Is It Better to Be Tasered or Pepper Sprayed?

November 05, 2020

Is It Better to Be Tasered or Pepper Sprayed?

Michelle stood at the mat’s edge while two fellow police cadets held her arms on either side. Behind her, she heard the Taser instructor shout, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”  Suddenly, she felt a tremendous jolt of electrical current flow through her body. Before her speech ability ceased, she uttered some of the foulest words imaginable. The other cadets were stunned. They didn’t think she knew these words.

Because she could not move, she was laid prone on the mat by her helpers. After five seconds, the intense pain subsided, and the instructor removed the two Taser probes that penetrated her Academy-issue T-shirt and skin from 12 feet.

From that distance, the probes spread apart about 12 inches, allowing for the maximum amount of electricity to enter her body.  She absorbed about 50,000 volts of electricity, and while this sounds fatal, it is the amps that kill you and not necessarily the volts.  In police academy jargon, Michelle had “taken the ride.”

The previous week in training, Michelle and her class had been pepper sprayed.  She remembers it this way: “I took out my contact lenses and pulled my hair back. I was in line with five other cadets when the instructor gave us a blast of pepper spray at the eyebrow level. The spray is pretty oily, so it quickly entered my eyes, nose, and throat. My eyes slammed shut, my face burned, and I had trouble breathing. I also produced more nasal mucous than anyone ever should. At this point the instructor made us run a short obstacle course. At the end I pried my eyes open to read a vehicle license plate.

“Immediately after this, someone used a garden hose and cold water to thoroughly drench my face. Within 30 minutes I was fairly recovered but not at my peak capacity. The next day, my skin felt like I had a mild sunburn.”

The Facts of Each

From interviewing instructors and students in both the Taser and pepper spray disciplines, I learned that MOST students would rather be Tased than pepper sprayed.  The main reason is that the extremely intensive “jolt” of a Taser only lasts five seconds, whereas the effects of the pepper spray linger the following day.

But this is not the end of the story. For those of you reading this article and thinking, “OK, I guess I will buy pepper spray,” here are some critical considerations:

  • While pepper spray can deter a bad guy, it is not, in my opinion, a device that incapacitates an assailant. Evidence: police cadets can still function after being pepper sprayed, whereas a Taser stun renders them incapable of movement (mostly).
  • Pepper spray is pretty simple to use, but buyers should also purchase another can, called inert spray, for practice.
  • Know the difference between a Taser (now operated by a company called Axon) and a stun gun. A Taser shoots probes, or darts, out to about 20 feet. With a stun gun, you have to actually contact the bad guy.


  • Tasers are not without their critics. Some say that the success rates claimed are not accurate and that the desired effect is not achieved 100% of the time. Generally, this appears to happen when the probes do not spread apart far enough to send the optimal charge through the target. Keep in mind, though, that the Taser can also be used as a stun gun if you are close to the assailant.
  • Pepper spray is more easily carried and concealed than a Taser. It is also a lot cheaper. However, smaller containers have less volume that you may need to deter an assault.
  • With any type of self-defense product, will it be available when you least expect to use it? This is unplanned fighting. Where will your spray and/or Taser be if attacked from behind? What if you deploy your self-defense tool of choice and it does not work? The more complicated your tool is, combined with your ability (or desire) to practice with it, greatly affects your self-defense efficiency.

Choose the MUNIO Self Defense Keychain

A force multiplier tool like the MUNIO Self Defense Keychain is always ready to use immediately if you carry it properly on your keychain. Like other kubotan/palm stick self-defense tools, you can use MUNIO for striking an attacker, and inflict enough pain and damage to disable them so you can get away safely.

Some people feel more comfortable carrying layers of protection. You might also be carrying pepper spray, a Taser, or a firearm, but, in some attack situations, you are physically not in a position to use them effectively – for instance, a bear hug over your arms from behind.

MUNIO can be used first, even in those circumstances, and can give you the space and time needed to deploy longer ranged or even lethal tools if you feel another level of incapacitation or force is necessary.

Dr. Art Amann is an instructor in both Karate and Kung Fu, with over forty years of experience in the martial arts. He has a doctorate in education and has spent close to 20 years as an instructor and director of the Police Academy and the Public Safety Institute at Mercyhurst University. He is also the former Erie County Prison warden and chief adult probation/parole officer with a lot of experience to share from it. He is a certified instructor for MUNIO Self Defense Workshops, a PA Act 120 Academic Instructor, PA Act 235 Classroom and Defensive Tactics Instructor, PA Municipal Police Defensive Tactics Instructor, NRA Basic Pistol Instructor, and Pressure Point Control Tactics Instructor.

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