I couldn't believe it when I first saw this, but a company called Less Lethal Africa has developed a line of rubber bullets for military small arms ranging from 9mm to as large as .50 caliber. The Johannesburg-based firm unveiled its latest contribution to crowd control last week at Defense & Security Equipment International 2011, a large defense show in London that caters to European militaries.
Obviously this large a projectile could prove deadly against flesh and bone, so why bother with it? Don Rickard, CEO of Less Lethal Africa, told me that naval units in his part of the world want to use less-lethal .50 cal rounds as warning shots that will bounce off the boats of illegal immigrants.
They practically ripped the belt of .50 cal out of my hands at DSEi. They need something that can reach out to 15o meters, he said.In addition to .50 caliber, the company has developed rubber bullets in 7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm, 5.56mm and 9mm. The effective range of the rifle rounds is about 20 meters to be able to have them impact within a 12 inch circle, Rickard says.
Your not tack driving, but you can consistently hit what you aim at inside 20 meters, he said.Currently, the U.S. military does not use this type of less lethal ammunition but relies mainly on soft projectiles that can be fired from shotguns and 40mm grenade launchers, according to officials from the Army's Picatinny Arsenal and the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate at Quantico.
Most combat troops I have talked to don't like relying on less-lethal in a war zone when the instigators in large crowds are usually armed with AK47s or something just as deadly.
Having rubber bullets that can be loaded into a magazine with live rounds is an interesting idea, but it's not without its drawbacks. This specialty ammo will not cycle the weapon, so the operator has to manually chamber a round each time.
Now, the 9mm rubber bullets might be worth evaluating. It might be useful in some situations to have an M9 with one or two less-lethal 9mm rounds loaded on top of a magazine filled with ball ammo. A round to the leg could be enough to cause a troublemaker to limp home. If not, a hit to the face, throat or chest could cause serious injury or death, according to Rickard.
All it is is about attitude adjustment, he says.