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You never have to regret a stun shot.
"'Set phasers to 'stun.' "

Weapons that will cause the target they hit to lose consciousness for a certain period of time. Extra points if they cause a person to be mistaken for dead by a casual observer.

Unlike real world weapons made by Taser, which work by a very powerful electric shock, many of these show no clue to how they incapacitate a target, simply acting like a nonlethal version of the Instant Death Bullet. And like the Tap on the Head often used for similar purposes, in fiction they almost never cause someone to be killed accidentally. In real life, Taser weapons have infamously caused several heart attacks, although they're still much safer than coshing or shooting someone. If they intentionally cause pain, can be an Agony Beam.

Useful when Thou Shalt Not Kill is in effect. Ideal as Family-Friendly Firearms and often part of a Non-Lethal Warfare.

Compare Instant Sedation (especially in the form of firearms firing tranquilizer darts) and Static Stun Gun for the electric-powered variant (For the last time, Real Life equivalent: the T.A.S.E.R.).

Examples of Stun Guns include:


Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • At one point (probably not any more) the Punisher carried "mercy bullets" for use on interfering superheroes and bystanders. Spider-Man was once shot at point blank range with one; considering that even a blank can kill under circumstances like that...
  • Blasters in Strontium Dog have a 'stun' setting in order to avoid harming civilians. In the "Bitch" story, Johnny ordered Red to keep her blaster set to 'stun' at all times as he was sympathetic to the Kaiak-K.
  • The Lawgiver MkII in Judge Dredd has a stun setting. However, it's notoriously unreliable and, as a result, highly unpopular among street judges.

Film

  • The Star Wars universe is rife with stungun technology:
    • Many blaster pistols in the Star Wars universe have a stun setting in addition to the kill setting (A feature commonly lacking in the FPS games). Without this, Leia wouldn't have made it through A New Hope.
    • Parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe note various side effects. The Thrawn Trilogy, where Thrawn's forces are out to capture a pregnant Leia, reveals that they can't just stun her, since it sometimes causes miscarriages. In the X Wing Series Corran Horn is stunned and is conscious but paralyzed until it wears off, unhappily remembering that this happens to him sometimes when he gets stunned. Survivor's Quest has the Aurek Seven stormtroopers checking someone they'd just stunned for heart palpitations.
    • In Allegiance, Mara Jade confronts a shady warehouse dealer who doesn't believe her when she tells him that he's not going to like the penalties for assaulting an Imperial agent. He orders his thugs to restrain her. One of them pokes her with the muzzle of his blaster just before firing; she twists around and uses the Force and some fancy moves to shoot all of the thugs, ending with the one who poked her, with that blaster, and aims it at the warehouse dealer. All very quickly.

  "Stun settings," she commented approvingly as the triple thud of falling bodies faded away. "So Pirtonna wasn't nearly as ready to play all-or-nothing with me as you are. Smart man. Means he gets to live through the night. What do you think your odds are?"

  • The already-absurd-in-many-ways Vin Diesel vehicle XXX takes this particular trope to an absurd degree, with the movie's version of Q giving Vin Diesel a gun with an assortment of incredibly expensive "specialized" ammunition with various bizarre functions, including a highly complex bullet that not only knocks out its target with a harmless tranquilizer but contains a blood-squib to create the flawless illusion of an actual shooting to any witnesses. Vin Diesel, of course, is almost immediately given the opportunity to use these in a staged assassination.
  • Since the premise is centered around law enforcement, Minority Report shows off quite a few nonlethal weapons. The closest thing they have to a stun gun is a gun that shoots a huge shockwave of air powerful enough to blow people across the room.
    • Another hilarious example is the Sick Stick. It's a nightstick that causes a person to instantly vomit. Of course, the question is, what if the person didn't eat anything?
      • He probably vomits gastric juice as in real life.
  • The Psychlo handguns in Battlefield Earth have a stun setting, which they use to capture rogue humans for their labor camps.
    • It seems like it's two weapons in one, especially since they use different barrels. The lethal mode is basically a Hand Cannon that can blow holes in a person's body. The stun mode shoots a green pulse that knocks out a target cold.
  • The wimpy police in Demolition Man use "glow rods", which somehow use electricity to render the target unconscious. John Spartan is unimpressed when he has to confront Simon Phoenix armed with one of these, but he quickly discovers what happens when you add water to the equation.
  • In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Leo Spitz uses a Taser to knock out a security guard. And then accidentally Tasers himself. Right in the nads. And he gets Tasered again during the climax in order to pacify him after having a panic attack.

