Jack Phr0st August 15, 2007 4:18 PM

Hi Bruce,

There is a 404 error on the link: “The document you requested is not found.”

John Ridley August 15, 2007 4:32 PM

the link is broken, but I’m assuming this is just bringing the photoflash cap leads out of the camera, like this:

This is pretty old news. Also, the flash capacitor on a camera is VERY FAR from being in the same class as a taser. I’ve gotten whacked with them myself accidentally several times, and at best they’re mildly uncomfortable, you might find a junior high school kid poking another kid with one as a prank.

A real taser can leave a full grown and strong man a quivering mass on the ground.

Spider August 15, 2007 4:39 PM

I did that in high school, be careful of who you teach this to. One guy I taught how to make these things built a huge one. It could have easily killed a blue whale if you discharged it in the ocean.

Fred P August 15, 2007 4:47 PM

Reminds me of a story Asimov tells of his childhood. He took two water pistols, bound them next to each other, filled them with salt water, and hooked up a bunch of batteries. Hardly a taser, but it was reportedly painful.

Hugo August 15, 2007 5:12 PM

Don’t tell the TSA, or they’ll ban cheap cameras.

Actually… this* will work with any camera, and infact work better with bigger cameras (DSLRs) than little cheap cameras with dinky little flash capacitors. And even better still with separate flash units, which a lot of photographers carry around with them. With larger SLR built-in flashes and certainly with pretty much any standalone flash, there is easily enough energy stored in the capacitor to kill a fit, fully grown man, and it shouldn’t be too hard to deliver that energy either.

*at least, my best guess of what this is, given that the link is 404’d.

acb August 15, 2007 5:14 PM

Of course, banning cheap cameras will fix the problem because no-one would ruin an expensive camera to build a taser, right?

t3knomanser August 15, 2007 5:17 PM

I learned that the hard way when I was bored and they were new. I was working at a Boy Scout camp at the time, and they were all the rage. Some kid left it behind at my archery range after he went home. No name, no info or anything, so I was like, “Hey, it says do not open! Let’s open it.”

It hurts.

Anonymous August 15, 2007 5:21 PM

Hell, half the challenge in gutting and reusing cheap cameras is keeping them from acting as tasers. Good to have a 1 W 1 MOhm resistor to discharge the cap without blowing it up.

Harrkev August 15, 2007 6:07 PM

If you go to some camera shops, they will give you old disposable cameras for free (with the film compartment ripped open). Great for parts and batteries.

Rich August 15, 2007 6:10 PM

We did something very similar in high school. All you need is a small mains transformer and a 9 volt battery. Briefly connecting the secondary leads of the transformer induces a current in the primary winding and you get a nice jolt out of the primary leads.

You don’t need to go pulling apart cameras to get nice voltages!

Of course, neither of these are anywhere near taser voltage. You might get a jolt but you certainly won’t be rolling around on the floor in agony.

Spider August 15, 2007 6:11 PM

@Fred P

Yeah, that was an exaggeration, perhaps. It seemed funnier when I wrote it. Now it just comes off as lame. My apologies for wasting everyone’s time.

Wyle_E August 15, 2007 9:38 PM

Note that a stungun isn’t a Tazer. A real Tazer uses gunpowder to propel a pair of miniature harpoons with trailing wires connected to a pulse generator in the handle. The voltage doesn’t have to be very high, because the resistance between electrodes that pierce the skin is only about 300 ohms.

AM August 15, 2007 11:17 PM

I’ve made these myself from time to time. An old 110 camera is great because you can get a nice handhold on it. I tried the water gun trick with two super soakers once. It sort-of worked. I was difficult to shock someone at a distance because the streams quickly separate into droplets as gravity takes its toll. They have to be really close and the water has to be very very salty.

You might kill someone with the charge in a small camera. With a large off-camera flash the victim would be lucky to survive.

Whaddaya gonna do?

RonK August 16, 2007 12:48 AM

@ Fred P

Do you have a reference for that story about Asimov? My (not particularly strong) understanding of physics would lead me to believe that the stream of fluid leaving a water pistol would, after a short distance from the nozzle, turn into a stream of disconnected droplets, so I don’t see how that could work over a long distance.

RonK August 16, 2007 12:53 AM

@ AM

the streams quickly separate into droplets as gravity takes its toll.

My impression is that this is caused by the surface tension of the water, not gravity. Now that I think of it, that means that adding some detergent to the water might increase the range.

