The Taser/Mossberg X12
The Taser/Mossberg X12 is a viable less lethal option. (Photo courtesy Mossberg)
The flexible Lightfield Super Star baton
With a measured muzzle velocity of 806 fps, the flexible Lightfield Super Star baton is a formidable less lethal load.
Lightfield's Intermediate Range Rubber Slug
Lightfield's Intermediate Range Rubber Slug would be effective on subjects at longer distance.(Photo courtesy Mossberg)
The NOVA Distraction Rounds
The NOVA Distraction Rounds are an alternative to hand-thrown flash bangs.(Photo Mike Boyle)
The Taser XREP projectile packs
The Taser XREP projectile packs the same punch as the X26 handheld unit.(Photo Mike Boyle)
A dedicated less lethal shotgun
This dedicated less lethal shotgun is outfitted with a special stock for ready identification.(Photo Mike Boyle)
FEATURED IN TRAINING
Shotguns have been part of the law enforcement landscape for more than 100 years. In close quarters, the shotgun remains the ultimate power tool, with stopping potential well beyond that of other weapons systems. There are, however, other dimensions to the police shotgun that can prove particularly useful to law enforcement professionals.
Versatility is one of the shotgun’s many advantages. In addition to traditional munitions, such as buckshot and rifled slugs, shotguns can launch breeching rounds, gas and various less lethal impacting munitions. Many agencies have reevaluated the police shotgun’s role, particularly as a secondary weapon for patrol officers. In many cases, the shotgun has given way to patrol rifles, and its role continues to evolve. Ultimately, the shotgun may become a more specialized tool, but it’s simply too good to put out to pasture yet.
Lately, there’s been increased interest in using the shotgun to deliver less lethal force. Less lethal shotgun munitions can be categorized as an intermediate level of force and may be appropriate when verbal direction or other lesser measures would prove ineffective and deadly force is not justified. In some respects, their use may be compared to control options, such as a punch, kick or strike with an impact weapon, but with some notable differences. Strikes with a fist or impact weapon may deliver too much or too little force. Regardless of an officer’s stature or ability, less lethal shotgun rounds deliver a predictable level of force each time.
Until recently, most less lethal shotgun munitions incapacitated a resistive subject through the transfer of kinetic energy. As the impact projectile strikes the body, kinetic energy creates enough blunt trauma to incapacitate, without causing a penetrating injury that could prove lethal. Important: Officers must use less lethal munitions within the limits of their own capabilities, and target such areas as the extremities or abdomen.
Several companies market less lethal munitions. Although 37-mm and 40-mm launches offer even greater potential, shotguns have their own set of advantages. With just a few simple modifications, an ordinary police shotgun can be turned into a dedicated, less lethal delivery system. Just about all law enforcement and corrections officers have previously been trained on the shotgun, which speeds up the learning curve.
Lightfield’s Less Lethal Research
Lightfield ( www.lightfieldlesslethal.com ) originally built its reputation around a line of superbly engineered, rifled slugs commonly used for hunting. More recently, this New Jersey-based firm has turned out several different types of less lethal 12-gauge shotgun munitions to meet different challenges.
First up for consideration is Lightfield’s Super Star. Defined as a flexible baton, the Super Star can be used at ranges as close as two yards with an extended range of 15 yards. The green Super Star projectile is relatively soft and weighs 75 grains. Kinetic energy at the muzzle is roughly 70 feet/pound, enough to take the wind out of the sails of a very determined adversary.
Lightfield also produces the Star Lite for close-range encounters and the HV Star for longer distances. Lightfield’s target-specific “Star Family” is a viable alternative to rubber buckshot, which is best restricted to non-human targets.
For effective subject control at greater distance, consider Lightfield’s Intermediate Range Slug (color-coded black). Made of hard rubber, this solid baton load weighs 130 grains with 72 feet/pound of muzzle energy. Chronographed muzzle velocity from a Mossberg 500 shotgun with an 18-inch barrel was 572 feet per second. Lightfield recommends a minimum engagement distance of 20 yards to minimize risk of injury. At that distance, a competent shooter can accurately place slugs on a target where they will be most effective.
