Stun Gun Voltage: One of the Biggest, Most Dangerous Myths in Personal Safety

If you've ever shopped around for stun guns, you've seen plenty of extremely high voltage claims - possibly up to 100 million volts. These astronomical figures sound impressive - but the truth is, when it comes to stun guns, claims like these are not only wildly misleading, but also physically impossible. In fact, 30,000 is the maximum voltage that could jump across stun gun contacts spaced one centimeter apart. Any larger voltage claim violates the laws of physics.

So, how can companies get away with these claims?

There are no official, publicly available design or technical standards in the stun gun industry, nor is there any government regulation. Unfortunately, there are some companies that take advantage of the lack of accountability.

So, it’s up to you to take charge of your safety and get the truth about the products you entrust with your life. Keep reading to learn...

    • More about the voltage myth
    • What really makes a stun gun effective
    • How to choose the right stun gun
    • And how to use your product to maximize your safety
The Popular - And Dangerous - Stun Gun Myth

THE POPULAR - AND DANGEROUS - STUN GUN MYTH

MYTH: Voltage indicates stun gun strength.

FACT: What indicates strength is microcoulombs, which measure charge (current x time).

Let's think of electricity as a water pipe to understand the relationship between voltage, current and charge.

TERM
DEFINITION
ANALOGY
Current A flow of electricity.1

Measured in amps (A).
Water in the pipe
Voltage The force of an electrical current.2

Measured in volts (V).
Water pressure
Charge An amount of electricity.3 

Measured in coulombs (Q) or microcoulombs (uC).

1Q = 1A x 1 sec
Quantity of water that has flowed through the pipe

 

1 Merriam-Webster
2 Merriam-Webster
3 Merriam-Webster

The water pipe analogy is widely used in the industry, including by the National Institute of Justice.

stun gun myth 6

Think about a water pipe in your home. You can set the water pressure (voltage) to the highest setting possible, but this doesn’t do anything for you if there’s no water in the pipe (current), which carries the quantity of water (charge).

Even if you set the water pressure (voltage) to high, you can't get wet if you don't have any water (current). The greater the quantity of that water (charge), the wetter you get (more pain you feel). 

Voltage in review

Simply put, voltage may ‘open the door’ for charge to pass through, but it doesn’t cause any pain on its own. If it’s not coupled with significant charge, it won’t hurt.

Current alone can hurt you whereas voltage alone cannot, sums up the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Remember that there’s no current without charge. Think of our analogy. The charge is analogous to the amount of water; you can have a still body of water. However, you can't have a current if there's nothing for it to carry. The amount of charge, or pain felt, is analogous to how wet you get. With a greater current, you can carry more charge in a given period of time.

The pervasiveness of the voltage myth allows companies to make unfounded and astronomical claims. You can't afford to fall victim to their tricks. Keep reading!

Take, for instance, the numbers Prison Legal News refers to in their report.

MODEL2
ADVERTISED VOLTAGE
ACTUAL PEAK VOLTAGE
AIR TASERTM 50,000 V 50,000 V
O-mega SS 120,000 V 16,400 V
Nova Spirit 20,000 V 24,900 V
STN-160 160,000 V 28,700 V
SK Thunder Power 120,000 V 25,000 V
SK Thunder 945SP 65,000 V 23,000 V
SK Sigma-7 Model C 45,000 V 20,700 V
Super Thunder 75,000 V 19,600 V
Z-Force-Ultra 150,000 V 25,200 V
Z-Force III 100,000 V 29,700 V
Z-Force I 80,000 V 20,400 V
STG-1 50-100,000 V 11,000 V


Peak voltage 
describes the highest/greatest voltage in a series of pulses

We need to take the electrical resistance of human flesh into account.

Even when stun gun packaging doesn’t lie about voltage, it’s still misleading. This is because it refers to the open circuit voltage, which doesn’t take resistance into account.
Take, for example, the TASER® voltages noted above. 

How does resistance work?

So, voltage advertised should take resistance into account. In our testing below, we tested all stun guns against 600 ohms of resistance.

This figure is a good estimate of typical resistance, although “there are a lot of factors involved and not every person has the same electrical resistance, as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explains. “For instance, men tend to have lower resistance than women. [...] a rough value for the internal resistance of the human body is 300-1,000 ohms.

Mike W. Kroll, who sits on the board of TASER® International, Inc., also notes that human flesh “in worst conditions offers around 400 ohms of resistance.”
So, if a stun gun is effective (or, emits significant charge) against 600 ohms of resistance, that’s a good indicator it would induce pain on a human.

