The topic of non-lethal or less than lethal munitions comes up quite often in my bail enforcement assignments. Here are a few myths and truths regarding non-lethal or less than lethal munitions.
Myth: The terms “non-lethal” and “less than lethal” are synonymous with each other.
Truth: There isn’t any such thing as a “non-lethal” munition. Any type of munition that can be fired from a firearm and expel a certain amount of propellant or munition fragments can still kill or seriously injure a person. Take for example the incidents involving actors and actresses that learned this very lesson by falsely believing that a firearm loaded with blanks is safe to play with. Please remember, anytime you handle a firearm, assume it is loaded and treat it accordingly.
Myth: Loading less than lethal ammunition in your duty weapons will protect you from killing a person particularly in the event you have to discharge your weapon in the line of duty at a defendant.
Truth: Most one on one shooting confrontations between people occur within a 5-7 foot radius. Less than lethal (LTL) munitions are loaded with similar grain loads as lethal ammunition, so they still have the same or similar ballistic characteristics as their metal counterparts. LTL rounds will penetrate the human body if discharged within this radius, tearing flesh and organs alike, possibly resulting in the death of your defendant.
With these Myths uncovered you are probably asking the obvious question “If everything is the same, then what is the advantage to using LTL ammunition vs. lethal ammunition?”
Although controversial and always an interesting discussion my answer is this…
It is very important to discuss with your attorney (as each jurisdiction is different) the topic of liability of intent. Some attorney’s that I have talked to advised me by loading my duty weapon with LTL rounds will help in your defense should you ever be arrested for shooting a defendant. Think task completion, utilizing effective compliance tools, methods, and training rather than premeditative thinking. For example, anyone who carries a loaded weapon, regardless of reasons, legal or not, has already made up their minds that they are ready, willing, and able to KILL a fellow human being; this is premeditation.
A professional BEA whose function is to simply mitigate the client’s liability in a low profile, least confrontational manner possible should load his/her duty weapon with LTL rounds. This thinking shows that the agent is concerned with preserving life as much as possible.
Keep in mind that some insurance companies require bail enforcement agents to only carry LTL rounds. The insurance industry believes it greatly reduces their liability in the event of a wrongful death suit.
Again, it is all about intent.
Another advantage to employing LTL munitions is the issue of innocent third party injuries/deaths. Most rubber bullets, once striking a solid surface, greatly lose their momentum and penetration power. Therefore the possibilities of rubber bullets passing through multiple barriers and striking a third party are greatly reduced. We have all seen on the news where bullets from drive by shootings passed through a wall of one house only to enter an entirely separate house resulting in the injury or death of some innocent bystander.
LTL munitions were originally designed and developed for riot control scenarios for law enforcement and military units around the world. To disrupt, repel, and terminate protesters and or rioters during civil disturbances and often used by prisons for inmate control. They were never intended to be used by Bail Enforcement Agents.
The cold hard fact of the matter is…the only time any of us should ever draw a weapon is in self defense or in defense of a loved one. In so doing, your clear intention in that particular moment is to terminate that threat immediately, not to wound it or slow it down.
Take care and God Bless.
Ruffin W. Blaylock, Jr.
Ruffin Blaylock is the principal of Spaniel Investigations, Inc in Decatur, Alabama, a full service investigative company offering a variety of services including fugitive recovery, executive protection, skip tracing and others intended to meet the needs of the legal and business communities.