Saturday, January 22, 2005

Taser "software update"

For some reason I just can't let go of this Taser thing ("Out of my cold, dead hands . . ."). They are in the news again (New York Times; and see previous posts here and here), this time because they have quietly introduced a new and improved version with 14% more stun power. For those who don't know the delightful details, a Taser is a gun that shoots a dart with an attached wire (made by the good folks at Taser International, "Saving Lives Everyday"). When it hits its "target" it delivers an electric shock (nothing major, just 50,000 volts) that causes Electro Muscular Disruption (EMD). EMD is produced by multiple electrical pulses delivered over about 5 seconds which causes the "target's" voluntary muscles to contract and relax repeatedly. That makes fine muscle movements (like walking or standing up) difficult.

How effective are they? That depends on whom you ask. Sometimes too effective, with news reports suggesting about 80 deaths. Taser says these deaths are just coincidences: drug overdoses that would have occurred anyway. That's a good one.

But wait! Some people say that they don't work well enough. Sometimes "targets" are still able to move, breaking the wires. I guess that could be a problem, because while some "suspects" might choose to run away, some might be pretty damn mad and if all you had to defend yourself was a Taser that didn't work all that well . . .

Too effective? Not effective enough? I guess by the GoldiLocks Principle, so beloved of politicians with whom no one agrees, that Taser has it "just right." But they are not resting on their laurels (which include an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible "order stuffing" to buck up their stock prices). In their new citizen's model, the X26, the gun's software has been updated to deliver 95 pulses over 5 seconds instead of the previous 19 for the first two seconds and 15 for the last three (look for the OpenSource version on SourceForge one of these days: GNUgun?). If you are keeping count, this is 95 pulses/5 seconds compared to the old 83 pulses/5 seconds. Fourteen percent more. "We are constantly striving to optimize our technology," the Taser spokesthing said in a statement.

Oh, I probably should have warned you at the outset. Don't bother reading this if you live in the communist states of MA, RI, NY, NJ, WI, MI, HI, since Tasers aren't legal in those lawless places. But Tasers are "not firearms" so in the rest of the country they are just fine to carry and don't even require a permit (this includes California, which goes to show you . . . well, I don't know what it goes to show you).

If you want one of these nifty gadgets--just for fun, to shock your friends or to stun your co-workers--it will set you back $999 (this is a pretty good price; I wouldn't pay $1000 for it, though. They hit my price point). Here is the company's patient package insert, as we say in the pharmaceutical biz:
The X26c Taser series offers the highest take-down power available. With Advanced new shaped pulse™ technology, the X26c TASER's Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology temporarily overrides the central nervous system, taking over muscular control. EMD technology debilitates the toughest targets, without causing injury or lasting after-effects.

Package Contents:

1 Taser X26c w/integrated laser sight
6 15' Air Cartridges
1 User Manual
1 Training DVD
1 Practice Target
1 Soft Personal Carry Case
1 Training Voucher/registration card
  • SKU: 26009
  • Specifications
  • Size: 175 cm3 (10.7 cubic in.) 15.3 cm x 8.2 cm x 3.3 cm (6.0” x 3.2” x 1.3”)
  • Weight: 175 grams (0.45 pounds / 7 ounces)
  • Power Output: Shaped Pulse Discharge 50,000 Peak Voltage 2.1 Milliamps Average Current (0.0021 Amperes)
  • Range: 0-4.6 Meters (0-15 ft) plus contact stun backup capability
  • Digital Power Magazine (DPM): Power Source w. Lithium Energy Cells and Digital Memory 6-Volt Input, 10-yr shelf life, 200 firings at 25°C
  • Energy Cell Indicator: 99% - 00% Remaining Energy Level
  • Digital Pulse Controller (DPC): Automatic 10 sec burst (interruptible) 0-2 seconds: 17 pulses per second... 3-10 seconds: 10 pulses per second 11-20 seconds: 10 pulses per second 21-30 seconds: 10 pulses per second
  • Clothing Penetration: Up to 5 cm (2 inches)
  • Temperature Range: -20 C (-05°F ) to 50 C (122° F)
  • Target Illumination: 650 nm laser sighted to center grouping at 13 feet plus two super bright LED’s for Low Intensity Illumination (LIL)
  • Cartridges: 15 ft. range, 1800 PSI nitrogen propellant, classified by U.S.B.A.T.F. as non-firearm, reversible design with 8° probe separation angle.
  • Central Info Display (CID): 2 digit LED displays remaining level, burst time, warranty expiration and illumination status
  • Safety: Ambidextrous levers with Safe “S”, Fire “F” markings
  • Holster: Soft holster with rotating clip
  • Patents: U.S. #5,078,117; U.S. #5,771,663 and others pending U.S. and Worldwide.
  • Warranty: 1 year standard, extended warranties available