Taser vs. Stun Gun: What’s The Difference?

by Tim Chesonis | Last Updated:  July 13, 2019

I’ve heard people use the terms “Taser” and “Stun Gun” interchangeably, and there seems to be a lot of confusion between the two. So what is the difference between a taser and a stun gun

A “stun gun” is a hand held device that requires direct contact with the skin to ward off an assailant. A “taser”, on the other hand, looks like a gun. It shoots darts connected to the taser by wires that provide a consistent electric current for up to 30 seconds which will completely incapacitate the assailant.

In this article, we will talk about the difference between a Taser and a Stun Gun,, the advantages of each, and by the end of this article you will be able to determine which one will work best for your needs. Before we get started, let’s show the difference between the two right up front.

What is the Difference Between a Taser and a Stun Gun?

A Taser will completely incapacitate an assailant, while a “stun gun” requires direct contact with the skin of the assailant.

Before answering this question, we need to draw a distinction between “Stun Guns” and “Tasers”. As mentioned, a Taser will completely incapacitate an assailant from up to 15 feet away, while a “stun gun” requires direct contact with the skin of the assailant.

In fact, a “stun gun” is really not what you think of when you use the word “gun”. A “stun gun” does not shoot anything, it just stuns the attacker if you can apply the “stun gun” directly to the attacker’s skin.

The taser actually shoots darts from the device into the skin and affects the sensory and motor functions of the nervous system and completely temporarily paralyzes muscle control. In other words, if you are hit with a taser, you are going to drop immediately and be completely incapacitated for up to 30 seconds, at which time, you could send another jolt of electricity into the assailant by simply pulling the trigger once again, but this time, the electricity would simply travel through the wires that are already connected to the body of the assailant.


The advantage of the taser over the stun gun, is that the taser continues to send the electric current to the assailant during those 30 seconds without you ever having the touch the attacker or come close to him.


The stun gun, however, requires that you maintain contact with the skin of the attacker. The taser is much more safe to use, because it allows you to keep your distance from the attacker, and it will have a far greater impact as well.

A Brief History

Before the stun gun was invented, police would use cattle prods to break up riots and civil unrest, particularly in the 1960’s where there was also a rise in airplane hijackings.

Jack Cover, the father of the Taser, saw an opportunity to help law enforcement by inventing a non-lethal weapon that Police could use to immobilize an individual without the need for lethal force, like that of a traditional firearm.

This weapon came to be known as the “Taser”, named after one of his childhood heroes, Tom Swift, in a book entitled, “Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle” (T.S.E.R.), as seen below.

As noted, in a time where plane hijackings were increasing in number, and the risk of using a firearm where a bullet might breach the hull of the plane itself, Jack Cover is quoted as having said, ” “Let me figure out something better than shooting people that might crash the plane.”

With a background as a nuclear physicist, he applied what he knew and “came up a device that looked something like a flashlight but fired darts that delivered an electrical charge. The darts could hit a target up to 15 feet away“. (source)

In 1974, an inventor by the name of Jack Cover is credited for having developed the first Taser as we know it today. However, because it involved gunpowder to fire the projectiles that came out of it, the government classified it as a “Firearm”.

It wasn’t until 1993 that it was available to the public and the “firearm” classification was removed because it was re-designed to function with compressed air instead as the propellant instead of gunpowder.

Today, the TASER is used by police, government and security agencies in at least 45 countries. Moreover, over 180,000 Tasers have been sold to private citizens for personal protection.

How Does A Taser Work?

A taser has one cartridge that allows you to fire two small dart-like electrodes with one shot, which stay connected to gun-like device you shoot from. These two penetrating darts are propelled by small compressed nitrogen containers that reside within the “cartridge”. Once the two dart-like electrodes penetrate skin of the attacker, they almost certainly will drop to the ground and won’t be able to move much, if at all.

When you fire a taser an an assailant, ideally, you want to shoot at waist level, so that one dart penetrates above the belt, and one below the belt. If shooting at a man, this will be most effective, as anything remotely close to the groin is going to have maximum impact.

Shooting at any limbs will have less impact. For example, if you shoot at the arm, the arm muscles will contact, but that may not be enough to drop the individual. If you target an area, like the stomach, or back, the muscles will contact so much so, that the recipient won’t be able to move.

When shot, the neuro-muscular incapacitation (NMI) – temporarily overrides an attacker’s central nervous system, and can limit the ability to control any muscles for up to 30 seconds.

