Pop That Pepper

It was way back circa 1990 or so.  I was working for my local police department as a fingerprint technician, and just about every law enforcement agency in the country was urging their officers to use pepper spray.

magnum can of pepper spray

Tear gas had been in use since just after World War I, but a number of suspects had died while in police custody after being sprayed.  Wrongful death lawsuits were being filed, and most departments were tying to find ways to keep the lawyers at bay.  Maybe they could find some measure of immunity if they switched to a kindler, gentler form of persuading the bad guys to give up and come peacefully.

police officer with defensive spray

It would eventually turn out that the suspects which died had serious medical problems which killed them, mostly heart attacks brought about by the drugs they had gulped down before the cops arrived.  But it took some time for that to be determined, and police officers were urged to give up their tear gas sprays for pepper.

I would be the last person to claim that pepper spray is useless, but the sad fact of the matter is that it just isn’t as potent and effective as the good ol’ tear gas sprays.  While some departments made the switch, most law enforcement agencies in the United States decided to keep the good stuff on hand.  What ain’t broke….

There was one aspect to this whole issue that tuned out to be very interesting.  Dried pepper compound can be loaded into common paintballs, and paintball guns can be used to deliver the burning goodness.

pepper paintballs

If there is a protest or riot in a built up area, the crowd can be peppered with pepper paintballs.  That way only the violent mob can suffer the sting of police largess, while using traditional tear gas bombs would inflict innocent and guilty alike as the clouds drifted where they may.

For some reason, this method of breaking up sullen gatherings seems to be very popular in Turkey.

turkish police officer with pepper paintball gun

police officer in instanbul fires pepper paintballs to dispurse crowd

Don’t those cops look to be having a lot of fun?  I bet they can’t wait for the next riot!

Why am I going on about pepper balls?  Because of this article in Popular Science.  (Hat tip to long time reader Milo for the heads up!)  It seems that some jokers want money so they can market a paintball gun that shoots paintballs filled with salt.

salt gun

(Picture from linked article.)

Paintball guns are certainly readily available, and paintballs filled with pepper compound can be purchased throughout the majority of the United States as long as local laws don’t prohibit the ownership of defensive tear gas and pepper sprays.  So why do we need this, anyway?  What great advantage is there to be realized?

The article states that the manufacturers are looking to retail their gun at $349 (£232), while existing paintball guns with similar features can be had for about half that price.  Suddenly it all makes sense!

What I find fascinating is how the Popular Science article makes no mention of that fact that pepper paintballs have been around for close to two decades, and so this salt idea is hardly new or groundbreaking.  The author claims in his bio to be primarily concerned with defense technology.  Did he just not know about something so prevalent and established?  Or will he profit in some way if the project gets off the ground?

I have no idea, but he dropped the ball somewhere.

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