TASER® MEDICAL STUDIES
When the TASER® was introduced over 20 years
ago, there was considerable apprehension and disbelief in the United States,
how a device utilizing a 50,000 Volt output to immobilize an attacker could
be non-lethal, yet cause no latent medical conditions to the human body. In
1997, following more than 20 years of review and analysis by many physicians
in journals such as The Annals of Emergency Medicine and The Journal
of Forensic Sciences, non-lethality is now a fact.
HOW IT WORKS
The AIR TASER® is a close range standoff
self-defense device that does not depend on damage or destruction of tissue
or organs to be effective. This small hand held system uses compressed air to
disperse two small probes up to 15 feet.
These probes are connected by wires to the
hand held launcher and send a powerful electric signal into the nervous system
of an assailant. Upon contact, the two probes complete an electrical circuit
and current is transmitted from the batteries to the target. This causes the
individual to fall to the ground helpless and incapacitated as the brain loses
control over the rest of the body.
The AIR TASER® is effective because it overrides
the nervous system of the human body. The human nervous system communicates
by transmitting simple electrical impulses. A nerve sends a message much like
an electric telegraph with a series of electrical blips. As illustrated schematically
below, the AIR TASER® sends a series of discrete electrical impulses (called
TASER®-Waves ), quite similar to those used by the human body for communication.
The TASER®-Waves output overpowers
the normal electrical signals within the nerve fibers. The nerve communication
blips wash out all normal signals in a sea of "white noise" created
by TASER®-Wave electrical impulses. When subjected to TASER® impulses, the human
target loses control of the neuromuscular system and cannot perform coordinated
The method of incapacitation by the TASER®
is the least violent means possible for ending dangerous situations. In fact,
a study was conducted on patients admitted to the Emergency Department of the
King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, who had been shot with a TASER® between
July 1980 and December 1985. These 218 subjects were compared to 22 similar
patients shot with .38 Specials. In this report, 92% of those patients stated
they had total amnesia about the event and could not remember being subjected
to the TASER® Furthermore, the study indicated the TASER® did not cause conscious
In contrast, alternative non-lethal products,
such as pepper and chemical sprays are known to cause tremendous pain when used.
Pain is the primary means of causing the target to stop. Chemical sprays rely
on a severe burning sensation to disable an attacker. Pepper sprays, made from
oleoresin capsicum, the hot ingredient in cayenne pepper, cause severe inflammation
to an assailants eyes and respiratory system. (Using these types of sprays
is similar to spraying acid into someones eyes.) Further, these sprays
cause inflammation of the mucous membranes and can trigger severe asthmatic
reactions. These aftereffects can last up to several hours.
AIR TASER® EFFECTIVENESS
The first concern of users evaluating any
self-defense product is that it must be effective. Using actual field data comparing
performance of the TASER® to a variety of handguns, the actual effectiveness
of the TASER® surpassed all but the .357 Magnum, to which it is equal with an
86% instant incapacitation rate. Test results calculated the percentage of individuals
immediately incapacitated. Instant incapacitation is defined as immediately
rendering the target to the ground, temporarily unable to continue to fight
This particular test is actually biased
against the TASER® because the vast majority (86% in one study) of the
people shot by the TASER® were on the drug PCP. (The TASER® is the Los Angeles
Police Departments weapon of choice for those on PCP, crack, heroin, and
mentally deranged lawbreakers.) This extremely dangerous and powerful drug is
known to provide users superhuman strength. Moreover, PCP can cause
individuals to be oblivious to pain. Frequently people on PCP break their own
bones without distress and are infamous for their capability to absorb bullets
without being instantly incapacitated.
The TASER® is highly effective at immediately
incapacitating offenders because its electrical signal penetrates the nervous
system regardless of the placement of its probes. The entire human body is covered
by a neural net that the AIR TASER® uses to knock out its target. The probes
do not have to penetrate the flesh or cause bodily harm to be effective because
the TASER®-Waves can penetrate approximately two cumulative inches of clothing.
For a bullet to be instantly effective, it must hit a vital organ such as the
heart or brain and cause severe trauma and shock to the body. Similarly, chemical
and pepper sprays must hit an assailant in the face; no easy task even for trained
law enforcers in fast moving confrontations. Moreover, the sprays weaknesses
are their limited effective range, their imperfect disabling of attackers, and
their sensitivity to environmental conditions like winds which can blow chemicals
back onto the user. These chemicals are also not discrete and may adversely
effect the user and others. On the other hand, the AIR TASER® provides more effective
range, is not affected by wind and is discrete in usage.
