"You never have to regret a stun shot."
Weapons that will cause the target they hit to lose consciousness for a certain period of time. Extra points if they cause a person to be mistaken for dead by a casual observer.
Unlike real world weapons made by Taser, which work by a very powerful electric shock, many of these show no clue to how
they incapacitate a target, simply acting like a nonlethal version of the Instant Death Bullet
. And like the Tap on the Head
often used for similar purposes, in fiction they almost never cause someone to be killed accidentally. In real life, Taser weapons have infamously caused several heart attacks, although they're still much safer than coshing or shooting someone. If they intentionally cause pain, can be an Agony Beam
Useful when Thou Shalt Not Kill
is in effect. Ideal as Family-Friendly Firearms
and often part of a Non-Lethal Warfare
. However most authors don't seem to consider that even if the target is not directly harmed by the stun effect, there are many situations where suddenly losing consciousness could be dangerous.
Subtropes include Instant Sedation
(especially in the form of firearms firing tranquilizer darts), Static Stun Gun
for the electric-powered variant and Sonic Stunner
for the sound-based version. Contrast As Lethal as It Needs to Be
(For the last time, Real Life
equivalent: the T.A.S.E.R.note
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Anime and Manga
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has two types of damage: Physical and Magical. Physical damage can kill you, while Magical damage will only knock you out at most. The latter is the reason why Nanoha can make friends by blowing them up with a high-powered magical beam of pure energy. This works even when the entire area around you is destroyed. In The Movie, Nanoha explicitly sets Raising Heart to stun.
- Several anime (Lost Universe and Gasaraki immediately come to mind) treat rubber and plastic rounds this way, as somehow enacting the Instant Death Bullet without the death, rather than just hurting.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni's Shion Sonozaki has a habit of knocking people out with tasers, often by pushing it very hard into their neck. She has never given anyone more than a few hours of unconsciousness (at least, that's all she's done with the taser...).
- However, she accidentally killed her grandma with it. Tasers don't go well with the elderly apparently.
- Several uses in Great Teacher Onizuka.
- The Slayers: Elmekia Lance is a weaked-down holy blast useful against things like demons and zombies. For what has been seen of its (usually accidental) use on humans, they tend to be knocked out cold. It's safe to assume the Ra Tilt does something similar, on a grander scale.
- Kanon Nakagawa, the neurotic Idol Singer from The World God Only Knows uses these in harmonious Dual Wielding, especially when she feels insecure about her status. That is, whenever Keima ignores her.
- Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid. Sousuke gives Kaname a taser weapon on her request, which she later uses to defend herself against an assassin in what most fans agree is her Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- The Dominators in Psycho Pass have a Paralyzer mode for targets whose Criminal Coefficients are between 101 & 300. Anything above that goes into Eliminator mode.
- In Toriko "Knocking" Guns fire needles to nonlethally bring down opponents. The catch is that the wielder needs to know the right nerves and pressure points to strike. "Knocking Master" Jirou and his grandson Teppei can perform Knocking with their bare hands.
- At one point (probably not any more) the Punisher carried "mercy bullets" for use on interfering superheroes and bystanders. Spider-Man was once shot at point blank range with one; considering that even a blank can kill under circumstances like that...
- Blasters in Strontium Dog have a 'stun' setting in order to avoid harming civilians. In the "Bitch" story, Johnny ordered Red to keep her blaster set to 'stun' at all times as he was sympathetic to the Kaiak-K.
- The Lawgiver MkII in Judge Dredd has a stun setting. However, it's notoriously unreliable and, as a result, highly unpopular among street judges.
- After the Squadron Supreme forcibly disarms the nation as part of their Utopia Plan, law enforcement officers are armed with "Pacifier Pistols", guns that shoot small tranquilizer gels.
- For Star Wars examples, see Film, above.
- Doc Savage and his "mercy bullets" may have created this trope.
- Larry Niven's Known Space has mercy needles, slivers of anesthetic that dissolve in the bloodstream of whoever is shot with them.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, stunners are standard issue for police or anyone else who might want to be able to shoot first and ask questions later. Hangover-like symptoms are a nearly universal side-Effect, and at one point something like "we don't have to worry about heart conditions with this lot" is mentioned, implying that there is a risk of causing more severe damage than intended. She also points out a problem with stunners: If they're all you've got, then you can be killed by an unarmed mob, since they won't be afraid of attacking you, and with sufficient numbers they can overwhelm you, and kick you to death. If you were carrying a lethal weapon, they wouldn't dare try it.
