Stun guns are one of the most popular forms of self-defense currently available…even more popular than firearms.
This isn’t particularly surprising.
Of course, I’m not telling you that a stun gun is a better option for self-defense than a firearm. But they each do have advantages.
Firearms can be used at range, can completely incapacitate a threat, and offer protection against other weapons that a stun gun simply doesn’t. That is to say, you don’t want to bring a knife, or a stun gun, to a gunfight.
Plus, we’re a gun website, and I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I told you not to buy a gun.
There are, however, situations in which a stun gun may be a good alternative.
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Why Carry a Stun Gun?
For one, the cost is a limiting factor for many people in acquiring a firearm.
If you can’t afford a handgun at the moment, but still want to carry something to protect yourself, a stun gun is far better than nothing – and it can still get the job done.
Another great option would be pepper spray and depending on where you live, pepper spray might be legal where a stun gun isn’t – or the other way around. See our pics for Best Pepper Spray for Self-Defense.
Stun guns are also legal in more places than firearms.
If you live in or are visiting one of these places, a stun gun is, again, far better than nothing. And if you have to wait to finish a course or have paperwork processed or for a waiting period to finish or any other delay that your state or local firearm law requires, you may want to carry a stun gun in the meantime.
Finally, stun guns generally aren’t lethal.
If you know that you would personally have a hard time delivering a fatal blow to an attacker, a stun gun is better than a gun you won’t be able to bring yourself to use.
See some of our top 9mm handgun picks in Best Beginner Handgun.
The lack of fatality can also be an advantage in that killing someone, even in self-defense, generally causes a lot of legal difficulties.
Not being fatal also means that a stun gun doesn’t offer the same level of incapacitation as a firearm, however, so you’ll need to weigh these implications against each other when deciding whether a stun gun or firearm is better for you.
Now that we’ve talked about why you may want a stun gun, let’s clear up a common misunderstanding about stun guns.
What’s the Difference between a Taser and a Stun Gun?
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, a taser and a stun gun are two different devices.
A taser works by shooting metal prongs that embed in the assailant’s skin up to several yards away and deliver a shock.
A stun gun is a smaller device that delivers the shock through direct contact with the assailant via electrodes on the device.
Obviously, distance is a huge advantage for tasers, but it comes with a lot of disadvantages.
For one, tasers are illegal under many state and local laws, and even where they are legal, acquiring one has the added difficulty of a background check.
On top of that, tasers can be pricey to purchase (~$400) and maintain, and some models have a tendency to be bulky and difficult to conceal.
By the time you go through all that, you might be better off just getting an inexpensive handgun.
Plus…you’ll need some decent aim since a Taser shoots out two prongs…both of which need to hit your target.
A stun gun, on the other hand, is much more affordable, is less legally regulated, and is more compact and easier to conceal, all while delivering the same strength of shock as a taser.
If a TASER piques your interest…we review one of the top ones out right now…the TASER Pulse.
What to Look for When Choosing a Stun Gun
When choosing a stun gun, you’ll want to pay particular attention to a few different traits. These are important in more ways than one!
The higher the voltage, the stronger the shock. You want a stun gun that shoots at least one million volts. Stun guns that shoot less are generally sacrificing quality for the price.
Stun guns use either rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or replaceable batteries. Replaceable batteries mean you never have to wait for the stun gun to charge, but built-in rechargeable batteries typically have a greater battery life and are capable of delivering a greater shock.
The whole point of a stun gun is to deliver a powerful shock, but what prevents an accidental zap? Some stun guns also have features that render it unusable if it’s taken from you.
Ease of Use
Make sure you’ll actually be able to quickly fire off the stun gun when you need to. If you need to push a lever, slide a switch, and then press a button – will you actually be able to do that under duress?
There is safe and then there is too safe.
Ease of Carrying and Concealment
If the stun gun isn’t easy and comfortable to carry, you’ll probably just leave it at home. A compact model will be easier to carry and conceal, but there are also covert options that look like everyday objects like a cell phone or lipstick.
