contrary, if you want to shoot a non-lethal electrical charge, what you’ll need is a Taser. Now, despite its inability to eject electrically-charged prongs, a stun gun does offer some advantages. So the question is: Which is right for you, a stun gun or a Taser?
Tasers and stun guns are built on the same fundamental concept: both employ a less-than-lethal electrical charge to ward off an attack. While both a stun gun and a Taser are considered the same weapon under the law, making them legal to carry in most states, there are some major differences to consider between these two types of self-defense weapons. Here are some of the differences in the operation and use of stun guns versus Tasers, so you can make an informed decision.
How do Stun Guns Work?
A stun gun generates a high-voltage electrical charge between two small prongs; when this electrical current makes contact with the body, a painful charge is delivered. The amperage, however, is too low to seriously or permanently injure an individual and yet is typically strong enough to briefly immobilize someone, buying you precious seconds to escape unharmed. Hence, this is a generally safe and effective self-defense weapon to employ.
How do Tasers Work?
A Taser also delivers an electrical charge between two electrodes; however, these electrodes shoot out from a compressed gas cartridge inserted in the Taser, which launches the two prongs up to 15 feet from the Taser, similar to how a gas-charged BB gun works. The electricity, then, does not pass directly between the prongs, but rather through conductive wires which are attached to the gun’s electrical circuit. Small barbs on the ejected electrodes are able to hook into an attacker’s clothing or skin, which deliver the electrical current. When these electrodes shoot out, they travel in slightly opposite trajectories so that when they attach to a target’s body, they create a larger field of electricity. This larger surface area of electricity traveling between electrodes is what not only delivers a painful shock, like a stun gun but also has the ability to immobilize an attacker, potentially for several minutes, without causing unconsciousness. This superior, longer duration immobilization is why police and law enforcement use a Taser to subdue and apprehend bad guys. Taser calls this ability their “muscular override technology.”
Advantages of a Stun Gun (compared to Tasers)
Disguise The Weapon: Stun guns come in multiple forms, which can be advantageous because they don’t always look like stun guns. In fact, there are stun guns that look like cell phones, flashlights, remote car key, and various other everyday items. This helps disguise the weapon which makes it potentially easier to carry and easier to hide from a would-be attacker.
Multiple Purposes: Since stun guns come in multiple forms, they can also offer multiple purposes. For instance, a flashlight stun gun is, of course, useful as a flashlight but doubles as a weapon. You may even use it as a blunt force weapon if necessary, so it has three potential purposes in regards to self-defense. Similarly, there are baton stun guns, which can be used as a blunt-force weapon as well as a distancing prod between you and an attacker or a charging dog. Some stun guns are even batons and flashlights combined.
Inexpensive: Stun guns come from various manufacturers and deliver a variety of amperages. Depending on the make and model, these can be very inexpensive, sometimes even less than $20 for a very useful self-defense weapon.
Small & Lightweight: Many compact stun guns are smaller than the smallest Taser (Taser Bolt or Pulse). This makes compact stun guns lightweight and easy to carry in a pocket or small purse.
Visual & Auditory Deterrent: Finally, because stun guns can deliver several consecutive charges and do not shoot out any prongs, you can simply engage the electrical current which creates a loud electrical-shocking noise and a visually intimidating electrical current or arc. This combination emitted by the device is often quite intimidating to a potential attacker.
Advantages of a Taser (compared to Stun Guns)
Muscular Override: While stun guns deliver intense pain when in contact with a target and can briefly immobilize, Tasers not only deliver pain but can also immobilize an individual for extended periods of time, as stated earlier. Again, this is what Taser labels “muscular override technology”, which occurs when the ejected electrodes are embedded in the target’s skin or clothes. The technology employees neuromuscular incapacitation or NMI, which causes the skeletal muscles to tightly contract thereby making it virtually impossible for an assailant to move and thus mobilizing the target. Taser’s technology, therefore, does not rely on pain but rather attacks the neuromuscular system, which is a much safer bet, especially against an attacker who is intoxicated or simply has a high pain tolerance.
Use at a Distance or in Close Range: Tasers are meant to be used at a distance, as explained above, by launching the electrodes up to 15 feet in order to stop an attacker. However, once the charge is used, the cartridge which housed the electrodes can be ejected from the Taser, and the Taser then essentially turns into a stun gun. It emits an electrical charge between two small prongs and can deliver a painful shock to whoever comes in contact with the current. That means if you miss your target after firing the electrodes, or there are multiple attackers, you still have a powerful weapon in your hand.
Built-In Flashlight & Laser: All Tasers come equipped with a built-in flashlight and targeting laser, which automatically turns on when the safety is disengaged. This makes it extremely easy to aim and hit your target whether the environment is light or dark. Stun guns, on the other hand, have no targeting laser, as they do not shoot anything; and most do not have flashlights unless the stun gun itself is a flashlight stun gun.
Robustness & Reliability: In the self-defense world, you typically get what you pay for. While some stun guns are very inexpensive, they can also be poorly made. Tasers, on the other hand, are expensive for reason—they are manufactured to high-quality standards and come with a guarantee of reliability. Since all Tasers are directly manufactured by the only company that owns the patent, the publicly traded Axon corporation, the brand must stand behind the reliability and durability of its product. These are the same weapons that police officers must rely on to save lives and protect themselves.
Visual Deterrent: Tasers can also provide a strong visual deterrent, as most are shaped like guns and all emit lasers that appear as red dots on a target. When an individual sees you pointing a weapon that appears to be a firearm and looks down to see a targeting laser on their torso, this is probably enough to deter most attackers.
Overall, in my professional opinion, Taser is the superior choice, as it allows you to maintain distance and just as importantly to immobilize an attacker rather than simply delivering a painful shock. If you can afford a Taser, it’s proprietary ability to immobilize an attacker through muscular override technology makes it the most preferred self-defense device for civilians. In fact, most police officers now carry Tasers; none carry stun guns.
I recommend to all of my students and clients, on their first day of self-defense training, that they buy and carry a Taser. I especially recommend Tasers for women. Because on the streets, there are no rules and all is fair game. Hand-to-hand self-defense training is, of course, important, but whenever I can employ a legal, nonlethal, reliable weapon that can be used at a distance to immobilize an attacker, that will always be my go-to first choice for less-than-lethal self-defense situations.
I hope this was helpful and informative. Please protect yourself with the right self-defense tools for you. You can find a Taser for sale and stun guns for women right here at The Home Security Superstore. Stay safe out there!
Jeremy Pollack has been teaching martial arts and self-defense for more than 20 years. He holds a Black Belt in Hapkido, Instructor rankings in Muay Thai and Krav Maga, and belts in several other martial systems. He is also a former member of the California State Military Reserve, Military Police Unit. You can read more about him at CoachJeremyPollack.com and PollackPeacebuilding.com.