This device can only be used in close combat, but will stun a living organism with killing it by using electric shocks.
Source: Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense Ufopaedia
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The stun rod is a melee weapon used to shock enemies unconscious. It is the most reliable form of stunning enemies until the advent of the Small Launcher. The stun rod does not require ammunition and can be used as many times as necessary.
To use a stun rod the soldier wielding it has to be adjacent to the alien and facing the target. It's very dangerous to use early in the game when you have low TU soldiers with bad armor. But it's the only practical means to capture an alien Navigator or Sectoid Leader/Commander as early as possible, so it is an important piece of equipment.
Buy these the day before your alien containment facility is finished, then equip them en-masse to your recruits. The loss of a soldier or two is little compared to being able to unlock psionics or the hyperwave decoder. These stun-troopers work best in conjunction with a high-ranking rear commander to help lower losses. The mind probe is ultimately unnecessary for determining ranks for leaders tend to stay in the command room and navigators near the navigation systems; henchmen can easily be dealt with using spotter-sniper tactics until reaching the ufo itself, where near-suicidal waves of expendable troops work wonders. This weapon combines well with the laser pistol or grenades.
The following lists how many times a soldier can fire the gun by shot type continuously in any given round and the remaining percentage of any left over TUs that cannot be spent as a shot.
- Stun: 3 zaps, 10% Remaining TUs
- Remember aliens you stun for research purposes will die unless brought back to an Alien Containment facility (and you won't get score for 'aliens killed' and 'alien corpses recovered' for them neither!)
- A Stun Rod will not work on X-COM-controlled units, so you cannot use them against soldiers which have gone berserk, alas. They will also not work on aliens presently under X-COM Mind Control -- though they will work against X-COM soldiers under alien Mind Control.
- Melee attacks will not attract opportunity fire - as long as you don't try to perform an action that will attract opportunity fire immediately afterwards while in full view of the alien you zapped.
- Try to approach from behind.
- Early in the game, put this weapon on your more expendable soldiers - there's a good chance they will die! It's a good idea to carry a pistol in the other hand as a backup. The pistol can also be used to slightly damage a unit before/after a capture attempt.
- Aliens who have been in smoke for some time will not be any easier to stun, since enemy-controlled units do not take stun damage from smoke.
- You can use stun rod as a support weapon for stronger soldiers who use HE ammo (with heavy cannon/auto cannon) - if you stumble upon an alien a square away while opening a door or falling down a hole, you'd likely get yourself caught in splash damage of your explosive ammo if you shoot. Taking them out with the stun rod is way safer and thanks to minimal TU cost it's often preferred to all other weapons including pistols. (then you can kill the unconscious alien from a safe distance shooting at the ground.)
- The easiest place to get a Navigator before you can use a Mind Probe is inside a Large Scout. Usually 1 or 2 hang around inside near the UFO Navigation, and it's comparatively safe to go through a door and stun one. The alien inside the central room is normally an Engineer and carries a Small Launcher on higher difficulties / mid-game; this can be used to your advantage.
- Setting an alien on fire can make capturing it slightly easier. It lowers their health and firing accuracy each turn they BBQ, making them safer to approach and easier to stun. Finally, they tend to waste all their TUs running away from the fire. The fire will be put out when the alien falls unconscious.
- Be very wary concerning stun rods and elevation. Even though you may look like you're almost level with the target, you may have to kneel on a slight slope in order to strike an alien that's on lower flat ground - Sectoids, for example.
- Terror missions: Civilians stunned by use of the stun rod (or any method) do not cause a plus or minus to points at the end of the mission. If they wake up, they will appear as aliens, but civilians have a victory point value of 0. This is especially useful in Snakeman terror missions, because every stunned civilian is one less potential Chryssalid.
- Stun is a useful tool to take down Cyberdiscs in close quarters as this terror unit will not go through its auto-destruct sequence if poked.
- How much stun is applied with the Stun Rod relies on the armor rating on the target. Too much armor and the Stun Rod is rendered useless. This is especially true for non-Beginner Sectopods whose front and side armor are too great. Pokes to the back plates still work, but only 30% of the time will the stun be high enough to penetrate.
Activating melee attacks for other items
Every item in the game has a melee weapon rating, however the melee attack command has been disabled for all items but the stun rod. One unusual work-around is to stack the stun rod on top of another item in one of your hand slots. This has the effect of displaying the stun rod as the active weapon and hiding the ammo counter. However, when the attack menu is brought up, the stun command will now show that it requires 50% of your Time Units to use and you will also get the firing commands for the stacked weapon.
Do not be fooled however by the now more expensive stun command as this new attack is deadly and will kill its target. The strength of the attack differs based on different objects, so you will have to experiment to find a good combination, as not all weapons have the same melee strength. Some do nothing, while others will kill a healthy superhuman sectopod in one hit. Try guns, grenades and even corpses if you're desperate.
See Item Stacking Bug for instructions on item stacking. Be mindful that re-activating the melee command makes use of a bug. While this particular exploit should not cause any problems, remember that this is still unintentional game behaviour.