We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
If you’re looking for a non-lethal form of self-protection and want a concealable weapon with considerable stopping power, you may wish to consider an electric stun gun.
A stun gun is a close-range form of self-defense and an effective long-range deterrent. The sound and sight of a powerful spark arcing across the stun gun's electrodes can be enough to discourage an attacker. If an assailant makes physical contact, applying the stun gun to any vulnerable part of his body and pressing the trigger will deliver a powerful charge capable of causing muscle spasms, intense pain, and even temporary paralysis. While these effects may only be temporary, they will also be memorable and educational.
At BestReviews, we seek the advice of experts and consider consumer feedback before publishing our shopping guides and product advice. To avoid bias, we never accept free products from manufacturers. Rather, we buy our test items off of store shelves, just as you do.
If you’re considering a stun gun for personal protection, please refer to the above product matrix for our top recommendations. If you’d like to learn more about this important purchase, here are some things to consider.
The ability to defend yourself against a would-be attacker is important. But not every method of self-defense is suitable for every person.
This brings us to stun guns. By design, they’re close-contact weapons. In many real-life situations, the attacker has already gained some kind of advantage over the victim. A stun gun owner must be able to grab the device, aim for a vulnerable spot, and hold the unit in place until the attacker collapses or submits.
The better the electrical contact between the two ends of the stun gun, the better is its stopping power.
In those few seconds, the attacker (usually) experiences severe pain and temporary paralysis. This is the reality of using an electroshock weapon against another person. Some people are not comfortable with this reality, even during times of self-defense. If you fall into this category, a stun gun may not be the right self-defense weapon for you.
Stun gun ownership requires some physical and mental preparation.
Educate yourself on which parts of the human body are most prone to a stun gun's shock. Some such areas are the neck, the chest, and the groin junction.
The human body is essentially a battery-powered machine. Electrical impulses control everything from the brain to the heart, and charged nerves perform most of the heavy lifting. When an external electrical charge invades the body, these impulses experience overload and temporarily go haywire. The result: involuntary muscle spasms and a “shorting” of the nervous system.
As the nervous system recovers from a stun gun’s electrical invasion, the recipient often remains paralyzed — albeit for just a short time. The victim uses this time to escape from the would-be attacker.
Stun guns don’t produce enough amperage to cause permanent physical damage or death. It's the extremely high voltage that causes the disruption to the nervous system, not the amperage. Stun guns are specifically designed to be high-voltage, low-circuitry devices. They’re powered by a mere nine-volt battery (or a rechargeable equivalent).
The arc of electricity between the two electrodes may look deadly, but it is static electricity, not household current. When contact is made with the attacker's skin, the current flows between the two electrodes and sparks a disruption of the nervous system. Some motivated attackers can withstand this shock, but most experience significant pain and a temporary loss of motor control.
The debilitating effect of a stun gun does not last forever. When a victim uses a stun gun on an assailant, incapacitation and escape are the ultimate goals.
A standard stun gun is rectangular in shape and approximately the same size as a TV remote or telephone handset. It should fit comfortably in large hands, but users with smaller hands may find a standard model difficult to hold. This fact is important, as most stun guns are used for close-range protection and must be held securely.
Thankfully, some manufacturers do offer stun guns with slimmer profiles for female users.
Apart from the “standard” model mentioned above, other appealing stun gun designs exist in today’s market, including the following:
What appears to be a travel-size flashlight could actually be a stun gun in disguise. The owner has the option of using the LED flashlight (in low power) for illumination purposes or a strobe feature (in high power) to disorient an attacker. The raised edges of the flashlight are actually electrodes that deliver a powerful shock when pressed against an attacker’s skin.
Some critics voice concerns about this design’s overall power, as well as the possibility of accidental discharge by others.
No matter what the myths, you cannot be electrocuted while holding or firing a stun gun. A stun gun's charge will not carry to your body even if your attacker is holding you.
Designed primarily for female users, a stun ring answers the question of concealment quite nicely. The user cups the main unit in her palm, leaving only a small probe or ring-shaped electrode array exposed. One straight punch to the attacker's skin delivers a debilitating shock.
A major drawback to this design is the need to keep the weapon in ready position at all times. It would not be effective against a surprise attack, but it could be useful when traveling through unfamiliar territory.
A stun gun disguised as a smartphone provides an inconspicuous solution for carriers who don’t want to draw attention to themselves. With this type of gun, the element of surprise is on your side. Instead of handing your expensive smartphone over to a would-be attacker, you’re actually delivering 500,000 volts of debilitating electricity to the perpetrator’s body.
One problem with decoys, unfortunately, is that they can be larger than real smartphones. This could make the decoy difficult to hold during an attack.
A stun gun may need to remain in solid contact with the attacker for several seconds before the attacker becomes fully incapacitated.
Many security professionals carry a stun baton that delivers a powerful, but not lethal, shock. The baton does not require close contact to be effective; due to its length, you can reach the assailant when he or she is further away. As such, a stun baton poses an effective alternative to a traditional stun gun.