These options have the added advantage of surprising an attacker – especially if you’re a man pulling out what appears to be lipstick.
How to Use a Stun Gun
Turn off the safety as soon as you feel threatened so you’ll be ready for an attack.
To use the stun gun, press the trigger and hold the probes firmly against the attacker, ideally aiming for the torso, particularly the neck, shoulder, underarm, groin, and abdomen between the hip and ribs. If you can’t hit the torso, hit any part of the attacker that you can reach.
You obviously want to avoid hitting yourself, but you won’t be hurt if the attacker is touching you when you hit them with the stun gun, so take any opportunity you have.
You’ll generally need to hold the stun gun against your attacker for three to five seconds. A large or particularly determined attacker may need a few additional seconds.
Practice using your stun gun regularly to create muscle memory and ensure you won’t be fumbling when you need to use it.
Now that you know what to look for and the basics of using a stun gun, let’s move on to our recommendations.
Best Stun Guns
The Vipertek VTS-989 is the most widely recommended stun gun on the market.
It’s incredibly powerful with a voltage of 300 million, making it the strongest stun gun on this list.
The electrodes are sharp spikes designed to penetrate through thick clothing.
It has a safety switch that must be flipped before the stun gun can be used.
Check it out in action (heads up…loud cackling sounds):
It also has two metal strips that go down the sides of the top of the device from the electrodes, preventing the device from being taken away from you.
Just make sure your fingers are clear from it…
Plus, since this model uses a rechargeable battery, it needs to be charged for an hour or two each month, even if it hasn’t been used.
At 6.5” x 2” x 1”, the Vipertek VPS-989 is pretty compact and should be easy enough to carry and conceal.
And it has a built-in LED flashlight that’s decent! If you don’t already EDC a flashlight, this is a very handy feature.
Check it out in a dark hallway…
For the power, price, re-chargeability, and flashlight…we give it our top spot.
What’s your take on the VTS-989?
If you’d like something a bit smaller, the Vipertek VTS-880 may be right for you.
It’s only about the size of a deck of cards, but still packs a hell of a punch, firing 35 million volts.
It has the same safety mechanism as the VTS-989, but without the grab protection feature, and also features an LED flashlight.
While the first two stun guns had flashlights as a feature, the POLICE 305 Stun Gun is more of a two-in-one deal. Fortunately, it performs both purposes equally well, with a 160-lumen adjustable flashlight and 38 million volts of stopping power.
At 7.5” long, it’s not a great size for carrying around, but it is a practical option for keeping in your car.
Like the other two stun guns we’ve discussed, the POLICE 305 has a safety switch and a rechargeable battery.
Lipstick seems to be the most common disguise for covert stun guns, but I like the gender neutral design of the Guard Dog Security iStun 2 Cell Phone Stun Gun.
Guard Dog chose this particular design because, as they claim, 40 percent of robberies involve cell phones. The idea is that the robber asks for your cell, you pull this stun gun out, and deliver a shock instead of your valuables.
The original design was too thick to really look like a cell phone, but Guard Dog slimmed it down with the iStun 2.
The “volume” buttons act as the switches for the safety and flashlight, and the iStun 2 comes in black, gold, and rose gold, like the iPhone that it emulates.
The iStun 2 delivers 35 million volts from its rechargeable battery. Fortunately, it uses a USB input rather than Apple’s lightning cable.
Stun guns are less regulated than firearms, but they aren’t legal in all places. Be sure to check your local laws before buying one to make sure you won’t be in legal trouble if you ever have to use your stun gun.
If stun guns are allowed in your area, any of these would be a great choice for you.
You should choose the one (or ones) that best fits your lifestyle. If you’re looking for a real firearm though, you won’t go wrong choosing from one of our 6 Best Singl-Stack Sub-Compact 9mm Handguns.
Now let’s hear from you guys! Do you ever carry a stun gun? Which one? Why a stun gun instead of a firearm or pepper spray? Or if you want to go real steel…check out our Concealed Carry Definitive Guide.