Literature

  • For Star Wars examples, see Film, above.
  • Doc Savage and his "mercy bullets" may have created this trope.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space has mercy needles, slivers of anesthetic that dissolve in the bloodstream of whoever is shot with them.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, stunners are standard issue for police or anyone else who might want to be able to shoot first and ask questions later. Hangover-like symptoms are a nearly universal side-Effect, and at one point something like "we don't have to worry about heart conditions with this lot" is mentioned, implying that there is a risk of causing more severe damage than intended.
    • She also points out a problem with stunners: If they're all you've got, then you can be killed by an unarmed mob, since they won't be afraid of attacking you, and with sufficient numbers they can overwhelm you, and kick you to death. If you were carrying a lethal weapon, they wouldn't dare try it.
  • In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the Aunts wield cattle-prods.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith's Family D'Alembert series (mostly ghostwritten by Stephen Goldin after Smith's death) features a stun gun with settings from one to ten. #1 is a mild shock that will sometimes not render the finest physical specimens immediately unconscious; #3 or #4 will put you out for up to an hour; #8 will put you down for many hours, and SOME victims suffer permanent neurological impairment; #10 is uniformly lethal. Weak or infirm victims may react worse to any given setting. Preferred by law enforcement because in moments of doubt you can shoot everybody and not worry about the consequences, but it backfires on them when the bad guys start using humaniform robots, against which they are ineffective.
  • Andre Norton's science fiction stories had stunners, pistol-like devices that rendered their victims unconscious.
  • Zoe of Matthew Reilly's Six Sacred Stones uses one to incapacitate guards at Stonehenge.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, the Russian government has managed to develop one-shot paralyzers that become useless after discharging with no way to recharge the battery. Unlike the typical examples of this trope, the target remains fully conscious but is incapable of movement. It is proven to work on at least one other race. Interestingly, the paralyzer is made by a think tank specifically charged with reading/watching science fiction for ideas. Their other known invention is an Explosive Leash.

Live Action TV

  • In the 1963 Doctor Who serial "The Daleks", the Dalek's weapons are shown to have a secondary 'stun' function which is used on one of The Doctor's companions. However, it should be noted that the blast does not render him unconscious, it only temporarily paralyzes his legs.
    • In their defense, Ian was pretty stunned when they blasted him.
    • The Fourth Doctor gets knocked out by such a weapon in "The Ark in Space". "Stun guns; I hate them."
    • K9's nose blaster had a stun setting.
  • In the episode "Meat", Torchwood use stun guns against people who they don't think are dangerous. It turns out these people have guns and Ianto ends up tasering someone in the forehead, saying "Pray you survive." Indeed.
    • Also used in the episode "They Keep Killing Susie."

 Jack: "This is for Ianto! Risen Mitten, Life Knife, and that old classic...Stun Gun!"

