Gear Review: Pepperball TCP Launcher

A less lethal option that keeps attackers at a distance—because sometimes you can carry your CCW firearm.

a pepperball handgun and ammo canisters
The Pepperball TCP Launcher comes in a hard case and can be bought in a package with a holster and gas and ammo refills.Joseph Albanese

The PepperBall TCP Launcher superficially resembles a pistol, but no combustion takes place in this less-lethal deterrent. Instead, the TCP Launcher uses compressed gas to propel a .68 caliber projectile, similar to a paintball, filled with a potent OC dust that rapidly disperses in all directions at once.

This means the would-be attackers are kept at bay and out of striking distance.

A military defense contractor originally developed the powerful compound found in PepperBall in 1996 for use in peacekeeping missions, where the use of lethal force was strongly discouraged. Since that time, more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies worldwide rely on the unique OC delivery system to control crime, chaos and public unrest without taking lives or escalating violence.

orange PepperBall handgun in a foam case
A closer shot of the TCP Launcher and its magazine.PepperBall

In more than 20 years of successful application, there have not been any reported fatalities or serious injuries.

Now, civilians can have the same powerful defensive tool at their disposal. The PepperBall TCP Launcher is similar in size to a full-size pistol, and can be carried on the hip in a specialty holster, stashed in a glove box, or stored in a purse.

The TCP Launcher can be safely stowed ready to go, loaded with the powerful OC balls and CO2 cartridge inserted, ready whenever a threat crops up.

The PepperBall TCP Launcher is available in most states, but you need to double-check that the powerful OC PepperBalls are legal in your municipality. Despite these being an alternative to deadly force, some locales have forbidden their use.

Hot Sauce

The driving force behind PepperBall is a proprietary, pharmaceutical-grade PAVA pepper powder. Exposure to this potent concentrate causes an immediate reaction in the eyes, nose, throat and chest of an attacker, incapacitating them nearly instantly.

These debilitating effects give you approximately 15 minutes to make your escape and get to safety.

PepperBall ammo and case
PepperBall ammunition is filled with the company's proprietary, pharmaceutical-grade PAVA pepper powder. It acts as a severe irritant to the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system when inhaled.PepperBall

The limiting factor in effectively using pepper spray as a deterrent is distance. Even high-powered sprays are only effective out to 12 feet or so, but the TCP Launcher can deliver an OC-filled PepperBall up to 150 feet away—accurately.

This means that you can keep distance between yourself and a would-be attacker, increasing the chances that you walk away unscathed.

You don’t need to score a direct hit, though. When the PepperBall round bursts, it creates the same 12-foot cloud of irritant that traditional sprays deliver. This fog rapidly disperses into the air to quickly incapacitate an attacker, without incapacitating yourself in the process.

So, even if the PepperBall ruptures on the ground near the would-be assailant, you can make your escape.

Cold Weather

Traditional CO2 cartridges are at the mercy of the prevailing temperatures; too cold, and the gas inside the cylinder loses enough volume to propel an OC ball far enough to take advantage of the distance potential of the PepperBall TCP Launcher.

8-gram CO~2~ cartridges
In average temperatures, the TCP Launcher can be powered by 8-gram CO2 cartridges, which can be found on Amazon or at most paintball and airsoft supply stores, and even hardware stores.DiscountPaintball.com

To combat this, the engineers developed a cartridge filled with nitrogen, which is not affected by temperatures in the same manner.

While the launcher will use regular 8-gram CO2 cartridges (not the larger 12-gram ones commonly used in airsoft and paintball guns), if you call a cold climate home, it would be better to use the N2 version to ensure performance wherever the mercury is hovering.

The nitrogen cartridges are a proprietary PepperBall product containing about 2600 psi of pressure.

Hands-On

I had a chance to test one of the PepperBall TCP Launchers myself, using inert rounds to test for accuracy and range. The effectiveness of the OC PepperBalls is well documented, so I didn’t feel the need to subject myself or one of my friends to the fiery compound.

Loading

a pepperball clip
The magazine holds 6 PepperBalls in a single stack with a spring loaded follower keeping it under tension anda . spring loaded arm at the top that keeps the ammo in place.Joseph Albanese

The PepperBall TCP Launcher loads much like a CO2 pellet pistol, with the rounds and gas cylinder contained in a magazine-like cradle that is inserted into the grip. To load the PepperBalls, you simply pull the follower back lock it into place using the cut out.

Push the balls in with just enough force to overcome the spring tension on the projectile retainer pin at the top of the well, and release the follower.

a clip loaded with co2 canister
The gas cartridge and PepperBall ammunition are both housed in the “magazine.”Joseph Albanese

The CO2 cartridge is inserted into the cavity skinny-side up, and the thumbscrew assembly is tightened until it comes in contact with the bottom of the cylinder. Once that is completed, insert the whole assembly into the pistol grip as you would any other mag well.

Now, you can go ahead tighten the thumbscrew until the CO2 is punctured.

unloading pepperball magazine clip.
The magazine is easily unloaded when not in use.PepperBall

PepperBall also sells spare magazines separately, so you can have a fresh cartridge and ammo ready to go, or keep one fully charged and loaded and use another for practice.

Live Fire

I was impressed with the accuracy of the TCP Launcher. The top of the Launcher is equipped with a set of sights that are beyond serviceable; the front is even drift-adjustable.

PepperBall handgun
The TCP Launcher is the size of a compact handgun, but quite light at 27.36 ounces.PepperBall

I was able to hold the Launcher as I would any handgun and get a good sight picture. The safety and magazine release are where you would expect them to be, and are easily manipulated. Overall, the controls on the TCP Launcher are very intuitive.

I took aim at a section of fence and slowly worked my way backward as far as I could, to a distance of a little over 75 feet. Time and time again, the inert balls found their home on or just next to the mark I was using to aim.

lining up sights on PepperBall handgun
The sights on the launcher are similar to handgun iron sights.Joseph Albanese

As you might expect, recoil was non-existent. Even for those that aren’t familiar with handguns, scoring hits would be easy. This makes the TCP Launcher a viable self-defense option for those that don’t want to use firearms, as well as in areas where you may not be able to legally carry.

You can adjust the speed at which the projectiles are launched. To do so, simply turn the hex screw located on the right side of the launcher. To increase velocity, turn clockwise; to decrease, counterclockwise.

Make these adjustments slowly and test fire after each alteration to ensure you have it dialed in. I played around with this for a bit, and ultimately ended up setting the velocity somewhere near the upper limits.

PepperBall TCP Launcher Specs

  • Overall Length: 8"
  • Height: 6.5"
  • Weight: 1.71 lbs. (27.36 oz.)
  • Caliber: .68
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Power source: 8 gram CO2/1.3g N2 cartridges (not compatible with 12 gram cartridges)
  • Capacity: 6-round magazine
  • Range: 150 feet
  • Ammunition: Compatible with both standard round projectiles and VXR projectiles
  • MSRP: $399.99