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

A small fabric bag filled with a heavy material (such as lead shot). Designed to open up in flight and impact over a greater surface area. Can be either 12 gauge or 37/38 / 40mm and fired from a shotgun or grenade launcher.
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Leaves a coloured or UV mark on impact for later identification of subjects. Can be combined with a chemical irritant such as OC powder. Comes in a range of calibres including 37/38 and 40mm, and 44mm . Less common but also available: dye marking mine, 9mm pistol ammunition, and specialised “Pepperball-style” projectiles. Most common varieties are usually fired from a shotgun or various types of grenade launcher.
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Rubber projectile, fin-stabilised. Usually 12 gauge in calibre and fired from a shotgun.
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A soft sponge nose / tip, backed up with a hard plastic body. Usually 40mm in calibre. Fired from a grenade launcher.
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2-4 soft rubber balls in one cartridge case. Different calibre munitions available such as .32, .36, 12 gauge shotgun rounds and 44mm grenades. Typically fired from a shotgun or grenade launcher.
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3 or 4 small rubber / plastic balls in one cartridge case. Available in many different calibres including .32, 9mm, and 12 gauge – those pictured above are .36 in calibre and are fired from revolver / pistol.
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Approx. 8-10 small rubber / plastic balls in one cartridge case. Different calibre munitions available such as .32, 12 gauge shotgun rounds and 44mm grenades. Item picture above, typically fired from a shotgun or grenade launcher.
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Lightweight rubber projectile. Fired from a 12 gauge shotgun.
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Hard, dimpled, rubber projectile. Fired from a 12 gauge shotgun.
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Fired from a modified signal pistol. This was notoriously inaccurate. This item is now obsolete however visually similar pieces of equipment have been photographed recently (2011).
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Multiple rubber projectiles in one cartridge case. Usually fired from a 37/38mm or 40mm grenade launcher or 12 gauge shotgun.
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Three wooden projectiles in one cartridge case. Fired from 37/38mm or 40mm grenade launchers.
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A fabric construction with a small “head” filled with lead shot. Has either 1 or a number of fabric tails. Can be either 12 gauge or 37/38mm or 40mm and fired from a shotgun or grenade launcher.
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