John Davies August 16, 2007 2:55 AM


This is similar to the Mythbusters episode about the effects of urinating on an electrified third rail. From memory the results were inconclusive and the stream did tend to break up as you suggested.

mashiara August 16, 2007 3:27 AM

You can also make a “detonator” (to ignite electric blasting caps/”electric matches”) out of disposable camera flash circuit, it can reliably ignite 8 “electric matches” or two safety (electric) blasting caps (those require a lot of energy to go off) in series. And the local photography shop is likely happy to give you the used cameras once they have extracted the film from them.

Sparky August 16, 2007 3:32 AM

@AM: I find it very unlikely that a charged flash capacitor from a cheap camera would kill somebody, assuming it is used with two pins touching the skin, not piercing it, or used with large electrodes with conductive gel, or administered to very sensitive parts of the body, like the optic nerve.

I have messed a lot with electronics in the past (and still do), and as such, have gotten more than my fair share of jolts, including accidental discharges of large strobe light capacitors.

Some years ago, a friend and I where pretty fed up with getting our bicycles stolen. I live in the Netherlands. Bicycles seem to be regarded as public property by some people. I believe the figure is about 10% of all bikes that are reported stolen every year, and most people don’t even report it if it wasn’t brand new or insured.

Anyway, we had a free afternoon and a lot of junk parts, including an old mountain bike, and we build a nice little circuit in a small saddle bag on the bike, basically a wave rectifier, a fly-back transformer circuit, flash capacitor, and a cute little ignition coil from a motorbike. The whole thing was powered from a wheel-mounted generator, normally used for lights.
Two thin wires ran through the steering bar, and in a loop around the rubber handles that you could barely see.

We parked this bike on a busy street in the city, grabbed a beer on the terrace of a nearby pub, and waited. It didn’t take too long before some shady guy walked past our bike, noticed it wasn’t locked, walked past it again, looking around if the owner might be near, and finally took the bike and rode off on it. After about 15 meters, we could hear the distinctive whining of the flyback circuit, meaning the current through the capacitor was decreasing as it build up it’s charge. A few seconds later, we heard a sharp snapping sound, someone screaming (guess who), and the sound of a bicycle crashing. The guy ran away and we went outside to get the bike and put it back for the next victim. After about 4 of them, and a whole lot more beers, we got tired of having to go get the bike every time.

Point being: we shocked 5 people that day, which included me to test the circuit, and nobody died. The shock hurts, but only for a short time. The victims always crashed the bike because of the involuntary muscle contractions in there arms.

ajt August 16, 2007 6:52 AM

Some airlines already ban camera flash guns on carry on luggage. I suppose they are worried that you may use the flash to blind someone, I don’t think they thought of using them as ad hoc stun guns.

bob August 16, 2007 6:52 AM

@Spider: I liked it. I was picturing an electrolytic capacitor based on an airport fuel tank. (oh no, a NEW terrorist attack vector! Quick! Ban something else!)

Sparky August 16, 2007 9:13 AM

@NotMe: I’m afraid I can’t. I haven’t seen the actual circuit in years, after having moved a couple of times, although I guess it’s somewhere is a box, waiting to be found in the distant future.
We never even draw a diagram, we just used a few standard circuits and fiddled with it until it worked.

It’s very basic, really. A wave rectifier is just 4 diodes, and is found in most power supplies. The flyback circuit is rather simple and easy to find using google. The output of this was again rectified and fed into the flash capacitor (this is important: they can handle very fast discharges without breaking down, and very high voltages). The only slightly novel part in the circuit was the trigger mechanism: we used a neon bulb, which has a striking voltage of about 100 volts, and an adjustable voltage divider network to control at what charge it would trigger the thyristor that would discharge the capacitor into the primary coil of the ignition coil.
Initially, we used a zener diode to control the trigger, but this circuit didn’t source enough current to quickly turn on the thyristor.

S August 16, 2007 9:45 AM

@Sparky: It all depends. Very small currents can kill if they cut across the chest (heart) through the process of Ventricular Fibrillation.


It’s not the voltage, it’s the amps that get you.

I’ve worked on CRTs (Monitors,Tvs, etc) and I’ve always followed the golden rule: You take one hand — that’s the hand you want to keep — put it in your back pocket and LEAVE IT THERE!

You can survive one hell of a jolt if it doesn’t cut across your chest. But when you use both hands, a very small fraction of an amp can stop your heart.

Rough rule of thumb: Start worrying at 0.05 amps. Though I’ve heard reports of smaller currents causing heart arrhythmias. And with direct contact to the heart, even 0.001 amps can cause fibrillation.

derf August 16, 2007 10:49 AM

I just don’t see this working.

Jihadi: “Fly this plane into the empire state building or this stewardess gets it!”

Pilot: “Gets what? You’re holding a camera.”

Jihadi: “My camera is a lethal weapon.”