The AIR TASER® has proven to be instantly
effective and requires less training than other self-defense technologies. The
graphic on the following page illustrates the effective target areas of the
AIR TASER® far surpasses those of chemical sprays and even handguns.
THE TASER® SAFETY
Because the TASER®-Wave "jams"
the communication system of the body, it does not need to cause bodily injury
to be effective. The AIR TASER®s output power is about equal to a Christmas
tree light. Although its output is 50,000 Volts, its maximum average power output
is six Watts. The AIR TASER® generates 10-15 pulses per second. Each pulse is
approximately .4 Joules. At 15 pulses per second and .4 Joules per pulse, 6
Joules per second is the maximum delivered energy per second. It is the nature
of the signaling effect within the nervous system that makes it effective. The
following graph uses equations developed by the Underwriters Laboratories,
Inc. for electric fence safety guidelines. The shaded area is considered safe
electrical exposure for a two-year-old child or a 75-year-old person. Note the
AIR TASER®s output is approximately 1/1,000th of a potentially dangerous
Numerous studies have confirmed there are
no long-term effects from TASER®-Waves. As noted in the graph on the following
page, a University of Southern California Medical Center study concluded that
in addition to its non-lethality, the TASER® leaves 0% long term injuries. These
findings compare quite favorably to the data in the Annals of Emergency Medicine
study concerning the .38 Special handgun wounds. Only 50% of those shot with
a .38 Special survived and of those survivors, 100% had sustained permanent
In all of the studies of TASER® related fatalities,
not one case reports a fatality directly caused by use of the TASER®. The Underwriters
Laboratories, Inc. Bulletin of Research Number 14 of December 1939 (a study
of electric fences and electrocution) enumerates the following possible causes
of death from electric shock:
1. Loss of function of respiratory
muscles, producing death from asphyxia. This
method of death requires paralysis of the lungs for a period of at least
several minutes. The lack of oxygen could cause brain damage and death.
The AIR TASER® runs off a nine-volt battery that would drain in less than
two minutes if it could run nonstop without breaks in the TASER®-Wave cycle.
Even if the device was able to run nonstop and the current ran continuously
across the diaphragm muscles in the mid thorax, the duration of the paralysis
would be too short to induce death by asphyxia. More importantly, the design
of the AIR TASER® ensures that a long and continuous flow discharge will
not occur. Death due to paralysis of respiratory muscles has never been
reported with the use of a TASER®. (See Section 1. Automatic Impulse Regulation
2. Hemorrhage resulting from
increased blood pressure. Dr. Robert Stratbucker,
MD, Ph.D., MS, PE is the most respected doctor in non-lethal electronic
weapons testing and safety evaluations. Dr. Stratbucker has written over
23 publications and presented his work in numerous technical conferences
and scientific exhibits. Some of his works include the following relevant
topics: potential cardiac hazards in the use of hand-held electronic law
enforcement devices, relative immunity of the skin and cardiovascular systems
to the direct effects of high voltage, cardiac arrhythmia and defibrillation,
current density distributions during transcutaneous current pacing, and
electrical characteristics of the skin. Dr. Stratbuckers study in
Section V of this report, demonstrated that even direct application of the
TASER® output to the heart "showed only a mild and transient effect
on blood pressure." No death by this means has ever occurred in an
individual shot with a TASER®.
3. Heart Failure.
Dr. Stratbucker performed tests by applying the TASER®-Wave pulsed wave form
directly to the cardiac tissue via an intracardiac electrode and found "no
effect on cardiac rhythm or pumping." He also tested the pulsed waveform
for interference with cardiac pacemakers. Dr. Stratbucker found "only
when the shocks were delivered directly to the pacer itself did erratic
pacing occur. Following the termination of the shocks, the rhythm returned
promptly to pre-shock regularity." The designs of modern pacemakers
withstand the pulses of electrical defibrillators that are several hundred
times stronger than TASER® pulses. Tests at the Cordis Medical Lab in Florida
have confirmed this.
