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Less Lethal Weapons for Law Enforcement: A Performance-Based Analysis

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Executive Forum Volume: 8 Issue: 1 Dated: 2008 Pages: 133-149
Date Published
17 pages

This paper addresses the various less lethal technologies available to law enforcement providing technical data and analysis of weapon performance and testing outcomes.


While less-than-lethal technology continues to evolve in modern policing, there is no perfect weapon currently in existence that will immediately stop unlawful resistance yet will cause absolutely no harm to the receiver. Use of force continuums, once relied upon as the best way to train officers on the correct application of force, are slowly being removed from agency policies across the country as a result of fear of litigation when an officer works outside the printed standards but still within reasonable guidelines. Through the procurement of different less lethal weapon systems, an agency provides each officer with a range of options to overcome suspect resistance. Despite guidance from the agency, a great deal of discretion is left to the officer on the street. After deciding which weapons to carry on their person, each officer is burdened with deciding upon his or her response to the suspect's resistance. This paper attempts to provide the reader with information about the weapons systems, such as conducted energy weapons (CEWs), tasers, chemical agents, 12-gauge beanbags, compressed air weapons, and FN303 less lethal launcher that may be beneficial in determining the strengths and weaknesses of each system. The paper is organized to first provide an overview of each weapon system tested, then an overview of the most current testing methodologies and results. Tables, references

Date Published: January 1, 2008