Most agencies have transitioned from the use of CS/CN gas to pepper spray in order to provide an irritant spray that can disable a suspect. Issues regarding cross-contamination of back-up officers and a growing number of reports that suspects were able to fight through the burning pain of the spray illustrate a few of the weaknesses of chemical agents. Additionally, a limited range of less than 8 feet for most models places the officer well within the reactionary gap.
The TASER weapons (Thomas A Swift’s Electric Rifle) administer electric charges, which cause muscular dysfunction, temporarily incapacitating suspects. Two darts are discharged, and an electric current of 50,000 volts is passed into the subject’s body. The darts fired from the TASER can reach from 15 feet (civilian model) to 25 feet (law-enforcement model).
A 2004 study found that TASER was effective 77 percent to 95 percent of the time, and deployments that were ineffective were the result of the officer missing the target. A study earlier this year found that the TASER probe spread was 2 inches for every foot the officer is from the subject. Consequently, it is very easy for both probes to miss at distances beyond 14 feet. However, 90 percent deescalation in suspect resistance was observed in at least one study location.
Compressed Air Weapons
Compressed air weapons propel less-than-lethal munitions with a burst of compressed air. The two main products in this category are the FN 303 and the Pepperball launchers. The FN 303 uses fine, stabilized .68 rounds to deliver paint marking rounds and oleoresin capsicum rounds on a target.
Independent tests earlier this year found the FN 303 to be accurate to more than 60 yards while shooting at a standard IPSC target. The primary drawback is the launcher’s 15-round magazine capacity. The factory iron sights are zeroed at 30 yards, and a predictable drop rate of the projectile beyond that distance is close to 14 inches for each additional 10 yards. Consequently, it is possible for the operator to reach targets at extreme distances through simple math and correction of fire.
The Pepperball family of launchers is designed around Tippmann paintball markers and operates in the same fashion. Pepperball primarily uses a synthetic oleoresin capsicum called PAVA in their projectiles, which field studies showed was a very effective irritant.
The effective range of the Pepperball launcher is 30 feet for a point target where the projectiles have a 10-inch spread. Past 30 feet, the Pepperball should only be used for area saturation purposes as the weapon has a 180-round magazine capacity.