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How do Taser Guns Work

How do Taser Guns Work

Taser guns are weapons that are used by police forces to paralyze an uncooperative and violent crime suspect, temporarily. In this article, how it affects the human body.
Suganya Sukumar
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Taser (Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle) is a less-lethal electroshock weapon which is used by law enforcement officers to in-capitulate criminals. Taser is the brand name of the manufacturer while the generic term used for this weapon is the stun gun. In a typical pistol, a bullet is propelled from inside the gun and is fired at a distant object. But what happens in a Taser gun is that needle-tipped electric darts are shot from the weapon onto a target. This type of device is used by security forces to disable a suspect, by sending electrical charges into his/her skin.

Mechanism of a Taser Gun
This device is one of the most marvelous engineering designs that was designed with the human psych in mind. It works under the control of a microprocessor and is powered by a lithium battery. Inside the gun, there are two electrodes that are attached to long insulated conducting wires (usually copper wires), which carry electric pulses. The wires are part of the electric circuit, from where the electric current is generated. We know that a gun shoots after its trigger is pulled. In the same way, when the trigger of the Taser gun is pulled, the compressed gas (nitrogen) which is contained in a cartridge expands, and thereby builds pressure behind the electrodes and pushes it outward. Two small barbs which are attached to the electrodes, are propelled out with force due to the pressure of the compressed gas, enable it to pierce through the surface (skin) of the target. The barbs thus allow the electric pulses from the wires to flow inside the human body. This is called electro-muscular disruption technology. Its trigger is pulled for 5 seconds continuously, aiming at the target. The Laser light guides the person shooting the weapon aim exactly at target.

How Does a Taser Gun Control the Human Body
A peak voltage of 50 kV (50,000 volts) is generated inside the gun, however, it delivers lesser power because of some resistance that is offered by the target medium. When a circuit that produces electrical signals (Taser waves or T-waves) is established, a series of pulses 100 micro-seconds wide are generated inside the gun. The gun generates 19 such pulses per second. By making a simple calculation using these parameters, we can get the average current emitted from the Taser gun, which is 1.9 milliamperes.

The electrical signals from a Taser gun affect the human body by exploiting its skeletal and heart muscles.

Heart Muscles: The heart muscles are made up of interconnected fibers, which are made up of cells. The cell-to-cell resistance is very low and any electrical impulse that strikes a cell can quickly pass to the other cell in very little time. The conduction tissue of the heart is designed to enable smooth functioning of the four chambers of the heart. When a jolt of current at the right frequency hits the heart, a situation known as ventricular fibrillation (uncoordinated contraction of the ventricles of the heart) is created in the heart.

Skeletal Muscles: When a human brain orders a muscle tissue to contract, an electrical impulse travels down through the motor nerve and terminates at the middle of a muscle fiber. Here, the Taser pulses exploit the skeletal muscle fibers by directly jolting the motor nerves with electricity. The electrical signal from the Taser is converted into acetylcholine and binds with gated-ion channels when it comes in contact with the muscle fibers. The receptors (gated-ion channels) open up, allowing the sodium ions from the surrounding salty fluids to flow into the muscle. We know that movement of electric ions produce voltage. Likewise, this movement of sodium ions into the cells of the muscles, increases the inner cell voltage and also triggers the nearby ion-channels. Thus, a wave of voltage runs between the ends of the muscles which make them contract.

The pulses that are emitted from the Taser are designed considering the chronaxie (minimum time required to cause stimulation of a muscle fiber or nerve cell) of the heart and the skeletal muscles. The electric current (1.9 mA) from the Taser gun is far below the danger zone of a healthy human body. It can shoot a target which is up to 35 feet away. For civilians the cartridge design is limited to 15 feet. The X12, C2 (civilian model), and the M26 and X26 (police models) are some of the models. These guns are expensive and are still a heavily debated topic.