A character I'm thinking of is about to have a close call. A woman attacks him with a stun gun by surprise, but by chance he is able to catch the weapon. Backup operatives move to assassinate him conventionally, but he is able to escape by an unexpected route.

The stun gun appears to be a model sold by a small company (i.e. it should generally look like a stun gun carried semi-legitimately for self defense) It is, however, a counterfeit - the woman planned to exchange it with another agent, so she could present a verifiable stun weapon to police if speaking with them became necessary. An agent would also testify that the victim made an inappropriate sexual contact just beforehand. The site was chosen for lack of mounted cameras, and routine 5G terahertz scanning of the scene and weapons by passerby smart phones has been blocked during the incident by "chance" interference.

On examination, the weapon is designed to kill reliably when applied to someone's heart by a trained user. It does so without leaving evidence differing from the stun gun it mimics. The question is whether (or how) this is done. A few minutes searching turned up this abstract explaining the electrodes should go above and below the heart, and work by controlling ventricular rhythm with pulses of electricity. When these steadily speed up, presumably the victim would be driven into fibrillation.

This is not quite the entire story, however, because several other articles claim humans are more resistant than pigs (the electrical signals in the heart run deeper) and the voltage of a Taser is only half of what is needed to control the heart rate. The temptation is to double the voltage, but this assumes everything goes perfectly - yet still leaves more severe surface markings. Some other trick may be needed.

I would be surprised if such weapons have not already been used in the field by certain unsavory agencies that closely follow weapon development, yet I'm also not entirely sure they're possible at all.

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    $\begingroup$ I see no point to resisting the temptation. Tasers already leave burn marks routinely, both when the victims die and when they survive. Increasing those shouldn't arouse suspicion. The real suspicion is that a non-law-enforcement agent would ever use one. In places where self-defense with firearms is permitted, people use those. In places where it is not permitted, neither are tasers permitted. They're expensive, single-shot, and somewhat difficult to procure. Are you certain you don't mean the older "stun guns" where you'd hold them to your target? $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ Overly complicated. Outside of a James Bond movie, any engineer will tell you that trying to gimmick up a gadget to do something it really wasn't designed to do is a difficult, expensive, and risky proposition. A more sensible plot would to be to have the assassin simply stun the target to incapacitate them and have the backup agents bring in a specialized apparatus to electrocute the individual, since the backup agents were already going to be there anyway. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ It is trivial to make any electrical shock device more lethal, just modulate the pulse rate to match part of (but not all) of the heart's trigger pulses, causing fibrillation. But ensuring lethality? Nope. It would just increase the lethality rate from the current Tazer's about 0.5% up to maybe 8% $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ "when applied to someone's heart" - is this a contact weapon or projectile weapon like Taser? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ Collision with just about anything is lethal when you're in orbit and it's in retrograde orbit. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 1:46

3 Answers 3


The biggest thing your "stun gun" needs is to output 60 Hz AC (perhaps superposed on the high voltage pulsed DC normally produced by this sort of device). It takes only about 30 mA at 60 Hz across the heart for as little as a hundred milliseconds to induce ventricular fibrillation -- which is almost always lethal without intervention (and the victim will lose consciousness in seconds, so is unlikely to help themselves).

The potentially tricky part of this is getting that current across the heart; the contact probes on most stun guns are too close together for this to be reliable. If it were a true Taser, with projected barbs, this is more likely to occur, since the barbs will separate by a handspan or more when projected a couple meters -- but this kind of device isn't commonly carried by civilians (mainly due to cost; it's a one-shot device that can't be reloaded by the user, so very expensive to practice with, but in some jurisdictions it's legally limited to law enforcement as well), and shooting the victim with a Taser from that kind of distance doesn't fit well with the cover story.

Because the probes of whatever is used will leave minor skin burns (from the DC of the "legitimate" stun gun) having a use device with widely spread probes is a problem as well; medical examiners would expect to find the burns close together, not widely separated.

In this case, you may need to do a little handwaving -- an ordinary purse or pocket stunner with 60 Hz superposed on the output can kill via fibrillation, it just won't be reliable as these devices are usually built.

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    $\begingroup$ Making it AC is a good technical detail - the alternating current should allow more current for the same amount of visible injury. I'd need persuading for your figure - Wikipedia says this, but it cites a handout that says "possible". I've seen several people survive 120V 60Hz AC mishaps, even one with solid grounding, which makes me skeptical. The spacing is also good detail - the device could simulate two separate sets of marks applied at the same moment, but the extra flip-out probes would be very suspicious. Hmmm... $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ The key point with AC (and 60 Hz -- 50 Hz European current is less hazardous in this respect even though it's 240 V) is current across the chest or heart. A hundred amps from the right hand to right foot will result in severe burns (likely loss of one or both limbs to those burns), but may not produce fibrillation. A small fraction of an amp from right hand to left hand can kill. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 11:07

It is poisonous.


A Bulgarian umbrella is an umbrella with a hidden pneumatic mechanism which injects a small poisonous pellet containing ricin. It has a hollowed stalk in which the pellet neatly sits.

Such an umbrella was used in and named for the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov on 7 September 1978[1] (the birthday of the Bulgarian State Council chairman Todor Zhivkov, who had often been the target of Georgi Markov's criticism) on Waterloo Bridge in London. Markov died four days later. It was also allegedly used in the failed assassination attempt against the Bulgarian dissident journalist Vladimir Kostov the same year in the Paris Métro. The poison used in both cases was ricin.

The stun gun is a functioning stun gun. However the barbs have a groove which can hold a pellet of poison in the manner of the Bulgarian umbrella. Barbs are expected to penetrate and so a wound of this sort would not be suspicious for a person hit by the stun gun. One can go with ricin as in the linked device, or choose or invent a faster acting poison such that the stun gun becomes more rapidly lethal.

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    $\begingroup$ There are a few highly labile poisons out there that break down so fast they are only detected by their effects. Not sure I want to advertise which ones work this way on a public website... $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ A poison that leaves no trace and causes immediate incapacitation and death consistent with fibrillation? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 21:26

People have been known to die after being tased: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-axon-taser-toll-idUSKCN1B21AH

It might be possible to "improve" the output of the device your character uses so that it would be capable of killing the subject.

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    $\begingroup$ You might want to flesh this out a bit with commentary. It's kind of the point of the question, and looks more like a comment. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus: I don't have enough reputation to directly comment. Mainly I was just stating that if a taser were upgraded to supply more current at the correct amperage and voltage, it could induce a lethal shock. $\endgroup$
    – user20568
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 1:59

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