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Taser Swat Mag M26 Review Apr 2003

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n the course of a generation lots of things


It would not surprise me if the next generation of cops are carryi ng the M26 Advanced
Taser or devices similar to it in place of common less-lethal opti ons we now consider necessary for effecti ve law enforcement.
When my fat her was in uniform, he
and many of his partners carried saps.
but when I went through the academy
these tools were anathema in our community. It would not surprise me if the
M26 put DC spray in th at category.
A few weeks ago I att ende d a n M 26

Instructor's Course at the Academy of Personal Protection and Security CAPPS) in Nashville,
Tennessee. Several police departments and
correctional facili ti es had sent representa tives to get up to speed on this new devi ce
that is just beginning to wor k its way into the
regio n. I became famili ar wi t h the device
while interactin g wit h offi cers in Florida who
already have exte nsive exper ience and success with the M 26. Since late in 2000. I have
heard nothin g but good reports from the officers I know who have personally deployed or
been present when the M26 has successfully
ended a da ngerou s encount er wit h a noncompliant or combative subject. I had been
looking forward to t he opportunity to find out
for myself just how effective the device was and what the science was behind it.

78 S.W.A.T. APRIL 2003

For t ho se of yo u not fam il iar w it h t he
dev ice, it con sist s of a polyme r fra me t hat
looks very much like a toy gun, comple te wi th
yellow stripe s. The grip of the device houses
the batt ery pack (eight size AA) and the re is
an option for a built- In laser in the front of the

The M26 Advanced l aser
with optio nal spare
cartridge carrier attached
to grip.
device. The "trigger" actually feels more like a rubber
co at ed butto n, but th e
device wa s design ed to feel
and operate li ke a firearm -to
take advanta ge of est abli shed
muscle memory and be intuit ive for an offi cer
to operate.
When the device is deployed (not "fired, "
more on that in a minut e) two metal pro bes
with #8 stainless steel barbs are blasted out
of th e fron t t railin g th in wires behind. When
the probes reach th eir target , the energy flowing th rough the wires seeks the path of least

resistance between th e probe s. The 50,000
vo lts of electricity flow at twenty-six watts.
fift een to twenty time s per second, for five
Unlike old er " stun guns" , which operated
at much low er wattages, th e M 26 is not a
pain compli ance device. Much research was
done to determi ne that a device over sixteen
watts begins to cause Electr a-Muscular Disrupt ion (EMD) by interfering with the electrical signals th at the brain sends out through
the nerves to contro l muscles. Simply put, the
target can be so drunk, high or enraged that
his brain is not registering any pain at alland the M26 can still take him out of the fight
by simply overrid ing his muscular control.
The non-law enforcement version of t he
device wor ks exac tly th e same way, bu t is
rated at eighteen watts. The standard cycle is
five seconds and th e recommended proced ure is to never ove rri de tha t cycle when
deploy ing the device in the field.
Taser recomm end s using t he t erm
"deploy " instead of " fi re" to clearl y distinguish the device from a firearm. particu larly in
th e heat of the moment when offi cers might
be directing one another to use a laser on a
subject or warning that they are about to use
the device. We all know that sympathetic fire
has been known to happen, and laser trai ns
users t o take every st ep possi ble to make
sure tha t the subject, other offi cers and any


The author is shown here
immediately after taking
a full "hit" from the Taser.
After deployment of the
M26, electro -muscular
disruption causes rapid
contraction of major
muscles in the body.
making resistance
virtually impossible.

by-slanders know what is going on when they
hear the discharge of the probes and see the

reaction of the target.
While APPS h o st ed the co u rse, Mike
Ca pagna of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police
Depart me nt in Nor th Caroli na was the instru c-

t or. Mi ke ' s depar t men t has successf ully
deplo yed th e M 26 ma ny ti mes si nce t hey
adopted it and he is a st rong belie ver in it s
effect ive ness. When Mi ke asked for volun teers to take a " full hit " I waited a few seconds for anyo ne else to take the oppo rtun ity
before I raised my hand. Alt hough I know
other officers who had received a hit from the
device, I did n't personally know of anyone
who had actually been shot. It is important to
note that the operato r's course does not
re qui re the officer to exper ience bei n g
"tased.' Simila rly, the i nst ruct or's cou rse
does not actually requi re that you be shot
with t he device for a full hit.
The standard procedure fo r pot entia l
instructo rs is fo r the probes to have th eir
barbs snipped off and be tapped to the subjects cloth ing. After the probes have been
attached. the instructo r triggers the device
and ove rr ides the normal five second cycle
once the student has gotten the feel of the
M26. Volunteers are always welcome to take
the test fu rther and I've never been one to
pass up a good tra ining experience. It is my
opinion that if you are going to teach a fourhour co urse on how " i nstantl y incapacitati ng" and yet "completely safe- a device is,
you should be prepared to demonst rate both
as pects . If yo u are going to be an M 26
inst ructo r. you must believe in the device and
research, so why wouldn't you take a shot?
Wanting to avoid pain is the obviou s answer.
I have never felt pain like I did the instant
afte r I heard t he" POP! " from severa l feet
behind me. Operators are told to aim for large
muscle groups and areas where close fit relativel y ti ght cl o thin g is worn , th ere fore th e

