I remember when Axon’s TASER X-26 was the newest less lethal device on the market. It wasn’t just a step up from the M-26, it was a giant leap in technology. The M-26 was the first conducted energy weapon to produce neuromuscular incapacitation (NMI). NMI is the motor-nerve stimulation of the muscles that occur when electrical pulses temporarily interfere with the command-and-control systems of the body.
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The X-26’s shaped pulse technology allowed it to be smaller and use less power to achieve NMI much more effectively. Since then, we’ve seen the X-26P, X2, X3 and TASER 7, all of which brought advances in technology such as current metering, virtual reality integration, rechargeable batteries, dual laser sighting and pulse calibration. Most of us were interested in the next step in TASER technology.
On January 24, 2023, Axon introduced the TASER 10 at TASERCON. After my video call with Axon Senior Vice President Patrick Madden the previous day, it was obvious to me that the TASER 10 iteration is less of a step up and more of a giant leap.
Axon has fielded its TASER 10 to seven U.S. agencies and two international agencies for the past several months, who racked up 10 deployments with a 100% success rate. The company has conducted 400 voluntary test deployments and has trained 500 officers. That’s a small sample size, but after extensive testing, Axon believes the TASER 10 will be over 95% successful. There were over 25 successful de-escalations from the spooky charge-up sound the T10 makes. It reminds me of the sound you hear on TV and in movies right before emergency room personnel use a defibrillator.
“This is our moonshot,” Madden told me. If you’re unfamiliar with that phrase, Madden is referring to the voyages of Apollo 10 and Apollo 11. Apollo 10 circled the moon but didn’t land. It was considered a dress rehearsal for the eventual Apollo 11 landing. Apollo 10’s mission gathered the required information and confidence needed to put a man on the moon. Axon considers TASER 10 to be the company’s first step in its own moonshot toward the mission of cutting firearms-related deaths between law enforcement and the public by 50% in ten years.
One shot, one probe
Madden had to tell me three different times that the TASER 10 deploys only one probe at a time before I truly grasped what he was saying. “No more geometry,” I thought.
Having been a TASER user and instructor for most of my career, I was nonplussed. With legacy TASERs, the officer had no choice but to deploy two probes at one time and had no more than two opportunities to land two probes in the right places to obtain NMI.
Madden explained that the ability to choose where each individual probe is placed allows the officer to localize the NMI depending on the situation. For example, officers have been discouraged from using their TASER on a fleeing subject because the NMI can render their arms useless during their fall, which often leads to serious head injuries. With the TASER 10, the user can accurately and quickly place one probe in each leg of the fleeing subject. The offender still can break their fall and the apprehension can be made more safely.
Volts and accuracy
Legacy TASERs have always been 50,000-volt weapons. I’ve even heard officers verbalize that fact to suspects in hopes of pre-employment de-escalation. The TASER 10 needs only 1,000 volts to accomplish the same mission. This allows for a smaller wire, smaller cartridges, more accurate travel and up to 45 feet of effective range. The only caveat is that the probes must pierce the skin as the energy can’t arc through clothing.
The TASER 7 used weighted probes to push their way into an effective position through clothing. The TASER 10 has an increased velocity of just over 200 feet per second. The combination of a lighter wire and that velocity has not only increased accuracy but allows for increased performance in attaining NMI from the TASER 7 to the TASER 10.
The decrease in voltage also allows for polarity switching between probes (positive and negative). An officer can deploy as many as 10 individual probes. The TASER 10 chooses between the most effective two, three or four probes and changes their polarity with up to 44 pulses per second to most effectively attain NMI. In other words, more Band-Aids, fewer deaths – no matter how many probes are deployed on a subject. Metabolic stress testing and muscular strain testing are showing the TASER 10 to be as safe or safer than previous models.
Axon took an interesting approach to accuracy testing. An adult male thigh is about 6″ x 10″. The company used that for a target base. The test group was a large number of officers and citizens with vastly different skill levels in both TASERs and firearms. The results were a greater than 90% hit rate at 15 feet and a greater than 70% hit rate at 33 feet. That is nearly as precise as their legacy weapons at three times the distance.
The test subjects found the TASER 10 easier and more intuitive to use than a firearm due to the lack of recoil and stress over the consequences arising from a miss. Every bullet fired hits something and is much less forgiving than a TASER probe. Users’ heart rates were found to be about 15 beats per second slower using the TASER 10 in high-stress testing than when they were using simulated firearms.
Law enforcement doesn’t use lethal force because it’s lethal; lethal force is simply and unfortunately the most reliable way to protect the public and officers from an immediate deadly threat. Consider, however, a disturbed individual with a boxcutter 40 feet away. We’ve all heard of the “21-foot principle” (that an attacker can close on and attack an officer with an edged weapon before he or she can draw and fire from seven yards away). Force Science Institute estimates that distance at a much more disturbing 31 feet. The TASER 10’s ability to effectively deploy at 45 feet (where 80% of officer-involved shootings occur) means officers will have more time and options in similar situations.
Don’t misunderstand me. Neither Axon nor I am saying firearms will not always have a place in law enforcement. I would never consider any less lethal tool against a firearm or any immediate close-quarters threat. Any less lethal tool should not be used in a lethal force situation without lethal force backup and all department policies should be strictly followed.
As one would expect the TASER 10 is IP 67-rated, which means it’s waterproof and dustproof (aka cop-proof!). The RMA rate (Return Merchandise Authorization) is expected to be less than 1%. Axon worked with the Department of Justice, the National Institute of Justice, the African American Organization of Mayors and the International Association of Chiefs of Police among others during their development of the TASER 10. That collaboration, decades of research and experience, and innovation in technology have led to what may be the most effective less-lethal weapon in history.
For more information on TASER 10, click here.