  • Lost's Others have weapons similar to tasers, with multiple settings. They also have dart guns, whose darts inflict an electrical shock that can kill or merely incapacitate a victim.
  • Phasers in the Star Trek franchise developed with the times.
    • The original series featured a stun setting (which would handily knock out any non-godlike humanoid) and a kill setting which would make things go away (unless, again, the target was just plain immune). "The Man Trap" and "The Conscience of the King" featured lethal settings that left a body, with no visible damage, as per typical television standards of the time. Something similar may have featured in "What Are Little Girls Made Of", when an android has a hole shot in it, revealing its electronic workings. Ironically, this is the first episode to show disintegration. On the other hand, phasers also could heat rocks (or heat coffee) as a story might allow, which might have involved a special toast setting unmentioned in the canon media.
      • An intermediate "Heat" setting was mentioned in the TNG Technical Manual.
      • The episode "A piece of the action" revealed that even the Enterprises phaser banks had a stun setting, which was used to knock out a street full of gun men from orbit.
    • After The Undiscovered Country, it became canon that movie-era phasers on Stun could kill at point blank range (to the head). On occasion, phasers have been set to "maximum stun" when facing unusually tough enemies, which is implied to have a higher risk of killing someone.
    • Scriptwriter guidelines for The Next Generation specified hand-phasers had about ten settings, from give someone a headache to vaporize a chunk of granite. They started making marks on walls around 3 or 4. This was later expanded to sixteen settings, with level 3 capable of knocking an average humanoid unconscious for about an hour and level 7 treated as deadly force.
    • Similarly, in one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, we see Miles O'Brien contemplating suicide. He cycles the phaser through about five yellow settings and then five red settings to what we can only assume is 'Maximum Kill.'
    • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "North Star" a mook from a primitive Space Western society puts a revolver to T'Pol's head, holding her hostage. Reed simply stuns T'Pol, then the mook while he's still gaping at Reed's apparently ruthless action.
    • In Enterprise, and sometimes Voyager, phasers and similar weapons can be seen to have no effect at all, maybe causing a slight limp from a shoulder wound (Enterprise pilot). So they work a bit like electrolasers, maybe?
    • Stun grenades, utilizing phaser technology, have also been featured in Enterprise.
    • In the Star Trek:The Next Generation episode "The Hunted", certain humans in the military of the planet Angosia are altered to increase their fighting abilities, and are also resistant to phaser stun.
  • Alias uses "tranq guns" a lot (see Instant Sedation).
  • In a episode of C.S.I. a deputy uses a stun gun on an unruly person. Unfortunately the guy had earlier been doused with pepper spray and the sparks from the stun gun lights him on fire. Incidentally the Mythbusters, who had a cameo in this episode, proved this could actually happen.
  • Stargate SG-1 also make use of Goa'uld-made semi-lethal stun guns, called "Zat'nik'tel" or "Zats": one shot will knock the target out (originally an Agony Beam but no longer starting around season three), two shots are fatal, and three shots completely vaporize a body or a light object. The show's creators later regretted adding the third function, so the Zat never gets used this way anymore.
    • There are also some training weapons called Intars. An intar is a close replica of another weapon, but with stun bursts instead of whatever the weapon normally fires, and is identifiable by a yellow light on the weapon. (This is because the war games were a know-your-enemy sort of thing; they were first encountered at a Goa'uld mock-up of an army camp, with all the soldiers given human names, etc.)
    • And in Stargate Atlantis, all of the Wraith's handheld weaponry are alien stun-guns. Justified in that the Wraith eat their human enemies alive, so they wouldn't want any wasteful deaths.
      • Ronon's weapon also has various power settings, which at the lower end seem to act in a similar manner.
    • The Bedrosians in "New Ground" also have staff-like weapons that fire a yellow knockout blast. Their shields also double as stunners.
    • The Tollan, being Technical Pacifists, equip their security personnel with triangle-shaped Stun Guns.
  • In Firefly, Alliance police officers generally carry some kind of concussion/stunning rifle that knocks people off their feet and leaves them dazed, though it doesn't appear to have any effect on inanimate objects like doors, as Jayne finds out in "Ariel" as he's trying to get the Tams out of the hospital before the Hands of Blue get them:

 Jayne: Shee-niou high-tech Alliance crap!

