Tasers were designed to impair and that’s exactly what they do. They will effectively stop an attacker in their tracks without the use of force.
Tasers, similar to stun guns, are electrical weapons and work well as self-defense tools that incapacitate the bad guy.
If you should ever be on the wrong end of a taser, it’s not going to feel good. And it’s not recommended to try this weapon out on yourself or someone else.
It may feel like a long-drawn-out nightmare, but experts say it only takes five seconds to recover from a taser shock.
But, even if it’s just a case of curiosity, you may wonder what this less-lethal weapon feels like and how long it takes to recover from such an electrifying experience.
How Long Does a Taser Last?
You have to look at the type of tasers, or electronic control devices, being used to know how long they last.
There are several different types of tasers. The most common are single-shot, which only hold one cartridge, and then there are double-shot tasers, which feature a backup shot and a warning arc.
Two popular models are produced by Axon, formerly Taser International.
The X26 was released in 2003 and uses shaped pulse technology, while the X3 released six years later, can fire three shots before reloading.
There are some TASER device models, mainly used by police departments, that feature a “Drive Stun” capability.
It allows the stun gun to be held against someone without firing the hooked darts.
The intention is to cause pain without incapacitating the subject, so an officer must hold the device and make direct contact with the target’s body.
All tasers are considered non-lethal or“less-lethal” weapons because they are pain-inducing weapons and aren’t likely to kill someone or something.
More than 15,000 law enforcement agencies and military agencies worldwide use tasers, according to a 2011 US study.
Many countries do not allow the use of tasers by civilians, but in the United States, you can carry a taser legally without a permit in almost every state.
Tasers, like stun guns, or even pepper spray, are used widely by the public for self-defense purposes and it appears taser use is increasing. Models like the Taser Pulse, run on a 30-second cycle.
That means the user can turn the safety off, hit the bad guy, drop the device and run away, all in 30 seconds.
The range of these civilian tasers is about 15 ft. Whereastasers, used by police departments, can hit up to 34 ft.
Two small hooked darts that shoot out from the weapon are connected to the main unit by thin insulated copper wire and send an electric current meant to cripple the control of the target’s muscles, otherwise known as “neuromuscular incapacitation”.
Single-shot tasers run on a five-second cycle. So, every time you pull the trigger, it will automatically blast for five seconds unless the safety is shut off.
These are what law enforcement, including security and bounty hunters, use on subjects who are not considered an immediate threat.
Did you know?
The taser was originally introduced in 1993 and its name is an acronym for Tom A. Swift
Electric Rifle. Tom Swift was the fictional young inventor in a series of science fiction novels published in the early 1900s.
What Happens if You Get Tasered?
A taser gun is normally powered by a battery pack using lithium batteries. Some do use the double-A battery. High-voltage electricity is created and blasted out of the taser.
That electricity can spark across up to two inches of space.
So, if you hit somebody wearing body armor or even a heavy jacket, the electrical current has to reach through two inches of that material.
Capacitors inside the taser increase the voltage, which then sends electricity to two taser barbs in the front of the taser.
That’s what makes the crackling sound well-known to tasers. You can see the electricity arc across those front electrodes.
Inside the taser cartridge, there are two spots with metal bits that pull the charge into the cartridge. The two nitrogen capsules inside link to the two prongs with darts on the end.
There is also plenty of wire inside the cartridge, which clicks and locks into the front of the device.
What happens as the taser is firing?
Here’s the mechanical rundown when you shoot a civilian taser:
- First, shut the safety off.
- Pull the trigger- this sparks electricity that goes from the battery and the capacitors. The voltage then starts to increase, which sends the electricity to the front cartridge.
- Nitrogen capsules inside the cartridge become charged, which drives the probes with little hooks out toward the target. Those probes or taser darts have thin wires attached that deliver the volts of electricity.
- If both probes hit, the subject is zapped. That’s the desired or intended result. The top dart hits wherever the taser is pointed while the bottom dart goes below that at a seven or eight-degree angle. The darts usually land about a foot apart from each other.