There have been several reported heart
failures in individuals shot by the TASER®. However, in all cases but one
there were sufficient amounts of PCP or other drugs in the blood to have
caused the death. The one case the TASER® was listed as a contributing factor
involved a person with a serious heart condition who was on PCP. However,
the doctor performing the autopsy listed the TASER® as possible contributing
factor. In none of these cases did the heart failure occur
until at least 15 minutes after being shot with a TASER®. Electrically stimulated
heart failure would be immediate and would occur during the shock. The patient
would die within two to three minutes. There is no plausible mechanism for
the TASER® to cause a delayed heart failure. Instead, it appears to have
been listed as a potential cause in the above case in the name of conservatism.
(By law, coroners must list any possible cause.)
4. Respiratory failure due
to nervous inhibitions or damage to the nervous system.
The TASER® does not produce enough power to damage nerve tissue. It simply
produces electrical signals confusing the nervous system by overloading
the nerve fibers with meaningless signals. No deaths of this nature have
5. Skin and flesh burns.
A tremendous amount of heat generated by high power currents would have
to occur for this type of burn. The nine-volt battery of a TASER® does not
produce enough power to cause any more than perhaps slight surface burns.
Testing in hospital settings has shown that the TASER® does not to cause
The reports included in this document provide
in-depth analysis of the safety of the TASER®s electrical waveform. They
absolve the TASER® from any significant involvement in the drug-related deaths
of individuals shot by TASER®s.
THE AIR TASER® --
UPDATED FOR INCREASED SAFETY
The AIR TASER® is truly a next generation
product compared to the original TASER®. In addition to being a non-firearm,
the new design actually increases the safety of the AIR TASER® relative to the
original TASER®. The AIR TASER® upgrades the capabilities of the TASER® with the
1. Automatic Impulse Regulation.
While "AIR" refers to the fact the AIR TASER® is a non-firearm;
it also stands for Automatic Impulse Regulation. In the original TASER®,
the user is responsible for holding down the trigger switch to continue
applying electrical charge to the target. The first problem with this approach
is the unit will not disable the attacker if the current is not applied
for a sufficient amount of time. The natural reaction is to release the
trigger after firing -- even trained police officers have failed to hold
down the trigger switch after firing. This allows for human error to render
the device useless. A second problem with allowing the user to control the
application of charge relates to liability. Occasionally, police departments
have been charged with the pretense that an officer applied the charge too
long and tormented the target (even though there is no pain sensation per
se with the TASER®).
The AIR TASER® uses an automatic timing
mechanism to apply the electric charge. Upon firing, it follows a pre-set
algorithm to apply the electric current. (The following timing cycle algorithm
of the AIR TASER® is: Approximately 7.5 seconds on, 1 second off, 6.5 seconds
on, 1 second off, 6.5 seconds on, 1 second off, 6.5 seconds, 1 second off,
3 seconds on.) This removes user error from the loop, making the product
safer to use. It also allows the user to place the device on the ground
and run. The unit will continue to disable the target automatically for
the next 30 seconds and keep an attacker disoriented and on the ground for
2. Stun Gun Backup.
After firing the probes, the AIR TASER® immediately functions as a contact
stun gun. This timing cycle provides protection against a second attacker
and is a powerful backup in the unlikely event the target is missed.
ELECTRIC STUN GUNS
Stun guns or electronic standoff devices
use the same basic electric impulse generator (patented by the TASER® inventor,
John Cover) used in the TASER®. Stun guns generally discharge a nine-Volt battery
through a transformer system. This creates an electric spark between two external
electrodes at voltages up to 50,000 Volts. When these electrodes contact an
assailant, the electrons choose the path of least resistance traveling through
the aqueous human flesh rather through air or clothing. The presence of the
electric current in the tissues disrupts the human nervous system. However,
because the distance between the electrodes is always two inches or less, the
incapacitation is not as sure as with the AIR TASER® since the signals are so
localized. The initial electrical current can knock an attacker down or at a
minimum keep the aggressor at bay. Depending on the length of the initial contact,
the assailant can recover within minutes or less. When the charge is applied
for longer time periods, measured in seconds, the disequilibrium within the
nervous system increases.
Stun gun systems require the user to directly
contact the assailant and apply the charge. Incapacitation requires an aggressive
user. It obligates the continued attention of the user for protracted applications
during conflict. Direct contact is eliminated with the AIR TASER®s ability
to disperse probes up to 15 feet and spreading the electrical probes much further
apart. However, the AIR TASER®s stun gun backup does provide an adequate
defensive backup system.