    • They're sonic weapons, at least according to the RPG.
      • Wow, the weapon designed not to cause collateral damage doesn't cause collateral damage.
  • Space: 1999 used laser Stun guns, which were called this despite a highly visible KILL option on the weapon.
  • Red Dwarf. A newsreader reports that "rubber nuclear weapons" (presumably the WMD version of rubber bullets) were used to suppress a riot over the latest virtual reality game.
    • A simulant incapacitates the crew with a laser weapon for a period of three weeks. Somehow, this works on all four of them, considering two are flesh and blood, one is a droid and the other is a hologram.
  • Battlestar Galactica. A flash-bang grenade is used to knock out Tigh and Adama during The Mutiny; this of course is a weapon developed for anti-terrorist use in Real Life.
  • For the most part, the Law and Order franchise pretends that stun guns don't exist, seeing as they would suck the drama out of chases and stand-offs.
    • To be fair, hitting a person while they run away with a taser (let alone a gun) isn't an easy perspective, and trying to take out a crook has a gun to a hostages head with something that makes them twitch a lot isn't the best of ideas. Also of note tasers aren't legal to own in New York.
  • The Tomorrow People used stun guns, due to the "Prime Barrier" preventing them from killing.
  • On Leverage, Parker loves zapping people with various tasers and other stun guns.
  • In an early episode of Burn Notice, Fiona zaps a Russian Mobster with a stun gun. However, since the mobster is currently grappling with her, the zap renders both of them unconscious. Note that in real life, stun guns neither cause unconsciousness, nor pass their current by physical contact with another person.
  • The standard sidearm of a UEO naval officer in SeaQuest DSV is a sleek-looking energy pistol with a variable charge. The lowest setting ("green") stuns, while the highest ("red") blows stuff up spectacularly.
  • J. Michael Straczynski explicitly forbid these from Babylon 5: "Stun settings are for people who can't commit." If you're fighting someone, either hit him or Just Shoot Him - if you're not, talk to him.
  • 1960s Batman episode "That Darn Catwoman". Catwoman's goons use electric cattle prods to stun Batman into unconsciousness.

Radio

 Karla: Should we set our lasers on stun?"

Captain Kremmen: No, this is serious. Set them on Cringing Agony!

Stand Up Comedy

  • Eddie Izzard parodied this once in a routine about less and less damaging settings for Star Trek Phasers: "Limp," "Bit of a Cough," "Depression," "Bad Eyesight," "Ice Cream Van Nearby," "Sudden Interest In Botany," "Water In The Ear After Swimming," and "Left The Oven On At Home."
    • By Voyager the default setting seems to be "mildly annoy".

Tabletop Games

  • "The List of Character Survival Techniques" (v.1.5) recommends carrying a stun weapon such as tasers and knockout poison darts -- sooner or later your teammate will catch Demonic Possession, Hate Plague or something. And considering it as a primary weapon, to reduce inevitable complications.
  • GURPS: High-Tech has stun guns/batons as well as tasers, they're nearly useless against people wearing anything but normal clothing. By Ultra-Tech they've been replaced with electrolasers.
  • Shadowrun has stun batons, tasers, stun gloves, etc.
    • One of the provisions of Dunkelzhun's will is a large sum of cash for the developer of an effective, safe, stun weapon. 15 in game years later, there is still mention from time to time of companies trying to win that prize.
    • This is possibly a nod toward Gameplay and Story Integration. The rules of the game allow for two separate damage tracks: Physical and Stun. As the name implies, Stun weapons cause Stun damage, but so do things like physical exhaustion (from a long day of work), powerful medications, and casting spells. Taking Stun damage in excess of your Stun track will instantly knock you out, but the overflow carries over to physical damage where it is cumulative with existing wounds; if you were about to pass out from stress anyway (9 boxes out of 10 on the Stun track) and had a couple of light Physicals wound (2 boxes out of 10 on the Physical track) and you get hit with an instant-KO shot (10 boxes out of 10 on the Stun track), the Stun overflow can push through and kill you outright.
  • TSR's Star Frontiers game had electrostunners (ranged stunning weapons).
  • A relative of the above FASA property, the tabletop Mechwarrior RPG features a variety of stun weapons. Chemical, electrical, and sonic stun weapons are available as ranged weapons, though stun batons are also available. An insidious item known as the neural whip could also technically be used to stun victims, but prolonged use could result in crippling injuries and permanent loss of attribute points.

