Visual Glossary

Recording and identifying military, security and police (MSP) equipment used in human rights violations, torture and ill-treatment might provide the only evidence to prove that the incident happened and help identify the perpetrators. However, there is a lack of reporting “tools” to help people do this. This glossary is designed to help human rights monitors, researchers, campaigners and journalists recognise the different types of equipment used by law enforcement officers and accurately report on the equipment.

We recommend that the glossary is used in conjunction with (, an image database which contains more information about the equipment featured in this glossary and Amnesty International’s Monitoring and Investigating Equipment Used in Human Rights Abuses.

What is covered in this glossary?

This glossary is split into sections, with each section covering a different type or “group” of equipment. “Groups” of equipment covered in this glossary include: electric shock equipment, restraints, launchers for chemical irritants, kinetic impact and other munitions, chemical irritants, and kinetic impact weapons (launched & handheld).

Please note that although these “groups” of equipment are often referred to as “less lethal” or “less than lethal”, they can still cause serious injuries and death, even when used as the manufacturer intended.

As with all types of technology, MSP equipment changes over time so this glossary will be periodically reviewed and updated to include new and emerging MSP technologies. 

Further information on the categories of the equipment can be found here and a table of all the terms used English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese can be found here.

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Single shot, break-open grenade launcher with fixed sights and removable foregrip. Wooden buttstock – more modern versions tend to be plastic. Usually fires 37/38mm or 40mm grenades. These are the most commonly seen weapons during riots.
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Single shot, break open launcher. Usually fires 37/38mm or 40mm grenades. Picatinny rails which allow further fitting of sights / lights / foregrips, and other accessories
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The launcher pictured, fires a wide range of specially designed 56mm ammunition. Fires CS gas, CN gas, smoke, rubber ball, and stun grenades. Distinctive: ribbed barrel, handle / buttstock / trigger unit. The Chouka launcher in the foreground has a shorter barrel than the Cougar launcher in the background.
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1970's UK-style rubber bullet grenade launcher – now obsolete however visually similar pieces of equipment have been photographed recently in the Middle East (2011). Modified signal pistol. Fired ammunition such as the rubber “bullet” below.
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Short barrel. Single shot. Retractable buttstock. Usually fires 40mm grenades. Can have a detachable rail to allow further fitting of sights / lights / foregrips, and other accessories.
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