Loser's Guide to
Note: Please be sure to read the addendum for noteworthy revisions.
As we all know, trouble seems to follow the average loser around. No
matter how hard one tries to mind one's own business, there will always
be a few punks around who hope to make a test case. The real problem is
that the punks have more rights than the average citizen. Punks can act
up at any time and, therefore, dictate when law-abiding citizens can enjoy
their lives, if at all. Punks have nothing to lose. Incarceration is often
a better alternative than taking the responsibility to survive by legitimate
means. The temptation to take the punks out with a "nine" (9mm) is certainly
irresistible but the ramifications are clear. Excessive force will only
result in the victim's incarceration, whether it was perceived as justifiable
This opens up the discussion for alternative "security" devices. LoserNet
Labs recommends the following components:
Pepper spray is a mandatory component. It allows for a maximum 12-foot
distance between the user and the assailant. Although not 100 percent effective,
it may buy a small amount of time for the user to entertain several alternative
options. A reliable law enforcement brand is recommended. The percentage
of Oleoresin Capsicum (active ingredient) is not as important as the heat
measurement in Scoville Heat Units. The dispenser should have a manufacturing
date stamp because its effective shelf life is about 4 years maximum. The
transport agent is also a consideration. Some manufacturers use a flammable
substance. Concurrent use of a Taser-like device on the assailant may ignite
his cranium if that is the case.
Pepper spray (10% OC, 2x106 Scoville Heat
Extendable police baton (21" version)
Large nylon wire ties
When the pepper spray takes effect, it is advisable to leave the area
as quickly as possible. However, one may fear reprisals by the assailant.
A good extendable steel police baton may be the key. At the flick of the
wrist, it extends fully to allow maximum defense capability. The baton
is light yet rigid. It should not be used in a thrashing manner. Otherwise,
the device may be taken away by the assailant and applied upon the user.
Good baton technique will inflict maximum punishment potential. (See also
device is also a good addition to any defense arsenal. However, there is
ambiguous evidence about whether these devices really work. The more cumbersome
Air Taser (which launches wired projectiles that make physical contact
with the assailant) has substantial evidence of effectiveness by several
law enforcement agencies including the LAPD. The Nova XR-5000 law enforcement
Taser-like device also has substantial credentials in this respect. Nova
cautions potential customers to not be persuaded by the claims of the distributors
of cheap imitations such as the one used by the ol' lavahead (see image).
However, in a report by Stratbucker & Marsh (1995), several Taser-like
devices (including the Nova XR-5000) were summarized as having essentially
the same circuitry. Minor variations dealt with output impedance and, hence,
peak voltage. Only one manufacturer incorporated an output shunt capacitor
to "stabilize resonance."
Taser-like devices are produced internationally by a variety of companies.
According to Amnesty International (Hoffman, 1997) and a few other similar
organizations, many of those international manufacturers produce quality
equipment. Notable were the devices from South Korea. The device deployed
by the ol' lavahead is of that origin (Talon brand with patent pending
"Phase-Induction" technology, whatever that means).
More on Taser-like Devices
Circuitry schematics for Taser-like devices are not easy to come by.
However, it can be ascertained from a review of the literature that the
basic circuit developed by John Cover is essentially based upon a high
frequency switching power supply design. A DC source (9-volt battery) is
first converted to quasi-AC (more like pulsed DC) using switching transistors.
The switching frequency is usually in the range of 200 to 500 kHz. Since
the circuit has no reference to ground
per se, it produces roughly
9 volts peak-to-peak. This voltage is then fed into a step-up transformer
and converted to a much higher voltage. There may actually be more than
one step-up stage as well.
output of the transistor oscillator is fed to a charging capacitor. It
is the value of the capacitor that determines the period (and frequency)
of the pulse that is generated. Backtracking for a bit, the pulse frequency
is the most important aspect of the efficacy of the Taser-like device.
The pulse frequency, according to Cover, must be between 1 and 20 pulses
per second. Whether this was the basis of his "T-Wave" patent is uncertain.
Why the seemingly arbitrary pulse frequency? According to the Cover (1968),
this pulse frequency range produced the desired "subduing" effect. Cover
discovered this by trial and error, at least according to his anecdotal
paper (which led to the patent). Why not 60 Hz as this frequency appears
to be closer to the resonance of the human body? Apparently that would
have put the device into the gray area insosfar as non-lethality was concerned
The newer, high voltage units use two 9-volt batteries. Most likely,
the batteries are placed in parallel to provide enough output current when
the initial voltage is stepped up to an even higher output voltage than
the older models.
