Friday, August 22, 2014

Bad Ideas

A guy elsewhere was asking about the effectiveness of beanbag or baton rounds out of a shotgun. He was asking because he was thinking about using them for home defense. You know, a couple rounds of less-lethal in the magazine ahead of the warshots, so that maybe he could encourage the bad guy to leave without actually having to shoot them for real. I commented:
I don't think it's a good idea to point a 12 gauge shotgun at someone you don't want to kill or seriously injure. There's a reason that police department ones used for less-lethal munitions have orange furniture and aren't used for anything but less-lethal munitions. 
It's called "less-lethal" these days rather than "less-than-lethal" for a reason, you know. It's eminently possible to kill or maim someone at close range with an unlucky shot, even with "less-lethal" ammunition. And if you do kill or maim somebody with it, the very fact that you used a beanbag or baton round is prima facie evidence that you didn't think the guy was enough of a threat to shoot him with real bullets. This will not look good to a jury.

Like the old "Just shoot 'em in the leg!" thing, this is another example of the fool notion that it's somehow okay to shoot people just a little bit.


Alien said...

If a direct and immediate threat exists which is sufficient to provide moral and legal justification to point a firearm - any firearm (including the Geheime Staatspolizie's orange ones) - at a person then there is moral and legal justification to apply lethal force to that threat.

It is completely reasonable to intensely seek a reason to not apply that force during the fractional seconds between initiating the draw, or buttstock movement to the shoulder, and sear break, but the front sight is not brought to bear without sufficient justification.

Weer'd Beard said...

Also how those rounds are supposed to work, if you score a good hit, they shouldn't really be ABLE to leave on their own power.

Unless you give them time to recover, and even then they might be pissed off enough to attempt to harm you.

I don't even like carrying Pepper Spray when I'm carrying a gun, because as far as my reading goes, using OC spray on somebody when you are not a peace officer constitutes assault.

So really you can only legally use it if you are concerned for your safety, which means you are both justified to use a gun, but also will probably NEED a gun if the spray doesn't have the desired effect, which it is known to do.

It does suck, because I share the desire of the above mentioned person at wanting to end any situation without lethal force, but unfortunately the law doesn't really let us have physical confrontations with other people unless we are in danger.

benEzra said...


As I see it, pepper spray is there for the situation in which you're threatened with physical force that doesn't rise to the level of imminent threat of death, serious bodily harm, or forcible felony, when the alternative would be defense with bare hands or nothing.

LCB said...

Back when I was a lad and there were riots on the Emerald Isle, I remember hearing on the news about police using rubber bullets. I thought that was awesome...assumed they just sort of stinged, I guess. Years later I saw pictures of what these less than lethal rounds did to a person when they hit. Wasn't pretty. Didn't break the skin, but the bruising was horrible. Hit someone in the stomach and I would imagine that organs getting ruptured was a strong possiblity.

Same for "bean bags", especially at the kind of range we're talking about. Anything shot out of a barrel with gunpowder is dangerous. And all of the points made by Alien and Weer'd apply.

Oleg Volk said...

I just provided rubber buckshot and polyethylene small shot to kids of friends for recoil-less shooting. At four steps, they wouldn't even move a plastic target ball. Basically, there's a good chance that the intruder would interpret a shot at a length of a hallway a miss and shoot back. These may be effective against bare skin, but approach airsoft on clothed opponents.
Beanbags and baton rounds are far, far nastier. The chance of killing by accident is high.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

The old man was always a big proponent of Rule 2, although he usually stated it as, "Don't point that thing at anyone you don't intend to kill."

Anonymous said...

All that being said, "Firing a shot across the bow" has a long and honorable tradition.

It's the indication of "I believe I have the upper hand in this incipient kerfuffle, and if you do not knock off the dumbassery, RIGHT AWAY and bend to my will things are doing to go down hill for you with startling rapidity. Here are my bona fides."

The apparent fact that jurisprudence doesn't see it that way is perhaps simpler & more logical, but not very human. ( In my opinion, anyway.)

To quote the mistress of the blog, correctly: "the very fact that you used a beanbag or baton round is prima facie evidence that you didn't think the guy was enough of a threat to shoot him with real bullets"

And I'm sure that's a true in a court of law and we have to live with that reality.

I think the better interpretation of (warning shots, less lethal munitions, etc... used by civilians) is: "I'd really prefer to not kill you because I'm fairly civilized, so don't push it."

Fat chance my opinion mattering a sparrow's fart in a hurricane though.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

@benEzra: Don't forget, Weer'd is a subject of the People's Republik of Taxachussets. Self-defense is "strongly discouraged" via the full force of the government. I expect that if you're not in enough fear of severe bodily harm to justify lethal force, they would decide that you weren't threatened enough to use any force. And, of course, using pepper spray would be taken as prima facie evidence that you weren't in sufficient fear to justify lethal force.

staghounds said...

I have to disagree, not with the legal justification but with the jury effect. The less lethal shows a desire to avoid killing if possible.

"I wouldn't have fired if I hadn't been in fear of my life. I know that less lethals can kill. I had a less than lethal round as the first one in the hope that if I had to shoot, it might stop him without killing him. I wish it had, but it didn't."

And it takes away the whole "Why didn't you use this available technology" argument.

It doesn't take away the technical problem of less lethals are less reliable in semi auto guns, though.

ACS said...

