Non-Lethal Arsenal

Non-lethal weapons already in use or undergoing research and development, for the Defense Department or U.S. law enforcement agencies, include:

  • Beanbag rounds. Usually fired from a standard shotgun, these are small canvas bags that contain enough lead to make a person recoil from impact. They cause pain and bruising.
  • Rubber, foam or wooden rounds. These are fired from a 40mm launcher that dispenses several rounds with each shot, allowing for coverage of a small area. They cause pain and bruising.
  • Stingballs. Area rounds fired at a crowd, these .32-caliber rubber balls are effective in breaking up riots.
  • Stun guns. Devices that use electricity to temporarily incapacitate people without killing them. These are used by some law enforcement agencies.
  • Nets. Several systems exist, some launched by hand and others fired from guns. These devices are utilized by some law enforcement agencies.
  • Caltrops. These spiked devices always land with one point up. They are intended to puncture tires.
  • Portable vehicle arresting barriers. These devices utilize a mechanically activated capture net capable of stopping a 7,500-pound vehicle travelling up to 45 miles an hour.
  • Riot control agents. These include pepper spray and tear gas.
  • Olfactory agents. These devices use offensive odors. They may be used in riot control or to deny lingering access to an area.
  • Slippery foams. These substances are currently being evaluated by the Defense Department for both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle missions.
  • Lasers. Used for intimidation value or to damage sensitive electronic sensors. A larger, plane-carried laser now under development is intended to burn enemy equipment with intense directed energy.
  • High-power microwave weapons. The U.S. military effort in this area includes the Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System (VMADS), which uses a microwave beam to cause burning sensations on the skin.
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