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Police: Consider ‘Snake’ Rounds


It’s not a cure for racism — we can’t stop working on that. But we can save lives.

Snake rounds are shotgun pellets in a pistol shell. They’re used against snakes to about 20 feet, similar to police firefight range. They’ve been around for over 100 years.

Snake rounds in 9mm shells take the target out of the fight, protecting an officer’s life. But they’re basically never lethal.

• The pellet swarm has low muzzle velocity.

• Small, round pellets don’t seriously damage major organs or break bones.

• They slow down quickly, reducing danger to bystanders.

Police should keep using shotguns and long guns for major scenarios. For sidearms, the time for snake rounds is now.

At the Citizen Police Academy years ago, former deputy chief Jacque McCoy discovered I was a defense scientist. He didn’t know me, but called me out, in front of the class, wondering why we hadn’t come up with nonlethal weapons usable by police.

Excellent question. Sadly, I had no satisfactory answer. Research is ongoing, but results are disappointing. It’s hard to stop a determined human by nonlethal means.

This didn’t satisfy McCoy … or me.

Military and hunting rounds are supposed to maim or kill an enemy or prey. But police rounds are supposed to restrain with the least possible damage. Different missions; different rounds.

I’ve spoken to friends from law enforcement about this, and they like the idea.

Caution: Maybe current snake rounds wouldn’t work, but redesigned ones would. Maybe only the first two rounds in the magazine should be snake rounds. Or maybe I’m naïve, and none of this would work. But I hate the thought of even one more casualty, whether officer, suspect, or bystander.

Shouldn’t we give snake rounds a shot?

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