Inspired by Could laser (or other energy-bolt-shooting) guns ever practically replace regular guns with bullets?

As cool as the Star Trek stun gun/disintegrator is. I sometimes question the use of "one weapon with settings" in combat or policing situations.

Now we have police that use guns and tasers. Do you guys ever wonder why they don't ask manufacturers to combine the two into one weapon?

Somehow I find it hard to see a police officer pointing a gun / taser combo on a "disturbing the peace" call

While a single weapon that is visibly a taser seems more safe pointing at people "disturbing the peace"

Pointing a loaded gun / taser seems contradictory to gun training "point your weapon down when you don't intend to fire"

Or look at it another way how would you feel if you were the "perp" disturbing the peace and an officer points a gun / taser at you?

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    $\begingroup$ Might be too expensive to make or might be a bit heavy or very hard to combine $\endgroup$ – CrazySlayaNinjaBear Dec 13 '14 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ It's worth pointing out that tazers are much more lethal than you seem to think. Also, you're assuming that the average cop needs a gun. The police in the UK would disagree. $\endgroup$ – Brendan Long Dec 13 '14 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ @BrendanLong Well, the goverment thinks not. I'm sure many a copper would disagree! $\endgroup$ – HarryCBurn Dec 13 '14 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @BrendanLong And the police in the UK have been unable to deal with criminals at times. I have heard many a ridicule over this, usually to the tune of "Ha, they can't do anything. Now they've called the 'real' police who have to come help the faux-police." I stand somewhere in the middle and think a compromise would be good. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk May 1 '17 at 21:58

I could see it being very easy to accidentally use one when you use the other.

If you draw a gun at anyone, you must be ready to shoot them dead. That's the general rule given. If you draw a taser, you're ready to just put them down.

I would feel very uncomfortable with having to point a gun at someone in order to use my tazer.

The result would be more questioning of the police. By making the edge between lethal force and nonlethal force a little thinner, you would give skilled policemen more room to use nonlethal force. However, in the hands of less skilled policemen (every job has its skill ranks), it would be extremely dangerous and litigious.

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    $\begingroup$ We have enough trouble with the near-weekly "cop murders" we see cropping up on YouTube and the media. Give them any excuse to "accidentally" kill, and they will. Unless, by accepting such a device, they also sign a document that says the first time anyone dies from its use, they turn in their badge and face manslaughter charges (it wasn't, after all, "on purpose"). $\endgroup$ – phyrfox Dec 13 '14 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ This is actually a concern any time a lethal weapon is temporarily made non-lethal (even when it's just to dry-fire it) -- there's a risk that someone thinks they won't kill someone by firing it, when it's actually in lethal mode. Likewise, when Taser made a shotgun shell that was a Taser, the rule generally was to always separate shotguns firing that from shotguns firing lethal rounds, even though you could do both with the same gun. $\endgroup$ – cpast Dec 13 '14 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @phyrfox That wouldn't even make sense; the whole point of combining gun and Taser instead of just using a Taser is that police would reasonably often use the gun. If police should never kill anyone using the device, it wouldn't have a gun in it in the first place. $\endgroup$ – cpast Dec 13 '14 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ Even now, this is more than theoretical. Johannes Mehserle, the police officer who killed Oscar Grant, claimed that he unintentionally fired his gun thinking it was a taser... even though they were two physically separate objects (as dramatized in the film Fruitvale Station). $\endgroup$ – octern Dec 14 '14 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ This answer is the reason. Weapon confusion. Google the Bay Area Rapid Transit incident (might be what octern is talking about) where cop kills an innocent guy and claims accident. Specifically for multi-mode weapons, we have them and they sometimes get used in the wrong mode. There was an incident all over the news a few years ago; if I recall, a young girl at a firing range accidentally killed the instructor because he left the rifle in full-auto mode, and the girl lost control of the firearm as it rapid-fired. If it had been a single-mode semi-auto firearm, he would probably still be alive. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk May 1 '17 at 22:06

The reason why a police officer points a gun at someone is because they don't want to kill them. It is usually meant to intimidate the suspect to comply, because deadly force will follow when they don't. Deadly force should* be the last resort when the life of the officer or of another person is in danger.

When taser and gun would be one item, the suspect wouldn't know if they are threatened with deadly or non-deadly force. Many would assume the latter, not realizing that only the gun-feature and not the taser-feature can be used in the given situation, and not comply. That would result in more casualties of deadly police force than before.

Another risk is operator error. A police officer might try to stun someone, but accidentally press the wrong button and kill them instead. Such accidents can be prevented by having both weapons being separate items, preferably with controls which operate and feel very different.

