Companies Developing New "Less-Lethal" Projectiles for Law Enforcement

The BIP has a silicon tip that crushes and expands on impact. photo from eagletribune.com.

As civilian confrontations with police that end in gunfire continue to hold a corner of the daily national news media coverage, some companies see the situation as a necessity begging for invention.

One such company is Canada-based Micron Products Inc., which has developed a new less-lethal form of ammunition. They're calling it a blunt impact projectile (BIP) that is intended to fill the gap between batons, Tasers, and current less-than-lethal ammo, and firearms in terms of force applied.

The BIPs are designed to cause excruciating pain, equipped with a silicon tip that crushes and expands on impact. But since the projectile doesn't pierce the skin, damage should be minimal, the company says.

They pack more of a punch than bean-bag shotgun ammunition or smaller rubber bullets, and can deliver various payloads, such as pepper powder and visual marking paint for crowd-control situations.

One of Micron's executives said he was a test subject for the projectile and likened the force to the "equivalent of being hit by a hockey puck."

The projectiles have been purchased by 16 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and six in Canada, including SWAT units of the Los Angeles County and Sacramento County Sheriff's Departments.

The 40mm BIP is designed to be shot from a tear gas or grenade launcher. photo from eagletribune.com.

Officers are trained to shoot the projectiles at arms and legs. A person who was hit in the torso at close range during a disturbance in Canada had a large bruise, but no lasting injuries. Currently, nobody has been hit in the head at close range by a BIP, but Gregory Sullivan, CEO of Arrhythmia Research Technology, Micron's parent company, acknowledged there's a possibility of serious or deadly injury in such a case.

One other detraction from the projectile's feasibility as a field weapon: It's not designed for quick deployment, but rather for firing from a fixed position for a crowd control situation. It can't be used with lightly modified firearms, like some 12-gauge rubber bullets and bean-bag ammunition, but is a 40mm projectile that requires a tear-gas or grenade launcher, both of which are too large to carry on a belt.

Another company, Alternative Ballistics, is taking a completely different approach to the problem by adding a bullet capture device that slows a fired round down to 1/5 its speed, retaining enough force to injure and incapacitate a suspect, but greatly lessening the lethal potential of a first round.

The ALTERNATIVE from Alternative Ballistics uses a bullet capture device to slow down the projectile from a normal handgun.

The bullet is fired from the barrel and impacts a silver ball mounted on the front of the ALTERNATIVE, which encases the bullet, absorbs some of the round's force, and travels with it to the target. The company calls it an airbag for a bullet. It increases the surface area of the bullet and diminishes its force, causing more pain for the target, but greatly decreasing the chance of penetration or internal injury.

The cool thing about this gadget: It can be carried in a pouch and quickly snapped onto a firearm without obscuring the sights or the rail. Once the projectile is fired, the pistol cycles as normal and the orange mount is kicked off when the slide retracts, making the pistol ready for a follow-up shot if necessary. With a modified holster, it could conceivably be carried while mounted on the pistol, always at the ready for a first shot. From there, it could be quickly removed if not needed.

Here's a video of how it works: