Concealed Carry

Stun Guns: How They Work

Security Guard with Stun Gun

Stun guns are defensive tools used to stop an attacker. 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.
  • More modern stun guns utilize two probes that are 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.

The difference in voltage is immense: older models may use voltages exceeding 800,000 volts.

Newer models use only 50,000 volts initially to arc through clothing, but, once the computer detects a good contact, you enter the load phase where the voltage is dropped to a relatively minuscule 1,300 to 1,500 volts.

How Do Stun Guns Work?

The human body’s nervous system is our communication system. Information comes in, is processed by the brain, and is then sent out to control the muscles.

When an attacker is hit with an electrical charge from a stun gun, the charge disrupts those electrical pulses.

High-voltage stun guns accomplish this by using high voltage to simply cause pain compliance.

Modern pulse-modulated stun guns directly capture the alpha motor neurons and cause the muscles to seize up very quickly.

Since the muscles are working so hard, they rapidly convert their source of energy into lactic acid. The result is a rapid loss of energy and muscle soreness.

The idea behind this is that it tires out the attacker so that they have less energy to resist. Therefore, in theory, the stun gun should either stop or down an attacker.

The basic design of a modern stun gun includes a battery, transformers, a computer-controlled oscillator, a capacitor and electrodes. The battery produces a charge to a circuit inside the stun gun.

Transformers boost the voltage of the charge, but 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, internal organs and the heart are not 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, their determination, the type of clothing the target is wearing, and how long the charge is applied to their body.

The larger the target is, the harder it is to take them down. Anecdotal reports show that it is also more difficult to take down an attacker who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

This taser features a flashlight, but must be used directly on the attacker’s body.

How Do You Use a Stun Gun?

To make the most of a stun gun, it is better to make contact on 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 become confused and disoriented.

The charge of a stun gun will 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, though 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.


Stun Guns
This stun gun is fired like a pistol and is a good option for keeping distance between you and an attacker.

Drawbacks to a Stun Gun

The downside to a stun gun is its limited range. Most stun guns that have probes that are fired have a range of only 30 feet.

Other hand-held models must be applied directly to the target at point-blank range.

Because so many cities and states 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 your state and local laws before purchasing.

Do you have a stun gun? How do you like it? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. They call ECW’s LESS LETHAL for a reason. I’ve had to use 1 on a domestic guy had a combo unit (pacer/defibrillator) option was ECW or .45acp 1barb went into the device the medic unit brought him back but he died later that day beat his pregnant girlfriend until she had a miscarriage. That was about 5 years ago. Policy now is the Baton, hands on, or firearms. No pepper spray or electronic weapon. They were planning on stopping everything besides stick, hands on, or pistol/rifle/12ga 00buck

  2. You (must!) understand that if you purchase and use a Stun Gun you are responsible for its use regardless of the circumstances and if those circumstances end in the Death or Permanent Damage to a person you can be liable for that action just as if you used a Real Firearm, this you must consider everytime you use it! This is reality and what you consider is not necessarily what others conjecture! Be careful, it is best to have witnesses and if not it might be wise to use the second method of defense (run like hell)!

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