- In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the Aunts wield cattle-prods.
- E. E. “Doc” Smith's Family D'Alembert series (mostly ghostwritten by Stephen Goldin after Smith's death) features a stun gun with settings from one to ten. #1 is a mild shock that will sometimes not render the finest physical specimens immediately unconscious; #3 or #4 will put you out for up to an hour; #8 will put you down for many hours, and SOME victims suffer permanent neurological impairment; #10 is uniformly lethal. Weak or infirm victims may react worse to any given setting. Preferred by law enforcement because in moments of doubt you can shoot everybody and not worry about the consequences, but it backfires on them when the bad guys start using humaniform robots, against which they are ineffective.
- Andre Norton's science fiction stories had stunners, pistol-like devices that rendered their victims unconscious.
- Zoe of Matthew Reilly's Six Sacred Stones uses one to incapacitate guards at Stonehenge.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, the Russian government has managed to develop one-shot paralyzers that become useless after discharging with no way to recharge the battery. Unlike the typical examples of this trope, the target remains fully conscious but is incapable of movement. It is proven to work on at least one other race. Interestingly, the paralyzer is made by a think tank specifically charged with reading/watching science fiction for ideas. Their other known invention is an Explosive Leash.
Live Action TV
Stand Up Comedy
- Eddie Izzard parodied this once in a routine about less and less damaging settings for Star Trek Phasers: "Limp," "Bit of a Cough," "Depression," "Bad Eyesight," "Ice Cream Van Nearby," "Sudden Interest In Botany," "Water In The Ear After Swimming," and "Left The Oven On At Home."
- By Voyager, the default setting seems to be "mildly annoy".
- "The List of Character Survival Techniques" (v.1.5) recommends carrying a stun weapon such as tasers and knockout poison darts — sooner or later your teammate will catch Demonic Possession, Hate Plague or something. And considering it as a primary weapon, to reduce inevitable complications.
- GURPS: High-Tech has stun guns/batons as well as tasers, they're nearly useless against people wearing anything but normal clothing. By Ultra-Tech they've been replaced with electrolasers.
- Shadowrun has stun batons, tasers, stun gloves, etc.
- One of the provisions of Dunkelzhun's will is a large sum of cash for the developer of an effective, safe, stun weapon. 15 in game years later, there is still mention from time to time of companies trying to win that prize.
- This is possibly a nod toward Gameplay and Story Integration. The rules of the game allow for two separate damage tracks: Physical and Stun. As the name implies, Stun weapons cause Stun damage, but so do things like physical exhaustion (from a long day of work), powerful medications, and casting spells. Taking Stun damage in excess of your Stun track will instantly knock you out, but the overflow carries over to physical damage where it is cumulative with existing wounds; if you were about to pass out from stress anyway (9 boxes out of 10 on the Stun track) and had a couple of light Physicals wound (2 boxes out of 10 on the Physical track) and you get hit with an instant-KO shot (10 boxes out of 10 on the Stun track), the Stun overflow can push through and kill you outright.
- TSR's Star Frontiers game had electrostunners (ranged stunning weapons).
- A relative of the above FASA property, the tabletop Mech Warrior RPG features a variety of stun weapons. Chemical, electrical, and sonic stun weapons are available as ranged weapons, though stun batons are also available. An insidious item known as the neural whip could also technically be used to stun victims, but prolonged use could result in crippling injuries and permanent loss of attribute points.
- Believe it or not, the normally ultra-lethal Paranoia has stun guns, along with tanglers (which strangle you to death if you get hit in the neck, otherwise they just immobilize a body part).
- Eclipse Phase has stunners, electrolasers that deal some damage and the "shock" status effect, shock batons, shock gloves, and eelware are melee weapons that do practically the same thing. Also agonizers use microwaves to inflict incapacitating pain without damage (unless set to "roast"), and standard laser guns have a "stun" setting that uses a set of quick pulses to achieve a flashbang-like effect.
- In the 90s Marvel cartoons and various other action shows, energy weapons on low settings are treated this way.
