The noise / flash diversionary device (NFDD), or “flash-bang,” is an important tool in the arsenal of every tactical team.
An NFDD can be a lifesaver or a liability, depending on how it is employed. When properly employed, NFDDs are reasonably safe. When improperly employed, they have the potential to cause serious bodily injuries and property damage.
Although NFDDs have proven to be of extremely low lethality over many years of tactical use, at least one death has been attributed to an NFDD. The death occurred as a result of internal injuries sustained when a suspect accidentally lay on top of a bursting canister NFDD at the time of deflagration.
Sound policies and proper training are the keys to safe and effective tactical employment of NFDDs. Most injuries that occur from NFDDs are the direct result of operator error. Operator error can almost always be linked to a failure in training. Adequate training is essential.
According to Canton v. Harris, a municipality may be held liable for a violation of rights that results from a failure to adequately train its employees if that failure represents a deliberate indifference on the part of the municipal policy. In Zuchel v. Denver, the issue wasn’t on the amount of training, but on the type of training. The plaintiff alleged that the lack of a meaningful “shoot-don’t shoot” training constituted a deliberate indifference to a known risk.
Reality cannot be replicated in a training environment. As such, the goal in training must be realistic simulation. For training to be meaningful, it must be as close to reality as possible.
In the past, when it came to NFDD training, options were available but may have had one limitation. Standard NFDDs are expensive and impose restrictions on the training environment. Many teams made use of expended NFDDs for routine training. To meet this need, dedicated training devices have been developed that realistically simulate the operational characteristics of standard NFDDs. The training devices are designed to produce a “bang” without the cost, blast and, in most cases, regulatory requirements of tactical NFDDs.
However, one ingredient that has been missing from the training arsenal has been a non-pyrotechnic NFDD training device, until now. Non Lethal Training Munitions (NLTM)
has recently come out with the world’s first completely non-pyrotechnic training grenade, the Thumper TG6® Training Grenade.
Designed to be useable for all types of tactical entry training, the Thumper TG6 provides a low-cost alternative to traditional training devices without any sacrifice in reliability and safety. Completely reusable, the TG6 has per use costs of between 1/2 and 1/5 of the per use costs of pyrotechnic training NFDDs. The Thumper TG6 ships as an ORM-D Consumer Commodity. It can be shipped by UPS without restrictions or extra HazMat fees. There are no special storage, handling or accounting requirements.
Powered by disposable CO2 cartridges, the Thumper TG6 can be used anywhere, without any of the risks or limitations that would be associated with a pyrotechnic device. There is absolutely no fire risk. It is safe to use even in areas with explosive vapors. It won’t damage surrounding materials or items, such as carpets, furniture and drapes. It requires no policing of the training area.
The Thumper TG6 is similar in size and weight to a standard NFDD. The Thumper TG6 has an overall height of 6 inches, a diameter of 1.75 inches and an overall weight of 1 pound. It fits into any standard flashbang pouch.
The Thumper TG6 is exceptionally well made and ruggedly designed. The body of the Thumper TG6 is machined out of solid aerospace-grade aluminum. It has a glossy blue finish to clearly designate the Thumper TG6 as a training device.
The body consists of two parts—an upper main valve body and an aluminum base that screw together. The base houses an 8-gram CO2 cartridge—the type that is use in seltzer bottles. The bottom of the base has a black rubber bumper. The upper main valve body contains a brass control valve, rubber O-ring, and the spoon. The top of the upper main valve body has a milled opening into which a black plastic burst diaphragm is fitted.
The spoon (valve spoon) of the Thumper TG6 is constructed of stainless steel. The spoon is held against the body by a spoon clip (stainless steel C-ring safety clip) that rides in a milled channel. A tempered spring steel split-ring is attached to the spoon clip and serves as the pull ring. The spoon clip rides in a channel milled around the main valve body of the Thumper TG6. When the Thumper TG6 is deployed, the spoon doesn’t fly off of the device, but is retained by a spoon valve hex-head screw.
The Thumper TG6 is quickly and easily readied for use or reuse. Charging the Thumper TG6 takes less than a minute. No tools are required. Simply unscrew the main valve body from the aluminum base. Next, insert a new CO2 cartridge tip up in the in the aluminum base. Then, with the spoon compressed and held in place by the safety clip, screw the main valve body onto the aluminum base, making certain that there aren’t any dirt particles or debris on the threads or the O-ring on the main valve body that could obstruct proper re-assembly. Finally, place a new burst diaphragm into the opening on the top of the main valve body and lock it into place by depressing it and turning it 1/4 turn clockwise. The Thumper TG6 is now ready to deploy.
