Military Taser Has 200-Foot Range—and Safety Concerns

By Brett Israel | November 4, 2009 7:30 am

800px-M-32_Grenade_LauncherIf you’ve caught an episode of COPS lately, then you’ve probably noticed that so-called less-lethal weapons have caught on with police departments across the country as a way to force unruly suspects into compliance. Tasers, which delivers an electrical current to the suspect via two dart-like electrodes, are often the weapon of choice. Now, the Pentagon wants to use beefed up Taser technology on the battlefield.

The puny little electrodes that the police weapons use just won’t do for the military. That’s why the U.S. Department of Defense has been developing a long-range electric shock device that fires from a 40-millimeter grenade launcher and can subdue an enemy from just under 200 feet away. The new Human Electro-Muscular Incapacitation (HEMI) projectile is being developed for the Pentagon by Taser International under a $2.5 million contract and should be ready for prototype testing some time after the new year [Popular Science]. HEMI’s range is three times longer than Taser International’s XREP shotgun-style projectile, which has generated controversy because of concerns that the projectile could be deadly in untrained hands.

Since most law enforcement squads don’t carry around grenade launchers, the HEMI projectile is only likely to see action on the battlefield. However, HEMI has still raised several concerns. For one, the impact force of the projectile remains a worry. “There is a known risk of severe injury from impact projectiles, either from blunt force at short ranges or from hitting a sensitive part of the body,” says security researcher Neil Davison, who has recently written a book on non-lethal weapons [New Scientist]. However, Defense Department engineers say the HEMI’s innovative nose design and reduced mass will deliver minimal force.

Incapacitation times are another concern. Since the projectiles are fired from 200 feet away, the target must remain incapacitated long enough to allow the shooter to reach him. The target’s incapacitation could last up to three minutespresumably enough time for the user to cover the 200 feet separating him from his target, but also long enough to deliver a fatal dose of electric shock [Popular Science]. The Defense Department said the shock durations have not been determined, but can be tailored to meet a mission’s requirements.

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Image: USMC Image Archive

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Which leads to the other big problem with these “Non-lethal” weapons: not that they might accidentally kill someone you would have had to kill otherwise, but that they get used a lot more on targets you wouldn’t have used lethal force against in the first place.

  • Julian

    I can see a line of cops holding these at another protest in a college town, and nothing that happens afterwards is good.

  • ntraveler

    Seriously? The complaint is that the new weapon MIGHT kill someone? “Might” has a lot better survival rate than a bullet does.

  • scribbler

    I think fox nailed it…

    These devises end up being used against the elderly, females and children, before it is all said and done.

    And let’s not be mistaken, they can and do kill.

    When used to disable as opposed to killing a person, yes, these are great tools. When over used to subdue the weak at the risk of death or serious injury, they are dangerous and cruel.

    Tasers have been certifiably used on a child of six and a woman over eighty.

    Good tool but the need for education and restraint is essential.

  • Nick

    Innocent until proven guilty, unless we think you might have done something bad, in which case if you don’t do what we say you will be subject to violence until compliance

  • martha mendez

    i think that the army guy is cute

  • Jocko

    It’s only a matter of time until it’s used on the streets of the USA. Case in point – LRAD. We already live in a police surveillance state with plans for total martial law already in place. How can anyone think this won’t get used here?

  • kurt k

    last time I checked the goal of war was to kill the enemy. Not treat them like suspects in a criminal case.
    America needs to get real about war and fighting a war.
    I would rather see the enemy dead, then released latter to kill Americans again.
    What a supid idea.

  • jeff

    Just another typical manifestation of the American urge to subdue and force compliance. If there becomes a way to use this against civilians, it will be done. The really shameful part is that the most heavily armed people in our nation (cops and soldiers) are also the stupidest and least discerning.


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