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 Mispo.org (www.mispo.org), 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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Identification Tools

Single barrel. Single Shot Fires 37/38 or 40mm ammunition
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A metal attachment that fits over the barrel of a shotgun or rifle. A grenade is inserted in the “launching cup” and a blank round fired which expels the grenade to a range of 50-100m. Can be fitted to the barrel of a conventional shotgun or assault rifle to fire 37/38 and 40mm grenades.
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3, 6, or 9 barrels. Usually fires 37/38 or 40mm ammunition. Often vehicle mounted, free standing or a fixed installation. Allows sequential firing, rapid fire or bursts of fire.
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Can be vehicle mounted, free standing or a fixed installation. Allows sequential firing, rapid fire or bursts of fire. Fires a wide range of munitions.
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Can be vehicle mounted, free standing or a fixed installation. Allows sequential firing, rapid fire or bursts of fire. Fires a wide range of munitions.
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The launcher pictured, fires specially designed 44mm ammunition. Various ammunition available including soft rubber buckshot, dye-marking ball, CS gas ball and soft rubber balls Also available as a single shot launcher (Flash-Ball Mono).
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5 or 6 barrels / 5 or 6 shot. Usually fires 37/38 or 40mm ammunition. Can rapidly fire ammunition.
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2-shot Double Action Caibre 12/50. Fires rubber balls Short range
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5-shot. 36 calibre. Specially designed cartridges contain 4 rubber balls.
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Usually 12 or 24 gauge. Can often fire both lethal and less than lethal projectiles. Can be single or double barrelled.
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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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Uses compressed air to launch specially designed small plastic projectiles with metal filled nose and irritant payload. Launches dye marking, OC, “impact”, and CS+OC rounds. Semi-automatic with a 15-round circular magazine. Also sold as an under-barrel attachment for conventional rifles.
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Fires hot PAVA, training powder, water, or dye marking Pepperball projectiles. Averages 700 rounds per minute in full automatic mode. CO2 powered.
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CO2 powered. Fires pepper balls, rubber balls, training balls and rechargeable electric bullets which administer an electric shock.
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CO2 powered. 10-round magazine. Fires hot PAVA, training powder, water, dye marking or glass shattering Pepperball projectiles.
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Launches FN303 projectiles (see Section 4) using a CO2 cylinder incorporated into the magazine. Also available: pistol version. Picatinny rail for easy attachment of sights, fore grip, and other accessories.
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A 37/38 or 40 mm grenade launcher is attached underneath the barrel of a conventional assault rifle.
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