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The 8 most painful non-lethal weapons

When the military doesn't want to kill anyone but really needs to make sure they stay away, they turn to nonlethal weapons. Some of these weapons are painful enough that a gunshot might seem preferable.


1. The non-lethal claymore

Two M5 modular crowd control munitions are mounted on the side of this M-113 armored personnel carrier in Camp Bucca, Iraq, in 2008. Photo: Capt. Jason McCree

The M5 modular crowd control munition is described as a non-lethal claymore. It works about the same as a normal claymore in the sense that a small explosion propels hundreds of small balls. The M5 uses 600 rubber balls instead of steel pellets, and so just hurts like Hell instead of killing people.

2. Pulsed Energy Projectile

The Pulsed Energy Projectile is a beast. It fires a short laser burst that creates plasma on the surface of the skin and then fills the plasma with laser energy that explodes with a loud flash and bang. Basically, it turns small patches of skin into mini flashbang grenades.

3. Pain Ray

The Active Denial System is commonly called a pain laser, but it's actually a pain ray that uses millimeter waves to heat water under a target's skin. This gives a sensation of burning, like they've opened a blast furnace. The target usually flees immediately and no one lasts more than a few seconds. China has its own version of the weapon.

4. Plasma shield

Flashbangs are already known as a painful and occasionally lethal way to control foes. The Plasma Acoustic Shield System uses lasers to create pockets of plasma in the air and then detonates those pockets with another laser, creating a flashbang effect each time. Currently, the system can only make 10 explosions per second but the Pentagon is aiming for hundreds.

5. Shotgun tasers

Extended Range Electronic Projectiles are shotgun rounds that each contain a mini, self-contained taser. They contain a battery, microprocessor, and 10 electrodes. The rounds fly for up to 100 feet before striking a target and burying four electrodes into its skin. Six more electrodes then deploy and spread the shock over more of the body.

6. 40mm sponge grenades

Photo: Wikipedia/יורם שורק

This 40mm round isn't really a grenade: It's a dense sponge fired from a grenade launcher from up to 75 meters away. It slams into the target with enough force to stun someone but the sponge cushions the impact, limiting the chance the target will be permanently injured or killed.

7. Rubber ball hand grenade

Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock

The rubber ball hand grenade is exactly what it sounds like. It's thrown like a normal grenade and a small charge propels at least 100 rubber pellets at nearby targets, stinging and bruising them. It may not kill anyone, but it hurts like hell and will make anyone deaf for at least a little while.

8. High-Capacity Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) Dispenser

Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Robert Gonzales

All oleoresin capsicum devices cause agitation to the skin, sinuses, and respiratory systems as well as coughing and crying. The High-Capacity Oleoresin Capsicum Dispenser used by the Marine Corps is specifically designed for 12 strong bursts of the chemical.