The stun gun market is unfortunately permeated
with claims of extremely high voltages. The advertised voltage of most stun
guns is greatly exaggerated. In reality voltage is an indication of how far
a spark can jump and therefore how much clothing the stun device can penetrate
when the spark must penetrate fabric. The rule of thumb is 28,000 Volts per
inch. This is the only true benefit of using high voltages. The effectiveness
of electronic output is a function of amps, power, frequency, and LASTLY voltage.
ABSTRACTS OF MEDICAL
I. NATIONAL COMMISSION ON THE CAUSES AND
PREVENTION OF VIOLENCE
This document is the result from a special Presidential
Commission chartered to investigate policy toward violence and violent crime. The
recommendation strongly supports non lethal weapons such as the AIR TASER®.
II. THE TASER® DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Jack Cover, inventor of the TASER® and former Chief Scientist for the
Apollo Moon Landing Program, describes the scientific process of developing the TASER®-Wave
output. The development program included extensive literature review of scientific data
and years of testing on animals, him and other volunteers and consultation with many
prominent physicians. Note in the included charts the electrical output of the TASER® is
three orders of magnitude below (1/1,000 below) a potentially dangerous level.
Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. Bulletin of Research Number 14, U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission, National Bureau of Standards, and expert consultants have
determined this level.
III. ELECTRONIC GUN INJURIES: Annals
of Emergency Medicine
In this comparative study of .38 Special handgun wounds and TASER®
injuries, the authors found none of the individuals shot by a TASER® had any long-term
injuries. All of the gun shot survivors had major injuries (half of the gun shot
victims died). Only 1.4% of the individuals shot by TASER®s died all had
"sustained toxic (acute) levels of PCP
" None of these individuals expired
during the actual TASER®ing.
IV. EFFECTS OF THE TASER® IN FATALITIES
INVOLVING POLICE CONFRONTATION: Journal of Forensic Sciences: This
article reviews 16 deaths of people shot by a TASER®. All were on "hard drugs
cocaine, PCP or amphetamine." All of the individuals died of causes such as
"multiple gun shot wounds" (this is extremely difficult to implicate the TASER®
in these cases); "blunt force trauma" (associated with a "choke
hold"); or "acute PCP intoxication" (overdose). The TASER® was implicated as
a possible contributing factor in one case where the individual had a chronic heart
condition and had sufficient levels of PCP to explain death. The TASER® did not appear to
have been a significant factor in any of these cases. Moreover, none of the individuals
expired until up to three days after the TASER® incident.
V. UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER
(The stun gun used in this test uses the same electronic circuitry
and output as the TASER®.) Dr. Stratbuckers test concluded, "Cardiac tissue,
normally far removed geographically from the stun gun in its customary mode of
application, would not and could not be stimulated even if it were in direct contact with
the gun due to the unique characteristic of heart tissue requiring relatively prolonged
stimulating pulses for effective stimulation."
This testing demonstrated the TASER®-Wave form output would not cause
heart attacks even in individuals fitted with cardiac pacemakers. "The device appears
to be incapable of causing thermal effects such as burns to the skin or other
VI. DR. STRATBUCKER & ASSOCIATES
Dr. Stratbucker reconfirms his earlier findings on electrical
emissions from stun pulse generators, delivered to the body surface in the recommended
manner do not cause serious cardiac rhythm abnormalities in the otherwise healthy adult
heart. "This study investigated electrical outputs equivalent to 400% the capacitance
and 300% the battery voltage of the standard AIR TASER®, an adequate margin of safety
appears to exist."
VII. U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (USCPSC) Studies of the TASER®
This is a transcript of several independent tests of the TASER®
commissioned by the USCPSC on the TASER®. The results were unanimous that the TASER®
is non lethal.
VIII. VARIOUS TASER® BACKGROUND DATA
The section includes a report on a human subject who dropped to the
floor in less than one second during a hospital TASER® test. It also includes notes from
the use of a modified TASER® on lions. All of the tests successfully felled the target
animal. In addition, this section includes two newspaper articles and a page from the Journal
of California Enforcement. This section ends with a medical bibliography and summary.
* The AIR TASER® has now been replaced by the C2 TASER®.
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