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ALS Less-Lethal Launchers & Munitions

ALS Technologies makes a wide variety of 12 gauge, 37/38mm and 40mm impact munitions, CS chemical agents, stun-distraction devices and OC delivery systems.

Importantly, they just introduced two new 37mm and 40mm single shot launchers.

ALS recently joined AMTEC, the US military contractor. AMTEC is one of two 40mm suppliers to the US Army. These munitions include the M1006 sponge projectile, M781 practice cartridge, M583A1 White Star parachute and the M433 High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP). Sister companies produce medium caliber cartridge cases, M67 grenade and Claymore mines for the Department of Defense. As a result of the merger, ALS Technologies will soon be changing its name to AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems.

New 37mm and 40mm Launchers

The biggest news from ALS is their two new launchers. ALS teamed up with Lewis Machine and Tool (LMT) to design and build the launchers. LMT is the largest supplier of launchers to the US military. The new launchers in both calibers are single shot, break-action, breech-loading launchers. A number of things make these new ALS/LMT launchers noteworthy.

The first is their incredibly light weight. Available only through ALS, these are the lightest tactical launchers on the market. The frame and barrel are both machined from 7075 aircraft aluminum. This results in the total launcher weight of just 3.5 pounds—half the weight of traditional single-shot launchers.

Everything Is Familiar

The second noteworthy aspect of the ALS/LMT launchers is how easy to use the weapon system is. Everything about the launchers is immediately familiar. It is as if the launcher designer started from scratch and picked the best and most functional of everything from the world’s gun parts bins. In fact, that is exactly what ALS’ Dave DuBay did.

The Gen 2 collapsible stock is identical to the M4 patrol carbine. The stock can be adjusted to one of six lengths to accommodate officers of different statures, and operators with different amounts of armor and LBV bulk. With the adjustable stock collapsed, the launchers have an overall length of less than two feet.
Loading the breech-action launcher is made simple by the ambidextrous barrel release. This dual release is very similar in fit, form and function to the world-class Penn Arms release.

One of the best aspects of the ALS/LMT launchers is the shooter-friendly trigger group. Those familiar with Smith & Wesson revolvers will immediately recognize that trigger group. These launchers have a double action trigger: it can be thumb-cocked and fired (single-action) or cocked and fired by the trigger pull (double-action).

Compared to the long, long double action-only trigger on some launchers, the ALS launcher feels like a match gun. The ALS break of the single action pull is extremely crisp, while the double action pull is what made Smith & Wesson a legend among revolvers.

The knurled-grooved, pistol grip is also a common aftermarket accessory on the AR-15/M16. The new launchers have a fully adjustable, front vertical fore grip. Loosen the tightening nut, and you can adjust the forearm both forward-rearward, and at an angle left-right.

The production launchers have an Integrated Front Grip. This allows a weapon light to be mounted to the front grip. If the operator wants the light mounted on the other side of the barrel, simply loosen the fore grip, slip it off the end of the barrel and reverse it.

The opposite side of the fore grip has a standard Quick- Disconnect mount. When used in conjunction with the stock sling mount, this makes for a two-point sling attachment. The launchers also have a Lateral Sling Mount. This allows for a single point sling with either a MASH hook or a claw hook—and an ambidextrous transition from “carry” to “fire.”

Longer Barrels

Both launchers have a 14-inch barrel, either smoothbore (37mm) or rifled (40mm). This is two inches longer than comparable single shot launchers. The extra barrel length is designed to improve accuracy. The ALS/LMT launchers have an extractor claw built into the barrel opening mechanism— the claw pushes the spent case up enough to easily grasp as the barrel is rotated down.

The 37mm launcher will fire 37/38mm cartridges up to 8-inches in length. That includes most of the longer barricade penetrating and gas cartridges of all makes. The 40mm launcher will fire standard 40mm less-lethal munitions with cartridges up to 4.8 inches in length.

The launchers have a Picatinny optics rail mounting system machined directly into the upper receiver—it is not a bolton accessory. These launchers have a fixed, front bead sight. The rear sight is a small groove machined into the top of the barrel release. ALS knows that most agencies will be installing aftermarket sights, like one of the EOTech HWS.

Heads-up on sighting-in the launchers: the ALS/LMT launchers weigh half of a traditional single-shot launcher. That means the recoil from the heaviest beanbags and projectiles will affect the point of aim-point of impact, both compared to other launchers and as you switch between loads.