The current produced by a 9-volt battery is limited and will vary with
the load impedance placed across it. Ultimately, when the output voltage
is stepped up through the transformer, the current decreases proportionally
as per Ohm's Law. Higher and higher output voltages mean less available
The output voltage is proportional to the load impedance, given constant
current. That load impedance is the human body. Exactly what level of voltage
is necessary to permeate the human body is unclear. The resistance of human
skin is 500K ohms when dry and will lower to about 1K ohms when wet. The
internal resistance of the human body, however, is between 100 and 500
As an aside, the necessary voltage to penetrate the human body must
be much higher than 12 volts DC. For example, a car battery can generate
tremendous amounts of current but it has no effect on the human body. That
is because the voltage potential is too low. We know that 120 volts AC
can easily permeate the body. So, why do we need 500,000 volts? And, do
the devices really produce the advertised voltages? Stratbucker & Marsh
(1995) indicated that some of the Taser-like devices produced beween 50,000
and 80,000 volts into a set 20,000 ohm, purely resistive load. Oddly, using
Ohm's Law, this implies that the device can produce roughly 4 A of current.
That can only be true if time is taken into consideration. In other words,
that amount of current may be available for a significantly small fraction
of a second. Or, the output voltage across the load will drop significantly.
Before going further, one thing should be made clear. The amount of
current (in Amperes) that is fatal to humans is also a function of the
associated voltage. Some Taser-like devices operate at about 3 mA, far
too low to be lethal. The majority of devices probably produce less available
current. Overall, this may also be too low to be effective although current
as little as 30 mA could prove fatal.
The electrocution potential is further limited when the nature of the
pulse is considered. Each pulse is composed of a burst of high frequency
AC, so the actual power dissipated to the human load is even lower than
if it were a pure pulse. Power must now be calculated using the root-mean-square
(RMS) method. Essentially, the output of any Taser-like device is almost
analogous to a 250 to 500 kHz carrier being modulated by a 17 to 22 Hz
Nova USA claims that it is the only Taser-like device manufacturer (aside
from licensed Taser vendors) whose product really works. Its corporate
Web site indicates that its devices are "calibrated for maximum takedowns."
How so? There really is no way to calibrate the circuitry described. In
fact, it can be assumed that the pulse frequency will vary depending on
the actual impedance of the human load. Essentially the transformer output
coil, the charging capacitor, and the human load comprise a kind of crude
RLC tank circuit. Nova claims that its circuitry is patented. Nova is a
licensee of the Taser T-Wave technology. Interestingly, Nova cautions customers
to not purchase any of the cheap imports because the latter do not work.
Could it be that there is nothing proprietary about any Taser-like device?
Do they all work, or do none work at all? There appears to be nothing special
about the circuitry of these devices. The concentration on output voltage
has further minimized the output current. That current is essential for
the disrupter signal to permeate the whole human body in an expedient manner.
The higher voltages also will produce more initial pain upon contact which
is not conducive to subduing the recipient. In addition, the instantaneous
shock will repel the recipient almost immediately, which further deters
from that objective. The Taser-like device was not intended to be a cattle
prod. Subduing the recipient requires that enough contact time (6 or more
seconds) is allowed for the pulse frequency to disrupt the nerve firings
of a major portion of the human body. The electric current will move from
the initial contact point throughout the body, but not instantly. Remember
the last time you were shocked by house current? The effect of the 120-volt
house current can be characterized as gradual incapacitation. Only the
throbbing 60 Hz frequency produces awareness of the electric shock. There
is usually no pain accompanying the numbing paralysis. The short-term pain
from higher voltages may only serve to anger the recipient.
The only true benefit of higher voltages is the device's ability to
pass the current through layers of clothing, at least according to Air
Taser promotional data. Clothing can act as an insulator especially at
lower voltages. In other words, the higher voltage potential has the ability
to pass through some insulators.
Incidentally, there are no specifications as per any standard available
for these products so comparisons will be difficult to ascertain. The high
value of skin resistance suggests that the higher voltages are necessary
to permeate that barrier, especially given the fact that the working current
is so low.
Finally, it is difficult to take seriously the large number of Taser-like
devices on the market today. Names like Muscle Man, Stun Master, Z-Force,
StunZilla, Thunder Force, etc. do little to invoke confidence in the products.
Upon closer scrutiny, most devices are identical with the exception of
the name plates. The packaging often reveals nothing about the contact
information for the manufacturer or how the overstated (e.g., "lifetime")
warranties would be honored.
And what of the various claims of proprietary technology? What about
"patent pending Phase Induction" technology? "Pulse Watt" technology? "T-Wave"?
