TASER electroshock weapons are used by thousands of police officers all over the world. The family of products offered by the company is being constantly refined and expanded which allows for enhanced effectiveness in a myriad of operating conditions. During the EUROPOLTECH 2019 event in Poland, an exhibition of equipment and technology used by the Police and security services, we could have got acquainted with the latest iteration of the system - TASER 7. Thus, it is worth to outline what TASER really is and what benefits can be created by another modification of this system.
Contemporary non-lethal weapons – this is a dynamic market segment for equipment used both by the military, as well as, or even primarily, by the internal security services. This is motivated by the drive to avoid collateral damage among the civilians or among the enemy, as well as by the specific nature of the contemporary military operations or activities undertaken by the uniformed services. Hence the steps taken to equip the uniformed services with means to carry out even the most hazardous tasks, without a necessity to use lethal weapons. Not to get too deep in the considerations related to differentiation of the term and the associated typology, one may divide the non-lethal weapons into chemical, kinetic, electromagnetic, acoustic and electric systems.
The latter group, the electric weapons, is also quite varied technically-wise. Nonetheless, TASER became the symbol for systems as such. However, here we are referring to a whole family of TASER systems, non-contact, non lethal electric weapons that are recognized globally. Furthermore, reputation of the TASER devices extends beyond the realm of uniformed services as it also pertains to the civil market.
The idea behind TASER is to minimize the disadvantage of contact stun guns that needed to be placed in contact with the body of the adversary to work. Stun guns also inflict strong pain - this is the main principle of operation for them. They have been proven to be ineffective against persons whose pain threshold is high and/or who remain under the influence of substances. Thus, the users were exposed to reaction of the aggressor, finding themselves in hazardous circumstances. Hence the need to physically move away the operator from the threat. This is how TASER was invented, revolutionizing the perception of an electroshock weapon.
Anybody who has had a chance to encounter TASER probably took notice of the futuristic design. However, the users admit that TASER is very easy to employ. One should remember that development of the non-contact TASER electroshock weapons can be associated with the space race. The roots of the design are tied to one of the participants of the “Apollo” program, John “Jack” Higson Cover Junior, also known as Jack Cover – who died in 2009. He was the person developing the first TASER solutions, addressing the urgent requirement to equip air sheriffs fighting the plague of aircraft hijacking incidents.
The specific nature of intervention in an airborne airliner required designing a solution that would be safer for the passengers, sheriffs and for the airframe structure with pressurized cabin than a traditional firearm. This is how TASER was born, shooting probes connected to the weapon with a wire, capable of neutralizing the attacker by creating uncontrolled muscle contraptions – with the use of 50,000 V impulse. Thus, the person was incapacitated at a distance, not posing a threat. Use of the weapon also was not a threat to the airframe. As it turned out, the weapon designed for airborne use turned out to be universally useful in other operational environments.
TASER name comes from the Victor Appletone’s book title: “Tom A. Swift and his Electric Rifle”, that Jack Cover was a fan of. Contemporary TASER systems are being developed by the AXON company that fused the advantages of electroshock weapons with other systems that we have been mentioning in the past, such as personal cameras, evidence gathering and processing systems, and so on.
Before the aforesaid TASER 7 reached the market it had been defined by two preceding AXON products. TASER X26P and TASER X2. In case of X26P the designers decided to improve the ergonomics of the design. Thus, this TASER weapon has become smaller, compact and easier to grip. X26P also allows the user to take a single shot. TASER X2 makes it possible to fire two shots and create a warning arc hat is a warning signal for the attacker.
TASER X2 also did not require the user to reload the weapon in case of a miss or when the electrodes got separated from the clothes of the attacker. Furthermore, the model allowed the user to aim better thanks to a double laser sight. TASER X2 is also far more effective, as it sends more current to the electrodes. Thanks to the above, without any need of using another charge, the user may neutralize the attacker.
TASER 7 has become available in Poland as well. AXON decided to carry out an in-depth analysis of use cases, with regards to this type of weapons. Thus, a need was recognized to improve TASER’s operation at close range. This pertains in particular to rapid interventions in urbanized areas when the offender often appears very close to the person yielding the TASER. New TASER 7 cartridges have been designed with enhanced short and long range effectiveness in mind. Where earlier on the attacker was too close or too far, the current TASER 7 model shines.
One should recall that placing the probes shot close together is of key importance in case of a non-lethal system as such. Both probes also need to hit the person that is to be neutralized as well. Too short distance may diminish the effect though, as the muscle contractions may be created only between the probes. AXON engineers enhanced this aspect of the weapon too. The previous models used the cartridge directly, to store the cable that followed the probes. Therefore, the probe’s trajectory could have been changed. The new system reverses that role and the wire is unwound directly from the probe. Thus it is more stable, far more accurate, faster and its kinetic energy on impact is twice as high. The latter matter is especially important when acting against a person wearing thick clothes. One should add that TASER systems use so called ‘shaped impulse’ that allows the electricity to pass through clothing, including tactical or bulletproof vests.
In case of TASER 7, where the mini-harpoon-shaped probes hit the attacker with a greater amount of kinetic energy, this is even more effective. TASER 7 also uses cross-connecting technology making it possible to compensate for close placement of the probes or detachment of the probes from the clothes. One should also mention the sighting system using a green laser. Thus, it is easier to aim in sunny open spaces or when the target wears dark clothes.
Furthermore, not only does the TASER 7’s effectiveness stem from the shooting of the probes, but also from the deescalation effect. X2 may also be used to create a warning arc, before the weapon is employed. The attacker, knowing that TASER could be employed, can stop the adverse activities and submit him/herself to the police officer for instance. TASER 7 offers a brighter and louder warning arc. This is especially important in case of difficult interventions where the attacker could not hear the voice commands or not see the weapon being activated.
TASER 7 is being introduced on the Polish market now, joining the family of AXON products that have gained global recognition also being a definitive non-lethal weapon. Noteworthy, today it is a smart weapon that is often coupled with other systems, such as cameras. Evolution of a weapon as such is conditioned by the user requirements. Hence the increased effectiveness at the shorter distance. However, the original idea created by Jack Cover is still being developed, and it is still employed to protect the lives and health of police officers, bystanders and the attackers. Maybe it is a good idea for Poland to consider equipping more services with electroshock weapons. Another matter that needs to be taken into account in Poland is the change of legislation making it easier to utilize weapons as such.