A few unfortunate Occupy protesters have become intimately familiar with two forms of non-lethal ammunition used by law enforcement: rubber bullets and flexible baton rounds (or bean bag rounds).
The problem is, both can end up doling out more damage than the “non-lethal” label would have you believe. Also, neither can be used for both short and long range crowd control.
Rubber bullets, for instance, might prove effective at delivering non-lethal force from a distance. But they can cause serious injury up close.
Even bean bag rounds – which are supposedly less damaging at a short range – can inflict unintended injuries.
A study conducted in 2000 by the Department of Emergency Medicine and the University of Southern California Medical Center found that bean bags were capable of rupturing spleens, bruising the heart and even piercing the skin.
Plus, once you get about 20 feet away, the accuracy of bean bag rounds drops considerably. And they’re not functional past about 70 feet, depending on the type of launcher used.
Colorado-based SmartRounds, however, has developed unique non-lethal ammunition that’s not only safer but also more effective than current technology. And it could soon be the crowd control ammo of choice for police departments everywhere.
Here’s how it works…
High-Tech Meets Non-Lethal Weaponry
In short, a SmartRound is a D-shaped bullet that measures 18mm in diameter. The company says that the size and shape “gives us more volume and a larger surface area.” Which is great, since police officers using this technology would be less likely to pierce the skin of someone with the misfortune of being on the receiving end.
SmartRounds also reach speeds of up to 450 feet per second and can travel at a maximum range of 300 feet. That distance makes SmartRounds even more effective than rubber bullets for long-range crowd control.
So its shape and range alone make the SmartRound a superior alternative to the rubber bullet and bean bag rounds.
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SmartRounds are also equipped with a “micro-mechanical system” (MMS) that’s able to detect when the bullet speeds up and – more importantly – when it slows down. Like the accelerometer in your smartphone knows if you’re holding the device horizontally or vertically. So a SmartRound knows exactly when it hits its intended target. And within a microsecond of impact, the round detonates.
That might sound scarier than a standard rubber bullet. But since the detonation instantly halts the bullet’s forward momentum, this acts as another safeguard for keeping the bullet from penetrating the body.
So it actually works out better for the assailant… right?
Sure, until the high-tech payload that the company packs inside each round goes to work…
Ammo With a Kick
Take the company’s SmartRound that’s currently being marketed to military and law enforcement – the ShockRound.
Each round contains liquefied compressed gas that the company says activates a “high-powered ‘shockwave’ that expands rapidly upon impact and attacks three of the five human senses.”
As Wired’s Katie Drummond says, once detonated, the “compressed gas makes a jarring noise as it exits the bullet. Plus, it’s been formulated to flash brightly and obscure a target’s vision. And, of course, the bullet itself is designed to hurt.”
The ShockRounds are available now. And as the company’s President, Nick Verini, told Drummond, it’s already garnering a lot of attention from law enforcement.
You can bet that the attention will only build, too, as the company rolls out more SmartRounds that deploy varying payloads. Like flashbang, chemical irritant, gel, expanding foam and air bags.
Again, not so thrilling for the target anymore. But since it’s less likely to cause permanent injury, a temporary shockwave to three of my senses sounds like a pretty solid tradeoff.