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Jack79's avatar

How do tasers work?

Asked by Jack79 (10984points) March 1st, 2010

A few days ago there was a bank robbery using tasers instead of guns. Pretty ingenious, since they managed to incapacitate the cashier, but at the same time, if they get caught, they won’t be accused of using a lethal weapon.

Made me wonder though:
1) since tasers use an electric shock (right?) how do you know for sure that the voltage is enough to knock someone out but not kill them? What if the cashier had some heart disease? And shouldn’t you set it depending on the person’s size?
2) Assuming the above is correct, do tasers have buttons where you can set the target’s mass? Wouldn’t that make them too complicated to use?
3) Since they are meant to be defence weapons, eg in case someone’s attacking you in the street, shouldn’t they be simple and fast to load and use? ie are they always on and ready to shoot or do you need to charge them?
4) In the typical scenario where a woman has a taser in her handbag so that she can use it if someone attacks her on the way home (that’s what they were originally invented for, right?) won’t the taser touch other metal/electric things in her bag (lipstick, mirror, vibrator) and short-circuit? I guess my question is, how can you have a taser that is simple and easy to use at short notice, and at the same time safe for the user at all times?

sorry if this was too long, just wondering all this and searching online just brought up ads but no real info.

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13 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that the primary cause of death during electric shock is not voltage, but amperage. As long as you keep amperage minimal you can increase voltage to great heights without causing death. It works by overiding signals from the brain and sending the muscles into a constant spasm, like a body wide cramps, causing instant and complete loss of body control and a lot of pain.
The voltage uses is large enough to make mass of the target irrelevant.

Cruiser's avatar

Usually Google will be a better source for questions like this. Anyway there are many models to chose from here is one that explains how they work…

lazydaisy's avatar

I won’t be helpful with specifics, all I know is that when my friend (who is a cop) demonstrated his taser, it made me glad that I don’t do things (barring being attacked) that would cause me to be tased. Yikes!

LuckyGuy's avatar

It’s not perfect but better than being shot.
“A study led by William Bozeman, of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, of nearly 1,000 persons subjected to Taser use, concluded that 99.7% of the subjects had either minor injuries, such as scrapes and bruises, or none at all; while three persons suffered injuries severe enough to need hospital admission, and two other subjects died. Their autopsy reports indicated neither death was related to the use of a Taser.” Source

mowens's avatar

They shock the shit out of you… and you feel pain.

Shuttle128's avatar

I’ll answer number 4.

Tasers use small metallic darts that are fired using a compressed air charge. When not in use, the darts are inside the gun. Not only this but the electrical circuit has a switch that is only in the on position once you have fired the taser.

davidbetterman's avatar

1. You don’t know if or when tasing a person will mean death for that person.

4. the real problem is when the lady on the street shoots herself with her taser instead of shooting her assailant.

CMaz's avatar

Always aim with what you are going to use.

Always learn to use what you are going to aim.

boffin's avatar

Q: How do tasers work?
A: Go and piss a cop off…

Jack79's avatar

@Cruiser google showed me models, but didn’t answer my questions. The FAQ in your link was more useful. So from what I understand there’s a standard voltage regardless of target size, they fire darts which have to stick on the person for the taser to work, they incapacitate the target for 30 secs (which in the case of the bank roberry would have been useless, but the cashier didn’t know) and apparently the button is easy to reach and use, but won’t fire accidentally. And they work with batteries, meaning they’re always loaded.

I think I got it now.

@Shuttle128 yes thanks, I didn’t know about the darts.

@davidbetterman apparently death is less common than I thought (even people with heart problems won’t die most of the time). I thought it was something like electroshock, like they do in hospitals when your heart stops. Or maybe it is. But I assumed the shock would be just enough to knock you down, so that if you were smaller it could kill you, and if you were bigger it wouldn’t work. Apparently size doesn’t matter.

@lazydaisy so apparently they are painful. One of those sites said they aren’t, they just make you feel weak. I’d be surprised if there’s no pain involved. After all, you’re being hit with a current.

Thanks for your answers everyone.

Luckily cops in my area don’t have tasers. They just carry Uzis instead :)

buck19delta's avatar

electricity.. electricity and peoples bodies = bad… next question.

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