The Difference Between a Stun Gun and a TASER®

QUICK VERSION: Athough both devices work by shocking the attacker, TASER devices shoot electrodes 15ft on wires and stun guns must be held to the attacker's body. Most devices you see are stun guns, not TASER devices. 

Both TASER® devices and stun guns are non-lethal methods of self defense. Both a TASER and a stun guns work on the same principle, using high voltage but low-amperage electricity to immobilize an attacker. The electrical charge sent into the attacker interrupts the body’s natural electric rhythms, rendering them unable to move. The effects typically last from ten to fifteen minutes, giving you plenty of time to get away. Although you may think that a stun gun and a taser are the same thing, and in fact the terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually two separate devices. TASER refers to a brand name, while ‘stun gun’ refers to a category of self defense devices.

TASER technology, which was developed during the 1960s and 1970s, uses a special cartridge of nitrogen gas to shoot a pair of barbed projectiles at the assailant. These projectiles can fly through the air up to fifteen feet away. A pair of wires connects them to the handheld TASER device, which sends a 50,000 volt shock into the attacker. This shock can go through thick clothing or a bullet-proof vest; the projectiles do not need to strike skin in order to work. After the Nitrogen cartridge has been used to propel the projectiles, most newer TASER can still be used close-up, in the same way as a stun gun is used.

A Stun gunStun guns, unlike a TASER, do not fire anything at the attacker. Instead, they must come in direct contact with the person. These handheld units send a jolt of anywhere from 50,000 to a million volts through the assailant’s body upon contact. You will need to be much closer to the assailant than if you were using a TASER device, but they often deliver a higher voltage. Although stun guns usually include two prongs, with sparks going between the two prongs, this feature is mainly to deter attackers without actually having to use the device on them. The actual power comes from the ends of the two prongs.

The biggest difference between the use of a TASER and the use of a stun gun is that the stun gun must be used in close range with the attacker, while the TASER allows for greater distance. Plus, a stun gun can be used repeatedly, while a TASER cannot be shot twice due to its reliance on single-use nitrogen cartridges.

For most consumers, the deciding factor may be cost. A TASER can cost several hundred dollars, and each use requires a new cartridge. On the other hand, stun guns can be purchased for less than a hundred dollars, and use regular batteries. Although a TASER is slightly more effective than stun guns, they are also quite expensive for the average consumer.

If you plan to carry the device with you, consider that a TASER is usually the size of a regular handgun, while stun guns come in a variety of sizes, some much smaller. 

When it comes to legal issues, in most cases stun guns and TASERS are treated the same. They are legal most places in the United States, although you should check with your local police department for state or local restrictions on purchasing, carrying, or using such devices.

By James Shaw

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