Police adopting Pepper Guns for less lethal needs, what about you?

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Across the country, even though many law enforcement agencies are distancing themselves from handheld pepper sprays, some are moving back to the technology after coming to grips with a new delivery system: the pepper gun. Further, these devices are available to civilians as well, but do they have a use?

What is OC?

Back in the 1980s law enforcement ran screaming to the OC spray projector, commonly just referred to as 'pepper-spray' as an intermediate 'less-lethal' weapon system that fell into the use of force model between open/closed hand techniques and use of a baton or impact tool or firearm. OC worked because its extremely potent oleoresin capsicum (OC) ingredient (found in cayenne peppers) only closed the eyes and turned whoever was hit with it into a snot monster for 15-30 minutes.

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(Mmmm, taste the rainbow)

However, agencies moved away from it for several reasons. (One) being that it is messy and the officer and third parties normally got chemically immobilized to some extent as a by-product of its use, and (two) that it's hard to deliver accurately at a distance further than a few feet away. This meant that when Taser projectors came on the scene in recent years, they largely replaced OC cans, as they were more effective.

Well the pepper gun has appeared as an answer to that.

The JPX system

US Personal Defense Products in Arizona has developed a projector they call the JPX. Sold in both a law enforcement and civilian model, the gun uses a patented propulsion system to fire a 'high grade OC solution at 405 mph.' This type of projector eliminates the old-school 'blowback' that users of OC sprays suffered.

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Yes, that means you are getting pepper sprayed at about the top speed of a WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter plane at low-level.

The Swiss-made projector can hit the face of a subject out to 20+ feet. For safety, the device should not be used at ranges of less than 5-feet. If you miss, the projector has a two-shot magazine and an (optional) active visible laser system to help with that aim. Weight loaded is about 15-ounces and overall length is just over 7.4-inches, making it about the size of a Glock 19, but a little lighter.

Check it out:

Video of the Santa Rosa County SO and then Houston area LEOs getting some love from the JPX. These guns run about $300 and come in both LEO and civvy models.

Maricopa County is using them as is the Denham Springs Marshal Service while other departments in Louisiana are looking into these devices.

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Sgt. Kenneth Lee of the Grand Coteau Police Department fires a JPX Pepper Gun during a training session Friday in Clinton. 'I've never really liked Tasers,' said Lee, whose department has ordered five pepper guns. Photo courtesy of The Advocate.

Kimber Projector

Kimber, best known for its top of the line 1911-series pistols, also makes a less lethal gun with a little spice to it. Their offering, the Pepper Blaster is also Swiss-made (I guess the Swiss like it hot) but is a slightly more sedate than the JPX. It fires out to about 13 feet or so, traveling at 90 mph. If that sounds slow compared to the JPX, remember that at that speed, the OC will still only take about 1/10th of a second to reach the target.

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The snazzy little Pepper Blaster weighs but 4.2-ounces, is 4.7-inches long, and has a two-shot charge. As a bonus over the JPX, it can be fired at closer range due to the lower impact of the round and only costs about $40.

("This is by far one of the worst experiences of my entire life")


Fabrique Nationale, the company better known by many as Browning, has been a player in military weapons systems for more than a century. Well a few years ago they came up with a .68-caliber OC launcher they call the FN303.

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The 8-pound, 29-inch long projector is high-powered, firing an OC ball at super-fast speeds due to its 3000PSI charge of CO2 gas. If it looks like a paintball gun, that's because it largely is-- but fires pepper spray cartridges at ranges to 75-yards and beyond from a 10-round hopper.

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An FN303 in my hot little hands, unloaded and without the CO2 can they feel like toys but are anything but.

An FN303 being fired at the range. I can promise you these things are hyper accurate at decent ranges and, since they are CO2 powered, sound much like a paintball gun.

Now the FN303 was meant more for law enforcement and military sales (although they make it to civilian markets as well) and run about $900 currently. They are also very powerful, with one being blamed for a death at the hands of Boston PD in 2004. .

Drawbacks of these systems

If you go this route, read everything you can on the device and seek out any available training.

That whole minimum distance thing is a bogey man on these systems. Besides the incident with the FN303 above, in 2012 a Beaumont, California woman was left blinded by a smaller pepper gun fired at just two feet away by an officer.

Also, OC is not 100% effective to 100% of all people.

I can vouch after more than a decade's experience as an chemical munitions instructor, in every class I have ever taught, there has been that handful of people that shrugged it off and were unaffected.

Then, no matter whether you use sprays, projectors like the ones above, or other chemical munitions, there is always the rare risk of the subject going into shock, experiencing positional asphyxia, hyperventilation, and allergic reactions (if they have food allergies to peppers) that can require immediate medical care.

I wouldn't recommend carrying a projector in lieu of a firearm. Still, if you are looking for a less-lethal option, between your hands and a firearm, an OC projector may be for you.

If not, there is nothing wrong with a little lead poisoning.

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March 26, 2014  •  12:34 PM
im no fan of less than lethal options like electricity and chemical agents. they ARE lethal. people die from them on a regular basis when applied by trained emergency response personel.

the LAST thing i want to be is in front of a DA explaining why i used a less lethal device and the person it was used on died. if your not afraid your life is in danger you should not be using a weapon of any sort. if your life is indeed in danger your telegraphing your belief that you really didnt think it was because your using a less lethal device.

at some point some poor person who has bought into this less lethal device fairy tale will kill someone with one from heart attack or anaphalactic shock and then we are off to the races. individual civilians are under no duty to capture or detain bad guys like the police are. civilians should not be using less lethal devices as they are very often used when no real threat other than a vigorous argument is being lost...

they are fine tools for law enforcement but have no place in the civilian defensive arsenal.

just my 2 primer worth.
March 27, 2014  •  06:22 PM
Interesting article. I remember when the paintball gun version came out a ways back, but was not aware of the JPX pistols.

I disagree with JonM, but for reasons he might not expect. I can't say that "anyone who wants to defend themselves MUST carry a firearm", because that seems a bit extreme to me. Pepper spray can prevent rape, for example, just as much as a firearm can. But when it boils down to it, it is up to the carrier of a defensive weapon to decide which they feel more comfortable using.

This is America. Defend yourself with whatever means you yourself feel is best for a situation, whether it be with a knife, your fists, a gun, or pepper spray. Just so long as you stand up and defend yourself and others from wrongful harm is all that matters to me.