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Non-Lethal Systems Research and Development: Pepper Spray Launcher/Disperser Final Report

NCJ Number
R. Kelly
Date Published
January 1997
8 pages
An improved less-than-lethal (LTL) projectile has been developed that is capable of dispersing the incapacitating agent, oleoresin capsicum (OC), launched from a standoff position, and the use of this projectile in hostage, barricade, and tactical assault situations is discussed.
There is widespread recognition in the law enforcement community of the need to offer a greater range of improved weapons to subdue criminals without causing injury to either criminals or innocent bystanders. In recent years, a new type of spray has been developed that uses various formulations based on the essence of cayenne and chili peppers, the active ingredient of which is the oily resin of pepper. Unlike chemical agents, OC is derived from a natural product and is widely used as a foodstuff and in pharmaceutical products. It acts an inflammatory agent, producing involuntary closing of the eyes and profuse lacrimation. Other physiological effects of OC include temporary paralysis of the larynx and gasping for breath due to inflammation of the mucous membranes and the upper respiratory tract. An extensive literature study was conducted to evaluate LTL projectiles and launchers, and calculations were made of the projectile diameter necessary to hold sufficient OC material to incapacitate occupants of a typical 900-cubic-foot room. These calculations pointed to a projectile diameter of at least 37-mm in order to hold a minimum payload of 1 ounce of liquid spray. A standard 37-mm riot control launcher was employed to generate penetration data using a wide range of projectile shapes impacting various targets at different velocities. Measurements were made of muzzle velocity, accuracy at various ranges, penetration data, and residual energy against glass and screen targets. A hemispherical ogive offered the best compromise between flight stability and the desire to retain non-lethality at velocities needed to minimize projectile drop to permit a simple sighting system to be employed. An analysis of the relative merits of stabilizing the projectile in flight by means of spin using a rifled barrel and by means of fins using a smooth bore barrel showed rear ejection of atomized spray was more reproducible and effective than nose ejection. Various modifications to the aerosol release port design were made in an attempt to improve the efficiency and speed of discharge of aerosol canister contents within the barrier structure. 2 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1997