For the target, the effects of the taser should be either intense pain in the area struck by the probes or strong involuntary muscle contractions. That should last a maximum of five seconds.
Many people believe the taser knocks people unconscious, but TommyMottl of the Free Field Training channel on YouTube says, that is not true.
He says subjects only get knocked out as a casualty of falling and hitting their heads. These are secondary injuries.
The Case for Tasers as Lethal Weapons
And Mottl, who is a field training police officer may have a point considering recent incidents of police using a taser.
A 2021 USA Today news article notes that some of the most recent taser-related deaths were due to human error, not to the taser’s immediate physical impact.
Like, for example, the case of Gabriel Olivas in 2017. The the39-year-old Arlington, Texas man died after being tased by two police officers.
However, Olivas, who had tried to injure himself, died after the gasoline he poured on himself was set on fire by the taser barbs.
Then there’s a 2013 Chicago case, where a pregnant woman was tased three times by a police officer. The article notes that the woman was tased in her abdomen at least once. She miscarried her baby after the incident.
But, Mottl says on his YouTube channel that the taser locks the muscles up, but nothing more. In addition, as of 2018, it has been recommended that police officers avoid firing a taser across the heart area of the body.
This is especially important when you consider that some targets may have unknown heart conditions.
One study has linked the TASER X26 shock to ventricular fibrillation or sudden cardiac arrest in humans.
Ideally, you want to shoot for the center mass of the body you’re tasering, with the second probe hitting somewhere off to the center side or down into a leg.
Officers today try to shoot a taser at a suspect’s back center and or the back of the person’s leg.
That tends to be the safest place to be struck to avoid cardiac arrhythmia, but still, allows for the seizure of the muscles.
Of course, the back is not always an option or accessible for tasing, so officers will aim to shoot the upper chest (away from the heart).
But there is concern over the abuse of tasering by officers. There have been case reports of police officers striking a suspect several times with a taser, which some say, is not necessary and is a misuse of a non-lethal weapon.
Take, for example, the 2017 incident in Cornwall, England. Relatives started speaking out about Marc Cole’s death after he was tasered three times by local police.
Thirty-year-old Cole was reportedly tased for more than 40 seconds on the street after police were notified that he had been using cocaine and had already injured a neighbor with a knife.
His sister said Cole had issues with mental health. She is fighting for an overhaul of police training procedures surrounding the taser.
An inquest in 2020 led to the conclusion that the use of the Taser stun gun by police did play a part in Cole’s death, caused by ventricular fibrillation (cardiac arrest).
At least 49 people died in the US in 2018 after being shocked by police with a Taser.
High Risk for Serious Injury
Axon warns their training materials, that “repeated, extended, or continuous exposure to the weapon is not safe.” The company says the use of a taser for more than 15 seconds is likely to fall within that risky time frame.
These are some of the other situations where it may be considered high risk to tase a person:
- You are running on hard or rough ground, like cement.
- You fall uncontrollably or from a height.
- You are operating a vehicle or other type of machinery.
- You are in an environment that may be flammable.
It’s also noted that tasers may pose serious injury or death to children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Also, those with medical conditions are at a higher risk as well as “very thin individuals.”
Can Tasers Cause Excited Delirium?
One of the more serious taser effects under investigation recently is excited delirium.
The diagnosis has been attached to some of the deaths following the use of a police taser.
It’s described as an acute confusion state that includes extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and violence towards other people and objects.
The term developed after several incidents where police control measures, like using a taser gun, have caused the subject to become highly agitated, disoriented, and sometimes physically stronger.
It’s associated with sudden death. So, the subject who experiences excited delirium would be tased, have an erratic and violent reaction, and then go into cardiac arrest.
Studies reveal that these types of reactions have mostly occurred in inmates with a history of serious mental illness or who are drug abusers.
What Does a Taser Feel Like?
The consensus is: that there is no feeling like that of being tased.