upper legs and back are the best and safest
t arget areas . Wh il e th ere i s no i ncr ea sed
dan ger due to t he elec tric ity, t he pro be s
hitti ng the eyes. th roat or genitals could obviously cause injury, so training shots are either
do n e fro m b ehi nd or wit h ap p ro pr ia t e
protective gear.
At first, I arched upward and sai d something like a combinatio n of " Ow!" and "Oh ! "
after that, it was a " $*@&! &*@$! $*@&!" for
about 4.9 seconds. Although I had two people mor e or less supporti ng my arm s and I
was tryin g for at least the first three seconds.
I could not remain on my feet or stand up, th e
muscle contractions were too much to t ry to
overcome. The pain was significant and I can
only imagine that it felt like havin g two screwdrivers attac hed to jackhammers being driven
into my back.'s that bad.
On the video it is dear to see that within a
couple of seconds of t he cycle I was getting to
my feet and laughing nervously (albei t wi t h
two metal probes sticking out of my back) .
The dosest things to lasting effec t I not iced
were a very stiff back for the next day or so
and the two small wounds from the probes. I
have experienced blunt trauma. chemical
agents, older "st un guns, " pressure po int
and joint lock techn iques-all of wh ich were
at least less incapacitating or brought more
long-lasting damage than a full hit from the
M26. There is a great abundance of empi rical
evide nce t hat a per son can be shot wi t h a
fi rearm and not be ins ta ntly incapacit ated .
There are few inst an ces of that happ ening
with the M26 .
With the practical test over, it was time to
get back into the science and applica tio n of
the M26. With a power of less than 2 joules,
th e M 26 repr esent s less t h an 2% of t he
power in a defibrillator -the device w ill not
stop a person 's heart.
Taser recomm end s using NiM H (Nickel Metal -Hydr id e) rec ha rg eable batte rie s fo r

maximum efficie ncy. If you are not able to use
thi s typ e of battery, only top quality (Duracell
Ult ra, Energizer Tit anium) batte ries are recommended. This cannot be stressed eno ugh.
Use quality batt eries and check them ofte n!
The M 26 cart ridges have a twenty-one foot
range and the probes spread approximately
one foot every seven feet traveled. Optimal
deployment range is twelve to eighteen feet.
The Taser can also be used as a contact
device. with or without a probe cartridge
attached .
The eighteen watt Advanced Taser (M18) is
available for civilian self ·defense. It is impo rtant to note that unl ike older devices. the
Advanced Taser's probes are di scharged by
compre ssed nit rogen . not an explosive
charge. so they are not considered firearms.
To deter and identify criminal use, the cartr idges drop dozen s o f co nfetti like disks
whe n they discharge. These disk s are imprint ed with a serial number that Taser can trace
to th e pu rchaser o f the cart ridge. Also, the
devi ce has a bu ilt in memory that records the
exact tim e and dur ati on of th e most recent
58 5 de ploy me nts -fo r use by su pe rv iso rs
and admin istr ati on in Use of Force investigations.
Unlike chemical sprays , w hich inevit abl y
affect the deploying officer and his partners,
t h e Ta se r i s a t a rge te d wea pon . Unl ike
firearms, which are obvio usly lethal and only
in stan tl y i ncapaci tat ing i n a li mited ta rget
area. the Taser will incapacitate wi th any circu it -compl eti ng hit w ith no lasting effec ts.
While Taser recommend s issui ng the M26 to
all patrol office rs so that it can have a greater
li kelih ood of be ing prese nt w hen it can be
helpful in avo iding suspect or officer injury,
so me de pa r tme nts have chosen to issue
them to supervisors or to tactical units first. I
highly recommend looking into this device for
your department.
APPS regu larly holds courses to train and
ce rtify pr ivate cit izens. police officers and
security agents with chemical sprays, impact
devices. firearms and, of course, the M26 and
MI 8 Advanced Tasers. 0

7860 East McClain Drive
Scottsda le, AZ 85260
(800) 978·2737
Training Coordinator:
Academy of Personal Protection
and Security
336 HillAve.
Nashvill e. TN 37210
(615) 360·600
appstrai ning@appstraini

s. W.A.T. APRIL 2003 79