07 June 2020


This past week America witnessed an attack on peaceful protestors at a park in our nation’s capital. Even more disturbing, the government chose to deploy the United States military against its own people, harking back to the days of our founding mothers and fathers. That was dire enough, some units, possibly from the Bureau of Prisons, entered the fray without identifying insignia or nameplates, a violation of the Rules of War.

For those reading or writing thrillers based on the reality, following is a capsule summary of some of the ‘non-lethal’ but nonetheless potentially deadly weapons at the disposal of our government to use domestically. This list does not include contact weapons such as truncheons, tasers, and stun guns.

grenade launcher
Aerosol Chemical Weapons

CN – Mace
Mace™ or chloroacetophenone is weaker than CS gas but its affects persist longer. Chemical Mace is a liquid that temporarily immobilizes and disables a person, blinding and disorienting them and causing intense pain in the eyes. It is generally prepared as an aerosol spray.

CR – Fire gas
DBO or dibenzoxazepine is a type of tear gas developed by the British Ministry of Defence as an incapacitating and lachrymatory agent. More powerful than CS gas by a factor of six to ten, it’s also extremely persistent, lasting up to two months, one reason to leave it on the shelf. It cannot be washed off.

CS – Tear Gas
O-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile represents the classic tear gas. Banned by the Geneva Convention for use in War, a number of countries, including the United States, freely use it against its own citizens.

OC – Pepper Spray
Intended for non-lethal use in standoff situations, oleoresin capsicum was develooped by the FBI’s Kamran Loghman in the 1980s. Although deemed non-deadly, deaths and contributions to death have been caused by pepper spray. Its inventor regretted its use against peaceful protestors, saying, “I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents.”

grenade launcher
Disorientation Grenades

A type of stun grenade, a ‘thunder flash’ or ‘flash-bang’ was intended to be a non-lethal mass disabling device. Nevertheless, fatalities have occurred from proximate detonation (including a North Carolina SWAT officer), smoke inhalation, chemical burns, and heart attacks. Injuries can be severe including burns, retina damage, and auditory damage. Minneapolis has undergone more than one unfortunate incident including the deaths of an elderly couple after a grenade set their home afire during a ginned-up drug raid.

Stun Grenades
Concussion devices and flash-bangs fall under the umbrella term of stun grenades. These often use the same packaging and delivery systems of conventional grenades. In addition to attacking sight and sound, some anti-terrorism types instantly consume available oxygen, making breathing difficult. This latter effect should not be confused with smoke and gas grenades.

Sting Balls
Stingers™ and their ilk are built like conventional fragmentation grenades, except they’re constructed of hard rubber instead of pot metal. Typically they pack up to a hundred rubber balls and oftimes powdered capsaicin II (PAVA) to add to injury. Because the projectiles cannot be controlled, they often result in severe injuries including loss of fingers, hands, and eyes.

AR-15 assault rifle
Kinetic Impact Projectiles

Bean Bags
Called by the manufacturers ‘flexible baton rounds’, beanbag bullets consist of pouches loaded with 2mm #9 lead shot stuffed in shotgun shells. While deaths are infrequent, beanbags can stop the heart, puncture vital organs with a broken rib, crush the larynx, snap the hyoid bone, and shatter the skull.

Pepper Balls aka Fireballs
Often employing PAVA powdered capsaicin II, pepper-spray projectiles are fired from militarized paintball weapons. Also called ‘fireballs’, they’re noted for their sting on contact followed by a painful, debilitating dust or mist.

Plastic Bullets
Intended to be less lethal than rubber bullets, plastic projectiles have largely replaced their rubber counterparts. However, plastic bullets can still prove deadly, especially when targeted above the waist and particularly amongst children.

Rubber Bullets
The British invented so-called ‘batton bullets’ or ‘rubber rounds’ for use in Northern Ireland before they made their way to the United States. Due to their uncontrollable ‘bouncy’ nature, rubber rounds have a death toll of 2-3% and a 15-20% permanent disability rate.

Sponge Balls
Police spokespersons call these ‘nerf balls’, but these are serious weapons-grade projectiles intended to be a little less lethal than rubber, plastic, and wooden bullets. They are capable of breaking bones, as a Florida woman learned when one shattered her eye socket.

Wooden Bullets
The Nazi SS found wooden bullets inflicted lethal wounds that could not be operated on, leaving the victim to face a slow, painful death. When fired into the head, the Germans further learned the wood wreaked terrible destruction without exiting the skull, making them a ‘safe’ bullet. Described as ‘short bolts’, wood projectiles date far back in history but were deployed last week in Washington for ‘pain compliance’ in crowd control.

Are there other ‘compliance’ weapons we readers and writers should know about?


  1. Frightening weapons. As are the images of police officers beating protestors. These protests have not only illuminated the continuing racism in America but the horror of so many sadistic Amiercan police officers eagerly attacking unarmed Americans with vigor. I witnessed the militarization of the American police first hand but did not think it was this bad. I niavely thought American police and the US military would not attack its own citizens if ordered by politicians to do so. I was wrong. There are far more police officers who are not like this, far more, but the bad apples ruin the image of US law enforcement which continues to look like SS storm troopers. Meanwhile, doctors and nurses are still fighting a pandemic.

  2. Scary and eye opening. We have erred in so militarizing the police in name of public safety and have only increased the dangers all round.

  3. O’Neil, the National Defense Authorization Acts of 1990 (§1208) and 1996 (§1033) at first encouraged law enforcement agencies to purchase our extreme surplus of military equipment and then gave ordinary police articles of war, as it were, including helicopter gunships, grenade launchers, armored assault vehicles such as MRAPs, tanks, bayonets, and variations of the equipment listed herein.

    In 2017, the administration lifted restrictions imposed after the Ferguson, Missouri killing of teenager Michael Brown. At the time, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to “superficial concerns” about public safety.

    Janice, I’m also concerned about a subtle distinction. At what point did police transition from referring to the public as citizens and begin calling them civilians? We’re all civilians, but not recognizing that paints a dividing line that once did not exist.

  4. I'm not sure when the police began to see themselves as an arm of the armed forces, but while just 6% of the population at large has served in the military, 19% of police officers are veterans, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data. (From this fairly frightening article:

    The bad news is that right now a lot of the armed men on the streets of Washington, D.C. and other places are Bureau of Prison personnel - who are trained to see all "civilians" as automatic criminals, and therefore subject to whatever level of force they choose to wield, without any accountability.

    The good news is that we're not alone in our horror. Most of the country wants police reform, and police restraint, as well as an end to racial profiling. But it's going to take significant change in leadership to make it happen.

  5. Other non-lethal compliance weapons? Sonic weapons come immediately to mind, though they appear to have fallen out of fashion. Firehoses are weapons, especially in cold weather.

  6. https://www.thedailybeast.com/bill-barr-defends-police-attack-on-peaceful-protesters-pepper-spray-is-not-a-chemical-irritant

  7. It’s a dirty little war....

  8. That a dismaying article, Eve, and yet it unscrolls with the obvious. Certain radio commentators say the problem isn't the institution, it's us… the citizens, but addressing that challenge becomes too political.

    Two good points, Zeke. I read today 'air cannons' were used. I haven't yet looked up what those are, but that 'sounds' like they might be a version of sonic weapons. Zeke, I also recall the US Army had experimented with subsonic and hypersonic weapons. Supposedly the first hammered the body and the other disrupted the mind.

    Anon, thanks for the link. William Barr seems not to have read his oath of office, that he's supposed to serve the people.

    Clever, Josh! You got it.


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>