Alternative To Lethal Rounds

An example of the Altrnative, (Washington Post)

An example of the new ‘Alternative’ (Washington Post)

An Alternative To Lethal Rounds

A story has been making the rounds on the web as of late discussing what is being called the “Alternative,” and it refers to a less-than-lethal attachment for law-enforcement and government officials that can be placed on the muzzle of semiautomatic pistols, without interfering with the pistol’s sights or under-barrel rail, and acts to reduce the velocity of a standard round to make it less lethal.

Developed by Alternative Ballistics of Poway, California, who claim it comes in a belt clip-able pouch designed to allow one-handed access of the attachment as well as one-handed securing to the pistol itself— all without taking your eyes off of a suspect.  The attachment catches a live bullet fired from a gun and, like an airbag for a bullet, it slows the round down to 1/5 speed while retaining the blunt impact force to knock a suspect down, effectively lessening the lethal potential of the fired bullet.

It’s a one-use piece of equipment, allowing for near instant release from a pistol’s muzzle to both allow for immediate follow up of a lethal round if necessary, while allowing the majority of the attachment itself to be saved for future use.

The Alternative’s first real world application, as reported by the Washington Post, was actually during the Ferguson Riots earlier this year.  The city’s assistant police chief, Al Eickhoff, said “It gives another option.  You are always looking to save a life, not take a life.”

Opponents of the device have raised concerns over its realistic use due to the time sacrifice, if only a few seconds.  “[It] exposes police officers to greater risk.” said Steve Ijames, a former Springfield, Mo., police major and training expert.

But what are the alternatives to the ‘Alternative’?  Pepper Spray?  Rubber Bullets?

A man being pepper-sprayed in the face, (Super Compressor)

A man being pepper-sprayed in the face (Super Compressor)

Why/Why Not Pepper Spray?

Alternative #1, Pepper Spray has long been considered the go-to first response for deescalating potentially violent encounters with suspects and late-night alley dwellers; I mean, you can buy the stuff online or at many of your local supermarkets.  There has been some debate however over its effectiveness and side-effects.

The Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science published a study that concluded that single exposure of the eye to OC, or oleoresin capsicum also known as the neurotoxin capsaicin, is harmless but repeated exposure can result in long-lasting changes in corneal sensitivity.  They found no lasting decrease in visual acuity.

The European Parliament Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) on the other hand published in 1998 “An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control” that showed a more critical eye.  The study notes, “The effects of pepper spray are far more severe, including temporary blindness which lasts from 15–30 minutes, a burning sensation of the skin which lasts from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms which force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) documented 27 people in police custody died after exposure to pepper spray in California since 1993.  The ACLU’s report counts any death occurring within hours of exposure to pepper spray, which could affect the validity of pepper spray-related deaths.  In all 27 cases, the coroners’ report listed other factors as the primary cause of death, though in some cases the use of pepper spray may have been a contributing factor.

Why/Why Not Rubber Bullets?

Courtesy of Blue Nation Review

Result of ‘Rubber Bullet’ (Blue Nation Review)

The argument over Alternative #2, Rubber Bullet use, is one of the more highly debated forms of less than lethal deterrents.  Some claim it’s the only way to stop violence without lethal results while others claim the results are the same.

The first less-than-lethal bullets appeared in the 1880’s when Singapore police shot sawed-off broom handles at rioters.  The technology advanced and by the 1960’s, riot control police in Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong used more sophisticated wooden bullets, known as “knee-knockers.”  British colonists, seeing the potential, brought the idea back home to England where they replaced the wood, which could shatter and possibly penetrate, with rubber becoming one of the first governments to deploy rubber bullets on a large scale — and see resulting casualties — during the clashes with the IRA (Irish Republican Army).

Rubber bullets were also introduced in the United States to quell anti-war and civil rights demonstrators in the 1960’s and a fatality in 1971 stopped their use before being reintroduced in the late 1980’s.  The most popular style of rubber bullet used in America is the bean bag bullet, “a cloth pouch with about 40 grams of lead shot that delivers the equivalent of a punch from Mike Tyson”, and, like the British version that has caused the death of at least 19 people in Northern Ireland, a solid polyvinyl chloride cylinder about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.

In a widely publicized study in The Lancet in 2000, analyzing the Israeli military’s use of rubber bullets against Palestinians, the medical researchers concluded, “Inaccuracy of rubber bullets and improper aiming and range of use resulted in severe injury and death in a substantial number of people. This ammunition should therefore not be considered a safe method of crowd control.”

In Conclusion

Alternative Ballistics had this to say, “This technology represents a critical “missing link” between lethal force and less-lethal force.  By utilizing our bullet capture technology in appropriate situations, police are likely to prevent loss of life in a way that was – until now – not possible.”

The moral of the story?  There are no alternatives to living.  Don’t get in the way of law enforcement unless absolutely necessary because the last place you want to find yourself is at the end of a barrel, no matter what plastic piece sits on its muzzle.

What are your thoughts?  Should varying forms of ammunition be the key?  Should public outreach and police presence be of greater focus?  Let us know, join in the conversation: comment below, share on Facebook, and find us on Twitter, hashtag #DMTalk.

W D King


Walter king is a sushi enthusiast. A cat lover. A star gazer. An ex-skateboarder, with the destroyed knees to prove it. A local boy raised in Hawaii. He spent much of his youth listening to art bell, infecting his brain with all matter of gray area thought provoking ideas like time travel, collective consciousness, and who can forget: Bigfoot. He's a loving husband and first time father. A movie junkie. A cliff diving, mud slinging, midday dreamer. He also kind of dabbles in indie film production, music production, and photography. He is survived by his unflinching whit and dry sense of humor.

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