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7 Different Types of Less Lethal Projectiles With Detailed Descriptions

In a rapidly changing world where personal safety is paramount, it’s essential to explore effective alternatives to conventional self-defense methods. This blog post is your comprehensive guide to understanding less lethal projectiles – a category of non-lethal weapons designed to enhance personal safety without causing fatal harm. We’ll delve into what these projectiles are, why they’re used, and how everyday civilians can benefit from incorporating them into their safety strategies. Get ready to discover a range of options that empower you to protect yourself and your loved ones responsibly.

What Are Less Lethal Projectiles?

Less Lethal Projectiles

Less lethal projectiles, often referred to as non-lethal projectiles, are a diverse range of ammunition used in Less Lethal Launchers that are designed to incapacitate or deter individuals without causing life-threatening injuries. Unlike traditional firearms, these projectiles are engineered to minimize the risk of fatality while still effectively subduing threats. While primarily used by law enforcement and security personnel, everyday civilians can also harness their power to enhance personal safety.

Why Choose Less Lethal Projectiles?

The use of less lethal projectiles for personal safety serves several compelling reasons:

  1. Enhanced Personal Security: Less lethal projectiles provide a crucial layer of defense when faced with a potentially dangerous situation. They offer an effective means of protecting yourself without resorting to deadly force.
  2. De-Escalation: When confronted with a threat, the goal is to defuse the situation whenever possible. Less lethal projectiles offer a way to incapacitate or deter an assailant, giving you time to escape or seek help while minimizing the risk of causing permanent harm.
  3. Legal and Ethical Considerations: Opting for less lethal alternatives aligns with legal and ethical standards, ensuring that you respond appropriately to threats without crossing any ethical boundaries.
  4. Increased Distance: Less lethal projectiles provide a means to defend yourself from a distance, reducing the chances of close physical contact with a potential attacker.

Who Can Benefit from Less Lethal Projectiles?

lady shooting a byrna gun

Less lethal projectiles are not limited to law enforcement and security personnel – everyday civilians can benefit greatly as well:

  1. Women: Women, often vulnerable to personal attacks, can gain a sense of empowerment and safety by incorporating less lethal projectiles into their self-defense toolkits.
  2. Men: Men are often seen as the protectors of their homes. However, many couples today agree that having firearms in their home is not a possibility, since kids could potentially access them. In fact, “1 in 3 families with children have at least one gun in the house, and nearly 1,300 children younger than 18 years of age die from shootings each year,” according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The article Educate Gun Owners of Risks by shared that “access to a firearm significantly increases the risk of death by suicide, domestic dispute, homicide, and unintentional gunshot.” As a protector of their home and family, men could use launchers as an alternative, which uses less-lethal projectiles.
  3. Elderly Individuals: Seniors who may have physical limitations can level the playing field by using less lethal projectiles to deter potential threats.
  4. College Students: With the prevalence of campus-related incidents, students can add an extra layer of protection to their personal safety routines.
  5. City Dwellers: Urban environments sometimes come with an increased risk of personal safety concerns. Less lethal projectiles offer city dwellers a means to respond effectively to unexpected threats.
  6. Business Professionals: Professionals who work late hours or travel frequently can benefit from the added security that less lethal projectiles provide.

Types of Less Lethal Projectiles


Now, let’s explore the various types of less lethal projectiles available:

1. Hard Plastic, Nylon, Kinetic Projectiles

Often referred to as Plastic Balls, Kinetic Projectiles have a round shape and are made of hard PVC and Nylon material. They’re made with an injection mold and oftentimes are perfect in both shape and size. The projectiles are great for training since they can be reused and are the most commonly used ammunition in less-lethal launchers.

2. Eco-Kinetic, Inert, Powder Projectiles

Often referred to as Eco-Kinetic or Inert Projectiles, Powder Projectiles are round-shaped balls that are usually made of thin plastic and contain a harmless powder inside. Byrna’s Eco-Kinetic Projectiles, however, are pill-pressed type projectiles that are water-soluble and do not feature an outer plastic shell. Powder Projectiles are often made with Talc (magnesium silicate) in a powder form. While the inert filler is commonly used as filler material in drug tablets and baby powder, Powder Projectiles are used with less lethal launchers to simulate the impact of irritant cloud dispersal and provide visuals during training. These projectiles cannot be reused.

