Launched Kinetic Impact Projectiles

Launched kinetic impact projectiles, sometimes referred to as ‘baton rounds’, ‘rubber bullets’, or ‘plastic bullets’, are expelled from weapon-launched cartridges, or grenades, that are either hand-thrown or weapon-launched. Different types of cartridges or grenades can contain different numbers of projectiles, and the projectiles can also differ in size, velocity (speed), and accuracy. Single or multiple projectiles can be in the form of pellets, balls, blocks, cylinders, or fabric bags filled with pellets (‘bean bags’).

Many types of launchers can fire kinetic impact projectiles (see section on launchers for less lethal weapons). Common ammunition calibres include 37/38 mm, 40 mm, or 56 mm (grenade launcher), 12 gauge (shotgun), and 9 mm (pistol). Other specialist weapons and ammunition are also in use.

Kinetic impact projectiles are designed to cause blunt trauma rather than penetration (although they do often penetrate the skin, especially when fired at short range); their desired effect is to elicit compliance through pain.



Kinetic impact projectiles are used in many different kinds of law enforcement and security operations. Generally used by law enforcement officials to target individuals, inflicting blunt trauma to gain compliance, kinetic impact projectiles are often also used to disperse crowds, and are used in places of detention. If they hit a vulnerable part of the body they can cause injury; consequently, law enforcement officers should never target the head or upper body and instead should aim for the lower body or legs.

Some launched kinetic impact ammunition, which contains a single less lethal projectile and can be accurately aimed, does have a legitimate law enforcement use when used in strict accordance with international human rights standards. All other kinds of launched kinetic impact projectiles should not be used by law enforcement officers.


Potential Injuries

Injuries from launched kinetic impact weapons, which in some cases can be life threatening, include:

  • bruises
  • broken bones
  • internal bleeding and damage to organs
  • temporary or permanent damage to eyesight
  • concussion and other head injuries.

Ammunition with multiple small pellets present a particularly high risk of causing ocular injuries and penetration injuries, and should not be used.


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