How Stun Guns Work
Introduction To How Stun Guns Work
On the old “Star Trek” series, Captain Kirk and his crew never left the ship without their trusty phasers. One of the coolest things about these weapons was the “stun” setting. Unless things were completely out of control (as they frequently were), the Enterprise crew always stunned their adversaries, rendering them temporarily unconscious, rather than killing them.
We’re still a ways off from this futuristic weaponry, but millions of police officers, soldiers and ordinary citizens do carry real-life stun weapons to protect against personal attacks. Like the fictional phasers of “Star Trek,” these devices are designed to temporarily incapacitate a person without doing any long-term damage.
In this article, we’ll find out how stun guns and Taser guns pull off this remarkable feat. While these weapons are by no means infallible, they can save lives in certain situations.
The Body’s Electrical System
We tend to think of electricity as a harmful force to our bodies. If lightning strikes you or you stick your finger in an electrical outlet, the current can maim or even kill you. But in smaller doses, electricity is harmless. In fact, it is one of the most essential elements in your body. You need electricity to do just about anything.
When you want to make a sandwich, for example, your brain sends electricity down a nerve cell, toward the muscles in your arm. The electrical signal tells the nerve cell to release a neurotransmitter, a communication chemical, to the muscle cells. This tells the muscles to contract or expand in just the right way to put your sandwich together. When you pick up the sandwich, the sensitive nerve cells in your hand send an electrical message to the brain, telling you what the sandwich feels like. When you bite into it, your mouth sends signals to your brain to tell you how it tastes.
In this way, the different parts of your body use electricity to communicate with one another. This is actually a lot like a telephone system or the Internet. Specific patterns of electricity are transmitted over lines to deliver recognizable messages.
Disrupting The System
The basic idea of a stun gun is to disrupt this communication system. Stun guns generate a high-voltage, low-amperage electrical charge. In simple terms, this means that the charge has a lot of pressure behind it, but not that much intensity. When you press the stun guns against an attacker and hold the trigger, the charge passes into the attacker’s body. Since it has a fairly high voltage, the charge will pass through heavy clothing and skin. But at around 3 milliamps, the charge is not intense enough to damage the attacker’s body unless it is applied for extended periods of time.
It does dump a lot of confusing information into the attacker’s nervous system, however. This causes a couple of things to happen:
-The charge combines with the electrical signals from the attacker’s brain. This is like running an outside current into a phone line: The original signal is mixed in with random noise, making it very difficult to decipher any messages. When these lines of communication go down, the attacker has a very hard time telling his muscles to move, and he may become confused and unbalanced. He is partially paralyzed, temporarily.
-The current may be generated with a pulse frequency that mimics the body’s own electrical signals. In this case, the current will tell the attacker’s muscles to do a great deal of work in a short amount of time. But the signal doesn’t direct the work toward any particular movement. The work doesn’t do anything but deplete the attacker’s energy reserves, leaving him too weak to move (ideally).
At its most basic, this is all there is to incapacitating a person with a stun gun — you apply electricity to a person’s muscles and nerves. And since there are muscles and nerves all over the body, it doesn’t particularly matter where you hit an attacker.
Stun-gun effectiveness varies depending on the particular gun model, the attacker’s body size and his determination. It also depends on how long you keep the gun on the attacker. If you use the gun for half a second, a painful jolt will startle the attacker. If you zap him for one or two seconds, he should experience muscle spasms and become dazed. And if you zap him for more than three seconds, he will become unbalanced and disoriented and may lose muscle control. Determined attackers with a certain physiology may keep coming despite any shock.
In the next section, we’ll look at the main types of stun guns and see how they dump this charge into a person’s body.
Standard Stun Guns
Conventional stun guns have a fairly simple design. They are about the size of a flashlight, and they work on ordinary 9-volt batteries.