- In the Jonny Quest episode "The Robot Spy", the title device had two antennae that could render anyone they touched unconscious.
- G.I. Joe, one of the granddaddies of Family-Friendly Firearms, actually showed this... only twice. Once when a character was hit by a laser during a training exercise (and failed to be actually stunned, merely yelping in pain), and once during a closeup of a Joe setting the power slider on a pistol from "stun" to "max." A-Team Firing seemed to be their preferred form of less-lethal attack.
- The season 3 finale of Archer features "ion pulse" weapons that are supposed to be this. In a bit of a deconstruction, they actually stop your heart and affected persons need immediate defibrillation ("So... 'stun' may be a bit of a misnomer"). Naturally, this doesn't stop Archer from shooting his co-workers with them anyway.
- Spectrum-issue sidearms have a stun setting in Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet, which is a mild bowdlerisation from the original 1960s version. It is mild because they also have a clearly-marked KILL setting which appears to be the default, and the on-screen body count is not noticeably lower.
- Weapons that render a person unconscious, or incapacitate without causing permanent injury, are rare in real life. The sad fact is that the amount of force necessary to knock a person out is almost as great as the amount of force necessary to kill a person, and it's very hard to hit hard enough to do the former without hitting so hard that you also do the latter.
- Several companies are working on electrolasers, effectively taking the awkward probes and wires out of the Taser by using a high-frequency laser to ionise a path through the air for current to follow. So far, they've developed effective area-defense devices, although they're still a long way from pistol or even rifle size.
- The development problem is, as per all beam weapons, a portable power supply.
- Another problem with electrolasers is that laser beams powerful enough to ionize air between them and a target are usually powerful enough to make holes in it. Which kinda defeats the purpose of having them in the first place.
- Raw power (i.e. the number of photons) is not the issue, but frequency. Each photon must be able to kick off an electron on its own, so what's needed is a fairly modest beam in ultraviolet. This also contributes to the size problem—there is no simple, stable lasing medium that works in that band, necessitating more complicated and bulky designs.
- There are also a few designs using concentrated jets of salt water, but they face the same issue as peeing on the third rail, lack of a coherent stream.
- Riot level pepper-spray guns (also used to ward off bears) count as something between Stun Guns or chemical Agony Beams, with better takedown statistics but shorter range than handguns. Sadly, their extracurricular use in back-room police interrogation is on the increase.
- Another tool used by riot control police is the "riot ball". This is a big rubber bullet designed to be fired from a shotgun. It will cause a big bruise, and maybe crack a rib, but its intent is to incapacitate its target, not kill it.
- Certain countries with anal gun control laws, such as Russia, encourage the production of "traumatic" weapons, that is, stun firearms that can only fire rubber bullets. Most of them are either notoriously ineffective or needlessly lethal, with civilian versions likely to be the former and police versions the latter.
- The MythBusters once took on the notion of a water-based stun gun, with some success. However, they determined that the device they created was, in fact, more likely to kill anyone you shot with it than to stun them.
- Another note, they could only make it work at all was to fire it from inside giant, specialized lightning generator, and they only had one shot.
- The Taser XREP◊ (eXtended Range Electronic Projectile) is perhaps the closest there is to a effective multi shot stun gun. Its essentially a miniaturized taser that fits a 12 gauge shotgun. It deploys on contact so its effective range is about 100 feet, more than double to the current stun guns used by police officers. The only real problem with it is that currently its quite pricey at around $100 a round (if you buy a pack), luckily the shells are reusable.
- And if you liked that, you're gonna love the Taser Shockwave. Call it what they will, I call it a Taser Claymore. (No, not that kind, although that would also be awesome. This kind.)
- Taser shotguns caused controversy recently when they were used by British police on fugitive gunman Raoul Moat, who then killed himself with a sawn-off shotgun. The controversy arose from the fact that apparently the Home Office hadn't approved their use, as they're still under testing.
- Stun guns are "pain compliance" weapons. They do not render people unconscious, nor even physically incapacitate them (admittedly, they can cause muscles in the targeted zone to lock up, briefly). Another problem with stun guns is that they require skin contact, and have no Taser-like barbs to penetrate clothing. It is necessary to press both prongs of the stun gun onto skin to complete the circuit and enable the current to flow.