Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Military Technology: Less Lethal Weapons

Since military forces around the world are forced into peacekeeping and anti-riot duties more each year, there has been a surge of interest in Less Lethal weapon technology. Notice that I did not mention anything about non lethal weapons. That is because any weapon, be it a pistol, nightstick, Taser, beer bottle or stick has the potential to cause a fatal injury. To think otherwise is to have a very imperfect understanding of human anatomy, weapons, or both.
OK. Now that we have that out of the way, We can continue.

First up, we have an update on an old favorite of law enforcement. For years police have used "bean bag" shotgun rounds to subdue dangerous suspects without risking the officers' life. These bean bags are 2"x2" bags full of steel shot. I imagine that their impact on ones torso would be quite uncomfortable. However, there are some limitations of the classic bean bag round. After firing, the bag unfolds and flies through the air face-on, making it rather inaccurate and limiting its range to less than 30 feet or so. One solution to this is the new Home Defender Superstar ammunition from Lightfield Less Lethal. The projectile most resembles a small kush ball. Since it is more or less round, it cuts through the air much better, giving it some additional range, up to 15 yards. The projectiles weigh 75 grains, which by the way is heavier than most 5.56mm bullets. Muzzle velocity is 650 FPS, which is well below just about firearm, but not by too much. Many .45ACP loads top out at about 850 FPS. So this thing would, in all likelihood, knock the living shit out of you. Lightfield does state that the user must only target large muscle groups in the abdomen and below and that the minimum engagement distance with this load is 2 yards, so obviously the star is able to cause significant injuries if used incorrectly.

Next up we have the newest offering from Taser. This is the Taser X3 , which offers 3 shots of CO2-fired darts capable of delivering a shock that completely overrides the target's nerve system to force them to cease resistance. The Taser also features a conventional contact stun gun, and has a Warning Arc feature designed to increase compliance. Another way to say that is to let the subject know that if he doesn't stop whatever he is doing, he is going to get tased.(bro) The X3 also has a focused beam flashlight and dual sighting laser, adjustable for standard or long range rounds. In addition to its features that mostly enable the user to have an easier time of shocking the crap out of someone, the X3 also has a log that records every time the weapon is activated and therefore gives (legal) protection to the firer and the target. The last of the safety systems is a anti-felon system, designed to deter misuse by criminals. The AFID includes bar-coded serialization of each cartridge and disperses confetti-like ID tags upon firing. There is also a colored visual display to indicate the mode, battery level and so forth.

Last on today's list is the FN 303 Less Lethal Launcher. It was developed from a paintball gun to fire a variety of munitions. It fires from a 15 round rotary magazine and is powered by a removable tank of CO2.

The 303 can be mounted under an assault rifle like the M16 or be used with its own butt stock and sights. The idea is to give the police officer or soldier the ability to use a less lethal system but have the protection of a conventional firearm as well. there are four main types of ammunition for the 303. The most common is the training load which is a .68 caliber, bismuth weighted, non-toxic glycol ball that weighs about 8.5 grains. The OC or Oleoresin capsicum load is an orange dyed, glycol base mixed with 10% OC. This is pretty much the same as most pepper sprays and can be used in a riot or armed suspect arrest. there are also two marking loads, one with permanent paint and the other with a washable dye, that is used in riot and demonstration situations to mark violent protesters and such for law enforcement to apprehend or keep an eye on. The muzzle velocity of all loads is about 280 FPS, which makes it a lot safer than firearm based weapons. The 303 has a longer range than most other less lethal systems, but the effectiveness of it is somewhat lower. While is is probably much safer than any "rubber bullet" or other old-style anti-riot weapons, it has already caused a death when a passerby was hit in the eye and killed in Boston in 2004.

  • Weight: 5lbs (Stand Alone), 4.9 (Undercarriage)
  • Length: 29" (Stand Alone), 17.7" (Undercarriage)
  • Projectile Weight: 8.5gr
  • Mag Capacity: 15 round
  • Propulsion Method: Compressed Air (canister contained)
  • Effective Range: 100 Meters

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