However, ownership of a stun baton is generally limited to trained security professionals, not the general public.
One major drawback to all consumer-grade stun gun designs is the need for close contact with the attacker. The user still has to make physical contact — and hold the device in place — until the attacker is disabled.
You could buy a basic, no-frills stun gun, but experts and experienced consumers warn against the cheapest models. A cheap stun gun may not deliver enough shock to incapacitate the attacker. What’s more, the plastic housing could break, and the batteries could lose their charge too soon.
Considering the ultimate goal — personal protection — it’s better to invest in a higher-quality stun gun with features such as the following:
Some stun guns masquerade as portable flashlights. To complete the illusion, many include a real flashlight and/or LED bulbs. Others include strobe light technology. The intense flashing of a strobe light can disorient a would-be attacker long enough for the victim to escape the situation.
One major concern with any self-defense device is the possibility that the attacker could gain access to it during an assault. Better-quality stun guns address this issue with a special key or ring that renders the device useless when removed. The attacker cannot turn the tables on the victim in this scenario.
A disabling switch also reduces the chance of accidental discharge by others.
Practice firing your stun gun till you are confident of being able to use it in a threatening situation. Be aware that without practice you might actually not be able to utilise your stun gun effectively.
Many consumer-grade stun guns require a single nine-volt battery to operate. These batteries lose their potency over time. For this reason, today’s consumers are gravitating toward models with rechargeable batteries, as they require just an eight-hour charge and can hold their power for weeks.
Standard stun gun electrodes deliver a strong jolt when placed on the attacker's exposed skin. However, these electrodes don't always penetrate thick clothing. What if your attacker is wearing a leather jacket or vest?
Consumers should seek a stun gun with sharp electrodes designed for maximum penetration. After all, many victims get only one chance to strike back against their assailant. Any tactical advantage helps.
Some stun guns — especially the smartphone decoys — also include secondary points of contact in case the primary electrodes don’t work. In this case, simply grabbing the “phone” can result in a powerful shock for the bad guy.
Stun guns gain much of their stopping power from internal oscillators and capacitors. It's the same electrostatic principle as rubbing your feet on a carpet before touching a metal doorknob.
The stopping power of a stun gun is often expressed in terms of voltage. For example, an entry-level model may claim to deliver 30,000 volts while a top-end model claims to deliver millions of volts.
These numbers sound impressive, but they’re not always accurate. Few industry standards exist regarding the amount of voltage a stun gun can “claim” to produce.
There is an estimated baseline of one million volts required to immediately affect the human body. As such, consumers should avoid inexpensive models with voltage ratings below 1,000,000. But consumers must also realize that volts are not the same as amperage. A higher-end model with a 200,000,000-volt rating is not going to be lethal — just more powerful.
While higher voltage numbers are indeed a consideration, the real balancing act is between total voltage production and amperage. Consider this river analogy: voltage is the total size of the electrical “river,” but amperage represents how fast that river flows.
A stun gun needs high voltage to stimulate the nervous system but just enough amperage to deliver a proper dose. With too little amperage, the recipient wouldn’t be incapacitated at all. With too much amperage, it could cause permanent nerve damage or even death.
Remember, a stun gun does not have enough power to maim or injure an attacker; it can only incapacitate them for a little while. Your strategy with a stun gun should be to escape after shocking your assailant.
Before you buy a stun gun, it’s important to understand the legality of such a purchase.
The main legal concerns about stun gun ownership pertain to concealment and misuse. An unscrupulous owner could bring a concealed stun gun to a restricted area and harm others. A criminal could use a stun gun to incapacitate a victim during a home invasion or sexual assault. Stun gun regulations aren’t as clearly defined as those for lethal weapons such as handguns and semi-automatic rifles. Travel restrictions also apply to many forms of stun guns, so owners need to be aware of their limitations.
Q: Could I receive a shock if my attacker touches me during stun gun deployment?
A: No, the electrical current only flows between the stun gun's electrodes and the attacker's body. It does not travel to anyone who makes incidental contact with that person.
Q: Can I travel on an airplane with a stun gun?
A: Every airline has its own rules and regulation concerning potential weapons. In general, you can store a stun gun in your checked baggage but not in a carry-on.
Q: Can a motivated attacker withstand a stun gun deployment and continue the attack?
A: Most people who receive a jolt of 7,500,000 volts won’t have the muscle strength or mental focus to keep fighting. A quality stun gun can bring down a 450-pound wrestler. However, if the attacker doesn't receive a full shock, he or she could possibly remain a threat. This is why training with a stun gun is so important.
Q: Can I use a stun gun against a wild animal?
A: Yes, you could use a stun gun to fend off an animal attack, but keep in mind that physical contact with the target is essential. Other self-defense methods (like pepper spray) may be more effective from a distance than a stun gun.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.