Video Games

  • Metal Gear Solid 2 saw Snake infiltrating the tanker armed only with a modified Beretta M92F designed to fire anaesthetic darts. Suitable weaponry for infiltrating a tanker filled with loyal US Marines, less suitable weaponry for infiltrating a tanker now filled with faceless terrorists.
    • Ironically, lethal weapons were almost universally outclassed by the M9 since it's perfectly silent, and enemy soldiers finding unconscious guards didn't sound an alarm. Not to mention you only needed one dart; a soldier hit in the arm by the M9 would walk around for a bit and then fall asleep. A soldier hit in the arm with lethal weapons would sound an alarm and return fire.
      • It's less useful on higher difficultly settings, as the effect wouldn't last all that long and the sedated guard would get suspicious and start searching for you.
    • Later in the game it's possible to find a PSG1 that fires tranquilliser darts, and the end game katana has a stun setting(beating them with the blunt side of the blade, presumably). These exist solely to enable Pacifist Runs.
    • In the fourth game you have a MK. 2 and can unlock the Solar Gun, which is unable to damage anyone (except Vamp) but is very good at stunning and knocking down opponents.
      • In the fourth game, you have a stun knife.
    • The third game (and its sequels Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops and Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker) had the Mk22 and Mosin Nagant.
  • In the game Urban Chaos: Riot Response if you taze someone for too long they will burst into flames killing them.
  • Deus Ex was coded to react differently based on the lethal force the player used. In the immediate sense, death screams were louder than anything short of an explosive, judging by AI reaction to noise. More long term, some NPCs liked taking prisoners or avoiding combat, some liked to shoot things. The game featured a silent 'minicrossbow' that fired tranquilizer darts, a riot prod that looked like a stun gun on steroids with a healthy dose of More Power, and tear gas. There was also a baton that could beat someone senseless if the player was inclined to commit suicide by actually trying to use it. The game was inconsistent when determining the casualties caused by the player, however, occasionally marking the player as overly violent because of how many targets had been 'removed' from combat rather than how many had been killed outright.
    • The sequel Invisible War kept these weapons, although the electric prod became worthless while the simple plastic stick is absolutely terrifying in close combat. Also added was a player-controlled drone that could self-destruct with an electric stun blast. Two drones would down most enemies. A definitive game breaker in that the player could easily find a source of unlimited power in most maps from which all enemies could be neutralized without any danger to the player.
    • The prequel Deus Ex Human Revolution has two of its non-lethal weapons in this vein: one (the Buzzkill) fires a shock dart, causing the target to twitch for a few seconds and quietly collapse. The other one (the PEPS) fires a concussion wave that can knock out several targets, although, unlike the shocker, a knockout is not guaranteed. The game also allows the player to knock out target with a well-placed punch or a choke-hold (depending on the animation) or to use the landing system. That or use the tranquilizer rifle.
  • The X-COM series has many weapons that only cause stun damage so you can collect live aliens. The first game started the player off with the melee-only Stun Rod, which was of at best limited use aside from an occasional attack of opportunity, while the other side had a sort of Techno Babble-powered flashbang fired from a small grenade launcher. Apocalypse addressed this by providing the taser-like Stun Grapple and Stun Gas grenades.
    • The Stun Rod's Terror From The Deep equivalent, the Thermal Taser, is incredibly useful for one reason: Lobstermen, which are nigh-invulnerable, take full damage from the Taser. Since the only other weapon that does full or more damage to Lobstermen is the equally short-ranged VibroBlade weapons, the Taser can be useful if you encounter Lobstermen before you've researched either the blades or the Thermal Shok Launcher.
  • In the Splinter Cell series, Sam's rifle fires a variety of knock-out weapons, including electric bullets, airfoil rounds (which work via blunt trauma to the head), and gas grenades.
    • In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the captain of the ship in the third mission actually dies if you try to knock him out (presumably from a heart condition or something). It doesn't count as a kill in your mission stats, but if you look at his body in thermal vision you can see it cooling down to corpse temperature.
  • Xenogears has gunslinging Jesiah Black use "stun bullets" once, with no further elaboration.
  • In Metroid: Zero Mission, Samus is shot down on her first attempt to escape Zebes; in the crash, she loses her armor and has to infiltrate the Space Pirate mothership armed with only a stun gun. The gun has a ridiculously short range and long recharge time, and it only stuns enemies if fired with a full charge; otherwise it just ticks them off. Worse, enemies shot with a full charge only stay stunned for three seconds, after which they wake up and sound the alarm. Samus herself lampshades the gun's many failings in monologue:

  "All I had for protection was my rather useless emergency pistol..."

  • Done realistically in a mission for Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun, in which your GDI riot troops are equipped with rubber bullets to put down protests. Using one causes protestors to give up and go home, while using too many will kill the target (and lose you the mission).
  • Oni has the Van de Graf pistol, which fires a short-ranged bolt of electricity to briefly stun enemies. It does no damage, but gives time to position oneself for a Backbreaker or other hand-to-hand attack.
  • Fallout 3 features the Mesmatron an experimental weapon that has a 50% chance of stuning someone, a 30% of making them very angry and a 20% chance of making their head explode.
  • SWAT IV features the full range of less lethal weapons at the disposal of major metropolitan police forces in the US, including CS grenades, Stinger grenades (fragmentation with rubber schrapnel), tasers, pepper spray, beanbag shotguns[1] and paintball guns loaded with pepper balls. All this gear is necessary to achieve high or even qualifying scores, since every casualty, suspect or victim, counts against your final score.
  • No One Lives Forever: A Spy In Harm's Way features an electric stun gun (the hand-to-hand kind) and a CT-180 utility launcher that can be loaded with tranquilizer darts which will both quickly and quietly take down opponents, leaving them alive. Sadly, they recover inside only a few minutes, and then will manifest weapons (even if searched and disarmed) shortly after that, providing an incentive to take out opponents in a more lethal fashion.
  • The only weapon you get in Hydrophobia is a stun gun, you're meant to use it to keep enemies at bay while you use the environment to kill them but oddly for this trope it can kill if you shoot it enough times....or change the ammo to something more lethal.
  • In Total Annihilation the Arm Spider unit is armed with a stunner, although this is more probably a weapon to disable technology. The spin-off Total Annihilation Kingdoms has magical stun weapons used by Aramonian Mage Archers and Verunan Lighthouses. Interestingly, the logo for the stun arrow is an arrow with a pair of magically glowing handcuffs wrapped around it.
  • In the later Commander Keen games, your weapon is the Neural Stunner. Most enemies stay "stunned" permanently, but some revive after a few seconds.
  • In The legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time the hero’s bow, of all things can be used as this. While sneaking through the Gerudo fortress Link uses the bow to knock out any guards he comes across.

Web Comics

 Torg: I'm surprised the switch didn't rust over by now!

 Kevyn: It projects two parallel, unidirectional, high-amplitude VHF audio streams, with slightly differing frequencies. When those streams intersect a target, a high amplitude difference-tone is generated in the body of the target. This low-frequency tone interferes with the target's synaptic refresh, effectively jamming the nervous system and rendering the target instantly unconscious. (Beat) It's a magic sleep gun.

    • They're actually disdained by the mercenary company per se, as they are useless for intimidation.
  • In The Lydian Option, the Tha'Latta carry long rods with tasers at the end to subdue unruly prisoners.