"Electro-Muscular Disruption" technology? The names mean absolutely nothing
as if they were formulated by some bafflegab generator. In effect, the
technological aspects of Taser-like devices should all be extremely similar.
None have Star Trek capabilities. None use laser, sonic, RF, magnetic,
or microwave technology. They all rely upon high voltage and low current
emitted as a low frequency pulse. Extended contact must be made for the
device to be effective. Air Taser's high effectiveness has to do with the
contact probes which attach to the body. Most times skin is broken so perfect
contact is made. Other devices must rely on the user to press the device
as close as possible to the recipient for an extended time.
And, what of the foolish looking contacts that arc? Do they serve a
purpose? The original Nova XR-5000 had them, so all imitators should have
them. They do serve several purposes:
As for intimidation, the ol' lavahead comments, "I would laugh and kick
the stupid thing out of the hand of the idiot waving it in my face." Few
would be intimidated by a tiny spark. The arcing does serve as a test of
whether the device is functioning. The full voltage is unloaded across
the gap. The arcing also serves to discharge the device. Even though the
current is low, there is a significant amount of potential energy that
must be discharged. Without adequate discharging, the device would possibly
The use of premium batteries (e.g, commercial grade alkaline) is a necessity.
Even a cheaper, generic brand of alkaline batteries may compromise the
performance of the Taser-like device. Many of the scathing and purely anecdotal
reviews of Taser-like devices may not have taken this into consideration.
One anecdotal review by Cook (1997) was somewhat positive. Most of those
reviews are circa 1996 and the test conditions were not standardized with
control parameters (e.g., type of batteries used, whether fresh or not,
Pepper spray administration is the only logical first-strike option,
according to Button (1997). Deployment of the extendable baton subsequently
will insure that the subject is adequately subdued for restraining. Inexpensive
nylon wire ties may be used in lieu of handcuffs. When the subject
is adequately restrained, the Taser-like device may be used for further
restraint. The use of the Taser-like device at that point may be considered
"excessive force." The amount of subduing and restraint used upon a subject
must be directly proportional to the perceived threat. One should be prudent
enough to realize that adequate "proof" of threat is necessary for justification
of actions taken. Make sure that the "proof" is plainly obvious.
When can the Taser-like device be deployed properly? The device may
be suitable when the assailant has already made physical contact, provided
that the assailant does not have weapons which can inflict fatal damage.
Of course, the use of the Taser-like device will require good judgment
on the part of the victim. Although most documentation accompanying the
device provide general guidelines for its use, there are still questions
concerning where the application of the device would be most effective.
The rib cage, shoulders, and hip area are considered the most safe (i.e.,
less likely to cause harm to the assailant). However, protecting the assailant
is not a priority when one's life is in danger. More strategic locations
along the human anatomy may be more effective such as the nape (along the
neck) where all nerve traffic resides, or forcibly inserting the device
into the assailant's mouth where the body resistance is lower.
The Fallacy of Self-Defense
The common citizen has no rights. This is, in fact, the paradox of the
Taser-like device and all other security products. Security devices should
not be deployed until one is absolutely sure that it is necessary. In other
words, the concept of deploying a security device from a "safe" distance
may be ludicrous at best. For one thing, what assailant is going to announce
his intentions from 15 feet away? An assault would more than likely come
from behind, ambush style. Any other style of confrontation is just an
exhibition of stupidity (i.e., machismo, etc.).
This issue may be of primary consideration when purchasing any device
used for self-defense. What good is an Air Taser or pepper spray when the
victim is ambushed? Use of pepper spray at that point in time will disable
both the assailant and the victim. The Air Taser requires at least 6 feet
of distance to be effective (unless one can eject the probe cartridge expediently
and use the device to stun the assailant).
Self-defense, then, can only be justified when one is already being
accosted. Therefore, the Taser-like device is a viable apparatus. It may
be the only viable apparatus. Within close quarters, other deterrents
such as pepper spray, a gun (e.g., the "nine"), or other devices may be
totally useless. At a useful and safe range, these devices may also be
considered "excessive force." Why? Because the assailant has yet to commit
any act that could be deemed serious enough to that justify the use of
such a self-defense device. The assailant then becomes the victim. Guess
who will be arrested?
Incidentally, Julius Chang, PhD (1995) wrote his firsthand experience
on the receiving end of both pepper spray and the Taser-like device. His
conclusion is that the Taser-like device is a joke. Relying on this device
is asking for trouble. Pepper spray, on the other hand, was the option
recommended by Chang. Is the Taser-like device really a joke? Amnesty International
doesn't think so. In citing the Assembly of Attorneys General report (Sweetman,
1987), it was found that the Air Taser (and Taser-like device) category
yielded about 65 percent effectiveness. The respondents for the report
were major police departments deploying same.
