Tasers, which stand for Thomas A. Swift Electrical Rifles, are weapons that deliver electrical shocks which stun and temporarily paralyze would-be assailants. Many law enforcement agencies as well as private citizens have chosen to rely on tasers for the purpose of self defense. Since the probability of death to both the assailant and innocent passers-by is far lower than standard bullet-firing guns, tasers rate as safer weapons. They represent a technological advance in defensive weaponry.

Effects of Tasers

Individuals shot by tasers immediately become stunned and immobilized and are thus rendered harmless. They may also experience daze, short-term amnesia, tingling, and vertigo following the shock. However, in most cases the effects wear off quickly and research has not proven any long-term effects.

Composition and Operation

Tasers fire metal-tipped darts to deliver electrical charges. Gas inside the weapon's dart chamber propels the darts forward. A set of wires connects the darts to the weapon's charge unit. Upon reaching its target the weapon delivers the current, shocking the assailant. Tasers deliver a maximum of 50,000 volts of electricity for five seconds and a user may successfully hit a target six and half meters away.

Many models also feature backup charges in case of missed targets and the firing mechanism can be used as an additional backup to deliver a charge with direct contact. However, a dart dropping on certain surfaces such as concrete, wood, or asphalt significantly reduces the electrical charge. The weapon also does not function well in extremely hot or cold conditions as freezing temperatures or sweltering heat in direct sunlight may adversely affect the batteries. The weapon should not be left in direct sunlight since it is composed largely of plastic.

In the past, darts needed to pierce the skin and muscle tissue in order to deliver shocks; however, more advanced versions deliver electrical charges in an arc-shaped pulse that causes the same immobilizing effect.


Although the probability of tasers causing any long-lasting harmful effects are low, you should still take care when firing the weapon. You should always aim for the midsection and avoid the face. Since the taser fires darts the possibility of damaging an eye exists when firing at the face. Also take care not to fire near flammable liquids or lit cigarettes due to the volatility of those materials.

Taser Controversy

The low death rate and high accuracy associated with tasers have led regulators to classify tasers outside the category of firearms. Members of the public may purchase tasers without much of the regulation imposed on firearms. However, others counter that research into the effects of tasers has not provided conclusive proof that they do not use lethal force. Deaths have indeed occurred in conjunction with being hit by taser darts.

On the other hand, other mitigating factors may have contributed to the deaths as well. One example in Chicago occurred when an individual died after being hit by a taser. However, coronary examination also revealed a large amount of methaamphetamine in his system. A study in the United States also found that tasers exceed the level of electrical current that increases risk of cardiac arrest in people with heart conditions. A Canadian study also found increased probability of cardiac arrests in pigs fitted with pacemakers. However, still others maintain that pacemakers are designed to receive shocks from defibrillators that are much stronger than those delivered by tasers. The electrical charge also does not pass from one person to another.


Tasers provide a reliable means of self-defense to many civilians and law enforcement personnel. The weapons deliver electrical charges that stun and immobilize their targets. Many regard the most important advantage of tasers as the low probability of death to targets and innocent passers-by. They are legal for purchase by civilians in many areas. Nevertheless, others contend that research has not conclusively proved the safety of tasers.