Selling Less-Than-Lethal Self-Defense Options

For situations where a gun isn’t an appropriate response, less-than-lethal devices can save the day. Are you stocking them?

Selling Less-Than-Lethal Self-Defense Options

Decades ago, the only less-lethal options were one-pound Maglite flashlights, non-standardized mace, handloaded rock salt shotgun rounds, and the hardness of knuckles. Thankfully, today, dealers have an incredible breadth of less-lethal options to stock that any customers can use. Helping customers set expectations and understand less-lethal options including local legality, restrictions on carry, range and maintenance of these products that can lose pressure, power or potency over time will help position you as the knowledgeable local defensive retailer versus just a gun shop. To be clear: be sure you know the laws in your locale regarding what less-lethal options are legal and for whom.


Defensive Distance

It is critical customers understand effective ranges of less-lethal products. Less-lethal 12-gauge rounds are typically tuned for the intended engagement range but can be lethal inside those ranges. Rubber/polymer paintball rounds can also deliver very painful deterrence at short ranges and can be quite annoyingly painful beyond 40+ yards, but lose the energy needed over seven yards for shock and deterrence. Changing to paintball pepper rounds offers a range only limited to being able to break on impact. Pepper-spray distance is usually limited to 10 to 18 feet, but stream or mist dispersion or gel formulas can impact distance. Even tiny LED lights are effective disorienting deterrences, however, range and light intensity greatly factor into their deterring abilities. Steering customers to the right range option is key, as is educating them on how training increases as distances close. Contact weapons like stun guns and batons seem simple but require skill and training to be effective.


Less-Lethal Shotgun Rounds

The versatility of a standard 12-gauge shotgun to deliver both less-lethal and deadly rounds is appealing to a lot of customers. Less-than-lethal shotgun rounds have expanded well beyond just rubber buckshot to specially designed slugs and buckshot, bag rounds, polymer rock salt, pepperball, anti-drone, and even flash-bang type rounds. Range and power are key factors, with most 200 fps less-lethal shotgun rounds not delivering enough power to reach a 25- or 50-yard target. Dealers should consider stocking at least a selection of rubber buckshot rounds from Sellier & Bellot, Fiocchi, Lightfield and others, which typically deliver effective deterrents from 5 to 15 yards. Opponents of shotgun rounds note low power and potential confusion between less-lethal and standard rounds in high-stress situations, while others note the ability to stage the magazines with rubber then standard buckshot delivers immediate access to both deterrence and defense options.


Paintball Marker Rounds

Defensive and deterrent paintball markers actually deliver more power than most less-lethal 12-gauge rounds with increased projectile weight and up to 50% higher velocities. For effective deterrents out to 50 yards, paintball markers are so effective they are the primary go-to less-lethal option for LEO and military riot control. The defensive barrage capable with a paintball marker is unlike any other less-lethal tool. Compatibility with any .68-caliber marker rounds, including permanent oil-paint, defensive hard rubber/plastic, polymer or steel-core glass breaker, and pepperball rounds makes paintball very flexible defensively. At home defense ranges, reliable, fast-shooting 100-round-plus paintball guns are definitely deterring, with bone-breaking abilities with glass breaker rounds and 10% OC pepperball rounds.

The new mid-tier of $500+ competition markers deliver reliable hopper feeding, trigger “ramping” features delivering up to 15 rounds per second, and 100+ round capacities. The versatility of a paintball marker spanning fun, training and defense makes this an appealing option for customers despite the initial cost.

Though the high-pressure compressed air does need to be monitored via an onboard tank gauge, the certified commercial-grade air tanks like HK Army can hold pressure reliably for very long periods of time. One of the preferred paintball markers for heavy-duty use by LEO and game and parks teams is the Planet Eclipse Etha 2, and it also happens to be a top choice for hard-core paintballers.

The Planet Eclipse Etha 2 is one of the most awarded and rugged paintball markers on the market, with a digital ramping trigger that simulates full-auto rates of fire, and it is compatible with standard aftermarket paintball accessories. The total investment in a marker, hopper, tank and other accessories of this quality easily exceeds $600 plus safety equipment cost, but it does deliver a fun practice, training, and less-lethal platform. The Etha 2 is so effective defensively it has also been widely used by game control for moving elk, bear and moose. According to Ian Parsens, president of the U.S. division of Planet Eclipse, “Our paintball markers are in use by many LEO and state game and parks teams as both riot control and for cattle-drive-style moves of large animals, such as bear and elk, out of urban areas. The Planet Eclipse markers such as the Etha 2 have proven reliability in high-risk environments where misfeeds and failures can be deadly.” 