Finally, the Nova ...
Nova line of "electronic defense units" is said to set the benchmark for
all Taser-like devices. Nova itself urges all prospective buyers to "beware
of imitations." LoserNet Labs acquired a Nova Spirit "White Lighting" model.
That's not a spelling error. That's how the product was branded in gold
letters on its white case. One has to wonder when a device goes into production
with little quality control.
Like all other Taser-like devices, it is constructed similar to a cheap
flashlight, but its $149 price tag is exorbitant. One noticeable difference
is the embossed patent numbers (No. 4,162,515 and 4,255,132) which are
proudly molded into the plastic case. Aside from that, the Nova looks very
similar to all other Taser-like devices, right down to the arcing test
The Nova instruction manual did clear up a few things. The proper choice
of batteries was emphasized. And, the estimated life of an akaline battery
was about one minute without any noticeable degradation of performance.
The Eveready Energizer battery was the battery of choice for the Nova Freedom
model. The Nova Spirits use a proprietary lithium battery pack. Replacement
cost is a steep $22 on average.
Unlike the "imitations," there have been no negative reviews about the
Nova line. The Nova "electronic defense units" (as Nova calls them) are
still in use by many law enforcement agencies. The Washington Association
of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (which has it policy manual on-line) labeled
the device a "true weapon" and mandated that officers treat them as such.
The Nova instruction manual is somewhat ambiguous about the product's
incapacitation ability. "The Nova is effective on the majority of assailants,"
the manual reads. However, the Nova manual is a little more explicit about
the effects at various exposure times to the device as opposed to that
of the "imitations." The Nova manual reads, "A full contact blast of 5
to 7 seconds can immobilize an attacker," whereas the cheesy brands have
opted to claim, "Over three seconds will cause loss of balance and muscle
control, mental confusion and disorientation." Who do you believe?
A check of the patent numbers mentioned earlier yielded some interesting
information. Patent 4,162,515 is for a portable (i.e., battery operated)
shock device based upon earlier patents of various electric cattle prod
devices being pulsed by a stator-type switching unit. Patent 4,255,132
is the end result of Cover's (1968) work. The device described is currently
called the Air Taser. Aside from the description of the projectile mechanism,
Cover detailed the theory of operation of the circuitry (later called "T-Wave"
technology). The circuitry is the basis of all Taser-like devices. Typically,
it's a crude DC to quasi-AC (pulsed DC) inverter which then uses a charging
capacitor to pulse the ouput to the external contacts after being stepped
up in voltage by a ferrite core transformer. Cover also detailed the use
of another capacitor to aid in stabilizing the output resonance of the
The effeciveness of the Air taser and Nova XR-5000 is documented. There
are also extensive medical studies. The efficacy of the devices may well
be because the peak output voltages (unloaded) of the devices were limited
to about 50,000 volts. Naturally, the true output voltage would depend
on the load impedance. Thus, the only difference between the lower voltage
models and the higher voltage models is basically the number of windings
on the step-up transformer's secondary coil. This would not merit the $20
to $60 increase in price. Theoretically, the higher output voltages means
less current is available. Doubling the output voltage means half the current.
That is, if that current was available in the first place.
Using Ohm's Law, it is easy to see that 4 ma at 50,000 volts produces
about 11 watts of power. If that's true, then the DC source at 9 volts
must be able to provide a minimum of 1.2 A of current. Remember, all values
are peak. However, the actual current will be limited by the output current
capability of the oscillator transistor. This is all feasible given that
a 9-volt akaline battery can provide high current for a brief period of
time. The higher output voltages will require even more current from the
battery if the target 4mA output is desired. A point of saturation will
occur and the available output voltage will drop across the load.
Overall, there appears to be no reason why the Nova devices should be
better than the cheap imitations. The patent hardly seems enforceable since
there is nothing really proprietary about the device. That probably accounts
for why there are so many imitations. The overall cost of the raw components
is about $6 for OEMs. The only real benchmark is the current output specification
of the oscillator transistor. In other words, that is the only way of telling
whether the device can provide enough output current to be effective.