Pilot: “And I’m George Bush – now back to your seat!”

dragonfrog August 16, 2007 11:21 AM

@derf – More like

Jihadi: My camera is a non-lethal crowd-control weapon.

Pilot: So you’re going to temporarily incapacitate the stewardess without causing her permanent harm?

Jihadi: Yes. This will cause your passengers considerable inconvenience. They will have to wait ten minutes or more before she is fit to serve orange juice and ginger ale.

Stewardess: (kicks Jihadi where it matters)

Realist August 16, 2007 11:46 AM

What — no one’s ever heard of Tesla coils and connecting them to doorknobs or the metal frames of blackboards, etc. in highschool?

Similar use of flash capacitors has been known for a long time and even demonstrated in movies (forget the name, but was an old movie about highschool student who built a nuclear device to prove it could be done or to protest a research lab in the neighborhood).

Revtkatt August 16, 2007 12:24 PM

Actually the ~4 Joule caps can be used
to initiate an explosive, forget Tasers.

Somehow folks thought “ipods” were
capable of this, but its disposable
flashes that work.

Analogy Guy August 17, 2007 4:16 PM

How to protect against a taser –

Reportedly, the fabric is a form of conductive polyester. I think the author of that article is incorrect in that he worries about having to protect against penetration by the darts – as long as the fabric is in contact with both darts, it should provide the path of least resistance for the current, regardless of other paths like the skin they are embedded in.

Be sure to check out the video linked at the end.

brad August 23, 2007 4:41 PM

Um, we used to charge the ignition condensors in auto shop … before electronic ignition was common = small device you throw at someone, upon catching it they get a helluva jolt.
I thought that was pretty new and cool, but an old mechanic told me they’d done that since Model T days … still, you can carry a charged pocket rocket in insulation a long time … but the ‘shock value’ IMHO isn’t worth the risk of putting someone’s lights out.
BTW, overcharging can explode these things, not worth messing with.

Bud September 11, 2007 8:55 AM

When I was a kid we hooked up a 10,000 volt neon light transformer to a metal screen door and metal door mat. We were going to shock my friend’s father (never mind he would be wearing shoes). We got the family dog instead. You got the “you were in over your head” feeling.

Freak November 17, 2007 11:58 PM

Can anyone tell me which bits of the camera are useless, I’d like to make the circuit a small as pussible, and I’m sure certain components are useless to the whole thing.

nz May 19, 2008 5:56 AM

just open up the fucking camera (EASY) then use your noggin and find the FLASH LAMP! (its called a lamp not a bulb, bulbs grow in the ground) cut the 2 conductors (cables, wires) from either side of the flash diffuser ( the shiny thing!) and make them a bit longer with any sodt of cable you have, could use 0.1mm2 or 240mm2, doesnt matter(im in NZ so i dont use the AWG system) maybe 20 AWG? just tiny hook up wire with a current rating of 1A or even less, it will produce fuck all current and around 350-400 volts, the two ends you have now are your probes, put a battery in and use insulation tape to close the camera back up and leave the probes exposed, just use the standard switch on the camera as you normally would to take a photo and when the red light comes on to show its charged just touch the probes together and you will see wat it does……..EASY!, dont listen to these wanna be homos on here with there great ideas and bridge rectifiers, ac to dc? real handy on a camera…., the caps cant handle to stress and being disposable expect them to last not very long, now to stop the current going across ther chest make the probes about 3mm away from each other in your set up so whem they short out it would be very hard for it to cause real damage, im an electrician from NZ so i know what im on about….. and put the battery in last, saves a self-test!

WTF June 24, 2008 10:59 AM

shit. this can be done in 2 ways. that shit brane way or you can take apart a camra,find the curcitbored with 2 prongs, touch the prongs. if you feel static. witch you should. take out the cercitbored wrap it in duck tape NOT THE PRONGS.

WTF June 24, 2008 10:59 AM

shit. this can be done in 2 ways. that shit brane way or you can take apart a camra,find the curcitbored with 2 prongs, touch the prongs. if you feel static. witch you should. take out the cercitbored wrap it in duck tape NOT THE PRONGS.

bob March 8, 2013 10:59 PM

Unless there’s some mysterious camera-magic I’m missing here, the circuit consists of:
– A capacitor (larger -> more painful)
– A pushbutton switch
– A battery (higher voltage -> more painful)
– Wires

Basically any electronic thing will have these components. Granted, only a subset of electronic things have large enough capacitors, but still. A person could hypothetically make a taser out of almost anything- I doubt the TSA would start banning EVERYTHING with batteries and capacitors.

Hell, the capacitor isn’t even necessary for this. And the TSA don’t ban laptop batteries.

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