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The Safety of Stun Guns, Tasers, and the Byrna HD

When you search for “self-defense weapons” or “self-defense tools”, things such as pepper sprays, knives, batons, stun guns, etc. show up first. They are items primarily for the general public, and most are classified as non-lethal. This is simply the marketplace showing that the average person will be looking for easy-to-access and own devices, which by and large, will be in the “non-lethal” category.

Of the various options, pepper spray and stun guns (and tasers), probably are the most well-known and commonly owned. Stun guns are generally the same in the way they operate, with some engineering design differences. Pepper spray products generally come in a variety of spray-type devices for deployment. We should note here that when we refer to “pepper spray”, we are including standard capsicum-based compounds as well as combination compounds and mixtures using similar type chemical irritants.

So, between pepper spray products and taser products, which is the better choice? There is no singular, objective answer to that – it depends on the user, their needs and their situation. However, there are some things to take into account regarding both.

A recent account (April 2020) was published about man who died after being tasered by police in the U.K. He was 30 years old, with a history of mental and substance abuse issues. In subduing him, the police used a taser on him three times for a duration of approximately 40 seconds, causing cardiac arrest.

Because stun guns (and tasers) are generally considered “non-lethal”, as is pepper spray, it is worth taking a look at the risks of both, in possibly resulting in a lethal outcome when used. Data on the use of tasers or pepper spray that resulted in death is somewhat limited. Reports from police incidents are the primary sources of statistics, with some data also available through the Department of Justice.

That said, the data from police usage suggests that tasers do have a substantially higher risk of causing death than pepper spray. Since 2000, there have been over 1000 deaths in the U.S. where tasers were involved in police incidents. By contrast, a National Institute of Justice study cited that in 63 lethal incidents involving the use of pepper spray, only two could be attributed to the actual compounds in the spray. The rest involved other risk factors. In fairness, many taser related lethal incidents also involved other risk factors: i.e. health and condition of the individual, mental health issues, drugs and alcohol, and escalating restraint requirements.

What does this mean for you, the average citizen, looking to stay safe? Overall, we can say that a pepper spray product is more likely to support a non-lethal self-defense objective. But let’s looks beyond that, at the pros and cons of  both.

In a threatening situation, one of the primary objectives is to keep, and get, as far away as possible. Tasers and stun guns require you to be in closer proximity to the threat than you probably want to be. Most pepper spray devices do also, increasing the possibility that you may also be affected by the spray. This is where the Byrna HD gives a unique advantage of being able to use a powerful irritant at a safe distance – up to sixty feet away, or about three times the range of a stun guns (and tasers).

Sixty feet is a critical safety zone. For example, in parking lot it gives you time to get to your car, lock the door, and drive away. At home it gives you time to leave the premises, seek safe haven at a neighbors, or call 911. That is real safety.

While stun guns and tasers do deliver a powerful jolt, it is an intense but short-lived pain – about five seconds, give or take. This means that the attacker can possibly recover, and that means you may have to taser them again. Repeated tasering not only increases your risk of being in close proximity to them, but can also increase the risk of turning the situation into a lethal one. This is precisely what happened in the U.K. There is no way of knowing how much tasering an individual can take before it becomes life threatening.

Pepper spray products, including the Byrna HD, on the other hand, create prolonged discomfort and incapacitation – a severe, burning sensation that can last up to four hours or more. Yet it generally leaves no lasting effects, and lessens your risk of dealing with a lethal situation.

What self-defense tools you choose to defend, protect and empower yourself with should be based on your lifestyle, living situation, physical abilities and comfort level with using them. It’s worth having a variety of things at your disposal. For effectiveness, and ease of ownership and use, the Byrna HD should definitely be one of them.