In another article I wrote, entitled, “Can Taser Cartridges be Reused“, I shared just how effective tasers can be. In fact, after having shot someone with a taser, technically, you could call the police and keep them subdued until they arrive.

One shot with a Taser can deliver up to 25 minutes of concurrent electricity into the assailant.

Technically, a taser only offers one shot. You can set a taser to function for 5 seconds or 30 seconds. The default settings is set to 5 seconds, (unless you change it before using it).

If you have it set to 30 seconds, and you hit your target, the assailant will receive 30 seconds of electrical current. At the end of those 30 seconds, (after the you stop hearing the electricity transfer into their body), if you pull the trigger again (assuming that the electrodes are still embedded in the body of the assailant), they will receive another 30 seconds of electricity. This can repeated 50 times before the battery in the taser dies. That means that technically, you could deliver another 50,000 volts of electricity into the assailant every 30 seconds for 25 minutes. After the first 30 seconds, they will be begging for mercy.

How Does A Stun Gun Work?

Remember, the stun gun is the device that only works when you make direct contact with the perpetrator. It is designed to attack the central nervous system directly. It causes the muscles to pulsate at such a high frequency that it is not possible to control. The one who receives the high voltage from a stun gun will be left disoriented, confused, and off balance for several minutes, but there is no significant impact to the heart. In other words, a stun gun will prevent an attacker from following through with any threat, leaving them dazed and perhaps confused, which should be enough time to break free and get away.

How Long Do You Have To Hold the Stun Gun on the Perpetrator?

Below you will find what happens to the body if a stun gun is used.

What Happens If I Am Standing In Water?

One great thing about using a stun gun, is that you CAN use it in the rain, or even if you find yourself standing in water. Because the current is local, the current will not transfer to you even if you are touching the perpetrator with your other hand.

3 Stun Gun Recommendations

If you decide to purchase a stun gun, I would recommend that you choose one of the following below. Each stun gun is different than the other, and would be used by people with different needs.

  1. Vipertek VTS-989 Heavy Duty Stun Gun
    This is probably the most powerful (legal) stun gun available to the public. It has a built-in flashlight as well, allowing you to shine the light at the perpetrator which pressing the stun gun button in an attempt to scare off the assailant.

    This non-slip rubber coating device is 6.5 inches long, 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. One thing I like about this unit is that it has built-in shock plates on the side of the unit that will deliver a high voltage shock. It also has very sharp spike-like electrodes that help penetrate thick clothing. To top it off, it has an internal rechargeable battery, and is relatively inexpensive at $21.95.
  2. VIPERTEK VTS-979
    This PINK stun gun also can serve as a flashlight. Like it or not, some people, (particularly women), will not carry a taser unless it’s “cute”. I have a family member that thinks this way. This particular stun gun is only 5 inches long, 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick.

    This stun gun offers a non-slip rubber coating comes with an internal rechargeable battery that you can simply plug into a wall-socket to charge up, which means that there is no need to purchase expensive batteries.
  3. Vipertek VTS-880 – 30 Billion Mini Stun Gun – Rechargeable
    This stun gun is also available in the following colors: Blue or Pink, not just in the masculine black color. It offers the following features:
    – Powerful Mini Stun Gun With LED Flashlight
    – Compact Size, Conceals Easily (2″ x 7/8″ x 4″)
    – Slips easily into a pocket or purse
    – Internal Rechargeable Battery – No expensive batteries to buy
    – Non-Slip Rubber Coating
    – Lifetime Warranty
  4. Police 305 Max Voltage Stun Gun
    This 7.5″ flashlight is actually a combination of a very powerful stun gun disguised as a powerful bright led flashlight. The flashlight has up to 200 lumens, and is made up of durable lightweight plastic, making it easy to carry.

    This flashlight comes with a safety cap so the stun gun is safe from accidental discharge. One great thing about this is that it has a rechargeable battery.

3 Taser Recommendations

There are basically two very popular “Tasers” available on the market. The one is really designed to be seen, while the other is designed for concealed carry. Let’s take a look at both of these products below. If you would like more information on each product, I’ve provided the direct link to each so you can see what others had to say about each product, (Amazon product review).

  1. TASER X26C
    In my opinion, this is extremely large, and really, is only carried by the police and security at large venues. It is also very expensive at $786, and comes in black with yellow accents, or an obnoxious yellow with black accents. Again, one who carries this wants everyone to know that they are carrying this in the hope of preventing any misconduct at a major venue like a sporting event, or concert.