Purpose-Designed Guns

A full-sized marker such as the Etha 2 is hardly something that could be carried outside of the home, so there are some purpose-designed options. Umarex offers a T4E Prepared to Protect HDP 50 pepperball gun with boosted painful 375+ fps velocity. Practice rubber and live maximum potency pepper ball rounds are available, and it is a very impressive defensive pepperball gun. Umarex overcomes the typical long-term CO2 cartridge air-loss storage issue with a rapid-cartridge-piercing feature. Their T4E smack-to-charge system allows a sealed CO2 cartridge to be staged and pierced only at the moment it is needed just by smacking the CO2 access knob, guaranteeing full power when you need it. The T4E defensive line also includes the HDS, a boosted-output 16-joule double-barrel .68-caliber with 30% more velocity than legal paintball gameplay limits. The HDS affords compatibility with any .68-caliber paintball-compatible ammo, including pepperball, hard rubber, or steel core balls with the same smack-to-charge system.


Pepper Spray

Pepper sprays have become the less-lethal mainstay, however, delivery innovations are changing the way customers carry and use pepper spray. ASP and Mission First Tacticaloffer defensive sprays and gels intended for 0- to 18-foot use. ASP’s Defender series offers refillable hard-aluminum-cased pepper sprays that support water training inserts and refillable maximum police grade 10% OC Heat pepper spray options. The two Defenders designs were created to be deployed from a strong defensive fists-up position vs. spraycan deployment. My observation is that the stout aluminum design also offers an improvised impact weapon as well. According to ASP’s Michael Hess, “Customers really like the ability to train, test and become comfortable with an inert insert with the Defender line and then load the HEAT insert for defense. This is a feature really no other pepper spray manufacturer offers. Once expired, our HEAT canisters can just be removed and replaced, and for environmentally conscious customers, our format delivers more reusability and less waste.”

Another brand tactical dealers will be familiar with is Mission First Tactical (MFT), which just introduced a comprehensive line of .5- to 1.8-ounce OC/CS/UV and OC/UV pepper sprays with spray, stream or gel and flip-top and safety-top options and a five-year shelf life, with Level 3 10% OC solution maximum effectiveness and stopping power. The formula is the same used by the U.S. Army and Air Force and is manufactured in a Department of Defense-approved facility. It provides UV marking dye for suspect identification. According to David Edelman, vice president of MFT, “We offer customers and dealers a comprehensive line of military-grade pepper spray with informative packaging so customers understand what they are buying, including size, formula and spray deployment with a 5-year shelf life. We also wanted sizes that fit any lifestyle, ranging from tiny to home-defense sizes.”


Stun Guns, Batons and Lights

Though customers will request stun guns, quality varies widely, testing can be difficult, and they are often ineffective depending on the clothing choices of the attacker. Similarly, batons have limitations based on training. ASP’s Michael Hess noted, “Expandable batons are almost as regulated as firearms in many locales, however, if you are trained and can carry a baton, they can be extremely effective defense tools — but quality is of paramount importance. ASP batons are widely regarded as the premier expandable baton on the market.”

Many security experts note that a high output tactical light in the eyes of an attacker delivers a deterrence, distraction and disorientation effect. Tactical lights are almost always the first option used by LEO and military to shift control in their favor. Simple and small lights such as ASP’s Scribe and Raven deliver EDC and tactical high output are designs which could also be used as improvised weapons. Surefire, Streamlight, Inova and other similar quality brands should be positioned by dealers as multi-use products and effective less-lethal option.


Final Thoughts

Rubber buckshot and standard pepper spray cans are the typical and easy options for dealers to recommend, however, there is more for customers to consider. Dealers should look to other new options such as high-margin paintball markers, purpose-built CO2-powered less-lethal pepperball guns, and quality high-tier tactical lights and batons. These options can afford customers more choices to fit their lifestyle and offer dealers many options for higher-margin sales opportunities.


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