A less lethal gun, otherwise known as a riot gun or a less-lethal launcher is a firearm used to fire “non-lethal” ammunition for the purpose of injuring the target and not causing a serious injury. This weapons are mostly used to disperse riots but are sometimes sold to individuals. They may be built and designed specifically for this purpose or by modifying a standard firearm for use with appropriate ammunition.
Adapting a standard firearm to a less lethal one.
Projectiles fired for non lethal purposes are meant to cause pain with minimum injury. Launching non-lethal projectiles from a standard firearm would make them more lethal as the high speed of the projectile would be more likely to cause harm. Some adjustments therefore need to be made. To turn a standard firearm into a riot gun, the construction is weakened and the barrel is modified so that it has internal lugs. This will in effect make firing hard projectiles impossible while bullets made of softer materials such as rubber will compress when passing the lug.
Ammunition used for these guns.
In order to be remain non-lethal, non lethal ammunition must also be used. These include:
- Chemical agent ammunition. They can be dispersed through; muzzle dispersion, whereby the agent is in form of a loose powder expelled by the propellant in the cartilage, canister projectiles (mostly used for longer ranges) or ferret rounds which are specialized gas canisters that have the ability to penetrate windows, hollow core doors among other light barriers.
- Impact rounds. These come in a variety of sizes and materials for different uses. They are made of lower density materials than lead and are larger in size. Due to the low mass, reduced velocity and larger surface area of the projectile, skin penetration is almost impossible. Impact rounds are divided into two; the less powerful ones that can be fired directly at people and the more powerful one that have to be fired into the ground in front of the target so as to reduce its energy.
They are commonly known as rubber or plastic bullets. They can be made of rubber, foam or wood. They may fire one long button or several shorter batons.
These are made of very tough fabric full of bird shot. The bag is very flexible and will thus flatten on impact with the target. The rounds may be wide and flat for short distances or elliptical for long distances.
Rubber buckshot or stinger rounds.
They are used for direct fire and consist of 8 to 15 millimeter rubber balls. They have a smaller diameter than baton rounds making them a bit safer (for the target of course). The smaller size will also mean reduced energy and thus limited range.
They are paintball-like capsules that contain pepper spray solution. They have a longer range and are a better way to disperse pepper spray to far away targets.
To avoid breaking up the projectiles, less powerful cartridges propelled by black powder instead of other modern propellants are used. Firing a non lethal gun will therefore result in the eruption of both sparks and smoke.