It may take only five seconds, but it certainly feels a lot longer than that for the tased person. Described as an “intense workout.” It is an electrifying experience, but not in a good sense.
You can find many YouTube videos and forum posts that describe the sensation of being tased. Almost all of them agree that it is painful.
Most law enforcement officers will have to endure a taser hit as part of their training. Some say the pain is not “hit your thumb with a hammer-type” pain. More like the worst charley horse you will ever feel.
When you see it happen as an outside observer, you may be tempted to laugh because the person tends to respond by doing the “funky chicken” for a few seconds.
That dance usually coincides with a loud yell or expletive as the body seizes. Here’s a generalized version of what happens in order from when the taser is fired to the person being tased over five seconds.
- The taser is fired – a crackling sound as the probes hit you.
- Described as “mini harpoons,” the taser probes attach and begin the electrocuting.
- If a good connection is made –a burst of pain in the area that was struck with the darts.
- Then your body clenches – every muscle will feel like it is contracting in your body also known as neuromuscular incapacitation. You will have no control over your body.
The average taser is going to dish out a 50,000-volt shock of electricity into a target.
So, it’s no surprise that many subjects are left with scars from burns left by the taser probes. Also, you can have bruises from where they have dug into the skin if they have gone that far in.
Some reports say puss and blood leaked from their wounds following a taser shock.
One unlucky Reddit user relayed his story of being tased. As part of an officer training test, he had one probe in his sock and one in his pocket, so that it would affect his leg.
He says the best way he can describe the pain is by imagining that your bones are on fire while you have no control over your body. He says it took all his concentration not to scream like a child.
However, another account of being tased during a training exercise describes the
experience as similar to just having worked out. He recounts that the darts hit the upper back and just below the waist – he was able to feel the shock from the top of his shoulders to the bottom of his calves.
He could feel every cycle of electricity for the full five seconds, but the barbs left no real scars, he says. The wounds barely bled and the after-effects were exhaustion, followed by a feeling of relaxation.
Another officer in training recalls “you can see redness and a burn on the upper probe but it scabbed over and was fine the next day.” He says he experienced muscle fatigue as if he had run a mile with an 80-pound backpack.
Tasercurrents do not reach the heart. Thankfully, the human body features natural protection against the currents, which is the skin and soft tissue. So, there is fairly high resistance to the effects of a taser.
According to the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, it takes a minimum of 1,000 milliamps or one amp, the unit used to measure current, to damage human muscle, nerves, as well as the heart.
Tasers contain a two-milliamp current. It would take higher amps of at least 10,000 milliamps to stop the heart and cause severe burns.
Do Tasers Hurt?
Tasers are not a toy; they are meant to cause pain and incapacitate you. But how much they hurt or the level of pain you experience is likely dependent on where the darts hit you and your pain tolerance.
The weapon works based on pain compliance meaning when they make contact, they are going to effectively immobilize you.
One of the most interesting descriptions of what it feels like to be tased is that it’s like having every thought you’ve ever had all at once. This person felt like it took a few seconds for the brain to catch up to the body’s sensing of pain.
Another person backs up that memory of not knowing what’s happening immediately after getting tased.
She says it feels like the brain shuts down and any sensations or pain takes a short time to register. She goes on to compare the feeling to getting a tattoo from 20 or 30 guns at the same time.
But, there is general agreement that once it’s over, it’s over. This means that after the five seconds of tasing are complete, most subjects feel nothing.
That is because the electrical current has stopped flowing and the muscles have a chance to rest.
If you are handling a taser on your own, it’s recommended to keep your hands away from the front taser cartridge. Mottl explains in his YouTube video, that even static electricity can cause the probes to go off and pierce your hands.
As with any weapon, there are extreme cases of serious injury. There are stories of paramedics witnessing doctors having to pull out barbs from patients’ backs leaving open bloody wounds. That can lead to permanent bruising and scarring.
Also, perhaps most upsetting, are the accounts of people getting tased in the eye.