Western Animation

  • In the 90s Marvel cartoons and various other action shows, energy weapons on low settings are treated this way.
  • In the Jonny Quest episode "The Robot Spy", the title device had two antennae that could render anyone they touched unconscious.
  • G.I. Joe, one of the granddaddies of Family-Friendly Firearms, actually showed this... only twice. Once when a character was hit by a laser during a training exercise (and failed to be actually stunned, merely yelping in pain), and once during a closeup of a Joe setting the power slider on a pistol from "stun" to "max." A-Team Firing seemed to be their preferred form of less-lethal attack.
  • The season 3 finale of Archer features "ion pulse" weapons that are supposed to be this. In a bit of a deconstruction, they actually stop your heart and affected persons need immediate defibrillation ("So... 'stun' may be a bit of a misnomer"). Naturally, this doesn't stop Archer from shooting his co-workers with them anyway.

Real Life

  • Weapons that render a person unconscious, or incapacitate without causing permanent injury, are rare in real life. The sad fact is that the amount of force necessary to knock a person out is almost as great as the amount of force necessary to kill a person, and it's very hard to hit hard enough to do the former without hitting so hard that you also do the latter.
  • Several companies are working on electrolasers, effectively taking the awkward probes and wires out of the Taser by using a high-frequency laser to ionise a path through the air for current to follow. So far, they've developed effective area-defense devices, although they're still a long way from pistol or even rifle size.
    • The development problem is, as per all beam weapons, a portable power supply.
    • Another problem with electrolasers is that laser beams powerful enough to ionize air between them and a target are usually powerful enough to make holes in it. Which kinda defeats the purpose of having them in the first place.
      • Raw power (i.e. the number of photons) is not the issue, but frequency. Each photon must be able to kick off an electron on its own, so what's needed is a fairly modest beam in ultraviolet. This also contributes to the size problem--there is no simple, stable lasing medium that works in that band, necessitating more complicated and bulky designs.
    • There are also a few designs using concentrated jets of salt water, but they face the same issue as peeing on the third rail, lack of a coherent stream.
  • Riot level pepper-spray guns (also used to ward off bears) count as something between Stun Guns or chemical Agony Beams, with better takedown statistics but shorter range than handguns. Sadly, their extracurricular use in back-room police interrogation is on the increase.
  • Another tool used by riot control police is the "riot ball". This is a big rubber bullet designed to be fired from a shotgun. It will cause a big bruise, and maybe crack a rib, but its intent is to incapacitate its target, not kill it.
  • The Myth Busters once took on the notion of a water-based stun gun, with some success. However, they determined that the device they created was, in fact, more likely to kill anyone you shot with it than to stun them.
    • Another note, they could only make it work at all was to fire it from inside giant, specialized lightning generator, and they only had one shot.
  • The Taser XREP (eXtended Range Electronic Projectile) is perhaps the closest there is to a effective multi shot stun gun. Its essentially a miniaturized taser that fits a 12 gauge shotgun. It deploys on contact so its effective range is about 100 feet, more than double to the current stun guns used by police officers. The only real problem with it is that currently its quite pricey at around $100 a round (if you buy a pack), luckily the shells are reusable.
    • And if you liked that, you're gonna love the Taser Shockwave. Call it what they will, I call it a Taser Claymore. (no, not that kind, although that would also be awesome. This kind.
    • Taser shotguns caused controversy recently when they were used by British police on fugitive gunman Raoul Moat, who then killed himself with a sawn-off shotgun. The controversy arose from the fact that apparently the Home Office hadn't approved their use, as they're still under testing.
  • Stun guns are "pain compliance" weapons. They do not render people unconscious, nor even physically incapacitate them (admittedly, they can cause muscles in the targeted zone to lock up, briefly). Another problem with stun guns is that they require skin contact, and have no Taser-like barbs to penetrate clothing. It is necessary to press both prongs of the stun gun onto skin to complete the circuit and enable the current to flow.

Notes

  1. actually, beanbag cartridges, but they're loaded into designated less-lethal shotguns painted green to avoid confusion.
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