We tend to think of electricity as harmful and for good reason. The truth is we could not live without electricity. The human body uses electric signals to instruct the nerve cell to release neurotransmitters (communication chemicals) to the muscle cells. This controls the muscle and allows it to either expand or contract. However, like most things in life, too much of a good thing is bad for you.
Stun guns were designed as defensive tools used to stop attackers. There are two main types of stun guns. Older, hand-held stun guns operate on a high-voltage, low-amperage electrical charge that causes acute pain but does not disrupt the body’s nervous system. While voltage is the force, amperage is actually the measure to worry about. Older style stun guns operated on a high voltage. The higher the voltage 200K, 400K 800K, the more powerful people believed the unit to be. If that were true, an 800K-volt model would be twice as deadly as 400K, but stun guns are designed to incapacitate not kill. Incapacitation is accomplished by causing all core muscles in the body to lock up.
More modern stun guns (Tasers) use two probes fired at the target, as well as a computer-controlled pulse modulation to completely incapacitate the target by causing all core muscles in the body to lock up. Newer models use only 50,000 volts to initially arc through clothing. Then, once the computer detects a good contact, it enters the load phase where the voltage is dropped to a relatively small 1,300 to 1,500 volts. The basic design of a modern stun gun includes a battery, transformers, computer-controlled oscillator, capacitor and electrodes.
- The battery produces a charge to a circuit inside the stun gun.
- Transformers boost the voltage of the charge and reduce the amperage.
- The oscillator helps produce the pulse pattern of the electricity.
- The capacitor builds up the charge and releases it to the electrodes.
- The electrodes are the two visible metal prongs that either stick out of or are fired from a stun gun. This is where the electricity passes through. When you apply the electrodes, the body acts as a conductor and the electricity tries to jump from one electrode to the other, thus passing through the body.
Because of the low-amperage of the stun gun, as well as the targeted pulse frequency, no internal organs (including the heart) are affected and, after the electricity leaves the body, muscle and neurological activity return to normal. The effects of getting hit with a stun gun can last up to 15 minutes, enough time for you to get away from the attacker. Effectiveness depends on the target’s body size, determination; type of clothing and duration the charge is applied.
The larger the target, the harder it is to take him or her down. Anecdotal reports show that it is also more difficult to take down an attacker who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How to Make the Most of Your Stun Gun
To make the most of a stun gun, it is better to make contact on a part of the attacker’s body that is harder and slower to move, such as the chest, stomach, groin, hips, shoulder and the base of the neck.
- A one second contact will startle or surprise the attacker and cause muscle contractions.
- One to two seconds of contact causes muscle spasms and confusion.
- Three or more seconds causes an attacker to have a loss of balance, lose muscle control and to become confused and disoriented.
The charge of a stun gun does not pass between people, so concerns of a shock through incidental contact are unfounded.
There have been reports of people dying from being hit with a stun gun. In general, the deaths reported were because the person hit was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or had other risks that increased their likelihood of suffering a heart attack. The downside to a stun gun is its limited range. Most stun guns with probes are only fired from a 30-ft. range. Other hand-held models must be applied directly to the target at point blank range. Because so many cities and states or individual locations restrict carrying a gun, a stun gun may be the best tool for personal defense. Stun guns are not legal in all areas, so it is important to check state and local laws before purchasing.
Have you been in a situation where you fired a stun gun? Share your experience in the comment section.
This post originally published on July 31, 2009 [dave]