Take, for example, the case of an Australian woman in 2014. Sheila Oakley was blinded in one eye after being tasered by a police officer.
The 36-year-old was hit at her home, south of Brisbane after she was found to be intoxicated and acting erratically towards the authorities.
She says she was struck after she placed the stick that she had been brandishing. A steel probe struck her in the eye.
The article notes that the officer who tased the woman was a “highly experienced Taser trainer.”However, these cases are rare.
Keep in mind that the person shooting a Taser has to have accurate aim to make a good connection to the target. Also, the subject has to be wearing thin clothing for it to have maximum effect.
Important – Do NOT tase yourself
Please don’t tase yourself. If you are bent on testing one out, have someone else tase you.
That warning comes from the idea you don’t want to experience muscle spasms while holding a taser.
What can happen is those spasms can cause you to pull the trigger again and you end up tasing yourself multiple times. A one-second cycle can turn into five.
This would be a true facepalm event. Different Taserdesigns have different triggers but a risk like this can apply to some weapons. Not a risk you want to take.
Also, if you attempt to taser yourself, you may lose control of your muscles and end up hurting yourself in the process of losing control. At least if someone is with you, they can call 911 or provide help in some way.
How to Defend Against a Taser Attack
Okay, so we know tasers can help you defend yourself from an attack, but how do you defend yourself from a taser?
Here are some methods of protection along with important details about tasers that can help protect you:
- A thick rubber mat at least two inches thick would likely prevent the barbs from touching or affecting you.
- Also, a thick coat, leather jacket, or loose clothing can be enough to stop the effectiveness of a taser, so the probes can’t penetrate or the electricity may not arc into the body enough to lock up the muscles.
- Thick body armor or a metal mesh covering would likely provide some protection, so the probes do not connect with the skin. Vests made of Kevlar, a strong heat-resistant synthetic woven polymer, are said to defend against the electrical darts of a taser gun. The material is used for bulletproof vests.
Kevlar’s spun fibers have a high tensile strength of various grades. However, the area of the body that is not covered in a material like Kevlar is going to be vulnerable to electrical current.
A company called ThorShield manufactures a body armor vest they say protects law enforcement as well as civilians from electroshock weapons like the TASER brand devices and stun guns.
Its “special protective fabric” is designed to conduct the electrical current and send it away from the wearer’s skin.
Something like an electric fence. Developed in 2006, its main purpose is to protect officers if and when their tasers are taken and used against them.
- Inadequacy of new Taser models. A 2019 APM report shows that two of Axon’s newer models, intended for law enforcement, are less effective than older models. One of its modifications has been to reduce the power of the Taser, making it safer for those on the receiving end. So in early2019, officers needed to be “farther from the suspects for the weapon to work reliably.”
- Distance: don’t let the probes get near you. They can only be effective if they attach to you. Most tasers must generally be used within 15 to 25 feet (4.6 to 7.6 m) though some can travel as far as 35 feet. If you are too far away, it probably won’t even be a consideration for a person to use a taser.
- Dodge: weaving is preferable to running in a straight line as the probe usually shoots along a fairly straight path.
Best Protection Against Being Tasered
- The best way to defend yourself from a taser is to stay out of conflict or trouble. Police generally use tasers to protect themselves when they don’t need to use lethal force. They are considered to be anywhere between 80 to 90 percent effective in the field. So don’t make yourself a target, especially if the police are involved. Follow the commands they give you (comply) and you probably won’t get tased.
Tasers are useful electronic control devices used by police departments as well as civilians all over the world.
The electrical current from one of these taser guns offers just enough power to cause involuntary muscle contractions, but no permanent damage.
It takes only five seconds for a taser gun to effectively shock a person. And it takes five seconds for that person to recover from the taser shock.
There are questions as to whether police departments are using tasers with excessive force, but most would agree that there is only a short duration of intense pain resulting from such high voltage.
You can try and protect yourself from the electrical shock of these weapons, but the best defense is to stay out of trouble.
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