If you inhabit the Gulf Coast area of the American South, chances are you will have reason to worry about a run-in with an alligator if you kick around any body of water long enough. These primordial serpents can grow quite large, and represent a lethal threat when on the attack.
Accordingly, a weapon to defend yourself in such areas is called for. A firearm is preferred, but if you don’t want to carry a firearm or can’t you should choose something else with range.
A taser affords us ranged capabilities similar to a firearm, but will an electrical discharge weapon like the taser even work on an alligator?
No, it’s unlikely that a taser would reliably stop an alligator. The thick, scaly hide of an alligator will not easily be defeated by the barbed probes of a taser, necessary to ensure proper function at standoff distance.
Additionally, though the output of a taser should prove adequate to disable an alligator of average size, these devices have not been tested in any way on large reptiles. You’re better off choosing another weapon for self-defense if gators are a threat.
Though this is something of a niche case, it nonetheless remains a legitimate problem for people living and moving around in certain regions of the United States. We will explore this issue in greater detail below.
Before we can make a definitive determination about a taser’s effectiveness against a large, powerful reptile like the American alligator, we need to know a little more about how the taser works.
In short, a taser is a weapon that relies on an electrical discharge to cause severe pain and involuntary contraction of large muscle groups in a person (or, hopefully, an animal) affected by it.
The reason this works is because a taser discharges a high voltage but low amperage current, capable of overriding nominal muscular control in the target.
But a taser is not a stun gun. Unlike a common stun gun, a taser affords the wielder significant standoff distance since it discharges the electrodes as projectiles, each with a wire trailing back to the taser itself.
If both electrodes penetrate the target the current that is generated by the taser will complete the circuit in the target, traveling between the two electrodes and the unfortunate that is then “riding the lightning.” This is the operation cycle of the taser.
Chances you have all seen the videos populating the internet of willing or not so willing subjects being shot by a taser, stiffening up like some sort of cartoon character and then toppling to the ground where they lie frozen until the taser is deactivated.
This is an ideal deployment of a taser, but things don’t necessarily work out that way every time the trigger is pulled.
Tasers Have Been Explored as Wildlife Control Tools
Happily, this isn’t a scenario that is completely arbitrary. Although designed originally as self-defense weapons and less-lethal tools for police seeking to end a confrontation without a substantial risk of injury or death to either the officer or the suspect, tasers have both been used on wildlife in a field expedient capacity and also designed and marketed expressly for the purpose in use with animal control, park rangers and other wildlife specialists.
As it turns out, mammalian biology is very similar, broadly speaking, between species and, wouldn’t you know it, most animals just flat out don’t like being shocked.
As mentioned above, the substantial pain created by a taser is likely to convince most aggressive or defensive animals to simply give up and run away.
Large species might not necessarily fall immobile due to the involuntary muscular contraction effect, but it might yet be enough to impede their mobility or even immobilize them temporarily.
Believe it or not, tasers have been used against moose, bear, deer and smaller mammals like dogs to good effect.
Furthermore, defensive deployments and rescue deployments both met with good success, with the rescue deployment being utilized to stun or stop an animal that was tangled up in fencing or netting so that officers could safely free it.
Obviously, this was painful and probably mildly traumatic for the animal in question, but a happy ending was achieved nonetheless.
That certainly seems to suggest that a taser might do the same thing against an angry alligator, right?
Consider the Alligator as a Target
Let us compare our primitive and primordial saurian target against the mammals discussed above. An alligator is not covered by skin and shaggy fur but instead by an extremely tough, leathery and articulated hide composed of scales.
This squamous sheathing affords an alligator both excellent camouflage and its natural habitat and substantial protection from incidental damage.
As we learned above, a taser is completely dependent upon both probes piercing the target and remaining attached in order to conduct electricity into the target between each of the electrodes.
If both fail to stick or only one does, no shocky-shocky. A single probe penetrating the alligator’s tough hide will register as nothing more than what it is, which is a tiny pinprick.
Just as likely, neither probe will penetrate and an angry gator will probably not be dissuaded by the festive burst of confetti that issues forth with the deployment of a taser cartridge.
The alligator’s shape and profile also make it less vulnerable to the taser overall. Compared to the upright and vertically oriented shape of a human being or the upright and long or broad shape of other mammals, an alligator is very low to the ground.
The typical angle of attack required to dart an alligator with a taser in effective range means the alligator will be far too close already and also increase the chances that a probe will fail to penetrate and stick to the animal.
Not for nothing, an alligator has substantial natural defenses and its form means that a taser is increasingly disadvantaged against it. The only other option you have for employing a taser and self-defense is in a contact stun gun mode, typically referred to as a “drive stun.”
When a cartridge is fired or a cartridge is not installed in the taser it can be pressed into the target and activated, causing substantial pain but typically not resulting in involuntary large muscle contractions per usual.
A Taser is Unlikely to Reliably Stop an Alligator
All in all, it seems a taser is unlikely to reliably stop an alligator. Although the biology of a reptile should be more or less equally vulnerable to high voltage electrical current the same as a mammal’s, there is precious little data on the subject to give us a definitive answer, and to this author’s knowledge there has been no recorded or substantiated use of a taser or other electrical weapon against American alligators or any other large and dangerous reptile.
Even assuming that the taser would produce the desired result a good outcome would only be achieved against an aggressive alligator if you could successfully dart it with the taser from some distance away.
The low likelihood of successful probe attachment means you’re likely to be wasting your one and only shot, or one of two shots if you own an advanced model of taser.
Your best bet for self-defense against a gator is simply to increase distance and keep going, as they are unlikely to pursue you for long on land and they lack their formidable mobility that they enjoy in the water. If dangerous contact with a gator is unavoidable, we’d recommend you choose another weapon.
A taser makes for a fine and usable less-lethal weapon against humans and large mammals, but it is unlikely that it will prove as effective against a large and dangerous reptile like the American alligator.
The tough scales and low slung form of the gator present many challenges to effective taser electrode attachment even if the electrical current were to prove effective against it.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.