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Stun-gun firm to widen market

Public versions of the units will go on sale next month

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PHOENIX — An Arizona stun-gun company announced Tuesday that it will try to expand marketing to the general public of a scaled-down version of a weapon used by law enforcement officers.

A public version of the Advanced Taser, which is used by about 1,100 police agencies in Canada and the United States, has been sold since January 2000 at a handful of stores catering to security businesses.

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Taser International Inc. decided to try to expand sales by next month, said company President Tom Smith. Taser's goal is to have the guns in 500 stores.

"It's fun to be part of the package of solutions that's helping people who are scared since Sept. 11," Smith said.

The announcement by Taser comes at a time when the Scottsdale company is enjoying increased visibility because of recent agreements to equip airlines with its stun guns.

Taser is also coming off its first profitable year since its founding in 1993, which Smith attributed to interest from airlines and the public in the wake of the attacks.

The public version stun gun looks like a Glock .45-caliber handgun with yellow stripes on the side, Smith said.

The weapon is powered by alkaline batteries and uses compressed air to fire electrically charged darts of 18 watts that temporarily immobilize an attacker. The police version has 26 watts of power.

The stun gun sells for between $120 and $600.

Smith and his brother, Rick, originally launched the company with a different product, a hand-held remote stun system called the Air Taser. That seven-watt stun gun, which roughly resembles a flat-sided flashlight, is sold in specialty stores.

The company later introduced the pistol-shaped 26-watt Advanced Taser and began marketing it for law enforcement use.

Smith said the Advanced Taser's chief advantages over the original, seven-watt version are increased power and a convenient design.

"The shape is intuitive," he said. "You just point and shoot."

The gun can be bought without a permit in 43 states since it doesn't use gunpowder, Smith said.

Seven states have laws restricting the possession of electronic weapons: Hawaii, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Since the terror attacks, the company has signed agreements with three airlines, including United Airlines, to equip flight decks with stun guns.

Smith said more airlines have expressed interest pending FAA approval, which is expected by the end of March.

Smith said the company has doubled its revenues in each of the past three years.

Fourth quarter revenues for 2001 are expected to help give Taser its first profitable year since its founding, he said.

The company said it will make a profit of about $400,000 on expected 2001 revenues of $6.9 million. The company's 2001 earnings will be released next month.

Smith said the company expects to have revenues of $12 million this year.