Upping the ante, Lightfield has an Extended Range Slug (color-coded blue) that leaves the muzzle at an even higher velocity. With a minimum engagement distance of 40 yards, its usefulness as an antipersonnel round is open to debate. At long distance, shooter error may cause an impact on a non-targeted area, resulting in serious injury. However, this load would be a top choice in the dispersion of problem wildlife.
Although my preference runs to single-projectile loads, Lightfield also produces a Double Ball load that features a pair of spherical rubber projectiles. Total weight of the payload is 120 grains. This “double whammy” load is rated at 60 feet/pound of muzzle energy with a minimum engagement distance of 12 yards.
Another Lightfield product worth mentioning is the new NOVA Indirect Fire round. The NOVA isn’t an impact round, but serves a useful role nonetheless. Best described as a diversionary load, the NOVA creates enough racket to change the focus of one or more non-compliant individuals. Touching off one or two of these 12-gauge rounds will certainly distract a subject long enough to gain entry or employ other force options.
Unlike a hand-thrown device, the NOVA can’t be tossed back at an officer. It’s certainly a far less expensive option and is not subject to AFTE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) controls. No special certification or costly training is required to effectively use Lightfield NOVA rounds.
Taser Mossberg X12
In a major development, two big names in police weaponry have teamed up to create a revolutionary, less lethal compliance tool that holds tremendous potential. For more than 15 years, Taser International (www.taser.com) has built handheld units that prove extremely effective in shutting down resistive subjects. Adapting this technology to the Mossberg shotgun platform ( www.mossberg.com ) more than doubles the effective range, giving the officer a greater safety margin.
Numerous hurdles had to be overcome to create the Taser Mossberg X12 system. First and foremost is the round it fires. The Extended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP) 12-gauge round packs the same jolt of electricity as the handheld X26 unit. Through the miniaturization of key components, Taser engineers succeeded in making the 12-gauge XREP round just as ornery as its handheld cousin.
On impact, four barbed electrodes strike the target and stick. The body then breaks away, unspooling a length of wire, while the nose cap remains affixed to the body. Special electrodes then create a circuit and deliver a less lethal jolt of electricity as the chassis of the XREP round falls away.
Tasers work their magic by causing neuromuscular incapacitation and disrupting the body’s ability to control skeletal muscles. To say the least, the sensation is extremely unpleasant, and further resistance is virtually impossible.
The X12 is essentially a highly modified version of the Mossberg 500. A special bolt face prevents the chambering and firing of conventional shotgun ammunition. This unique launcher features a collapsible M4 style stock, which allows a user to get the correct length of pull. The stock is color-coded yellow to help differentiate the X12 from other shotguns. Vital controls are in the same place as the Mossberg 500, and ghost ring sights allow the user to accurately fire the XREP projectile. Multiple XREP rounds can be loaded into the tubular magazine for follow-up shots to engage other subjects.
With an extended range of 65 feet, the X12 vastly expands the Taser’s proven capabilities. The XREP projectile leaves the muzzle at 260 feet per second and develops enough velocity to penetrate heavy clothing. The greater standoff distance gives the officer a very real safety net. Subjects are effectively controlled with minimum risk of serious injury without resorting to higher levels of force.
Although I appreciate the versatility of the shotgun, I firmly believe there should be no mix or match between lethal and less lethal delivery systems. The inadvertent mixing of lethal and less lethal rounds can end in disaster. Example: During a jail disturbance, an officer loaded his shotgun with what he thought was rubber buckshot. Unfortunately, a live round of 00 buck also found its way into the gun, with predictable results.
Aftermarket stocks in bright orange are readily available to distinguish less lethal shotguns from smoothbores that will be used in a more traditional role. If a special stock is outside your budget, consider paint or tape for identification. Lethal munitions, such as buckshot and slug, should never be carried on the sidesaddle of a less lethal shotgun or on the person carrying it. Dedicated guns are the only way to go.
Shotguns firing less lethal munitions can go a long way in minimizing injury to both officer and subject and remain a viable control option. As with any tool or technique, success is rooted in proper training. Potential users should get training from a qualified instructor before using these tools in the field and participate in regular in-service training intervals.
No handheld weapon is going to be 100% effective in every situation. Less lethal shotgun technology does, however, give an officer a greater chance of success. Without question, less lethal shotgun technology is another welcome addition to the tactical toolbox and certainly a concept worth exploring.