As for the pulse frequency, there seems to be a wide variation. Nova
claims that its devices operate within 17 and 22 pulses per second. Air
Taser specifies about 12 to 15 pulses per second. The patent filed by Cover
specifies a pulse frequency between 1 and 20 per second. The pulse frequency
is determined by a single charging capacitor. There are no elaborate timing
circuits. As long as the damned thing pulses, it should work. However,
it must be concluded that the effective output current is the most important
parameter. LoserNet Labs believes that all Taser-like devices are extremely
similar.The choice of fresh, quality batteries is the most important criterium.
One crude method to test for output current is to measure the amount of
time before the batteries are depleted. Even test firing the device consumes
power. Nova's XR-5000 Freedom model will operate properly for one minute
of total firing time off of a fresh 9-volt alkaline battery. That's probably
accurate for 3 mA output. The off-brand models that use two 9-volt batteries
should deplete the batteries within two minutes. If the batteries last
much longer, there is a good chance that the device is a joke. The output
cuurent most likely will be in the uA range. Totally useless.
Nova has made a name for itself because it was the first hand-held Taser-like
device. It was made in the USA which gave it more credibility with domestic
law enforcement agencies. The same applies to the Air Taser. Medical research
and documentation further provided credible evidence. Yet, there is nothing
high-tech about the device. Of course, it is hard to discredit the Nova
line. There are no false claims. Several models have had extensive use
out in the field in actual law enforcement situations. Nova's Web site
accurately describes the device's application as that of "intimidation
and subduing." The Nova appears to be best of the Taser-like devices with
a proven track record, that is, if the high cost can be justified.
In summary, the best overall deterrent is pepper spray, but only if
one can justify its use. This will require extremely good judgment and
the ability to read the assailant's mind. The victim must be able to prove
the intent of the assailant in order to justify any self-defense actions.
"Probable cause" does not apply. Other "security" devices such as the Taser-like
device may be more effective in close quarters, although reliance on any
"security" device alone could be deemed damned foolish. Unless the victim
is a law enforcement officer, there is no other alternative but to take
any non-violent measure to leave the scene. Use of any security device
or weapon may assign the assailant the status of "victim."
Button, P. "Less-lethal force technology." Metro Toronto Police,
Chang, J. "Stun guns." Anecdotal, 1995.
Chang, J. "Pepper spray." Anecdotal, 1995.
Cook, J. "Stun gun fun." Worchester Polytechnic Institute, 1997.
Cover, J. "Taser development notes." eTaser, (circa) 1968.
Hoffman, D. "Arming the torturers: Electro-shock torture and the
spread of stun technology." Amnesty International, 1997.
Patent No. 4,162,515 and 4,253,132 Transcripts. US Patent Office.
Stratbucker, R. & Marsh, M. "The relative immunity of the skin
and cardiovascular system to the effects of direct high voltage - high
frequency component electrical pulses." Paktronics LLC Web site, 1995.
Sweetman, S. "Report on the Attorney General's Conference on less
than lethal weapons." US Department of Justice, National Institute
of Justice, 1987.
© Copyright 2000 by LoserNet
The National Institute of Justice site contains a review of the Myotron
device. The review dispells most of the claims of the Myotron including
its ability to disrupt neurotransmission from the brain to various muscle
groups within the human body (i.e., basis of its "Pulse Watt" technology),
and also the useful life of its lithium-ion battery.
A few "public affairs" sources caution consumers about Taser-like devices.
Citing alleged "FBI reports," these sources claim that all Taser-like devices
are part of an elaborate hoax. The sources also mention various video propaganda
distributed by the manufacturers of the devices, claiming that the demonstrations
were staged. No manufacturers were mentioned.
Most security products dealers offer the exact same merchandise as if they
purchase their stock from a sole distributor. This may be the case as most
of these dealers also distribute the same generic printed catalog. Many
of the products offered for sale look cheap and shoddy. This suggests that
the security products industry is a sham for the most part. Preying on
crime-fearing consumers, these unscrupulous dealers will sell this junk
with no qualms that their customers may habor a false sense of security
(which may end up being fatal). Any consumer looking for a decent security
product should shop at a reputable law enforcement supplier. These dealers
will carry law enforcement grade equipment and will sell those products
to civilians if it is legal to do so. The customer will also have a chance
to peruse the products to see firsthand if those products are worth investing
The BladeForums Web site hosts several discussion groups. A few threads
focused on Taser-like devices with anecdotal reviews provided by the participants.
The owner of BladeForums offered a challenge to test a Talon Taser-like
device. The owner provided the test device. The results were unanimous
that the device was a joke. In the end, it was being used as a party favor.
Other people offered similar experiences with other equivalent brands.
LoserNet Labs has deferred its recommendation of any security device. Until
solid evidence appears that confirms the effectiveness of the devices,
LoserNet Labs cannot endorse same.