Analysis of new TASER recommendations: "Aim small to miss small"

TASER created quite a controversy by recommending that officers avoid the traditional “center mass” hit with the TASER — firing instead for the abdomen with one probe and attempting to place the second probe in the leg. Anti-TASER folks tried to turn this into a pyrrhic victory, while many in law enforcement looked at it as a betrayal.

I thought long and hard about this news and trashed several attempts to produce a column for PoliceOne that would address the controversy. I finally concluded that the only way I was going to be able to give some usable insights was to experience a prescribed hit from the front with the TASER.

More Effective
On October 28th and 29th I attended a TASER Instructor Course taught by TASER Master Trainer Jay Leonard, who is a 19-year law enforcement veteran (10 of those with his current agency, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin).

I asked Jay: “Why has TASER recommended avoiding the center mass frontal shot and told officers to lower their target area?”

Jay answered without hesitation, “Because it is more effective.”

He later added, with exceptional clarity, “We have always taught that the back of a subject is the preferred target area for several reasons. The officer can use the surprise factor to their advantage. This area tends to have more muscles and nerves to cause NMI (Neuro-Muscular Incapacitation) with a TASER use. The back of a subject does not have all the sensitive areas as the front does — the neck, face, throat, groin, breast, etc. We’ve taught for several years now that one probe above the belt line and one below is usually more effective. Like I have already explained, this area tends to have more muscles and nerves to cause the NMI than the chest does.”

Mating with an Electric Eel
The class started and was attended by 28 trainers. I have been shot with the TASER on three occasions and vowed to never volunteer to take another hit from a TASER. I was able to keep this promise to myself, technically, because I did not volunteer to take a hit.

I “requested” it.

I asked to take a probe in the left side of my abdomen and a probe in the quadriceps of the left leg. I did this to see what it felt like to be shot in the preferred target area recommended by TASER International.

As I prepared for the hit I told Jay that I intended on saying “OK!” when I discovered what I needed to know. I did not tell him to end the five second cycle early, but I secretly hoped that he would. Jay depressed the trigger on the yellow TASER and as the wave of neuro-muscular incapacitation flowed through the probes. I began to proclaim loudly, “K! K! K! K!...”

Normally, I am perfectly capable of saying “OK,” without prompting or direction — it is well ingrained in my every day vocabulary — but I could not pronounce these two letters in conjunction. I would describe the sensation as very much like mating with an electric eel for what seems like a very long time while someone turns on a blender and sets it to puree…inside your brain. This hit caused my entire left side of my body to buckle and I was clearly going down.

Then, it ends.

You discover that while you’re certainly not anxious to repeat the experience, you are uninjured.

After those few seconds I was able to understand why TASER recommends the shot placement that it does. By doing so you are able to achieve the best results, the most bang for your buck, the greatest possibility of a TKO (TASER Knock Out). I can now tell you to put one probe left or right of the center of the abdomen and drop the second probe into the quadriceps.

To put it quite simply (and as Jay Leonard explained), “It is more effective.”

How Do You Hit That Spot?
In a close quarter combat situation, after drawing the TASER an officer would be in a great position to deploy the probes into the abdomen without much aiming. If the TASER is so close that both probes hit the abdomen then move the TASER to the quadriceps (front muscle on the leg) and make contact.

Whether we are talking about application of come-alongs, baton impacts, shot placements or the deployment of TASER probes we want to achieve the best results possible to end the resistance or threat that caused us to take this action. All other concerns aside, I can tell you from past experiences that the recommended target areas from the back were extremely effective. Now from a very recent personal experience I can share with you that one probe in the abdomen and another below the waist in the quadriceps can be incredibly effective.

A Simple Conclusion
Upon reflection, it’s clear to me that in making its announcement, TASER said what trainers have been saying for hundreds of years: to achieve the best possible results, “aim small to miss small.”

TASER’s recommendations tactically make sense.

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