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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

17 November 2015

MILIPOL 2015: Military Organisations Envision Procuring Increasingly Cost-Effective and Easy-to-Use Non-Lethal Weapons

The non-lethal weapon options offered by FN Herstal have taken a huge percentage of the non-lethal weapons market, representing just one area of capability growth that has taken place over the last 25 years. While the new generation of portable weapons like FN SCAR or FN MINIMI may represent the top end of the spectrum of infantry weapons and are relatively quick and easily to deploy and operate, there is an emerging recognition that even less-than-lethal options may have utility in the current and future mission scenarios.

The shoulder-fired FN303 launcher weighs 2.9kg when fitted with a loaded magazine and a fully loaded CO2 cartridge. Note the translucid magazine allowing the user to see the type and quantity of remaining projectiles. (Photo: Mönch/STN)

MT learned that FN Herstal developed a family of projectiles that would administer sufficient force to suit the user’s needs, but with a far reduced risk of serious injury or death. Known as FN303, the projectile was designed to provide sufficient impact to shatter a car window, yet when used against a suspect would offer little risk of skin penetration. According to the company, the projectile requires no propellant and generates no noise, heat or flame when fired. They are also less expensive and easier-to-operate systems that can be carried in numbers and operated by law enforcement personnel with a minimum of training. However, no single less-than-lethal weapon can do anything, Shane Healey, FN Herstal’s Operational Marketing Manager, told MT. With the shoulder-fired FN303 Less Lethal Launcher, “you have a full [spectrum] of ranges, from one up to 50m,” he noted. There is no flash, very little sound, and there is almost no recoil. This makes the projectile an ideal choice of law enforcement forces facing aggressive, violent or hostile people. A significant advantage of the FN303 Less Lethal Launcher is its capability to rapidly re-engage targets. FN Herstal noted in their FN303 documentation that security forces must be able to react with a proportional response.

If you want to have a small, compact launcher that is [highly accurate] 0-20m, [FN Herstal] offers the Compact FN303 P,” Healey said. With this less lethal launcher, the user can fire the same 18mm calibre projectiles as with the shoulder-fired FN303 launcher. The weapon weighs less than 1.25kg, and offers a magazine capacity of seven projectiles. Healey noted that the launcher is, “best suited,” for security personnel in prisons and detention centres, offering minimum risk of serious injury or collateral damage.

The compressed air-powered FN303 less lethal projectile launcher incorporates a sight and is highly accurate at ranges up to 50m. A rotary magazine (not shown) holds the projectiles, allowing rapid fire in multi-target scenarios. (Photo: Mönch/STN)

Other mission scenarios can include hostage situations, neutralisation of violent or suicidal individuals, intervention in confined spaces, and neutralisation of dangerous animals. What makes the Compact FN303 P a unique and effective solution for mastering all of these missions is the opportunity to adapt a number of accessories to the launcher, including: upper and lower MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny type rails; laser pointer; sight; and, holster. All of these accessories are FN Herstal-certified items.

Representing the intermediate solution – between the baton and firearm – the FN303 Less Lethal System delivers a sufficiently dissuasive level of pain within the projectile’s impact zone, thus disabling the person. However, the level of bruising and pain depends upon the type of projectile which is being used. Five projectiles are on offer: Impact (non-toxic glycol base); impact plus washable paint (fluorescent pink pigment in non-toxic glycol base); impact plus indelible paint (latex-based polymeric paint); impact plus irritating effect (chemical pepper powder); and impact (100% inert powder).

Healey noted that the projectiles’ ballast consists of non-toxic bismuth powder. “We chose bismuth powder because of its high density,” he said. The density difference between lead (density 11.32g/cm3) and bismuth (density 9.78g/cm3) is small enough that it can be used as a replacement for lead in less-lethal riot gun ammunition.
Stefan Nitschke

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