The batteries supply electricity to a circuit consisting of various electrical components. The circuitry includes multiple transformers, components that boost the voltage in the circuit, typically to between 20,000 and 150,000 volts, and reduce the amperage. It also includes a oscillator, a component that fluctuates current to produce a specific pulse pattern of electricity. This current charges a capacitor. The capacitor builds up a charge, and releases it to the electrodes, the “business end” of the circuit.
The electrodes are simply two plates of conducting metal positioned in the circuit with a gap between them. Since the electrodes are positioned along the circuit, they have a high voltage difference between them. If you fill this gap with a conductor (say, the attacker’s body), the electrical pulses will try to move from one electrode the other, dumping electricity into the attacker’s nervous system.
Cattle prods are similar to stun guns in design — they apply an electrical current across two electrodes — but they serve a completely different function. A stun gun uses an electrical charge to incapacitate someone, while a cattle prod applies a charge to get a person or animal moving. A cattle prod only causes pain, it does not significantly affect the muscles and nervous system of the body. These two devices differ mainly in voltage. The voltage in a stun gun is high enough to dump electricity into the entire body. The lower voltage in a cattle prod only shocks someone at the point of contact.
These days, most stun-gun models have two pairs of electrodes: an inner pair and an outer pair. The outer pair, the charge electrodes, are spaced a good distance apart, so current will only flow if you insert an outside conductor. If the current can’t flow across these electrodes, it flows to the inner pair, the test electrodes. These electrodes are close enough that the electric current can leap between them. The moving current ionizes the air particles in the gap, producing a visible spark and crackling noise. This display is mainly intended as a deterrent: An attacker sees and hears the electricity and knows you’re armed. Some stun guns rely on the element of surprise, rather than warning. These models are disguised as umbrellas, flashlights or other everyday objects so you can catch an attacker off guard.
These sorts of stun guns are popular with ordinary citizens because they are small, easy-to-use, and legal in most areas. Police and military forces, on the other hand, typically use more complex stun-gun designs, with larger ranges. In the next couple of sections, we’ll look at some of these sophisticated stun guns.
Harris, Tom. “How Stun Guns Work” 29 August 2001. HowStuffWorks.com. 28 August 2010.
Do Stun Guns Really Work?
Stun guns are normally an electroshock weapon which are able to temporarily disable a would be assailant or attacker using electric shock. There are some stun guns which when used the user will need to be close to their attacker in order for them to be effective and there are others which can be used from a distance. However, when ever using a stun gun a person will need to make sure that it makes contact with the other person’s body.
During the last few years stun guns have become one of the most popular types of self defense weapons that are available for use by the public and which are non lethal to some people. Unfortunately there have been cases where people have died after being shocked with a stun gun but in most cases this is due to the person having some underlying health problem.
Stun guns use a high voltage electric shock in order to stop any attack and just by touching someone with the prongs on it will quickly immobilize them. Yet as stun guns only use a very low amperage in most cases they cause no serious or permanent injury to the person who has been immobilized with one. Generally someone who has been touched with a stun gun when it has been activated will be immobilized for several minutes and are considered to be a reasonable force that a person can use in order to prevent an attack from happening.
When looking to purchase a stun gun you will find that there are many different sizes of stun guns as well as many different voltages that you can choose from. But generally the higher the voltage on it the quicker the full effect of the device will be felt by the would be assailant. Although lower voltage models are just as effective as the higher voltage ones they just take a few seconds longer for them to provide the full effect on the would be assailant. So if you are looking for something that really is effective and will work quickly for you then look at purchasing one which has a higher voltage to it.
Certainly most stun guns will only deliver between 1 and 2 milliamps of power when activated, whereas 1 amp of power would actually kill someone. So as you can see that these use an amperage which is well below that which could do any lasting damage to a person. However, there are plenty of other stun guns on the market which provide between 3 and 4 milliamps of power which makes them much more effective.
Finally the best thing with regard to stun guns is their life span. They could be used as many times as they are needed before either the battery needs replacing or recharging.
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