The next best less-lethal tool, other than pepper spray, is an Electronic Control Device (ECD). When deployed appropriately, it can be more effective than subject-control spray (aka, pepper spray). Some people find it difficult under stress to use this technology without sufficient training. But, with commitment to master this tool, people can use it effectively. There are a variety of electronic control devices on the market, but I recommend Taser® because it has many benefits that others don’t – such as reliability, warranty and function.
Earlier versions of the Taser® were not reliable because they depended on batteries that could malfunction unexpectedly. Realizing this was dangerous, Taser® International improved their power source to the Digital Power Magazine (DPM). The civilian version (C2®) uses a Lithium Ion Magazine. Both models’ magazines will consistently deliver the power necessary to operate as designed. Therefore, the Taser® is very reliable.
Stun guns operate by inducing pain in order to gain compliance; this is ineffective with a determined threat. When a suspect has determination or strong desire to harm someone, pain compliance is easier for them to overcome than incapacitation. However, Tasers® can be used as both a stun gun (called a drive stun by Taser®) and an incapacitation device. When using it as stun gun, no cartridge is installed. When using it as an incapacitation device, the use of a cartridge is necessary. A cartridge is attached to the front of the Taser®, and fires two probes that can be shot from a distance of up to 15 feet away. This allows the user the ability to create distance between him/herself and the malevolent.
Taser® has a warranty that is second to none. If a civilian deploys his or her Taser® device for self-defense, Taser® will replace it for free. This ensures the owner is not without protection. The design of the civilian version results in the loss of the product when used.
Taser® technology and operation
The Taser’s® top probe aligns with the laser and sight, and the bottom probe deploys at an 8-degree downward angle. The greater the distance between the user and the threat, the greater the probe spread. For every 7 feet of distance, there is 1 foot of probe spread.
This spread creates a circuit that results in neuromuscular incapacitation when the Taser’s® 50,000 volts override the central nervous system. The central nervous system controls voluntary movement. The voltage disrupts these signals. The technology is safe because Taser’s® amperes are very low.
The C2 is different from the law enforcement version because it cycles for 30 seconds, whereas the law enforcement version cycles for 5. This time allows the user to get away, leaving the Taser® with the suspect. But this only matters if the deployment is successful.
Most common reasons for failures
Training with the Taser® is recommended. There are many situations that lead to failure, including:
- Insufficient probe spread – the closer the probes, the less effective the incapacitation. It is best to aim the top probe at one hemisphere of the body and the bottom at a separate hemisphere (i.e., back and thigh).
- Failure of both probes to strike the target because of the following: The bottom probe misses due to canting, an object blocks one of the probes (i.e., fence or wall,) the target moves, or the target is horizontal and user fails to cant the Taser® accordingly.
- Target’s clothing is thick – the Taser® will function through 2 inches of clothing as long as the probe doesn’t disconnect
- The probe strikes an area of excessive body fat. Targeting leaner muscle groups is more effective in completing the circuit.
Tasers® are a great tool when used as an incapacitation device. There is one shot per cartridge and reloading is tricky. Should a failure occur, the Taser® can be used as a stun gun, but the success rate significantly diminishes when used in this capacity because it relies on pain compliance. Pain compliance rarely has a positive outcome (without assistance and handcuffs).
Having used the Taser® only 3 times in my career, (before they were removed from service) I experienced a 100-percent success rate. Even with that success, I recognized its limitations and risks. As a Taser® instructor, I encouraged officers to be mentally prepared for possibility that the device will fail. Therefore, it’s important to consider a back-up plan. Whenever a use-of-force option fails, it’s important to transition to another force option. This may be the one factor that separates the victim from the victor.
Check Taser’s® website for state-specific laws on carrying and possessing Tasers®.