3. Pepper Projectiles

Considered the gold standard ammunition, Pepper Projectiles are the most attractive part of less-lethal launchers. They’ve been used by law enforcement and security personnel for years, and now everyday civilians are adding them to their self-defense arsenal as well. Pepper Projectiles are ball-shaped projectiles made of thin plastic and contain a powdered chemical irritant that affects both the eyes and nose, similar to pepper sprays. The projectiles often use various types and combinations of payloads, including PAVA (capsaicin ll), OC (oleoresin capsicum), and CS (0-chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile). We’ve used as a source to compare tear gas vs pepper spray. To explain PAVA in detail, we’ve used the PAVA Spray Wikipedia as a source.

  • PAVA (capsaicin ll): PAVA is a non-lethal, synthetic chemical irritant that is also called Nonivamide. It’s a solution of Pelargonic Acid Vanillylamide and is significantly more potent than OC and CS. When used in projectiles, it’s in a powder form for better dispersal and can cause extreme effects, but is short-lived. The effects include burning in the eyes, nose, and throat, acute eye pain, involuntary closing of the eyes, and temporary loss of vision.
  • OC (oleoresin capsicum): OC is a non-lethal, natural chemical irritant that is often referred to as Pepper Spray. It’s created from hot peppers, using the main active compound, capsaicin. When used in projectiles, it’s in a powder form for better dispersal and can cause extreme effects, including burning of the eyes, temporary blindness, uncontrollable watering of the eyes, nasal and sinus discharge, burning of the skin, and can cause an increase in blood pressure.
  • CS (0-chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile): CS is a non-lethal, man-made chemical irritant that is often referred to as Tear Gas. It’s made of synthetic organic halogen compounds and is in the form of powder at room temperature. The chemical can cause extreme effects and is a more potent irritant than OC. Its effects include involuntary closing of the eyes, extreme burning of the nose, eyes, and throat, increased blood pressure, coughing, nasal and sinus discharge, nausea, and vomiting.

4. Riot Balls, PVC-Coated Steel Projectiles

While many people refer to them as Riot Balls, the name is actually the manufacturing brand. They’re PVC-Coated Steel Projectiles that are similar to hard plastic kinetic profiles, except for the fact that the internal portion of the ball contains a steel ball bearing. The projectiles are typically very weighted, many of them weighing 10 grams each. While they don’t provide great velocity due to the heaviness of them, in close quarters they produce damaging impact.

5. Aluminum Projectiles

Aluminum Projectiles are another incredible option on the market, and they’re manufactured by the Riot Balls brand as well (although other brands make them too). They’re made of solid aluminum metal, but they’re much lighter than you would expect. Most aluminum projectiles weigh between 1 to 3 grams. Despite the low weight, they’re damaging to anything they come in contact with. Aluminum projectiles are great for training, especially when being used with metal targets.

6. Jawbreaker, Shaped Projectiles

Shaped Projectiles, also referred to as Jawbreaker Projectiles, are also manufactured by Riot Balls (and a few other brands). They’re made of solid steel and have a unique shape that allows them to travel maximum distance and produce great impact. While they are very costly, Jawbreaker Projectiles can be reused. They’re heavy, usually weighing around 7 grams, and are a perfect option for training due to their precision.

7. Rubber Projectiles

Rubber Projectiles are round-shaped balls that are made of rubber or contain a combination of rubber and various materials. The rubber balls provide excellent precision and are a great option for training, especially in indoor training environments. While most rubber projectiles can be reused, there are some that contain a blend of metal or steel powder that can cause them to deform, making them non-reuseable.

Note: There are several more less-lethal projectile options on the market, however, we’ve chosen to list the main, more common types. In addition to our list, there are also bean bag rounds, 12-gauge kinetic rounds, and many more that we did not include because they are uncommonly used by civilians, and more so used by law enforcement. If you would like us to add to this list or can share more popular “types” of projectiles, feel free to let us know in the comment section below this post.


In a world where personal safety is a top priority, less lethal projectiles offer a compelling option for enhancing your defense strategy. By understanding the concept, benefits, and various types of less lethal projectiles available for everyday civilians, you can make informed choices to safeguard yourself and your loved ones responsibly. Remember, personal safety is about preparedness and empowerment – and less lethal projectiles can play a pivotal role in achieving both. Stay proactive, stay safe!

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