For example, the heavy, 40mm Barricade Penetrator impacted at the point of aim, while the light, 40mm REACT sponge impacted 20 inches below the point of aim. You will (obviously) need very different sight adjustments (or holdover, hold-under) for the various projectiles.

The final, stand-out aspect of the ALS/LMT launchers is their very low cost. The MSRP is $599 for the smoothbore 37mm gas gun and $699 for the rifled 40mm launcher.

40mm REACT Munitions

ALS has news with their 40mm REACT impact munitions— a new projectile profile. (REACT stands for Radiated Energy Air Cushioned Trajectile.) The newly designed 40mm REACT has a narrower, but more spherical impact profile. If it were a handgun bullet, we would say it has changed from a roundnose bullet to a rounded semi-wadcutter—a distinctly different shape from the other 40mm sponge rounds.

The 509 grain projectile uses the same 35 durometer (very soft) rubber tip. The REACT is designed for direct fire, as opposed to skipped fire. This projectile has an effective range from 10 yards (minimum) to 40 yards. The accuracy of the new 40mm REACT has been slightly improved over the earlier generation munitions. With the older rounds, we got 20-inch groups from 33 yards (100 feet). With the new design of 40mm REACT, we got 15-inch groups at 33 yards.

Also new from ALS is their 40mm REACT Training Kit. This is a set of components designed to reduce the cost of training and still provide effective realistic training for the 40mm sponge round. The Training Kit includes ten recoverable 40mm REACT projectiles and 24 loaded cartridge cases.

With the Training Kit, there is no de-priming and repriming involved. The projectiles are simply hand-pressed into the cartridge bases. The bases are the military proven M212 cartridge used by all military services for training ammunition.

40mm Interlocking Rubber Batons

We tested the new ALS/LMT 40mm launcher with two other popular ALS munitions. First, the Interlocking Rubber Batons, which is a load of three, soft rubber cylinders. This same exact load is available in the 37/38mm line. The projectiles, muzzle energies and effective range from both 37/38mm and 40mm are virtually identical.

The projectiles are cylinder shaped with a slide bullet nose and a slight hollow base. One projectile nests inside the other. ALS interlocks the batons for tighter patterns at longer distances with fewer fliers. The rubber used in the projectiles is 35 durometer, the same as the rubber (or foam) used in the 40mm direct-fire projectiles.
The projectiles from the Interlocking Baton are exactly the kind of impact munition you want to show a jury. They are soft and squishy and are more like the Nerf objects people squeeze in their hands to relieve stress than a police riot-control and compliance munition.

No marshmallow, each rubber projectile weighs 324 grains, which is over half the weight of a single 40mm foam-sponge projectile. The muzzle velocity of 325 fps gives each projectile has 76 ft-lbs of energy. In comparison, the 12-gauge beanbag typically has 125 ft-lbs of energy. However, each projectile is well over the 12 to 25 ft-lb produced by paintball-like, less-lethal projectiles.

Baton Dispersion

The recommended effective range of the Interlocking Rubber Baton is from 7 yards to 20 yards. In most tactical callouts, that means this is more of an outdoor load, a crowd dispersal load, than a hasty assault or entry team load. At ranges closer than seven yards, ALS recommends that the Interlocking Rubber Baton be skip-fired.

Unlike most less-lethal munitions, the maximum recommended range is based more on retained projectile energy (impact effectiveness) than on amount of dispersion (accuracy). As a multiple target engagement load, some amount of dispersion is a good thing.

We tested the 40mm load at both extremes of recommended range, 7 yards and 20 yards, to get an idea of the baton dispersion. Even though the batons are interlocked, the batons impact separately even when fired as close as 3 yards. However, as time and distances become distorted under stress, it is nice to know that these projectiles impact with individual energy, not collective energy, at half of the recommended distance.

At 7 yards, the three batons generally impacted into 6- to 9-inch groups. They separated perfectly and impacted in a 3-point triangle well inside the 8-ring of a B-27 target. At 20 yards, the three batons produced 3 foot to 4 foot groups, again, in a triangular impact. Even at 20 yards, the center of the point of impact was the point of drop, no drift, no fliers. These batons still have a lot of deterrent, stand-off and attention-getting value even as far as 40 yards, where they impact in 5-foot to 10-foot clusters. We like this load!

40mm Barricade Penetrator

The other 40mm load we test-fired was the ALS Barricade Penetrator. The training version (Inert) is exactly the same as the projectiles that release either CS chemical agent or OC pepper spray. The Inert round is important for a number of reasons. First, establish the accuracy and projectile drop at various ranges. Second, establish the penetration ability at various ranges. Finally, serve as a training and qualifying round—all without releasing live agent.