When I was an apartment dweller, I was interested in them. Not so much for the bad guy's safety (for all the reasons mentioned here), but for the safety of my immediate neighbors who were just a couple of layers of sheetrock away. There might be a place for them, *if* your head is screwed on straight on the subject of lethal force.

I still want some, but now its mostly for the novelty aspect...

Sigman said...


Laws on the use of OC varies from state to state. In my state (TN) benEzra would be right, in others, not so much. As with much in Self Defense, knowledge of the law and how it is applied locally is vital.

staghounds said...


" someone who poses an imminent deadly threat." might be better phrasing.

Anonymous said...

Back when I taught ccw classes I ha to regularly explain to students that wholething about how you can't shoot someone just a little bit. I explained to them that using a firearm is binary, it is all or nothing with no in between.

On the subject of beanbag rounds, a long time ago we had an original "Prowler Fouler" come in to the shop I worked in for repair. After getting it working, several of us were trying to convince each other to "take one for the team" so we could judge its effectiveness. We finally took it outside and shot a steel trash can with it. We were all surprised to see how far the side of the can was caved in and we were all glad nobody decided to show how tough they were a few minutes earlier.


Steve Skubinna said...

Anon 10:16, simply drawing or displaying a firearm is use of deadly force, whether you pull the trigger or not.

And as for "warning shots," most jurisdictions have forbidden them because a) a warning shot sounds just like a shot to kill, and b) the old Rule 4, be aware of your target and what is beyond thing. Never discharge your weapon if you don't have a very good idea of where the round will go.

Kristophr said...

Yup, baton is still nasty stuff.

It gets used for riot control to keep the number of death down. It doesn't prevent all deaths from gunshot.

waepnedmann said...

In another life I was the OC instructor for our department.
I trained our people to "fight through" being pepper sprayed should they ever lose control of their PDU (read as: spray-can) or get hit with Redneck Pepper Spray (wasp spray).
I have never seen OC take ANY effect, except a normal reactionary blink to a liquid sprayed in one's eye, in less than five seconds.
Most people are amazed at how much damage you can inflict on someone in five seconds.
I have never seen an OC deployment that caused an immediate cessation of the threat.
Ammonia in a water-pistol would probably give you better results, but its use would put you in serious legal jeopardy whereas OC is purpose-designed for use to stop the threat ammonia is cleaning chemical.
I have been sprayed several times in training and, on occasion, as collateral damage.
My experience is, that unless the person who deployed the OC on me either immediately retreats and allows the OC time to work or deploys the OC as a distraction strike which is immediately followed up with the next level up in the use of force continuum, I can close with them, head-trap, and apply knee-to-face until satisfactory results are achieved.
If you require and immediate cessation of the threat blunt force trauma is highly recommended, if you have that option.

mikee said...

The purpose of pepper spray? It allowa my daughter to discourage stupid boys from being near her without her permission, and without her having to break any of their bones or shoot them.

Here in TX, if you're a guy and a female maces you, basically the public understanding is that you deserved it and should be glad you didn't get shot, and aren't getting arrested and charged.

And I get her a fresh can every six months, just to keep her thinking about situational awareness each semester in college.

Anonymous said...

S. Skubinna "simply drawing or displaying a firearm is use of deadly force"

I'm guessing that varies by jurisdiction; that's certainly not how a lawyer explained it to me (10 years ago or so) regarding Indiana state law. The key being that you can't legally use deadly force to defend property; only your person. So the textbook example was that if you find an intruder in your residence, you can't just start plugging him in the back. You can point a gun at him because merely point a gun at someone isn't deadly force.
(If he surrenders or flees, then that's the end of it; if he goes for a weapon or rushes you, now you're defending your person and can shoot him.)

Firehand said...

Don't know if the military stuff differs from standard 'For Law Enforcement' less-lethal, but son mentioned a squad wondering just how 'less lethal' some of their scattergun ammo was and tried it; the rubber projectile, at about twenty feet, completely penetrated a sheet of 3/4" plywood. Never found it downrange, so no idea how far it went.

At the least I can see broken ribs, and quite possibly internal injuries, even if the slug doesn't penetrate.

The Jack said...

Marc Ambinder was just writing in the Week about how the police should do more "extremity shots", warning shots, and if they have to shoot center of mass doing it just once.

It's interesting how people who through ignorance see firearms as extra scary murder machines, also think that you can shoot someone "just a bit".

Maybe the idea that the lethal intent comes from the first trigger pull makes 'em feel uncomfortable.

KM said...

anon @ 3:38-I'm guessing that varies by jurisdiction

It certainly does.
In my state, defensive display of a firearm -
"is justified when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the use or attempted use of unlawful physical force or deadly physical force.

Steve Skubinna said...

The Jack - I believe that it has been well established that the first ten rounds in a magazine are harmless, at least to children.

waepnedmann said...

A little follow-up on OC / Less Than Lethal:
The only one-shot-stops with OC that I have knowledge of were NHI incidents.
Multiple dogs and one horse (our county seal incorporates the likeness of a bovine). The horse got a dose of OC up the nostrils, flopped over on its side, and did not even twitch. The horse recovered in less than a minute and vacated the scene.
About wasp spray: a member of our
indigenous population (Bubba) had occasion to be carrying a can of wasp spray when charged by a German Shepard. Bubba instinctively spayed the dog and hit it in its open mouth. Spot went down immediately and was DOA.
Do not, necessarily, expect less-than-lethal with wasp spray.