Human effects testing: An Electronic Control Device comparison
By Chris Myers, Rick Wyant, and Tom Burns
CRT Less Lethal, Inc.
Electronic Control Devices (ECDs) have changed the way law enforcement first responders have used intermediate force in the last decade. The leader of this realm has been TASER® International with the M26 and X26 devices. Over the last two years competitors have been emerging, hoping to enter this niche. The new competitors offer fresh ideas and perspective, leaving officers and agencies with the task of evaluating the features and effectiveness of the available models.
Shown top: Stinger S-200™; bottom: TASER X26
Since widespread use of ECDs is relatively new, objective testing protocols are likewise not well established. In 2006, Stinger Stun Systems, Inc. introduced a four-dart projectile stun-gun. This device was tested and several deficiencies were found that led to the redesign of the device. We learned a great deal about testing ECDs side by side during that first generation of tests.
In 2007, Stinger Stun Systems Inc. introduced the Stinger S-200™ as the next generation of Stinger Stun Technology. CRT was able to use the knowledge of ECD testing gained in the first round of tests and develop blind side-by-side test protocols that allow each model of ECD to be tested on its own merits. This testing allows each Law Enforcement agency to make informed decisions, equipping officers with the best tool for the job.
Several agencies expressed interest in evaluating this new entry into the less-lethal market, but weren’t sure how to conduct realistic comparisons to obtain results that would translate to real world results. The most critical aspect of this testing is the human effects testing. All of the other features simply don’t matter if the device does not stop a focused aggressor.
We obtained two Stinger S-200 units to compare to the TASER X26 model.
In actual field use, ECDs are most commonly used at ranges of seven to fifteen feet. In order to approximate this in controlled testing, we placed the devices in a vice at twelve feet from a blank target. The vice was used to eliminate any shooter influence on the point of aim, or probe spread. We fired cartridges from a bench rested S-200 and a bench rested X26. Both devices were reasonably accurate with the top probe to the point of aim from the laser.
Volunteers shown during an X26 cycle. They are both fully locked and unable to attack the sparring bag.
At twelve feet, the probes from the Stinger S-200 averaged nine inches of spread. The Taser X26 averaged 22 inches of spread. The Stinger probes were greatly improved over the previous model. The Stinger probes were notably contaminated with residue from the propellant. These measurements were used to place the leads in human effects exposures. We were able to enlist eight volunteers from a variety of backgrounds.
In four of the exposures, we placed the wires from the devices at the spread obtained in test firings. The stinger wires were placed 9 inches apart on the subject while the Taser wires were placed 22 inches apart. This was done to simulate the firing of the device from a consistent 12 foot distance. The other four exposures were performed with a consistent fourteen inch spread for both devices. This was done to eliminate any advantage or disadvantage a greater probe spread might offer. It was important to compare the effects of the device output since probe spread can and will vary with deployment distance.
Many of our volunteers had never experienced and ECD exposure. To eliminate any bias (or perception of bias), we placed each device in a paper bag to conceal it. The bare wires were placed on the subject, and they were not told which models of ECDs were being tested.
A full locked volunteer shown in the X26 cycle.
The volunteers were given a goal, as focus is very important. Initially we instructed the volunteers that after a count-down to the ECD cycle, they were to charge a sparring bag seven feet away and punch the bag. One of the first volunteers was able to perform that task, and upon completion of the task, when there was no longer a focus, he stopped fighting through the effects and went to the ground to ride out the remainder of the cycle. This made it very clear to us that a goal-oriented focus is critical to the realistic testing of these devices. Both models generate discomfort. If the subject is asked to simply stand there and endure the cycle, then they are only comparing the sensations perceived. Many of the offenders that police officers are using ECDs to stop are drunk, high, or very focused, so perceived pain is not an effective deterrent.
We then changed our directions to the volunteers. The remaining volunteers were told to charge at the sparring bag seven feet away, attack the bag and continue their attack, pushing the spotter off the mats and continuing to attack until the cycle ended or they were told to stop. The volunteers were also told that each device was different, and that they should not allow the effects of one device to influence their efforts with the other.
The volunteers were given a two minute rest period between exposures, and the exposure site was alternated between left and right. The order of the devices was also altered, so that the Taser X26 was used first during half of the exposures and the Stinger S-200 was used first during the other half. The volunteers were sequestered in another room prior to their testing so that they could not see the exposures before theirs and would not be influenced by the performance of others.
A volunteer fights through while the cycle of the Stinger S200 is running. He is still able to focus and attack the sparring bag.
The results of this testing were very clear. All eight volunteers were able to travel the seven feet to the sparring bag, and deliver effective impact force during the cycle of the Stinger S-200. Several volunteers were able to attack aggressively enough to push the spotter backwards off the mat.
All eight volunteers were disabled by the Taser X26 and were dropped to the ground.
During post-exposure interviews, many of the volunteers described the feeling of the X26 exposure as overwhelming or helpless. The volunteers agreed that the Stinger S-200 was painful, but that pain focused their aggression, and made them want to fight harder. These results were consistent regardless of training or background. We had volunteers that ranged from college students with no fighting or weapons backgrounds to working police officers with extensive defensive tactics training. Experience appeared to play no role in the effectiveness of the devices, but rather mental focus and the willingness to fight through discomfort.
We believe that human effects testing based upon a focused aggressive subject must be the first standard for comparing ECD models. All of the other features, including price, are irrelevant if the device will not drop the combative subjects it is intended to stop.
Video of this testing, and additional details are available online at www.CRTLessLethal.com
This study was independently funded by CRT Less-Lethal, Inc.
About the Authors:
Rick Wyant is a forensic scientist. He is a nationally recognized expert in forensic reconstruction of ECD incidents and analysis of related evidence. He is a distinguished member of the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners, a SWGGUN board member and a reserve deputy.
Chris Myers is a Police Officer and Instructor on Less Lethal Options including ECDs, Specialty Impact Munitions, and Chemical Agents, Team Tactics and Demonstration Management.
Tom Burns is a Police Officer and Instructor on Less Lethal Options including Specialty Impact Munitions, Chemical Agents, Crowd Control Tactics, Team Tactics, and ECDs.
All three authors work together to test various less lethal options under realistic conditions and instruct officers to effectively apply this technology within its limitations. For more information please visit www.CRTLessLethal.com
CRT Less-Lethal, Inc.
PO Box 1214
Snohomish, WA 98291