This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which taser is best?

If you’re looking for self-defense but don’t want to carry a firearm, a taser is probably your best choice. You don’t need to get up close and personal like you do with a stun gun, and unlike pepper spray, there’s no risk of blowback or wind dispersal.

We’ve been investigating how these devices work, and our quick and easy buyer’s guide discusses the features you need to look for. We’ve also picked a few favorites. The top spot goes to the Taser X26P Professional Series, which is constructed to law-enforcement standards and can incapacitate an assailant either at a distance or as a contact stun gun.

Considerations when choosing tasers

How tasers work

Tasers deliver an electric charge which shocks the neuromuscular system (nerves and muscles), making the target unresponsive. Some people fall down, others remain standing but frozen. Being hit by a taser can be quite painful, but that’s secondary — people under the influence of drugs or alcohol often have increased resistance to pain anyway. It’s the high-voltage charge that does the work to incapacitate them.

The charge is delivered by sharp barbs on wires that unspool rapidly from the taser hand unit, which houses a powerful lithium battery. The barbs will stick into flesh and clothing and can even be effective through some kinds of body armor. The barbs are fired by a compressed-gas cartridge. It’s important to understand that the gas cartridge is a one-time thing — like a bullet. The battery can deliver a number of shocks before needing to be recharged, but the cartridge has to be replaced after every firing.

Taser features

Tasers can be divided into two groups: professional (as used by law enforcement) or civilian. Professional models usually deliver a five-second charge, the idea being that the officer will follow up quickly to immobilize the criminal. Civilian models deliver a longer charge — up to 30 seconds. As civilians are not usually trained to apprehend an attacker, this gives them time to flee the scene. Some models, like our ‘best bang for your buck’, will also alert support services when fired, so law enforcement can be dispatched.

The length of the wire gives a theoretical range, which is usually 15 feet. However, 7 to 10 feet is a practical maximum. Effective targeting is helped by two things: An LED light is frequently fitted so you can illuminate the target, and a laser may also be included so you can ‘paint’ a dot on the assailant. However, there’s still no substitute for practice, and some models include a conductive target for the purpose. Remember that each practice firing will consume a cartridge.

Cartridges are relatively easy to change, but carrying a spare might be inconvenient. As a backup, many tasers can also be used as a contact stun gun after the cartridge has been discharged. If you intend on using the taser as concealed carry (legal in most states but do check), you’ll also want to check the physical size.

Taser price

Taser prices vary considerably. It’s unlikely you’ll pay less than $450, and top models can exceed $1,000. It’s also important to consider additional cartridges, which are $30-$40 each. Holsters are rarely included and start at around $40.

Taser FAQ

Q. Is it legal to own a taser?

A. Yes, if you’re over 18 years old, except in Hawaii or Rhode Island. However, each area may have its own rules regarding carry and use, and you may need a permit. Check carefully or you could risk prosecution.

Q. How is a taser different from a stun gun?

A. A stun gun must be in contact with the assailant to deliver its charge. A taser can be fired from several feet away — though many can also be used as a contact stun gun if required.

Tasers we recommend

Best of the best

Taser X26P Professional Series

Taser X26P Professional Series

Our take: Well-made, high-performance device with built-in LED flashlight and targeting laser.

What we like: Five-second incapacitation via muscular control. Fifteen-foot safety range. No need to reload for a backup shot. Five hundred firings per battery pack.

What we dislike: Expensive. Not as compact as some.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best bang for your buck

Taser Pulse+

Taser Pulse+

Our take: Affordable and easy-to-carry model has all the self-defense features you need.

What we like: Provides a 30-second charge for incapacitating an attacker. Has target laser and flashlight. Smartphone app automatically dispatches law enforcement. Money-saving package includes four cartridges.

What we dislike: Occasional faults have been reported.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Taser Pulse

Taser Pulse

Our take: Lightweight, low-cost model suitable for concealed or open carry.

What we like: Very similar to the Pulse+, featuring 30-second charge, flashlight and laser for targeting, but with two cartridges and no app, so a little cheaper.

What we dislike: Safety markings could be clearer. Rare battery pack problems.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Bob Beacham writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.