At first glance, Barbara Rock's new cane may look like another generic walking stick people use to help get around – except this one has a 1 million-volt electrical charge hidden inside.
Rock, 70, recently purchased a Zap Cane, a walking cane that has a stun gun built in for the personal protection of the user.
The cane has an adjustable length of 32 to 36 inches and can support up to 250 pounds of weight. Toward the bottom of the cane are 7.5 inches of electrodes that deliver a shock of up to 1 million volts to the cane's tip – essentially, a stun gun.
“I was talking about buying a gun. I was very leery about that,” said Rock, who first heard about the cane several weeks ago when talking with a friend who is a gun enthusiast but bought a couple of the canes.
The Zap Cane is just one of a variety of personal protection products made by P.S. Products in Little Rock, Arkansas, Hannah Dunlap, account executive for P.S. Products, said that while 1 million volts may seem high, it's still a non-lethal charge, and all the products the company sells are non-lethal. She emphasized that the device is not to be confused with a Taser, which shoots metal prongs into a subject and can be lethal.
“It's a stun gun, but it will not kill you or anyone else,” she said of the Zap Cane. “It's to be used as a weapon of defense so you can get away.”
P.S. Products has been in business since 1992 and started with “door-to-door pepper spray,” according to Dunlap. Devices like the Zap Cane have been on the market for about five years, and it's one of P.S. Products' top three sellers. It costs between $80 and $100.
Stun gun and Taser devices are restricted or banned in some states or counties, and P.S. Products makes buyers aware of any restrictions where they live when they're shopping for a product. Rock said she checked with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office before purchasing her cane.
While older clientele are the targeted audience for the product, Dunlap said people of all ages use it.
“People that like to walk or jog in the evenings, it's also great to ward off any other animals,” she said.
The cane is powered by a rechargeable battery and comes with a charging adapter. A switch has to be turned on and a button pressed in order to activate the stun gun, eliminating the risk of accidental shock, Dunlap said.
“They have more than one switch that has to be on at the same time,” she said. “There's not a lot of room for accidents to happen with this.”
Even though the cane isn't lethal, Rock said she is still hesitant about using it and plans to go with pepper spray instead.
“I don't want to kill anybody or even take the chance on killing anybody,” she said. “If I had a gun, I would hesitate so long that they could take the gun away from me and use it on me.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since 2012.