*) in theory

  • $\begingroup$ Would you mind if I integrated your first sentence into my answer? I think your choice of wording of "don't want" vs "ready to" shoot someone is a very useful contrast. My answer currently does not do a good job of pointing out that the police do not want to shoot someone, but rather that they are ready to accept the consequences if a series of unfortunate events causes them to accidentally pull the trigger (such as something as minute as a muscle twitch) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '14 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ We already have a case of a cop drawing and using a gun (with lethal results) when he meant to use a taser. Separate devices help but aren't foolproof. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Dec 16 '15 at 0:39

I can almost guarantee the reason they are not combined today is because of the fear of pulling the 'wrong' trigger when facing a suspect. Police Officers are human too (at least the vast majority) and they make mistakes. Pulling a weapon on someone is still a very stressful part of the job. Right now the decision is made when they decide which weapon to pull. Not only could it be awful for the suspect if the officer fires the gun instead of the taser, but what about the opposite, the perp pulls a gun and the officer shoots the taser and they are too far away? The officer could be shot in the time it takes to readust. Now if they come up with a weapon that you dial the setting up, and default always goes back to 'stun', where it's just a matter of intensity this would be much more likely.


More a complement to other answers than an independent one.

Both tasers and guns are relatively mature technology designed for utility. That means that they do not have lots of unnecessary weight or size. Since about the only part of substantial size guns and tasers have in common is the grip, which may contain ammunition or battery, there would be very little saving in the size or weight from combining them. This implies that if you want roughly similar performance the combined weapon would have weight that is near the combined weight of its two components. Same for size. This would be a serious usability issue. Exposing the taser to repeated shocks from gunfire at the firing range is unlikely to help reliability either. It is also cheaper to maintain two simple weapons than one complex.

All in all unless you have significant synergy, having two simple specialized weapons is better than having one larger and more complex combined weapon.

If we knew how to build a gun that uses "electro-shock" ammunition that only stuns at low (relatively silent) velocity, but penetrates tissue at higher velocities and is capable of adjusting the velocity... That might make sense. It would still be more complex and less reliable than current guns, but it might be good enough.

  • $\begingroup$ There actually was a Taser shell (the XREP) that fit standard 12-gauge shotguns, and yet even then there was a separate shotgun sold by Taser specifically to work only with less-lethal shells, and even when departments didn't use that (you could also use a regular shotgun) standard rules were to never mix lethal and less-lethal ammunition, and to mark less-lethal firearms if possible (so an unmarked shotgun wouldn't fire a less-lethal round). It really is mostly the risk of using the wrong mode, not the complexity or weight of a combined weapon. $\endgroup$ – cpast Dec 13 '14 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @cpast A taser shell and a taser are two different things. I agree a taser shell could be combined into a shotgun, I even implied as much in my answer, but the question was about tasers. And yes, as I also implied, it really would require a gun specifically designed for it and capable of getting both effects with one type of ammunition to make sense. It really is not convenient to check what type of ammunition you have loaded when shooting at someone... Oh, and there is a reason my answer starts: "More a complement to other answers than an independent one." ;) $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Dec 13 '14 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ My point was more that even in the situation where this was actually possible, it still wasn't done for nontechnical reasons: not because of the inconvenience of different kinds of ammo, but to make sure that pulling the trigger only ever means one thing. I guess that's actually another usability aspect - it's generally considered a bad idea to give two very different functions to the trigger of a gun, so you probably couldn't even reuse the trigger on the combined weapon. $\endgroup$ – cpast Dec 13 '14 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ @cpast Having two entirely separate and different safety mechanisms might be better than separate triggers. But I think we both agree the real best solution is to have two separate weapons? All we seem to not agree on which of the quite sufficient reasons not to build combination weapons is more important... And even that is probably more a perspective thing than actual difference of opinion. You focus on the reason that people have ran in the real world. I focus on the reason that I think would be harder to engineer around. And even that is mostly because nobody had mentioned it before... $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Dec 14 '14 at 0:10

I was up late last night mulling this over as an easy way to make a lethal/non lethal situation. I know that it has to be a handgun configuration. A longarm is easier to make distinction because it could be set up like a M203. My first design was something like the cop derringer with double triggers. Tazer would be front triggers and the 2 shots of .357 would be the back trigger. Then you would have your standard sidearm for definitive lethal situations. Now add a flip cap pepper spray on the baton and your decisions are faster and easier to make.

  • $\begingroup$ My goodness, the training it would take to make something that complicated useful would be staggering. Not impossible, but it would take a long time to get the nuances down. Every point of choice is an opportunity for error. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Mar 14 '17 at 13:31

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