Although the Thumper TG6 can be carried for extended periods while fully charged, it should never be stored in a charged condition (overnight) as this may cause wear on the O-ring and valve seals. NLTM recommends that the Thumper TG6 be completely disassembled after training and the spent CO2 cartridge and spent burst diaphragm removed.
The Thumper TG6 is deployed in the same manner as a standard NFDD. When the pull ring is pulled and the spoon is released by the operator, gas is discharged from the CO2 cartridge. When the pressure reaches the proper PSI, the plastic burst diaphragm ruptures with a sharp, audible report. Since the Thumper TG6 is a non-pyrotechnic device, obviously no flash is produced.
The Thumper TG6 has an approximate 1.5-second delay from the time the spoon is released until the burst diaphragm ruptures. For purposes of comparison, a standard military M201A1 fuse, which is used in most U.S.-manufactured pyrotechnic NFDDs, has a timing range of 0.7 to 2 seconds. It should be noted that the delay on the Thumper TG6 is adjustable, if desired, via a metering valve by using an Allen wrench. And though it won’t be an issue for most training scenarios, a nitrogen-filled cartridge is available for extremely cold environments.
The Thumper TG6 produces a sharp report that is roughly equivalent to that of a small firecracker. The sound pressure level (SPL) is 120 decibels at 5 feet, which is more than adequate for training purposes. No hearing protection is required. Although safety is obviously relative, the Thumper TG6 is as safe as a device of this type can possibly be. It produces no detectable pressure wave on the Anderson Blasgage. The Blasgage is commonly used to measure the blast level of small charges, such as those from NFDDs.
As a point of comparison, pyrotechnic NFDD training devices typically produce an SPL of 130 to 150 dB at 5 feet, although there are several that produce a SPL in the 120-db range. Standard NFDDs in operational use by law enforcement agencies typically are designed to produce an SPL of 174 to 175 dB at 5 feet.
The differences may not sound that significant, but keep in mind that dBs are measured by what’s known as a “logarithmic function.” An increase of 10 dB will double the intensity of the report. Short term unprotected exposure to SPLs exceeding 130 dBs may result in mechanical cochlear damage to the human ear. Although no permanent hearing loss should result from a single exposure to a NFDD, the effects of loud noises are cumulative and irreversible.
The lower SPL of the Thumper TG6 also makes it better suited for role-playing scenarios. It allows training to be conducted in more locations than would be possible for a device with a higher SPL output. The lower SPL also produces less wear and tear on both operators and training facilities. During training at one well-known private training facility, a ceiling actually collapsed after standard NFDDs were repeatedly used during training.
Projectile concerns are minimal with the Thumper TG6. A portion of the plastic burst diaphragm is propelled away from the Thumper TG6 when the diaphragm bursts. However, the detached portion of the burst diaphragm has insufficient energy to pose any risk of damage when the device is properly employed. This allows the Thumper TG6 to be employed in close proximity with tactical personnel for effective force-on-force training.
The device should last indefinitely with proper care and maintenance. Little maintenance is required other than replacing O-rings when they become worn and occasional light lubrication of the valve bore and valve assembly with a dry lubricant. Full services instructions are included with the Thumper TG6. Spare parts are available in the event of loss or damage.
The Thumper TG6 Starter Kit has an MSRP of $120. It comes with a Thumper TG6, spare valve O-ring, take-down tool and valve adjustment tool, three burst diaphragms, three 8-gram CO2 cartridges and instructions. Additional TG6 Burst Charges (CO2 cartridges, burst diaphragms and spare O-rings) are available in packs of 12 and 72. MSRP for the 12-pack is $60. An optional, Booby Trap Kit is also available. It converts the Thumper TG6 into a trip wire booby trap TAD. It has an MSRP of $40 and includes a universal mounting bracket, modified spoon clip, spool of MIL-SPEC trip wire, and one pair of tie wraps.
In summary, the Thumper TG6 Training Grenade is an excellent, exceptionally cost-effective training tool. It provides tactical teams with a low-cost training device that realistically simulates the functional characteristics of a standard NFDD without the costs and liabilities associated with using a pyrotechnic device. It will allow teams to train more often and in more places and with much greater safety than would be the case with pyrotechnic devices. The Thumper TG6 is made in the U.S.A. Eugene Nielsen provides investigative and tactical consulting services and is a former officer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.