How strong does a stun gun need to be to cause pain?

For the purposes of our testing, we can consider anything over 0.5 µC likely to cause pain.


"1 µC is 'reasonable for the hand of a male subject using small electrodes,'" explained Rassettica. This threshold is consistent with results published in the Testimony of J. Patrick Reilly of John Hopkins Institute of Applied Physics to Brainwood Commission.

The National Institute of Justice has also confirmed that "subjects reported pain on average at 0.5 microcoulombs, and intolerable pain at 1.0 microcoulombs."

How strong does a stun gun need to be to cause pain?

So, how strong are the stun guns on the market today?

We got the facts with Rassettica.

SABRE takes safety and product development extremely seriously, so we teamed up with Rassettica Testing Limited, North America’s leading independent conducted energy weapon (CEW) testing company. 


Who is Rassettica Testing Limited?

  • A leading group of engineers studying biomedical effects of electricity on the human body 

  • Performance testing TASER® for many police forces

  • Forensic examinations of stun guns 

  • Prototype evaluation of new weapons

Rassettica helped us uncover an unfortunate truth about the stun gun industry: Consumers have been misled, and it’s all too easy for companies to take advantage of this. The most important takeaways from our testing is that voltage 1) does not indicate stun gun strengthand 2) is commonly overstated, providing a false sense of security while propping up a dangerous myth. 

Keep reading to find out what else we learned! 

Stun Gun Strength Testing Purpose and Procedures 

The Rassettica test procedure in this section describes the methods, equipment and personnel used to develop a relative characterization of the electrical charge characteristics of stun guns, with particular emphasis on charge (µC) delivered by the stun gun. 

  1. During the signal acquisition, the stun gun is fired for up to 7 seconds into a resistive load (600 ohms) which approximates the resistance of a major body muscle.
  2. The stun gun is usually energized by two switches. 
  3. The first switch, usually a slider switch, arms the circuitry and the second switch, usually a push button switch just above the arming switch, triggers the electrical discharge.
  4. The stun gun is held on the non-conductive pad so that the contacts touch the metal contacts which transmit the electricity to the resistive load.
  5. The measuring instrument (oscilloscope) is triggered to open a 7-second window of signal acquisition.
  6. The push button trigger is depressed so that approximately 5 seconds of discharge are captured by the measuring instrument.
  7. It will be noted that good contact with the contacts on the contact pad will not produce any or very little arcing sound. An absence of audible sound and no visible arc means that all the discharged energy is flowing to the resistive load for measurement and recording. This is the desired result. Poor contact with the contact pad or discharge in open air will produce a loud snapping sound and visible arc; this is not a desirable result.
  8. The measuring instrument ceases capturing signal (either automatically or manually). 
  9. After the measuring instrument has recorded an interval of signal capture, the raw data file is saved with date/time stamp, make and model and serial number of the stun gun. 
  10. A second and third discharge from the stun gun is taken following the above steps. 

Read the entire 'A Simple Field Test Procedure for Stun Guns' document from Rassettica Testing Limited (May 2016). 

Level III stun guns: 1 µC or greater

According to the National Institute of Justice, stun guns that emit 1 µC or more produce ‘unbearable pain’ (when used on most sober, emotionally stable people). 

SABRE STUN GUN PRODUCT SKU MICROCOULOMBS (µC)
SABRE Maximum Strength Stun Gun with LED Flashlight
(Industry's Highest Pain-Inducing Stun Gun)
S-2000SF 1.820
SABRE Dual Capacitor Stun Gun with LED Flashlight S-1005 1.600
SABRE Ergonomic Stun Gun with Stop Strap S-1008 1.480
SABRE Slim Stun Gun with LED Flashlight S-1001 1.170
SABRE Tactical Stun Gun with LED Flashlight S-1000SF 1.139

 

Level II stun guns: 0.5-1 µC  

According to the National Institute of Justice, stun guns that emit 0.5 µC or more produce pain (when used on most sober, emotionally stable people).  

SABRE STUN GUN PRODUCT SKU MICROCOULOMBS (µC)
SABRE Concealable Stun Gun with LED Flashlight          S-1006 0.845
SABRE Short Stun Gun with LED Flashlight S-1007 0.704
Ruger Tactical Stun Gun with LED Flashlight RU-S-J-185 0.515

 

 

Level I stun guns: less than 0.5 µC  

Level I stun guns can be counted upon to produce an intimidating sound and spark. However, they should not be your sole self-defense tool – just in case your attacker is not intimidated. SABRE does not currently manufacture any stun guns that fall into this category.  


Stun Gun Products