Some beanbag rounds and rubber bullets have been known to cause serious injuries. Several cases of beanbag projectiles penetrating into the chest cavity and causing other serious injuries to the hands, legs and eyes have been documented. While the extent of these injuries is somewhat range dependent, officers cannot always choose the range at which they fire one of these projectiles. Lightfield Ammunition
has developed a solution. Neil Keegstra, a firearms instructor with the Bloomingdale, NJ Police; Randy Fritz and Robin Fritz of Tar-Hunts Custom Guns; and Tony Kinchin, the designer of Lightfield’s patented slugs, teamed up for an entirely new concept in less-lethal projectiles.
The Star Lite round uses a soft, light polyvinyl chloride projectile that can safely be used from as little as 3 feet away and has almost no risk of penetration. Unlike beanbag rounds, which are usually filled with #9 lead shot, the super star round is composed entirely of low density plastic and thus at even very close ranges it is incapable of breaking into the chest cavity.
A perfect less-lethal projectile has a high surface area and low inertia while maintaining a high kinetic energy. Low inertia and high surface area prevent penetration, but enough high kinetic energy is necessary to cause pain and produce compliance.
The original intention of the beanbag round was to create a ravioli-shaped projectile that would open up in flight and spread out the energy of a heavy, hard and slow projectile (430 grains, 280 fps) over a large surface area. If the surface area of the projectile is large enough, it will not penetrate. Unfortunately, there is no force working on the square sacks to expand when they leave the barrel of a shotgun. Even though they move at a rather low velocity, their mass is so great that their inertia is quite high.
By comparison, the Star Lite round travels at a much higher velocity but has far less mass (75 grains, 650 fps). This means it can have the same kinetic energy while having much less inertia. It also has a very high surface area and is quite soft. Although it will cause sufficient temporary pain and some substantial bruising, it is not nearly as prone to causing the contusions seen with lead projectiles.
Sgt. Don Whitson of the Fort Collins, CO Police has fired approximately 700 of these rounds in his capacity as the lead instructor for National Tactical Officers Association less-lethal courses. According to Whitson, the star round is quite capable of creating a sufficient level of pain to achieve compliance in the 80% of individuals who are classified as non-committed.
That pain, however, is not accompanied by the deep tissue injury caused by other projectiles. Whitson also indicates that this projectile is much safer than the lead-filled beanbags. Since most of our pain receptors are located on the surface of our skin, it doesn’t make sense to use a less-lethal round that will cause deep tissue injuries.
John Meyer, the head of the Team One Network, recently conducted a presentation on less-lethal technology for a delegation of Chinese authorities from Beijing preparing for the 2008 Olympics. During the presentation, they tested the Lightfield less-lethal ammunition. They found it to be accurate over the intended ranges.
Lightfield offers seven different less-lethal projectiles. This includes two types of rubber buckshot, twin rubber balls, rubber slugs, extended-range rubber slugs, and their new star round. They also produce five hotter cartridges that are intended for wildlife control. All of them are packaged in 2 ¾-inch shells and can be used in any standard duty 12-gauge shotgun.
The star projectile is intended for law enforcement and corrections. It is offered in two different packages, a longer range Super Star and a shorter range Star Lite. The green Super Star (650 fps, 70 ft-lbs) has a minimum engagement range of 6 feet and is effective out to 45 feet. The yellow Star Lite (500 fps, 41 ft-lbs) has a minimum engagement range of 3 feet and is effective out to 30 feet. In both cases, the projectile is intended for use on the large muscle groups and soft tissue from the abdomen and lower.
In flight, the rubber spines that radiate out from the soft rubber ball at the center of the projectile add a lot of surface area to the projectile while allowing it to fit into a .73-inch shell. The projectiles are bright colored, soft and quite innocuous looking. If you were to show one to a jury, they might be tempted to play with it as if it was a toy. That is sure to change the way less-lethal projectiles are viewed!
The Lightfield standard velocity rubber buckshot is composed of lime green .32 caliber balls that travel at 400 fps with a muzzle energy of 42 ft-lbs for each of the 24 balls. It is intended for ranges from 3 to 36 feet. Their high-velocity rubber buckshot has a velocity of 750 fps and a muzzle energy of 149 ft-lbs for each of the 21 black balls. This load is intended for use at ranges from 24 to 75 feet. Orange, .73 caliber double plastic balls are intended for distances from 60 to 120 feet. They leave the muzzle at 650 fps with muzzle energy of 112 ft-lbs.
Lightfield’s mid-range rubber slugs have a golf-ball surface texture that creates turbulent air flow around them, increasing their accuracy. They are also designed for use at 20 to 40 yards and travel at 500 fps, carrying with them an energy of 72 ft-lbs. Their extended-range rubber slugs travel at 600 fps, carrying 103 ft-lbs of energy, and can reach out to a range of 40 to 60 yards. Lightfield also produces five hotter cartridges that are intended for wildlife control.Aaron Rowe is a doctoral student in chemistry. Previously, he was a forensic engineer in the Los Angeles area. His research includes developing new biosensors for illicit drugs and bioterrorism agents.