The 40mm Barricade Penetrator fires a heavy, 850 grain projectile, designed to defeat drywall, hollow-core doors and glass windows. The payload is 185 grains of CS powder or OC liquid. The spin-stabilized, two-part projectile separates on impact with a hard surface and disperses the liquid or powder.

These CS and OC rounds are non-pyrotechnic – they will not ignite a flammable atmosphere or stored chemicals (meth lab), and will not ignite building materials (curtains, carpet). The liquid or powder agent disperses by impact, not by burning.

These projectiles are extremely accurate and they impact with plenty of power. The effective range of the Barricade Penetrator munitions is 50 yards. From 20 yards, we got 3.5-inch groups, right on the point of aim (using just the bead sights on the launcher).

The Barricade Penetrator went through five sheets of drywall (spaced by 2x4 studs) and then continued through the 1/2-inch plywood target back. No problem whatsoever indefeating aluminum siding, insulation pads, plywood, drywall and paneling, let alone mere windows and hollow doors. These are excellent, effective, confidenceinspiring munitions.

37mm Tail-Stabilized Sock

Many departments still deploy less-lethal munitions with the 37mm smoothbore. As such, a wide variety of munitions are available for this old and dependable gas gun. ALS has two stand-out beanbag loads for the 37/38mm. One is the tailstabilized Pen-Prevent sock. The other is the Power Punch flat bag. The Power Punch bag and the Pen-Prevent sock have been our favorites for years. As a smoothbore caliber, the 37mm does not have a spin-stabilized “sponge” round like the 40mm. These two impact munitions are as close to “sponge” performance as you get in the 37mm. The Pen-Prevent uses a heavy, ballistic nylon, flat sock with a long nylon tail to stabilize the projectile. The birdshotfilled, Pen-Prevent projectile is a hefty 2310 grains – the weight of more than five 12 gauge rifled slugs.

The effective range of the Pen-Prevent is 7 yards to 20 yards. Some 37mm beanbags and impact munitions produce the same energy as their 12 gauge counterparts. (With those loads, what is the point of the 37mm cartridge?) The ALS 37mm Pen-Prevent produces 50% more impact energy than a similar 12 gauge beanbag. The “tail” is the key to two importance impact outcomes. First, it produces a more consistent impact shape. The tail keeps the leading edge of the beanbag pointing to the target—the striking profile is the same shot after shot. Second, the tail assists with longer range accuracy. The tail “drag-stabilizes” the projectile, which keeps the heavy beanbag from turning sideways in flight and possible veering off-course. Remember, the 37mm is a smoothbore— anything to improve medium-range accuracy is a good thing. We got five torso hits out of five on the mannequin from 20 yards, specifically, a 15.6-inch group. 37mm Power Punch Beanbag The Power Punch fires a round but flat, ballistic nylon bag containing 1,540 grains of lead bird shot. The Power Punch was specifically developed to overcome the shortcomings of conventional beanbag projectiles. The softer and more pliable nylon fabric allows a more aerodynamic flight than the harder and more rigid canvas fabric in the original beanbags. The ballistic nylon fabric is also stronger at the sewn seams and much less likely to rupture.

The effective range is also 7 yards to 20 yards. The overall accuracy of this beanbag design is much better than the original beanbags and much fewer projectiles veer off-course. Of the two 37mm flagship munitions, the Power Punch is slightly more accurate. We hit the mannequin between the armpits and the hips five times out five shots from 20 yards. Specifically, that was a 10.8-inch group of less-lethal persuasion.

The Pen-Prevent and the Power Punch have different effects on the target, and thus, different applications. The Pen-Prevent has a bit more focused impact area – the projectile spreads out less and delivers a deeper punch. That makes the Pen-Prevent a good choice against heavily clothed suspects.

At these common engagement ranges, the Power Punch delivers a real thump and wallop. To the point, the ALS 37mm Power Punch produces 125 percent more energy than a similar 12 gauge beanbag. The ALS Power Punch transfers its greater energy over a wider impact area, and is more accurate. Unless we know ahead of time that the scenario calls for something quite different, the ALS Power Punch is our primary lesslethal load when we deploy with the 37mm launcher.

Check out the entire ALS (AMTEC) less-lethal lineup. They continue to be a major player, providing a wide variety of proven or cutting edge, less-lethal options to resolve escalating force scenarios.

Photos courtesy of Steve Tracy and the Park Ridge, IL Police.

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2012

Rating : 10.0

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