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Less-Lethal Launchers: Reaching Out and Punching Someone

The latest generation of extended range less-lethal impact munitions is helping tactical officers save lives and rescue hostages.

March 15, 2011  |  by - Also by this author


The 40mm less-lethal launcher has been around for decades. And today 40mm munitions are available from numerous manufacturers in a wide variety of designs, including extended range less-lethal projectiles.

Two of the most popular less-lethal 40mm munitions in the Safariland line are the eXact iMpact and the Direct Impact.

The eXact iMpact is a soft foam round that has a base of hard plastic. Retired Houston SWAT operator and team leader Sandy Wall says the popularity of this munition is because of its versatility. "It has the widest operational range of any round in the industry," says Wall, who directs less-lethal munition training for Safariland. "You can use it to impact someone as close as five feet (in the lower extremities away from the vital organs) or as far away as 40 yards."

Another variation of the eXact iMpact available from Safariland is the Direct Impact. It has a crushable Styrofoam nose that carries a payload of OC, CS, or marking dye.

Wall says tactical law enforcement teams are using these munitions in a wide variety of operations, including "suicide-by-cop" scenarios and riot control. But the most popular tactical deployment is on the perimeter to end confrontations with people who have edged weapons. "Using less-lethal, you can engage that individual at a distance where the weapon he has is not a lethal threat to you and prevent him from getting so close that he could be a lethal threat to you," Wall says.

He adds that he's even seen these impact munitions used against people who are armed with handguns. "Depending on the scenario, if the officers are behind ballistic protection, they have lethal cover, and they are at a proper distance, and the subject isn't actively pointing the gun at them, then it can be an option to try to incapacitate the subject and avoid a deadly force incident."

Electric Bullet

A lot of people envision the ideal less-lethal weapon as some kind of electric gun-either one that shoots bolts of manmade lightning or multiple charged electric bullets. That's still science fiction. But 20 years from now we may have them, and TASER's eXtended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP) may be the granddaddy of those future weapons.

The XREP is a 12-gauge impact munition with a range of about 100 feet. And as impact weapons go, it doesn't have much punch. But it does pack a shocking surprise.

Upon exiting the barrel, the electronic circuit in the device becomes active and fins pop out of the side putting the XREP into a tight spin. The spin orients the XREP so that its four front probes impact with the target. Then on impact the XREP seemingly falls apart, dangling a set of wires that carry the TASER charge. When the probes on these wires make contact, when the subject touches one of these wires, or when the subject grabs the XREP to pull it off, the TASER circuit is complete, and the subject gets zapped.

The XREP was announced in 2007, but it's taken a few years to get it on the street. Now it's become part of the arsenals of some of the nation's top tactical law enforcement units. And in recent months, XREPs have been employed by SWAT units to end scenarios involving barricaded emotionally disturbed subjects and suicidal subjects.


A.L.S. Technologies

Combined Tactical Systems


Guardian Protective Devices

Lightfield Less Lethal

MK Ballistics

PepperBall Technologies

Piexon/IBS Sigma


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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

BANKS @ 3/23/2011 8:26 AM

Good article. We should all be so lucky as to have some less lethal on scene when it goes bad. We use the FN303 and Sage 37mm K01 baton with great success. Add a tazer and you are ready for just about anything. I would prefer to see the less lethal delivered behind the lethal cover (reverse of the picture).

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