    It will shoot taser electrodes out at a distance of up to 15 feet and will drop whoever it hits regardless of their size or mental state. It is powerful and effective, but not very practical to carry unless you work for Security.
  2. TASER Pulse
    Compared to the Taser X26C, this taser is just awesome. It’s light, inconspicuous and affordable. It has laser assisted targeting, meaning that you know exactly where the electrodes will hit once you pull the trigger. It also has a powerful LED flashlight giving you targets are hard to miss.

    Like other tasers, it also has a 15-foot shooting range, giving you plenty of space between you and the assailant. No need to wait for them to get super close before you shoot them with the pair of electrodes that dart out at them.

    They even went so far as to shave the sites to ensure that it won’t snag on your clothing when carrying it. It can’t be overstated just how nice of a feature this is. Tasers (or guns for that matter), that have square sharp points to them make it uncomfortable to carry in your belt, because you will find that it catches on your clothes when you stand up, etc.

    You can get cartridges for this taser for about $30 on Amazon, ($60 for a pair). It sounds expensive, but you will be VERY glad you spent that $30 should ever find yourself in a situation where you need to use it.

    I also like that it has a color coded battery status indicator light to let you know just how much battery juice you have left. As one who suffers(?) from “nomophobia” (the fear of running out of battery juice on anything from my cell phone, iPad, laptop or taser), this puts a smile on my face 🙂

Honorable Mention
There is one honorable mention that I think is worth mentioning that I think you might like to know about. They are as follows:

  1. Guard Dog Diablo Tactical Stun Gun Flashlight – Rechargeable
    One great thing about this stun gun, is that it’s very easy to conceal, even in plain site. People won’t know that your flashlight is really a stun gun. You can literally walk down the street at night completely ready to use it with the press of a button. Because it serves as a flashlight, you don’t need to pull it out of a purse, pocket, or bag in order to use it.

    The flashlight / stun gun offers an ultra-bright 160 lumen bulb that will last more than 100,000 hours. It also offers a safety switch that prevents accidental discharge , and did I mention that it has a rechargeable battery? Gotta love it.

Which is Better, a Taser or a Stun Gun . . . or Perhaps Something Else?

As a husband and a father, if I had to choose between the a taser or a stun gun, I would want my wife and my adult daughter to carry a taser over a stun gun. Why? Because the taser can be utilized without direct contact with the perpetrator. The last thing I want, is for my wife or daughter to have to be in direct contact with an attacker before they could begin to protect themselves.

In writing this article, my objective is to provide you with information that will help you determine the best solution for your personal security, (or that of a loved one). As such, I am going to make a recommendation that might surprise you.

If you like the idea of being able to address the attacker before they make physical contact with you, or if you find that a taser is just too expensive for your budget, you may want to consider purchasing a pepper spray gun. Yes, . . . I said, “pepper spray“.

If you have not already read the article I have written, entitled, “Is Pepper Spray Good for Self Defense?“, I encourage you to do so. In it, I recommend a the “Kimber PepperBlaster 2”, and wrote the following:

This small pepper blaster will shoot 2 separate shots of 4 million scoville heat units at 90 mph at a distance of up to 15 feet. When dispensed, it shoots out a “puff” of smoke, (not a stream), the ideal shot should be dispensed anywhere from 8 – 13 feet for maximum effectiveness.

There is more than one way to protect yourself. Remember, the only effective method of protecting yourself is the method that is used.

If you want to pursue this option, you can pick up the Kimber PepperBlaster 2 which is relatively inexpensive at Amazon.com for about $35. You can buy in bulk or purchase other accessories for this small compact device from Amazon as well.

Of course, pepper spray offers other methods of disbursement in a variety of canisters for you to choose from as well. If you purchase a taser or stun gun for your loved one, and they don’t use it because they are are afraid to use it, getting it for them is pointless because it won’t be used.

For maximum protection, carry a taser AND pepper spray. If you miss with one device, you’ll have a backup plan, and that’s always wise.

What is the Best Solution for You?

Everybody has different needs, and fortunately, you have plenty of options. I’m not trying to sell you on any one product, or even on one idea. I am, however, trying to get you to think through what option might serve your needs best.

It’s never a good idea to marry a product. A better product may be invented that will serve you better. My hope is that this article will have opened your eyes to consider several possibilities that will serve both you and your loved ones.

Tim loves writing and helping people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective, enjoys tinkering with computers, and is a die-hard gadget guy, especially when it comes to cell phones :-) When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching Suites or Breaking Bad, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.