‘The Alternative:’ New technology could turn deadly weapon into non-lethal option

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WASHINGTON STATE CRIME LAB — Less-lethal weapons are always being added to law enforcement arsenals.

A new one officers will see soon is designed to be used on a firearm — and is the first of its kind.

Forensic scientist Rick Wyant with the Washington State Crime Lab literally wrote the book on less lethal options for law enforcement and is always researching cutting-edge devices. “That’s the idea behind it,” he says. “You cause a great deal of pain without a high risk of injury.”

There’s a new option called “The Alternative” that's much different than the more traditional bean bag or even sponge-nosed rounds often used instead of bullets. Wyant says, “It takes the lethal form of defense for a law enforcement officer and gives it a non-lethal option, so as you fire this firearm normally, with real ammunition the bullet is captured into this ball and the ball is propelled downrange toward the target.” One warning shot, per say and then a real one follows next. Wyant says, “It is fairly fascinating that it can take a bullet that’s traveling about 1,100 feet per second and slow it down to where it is a less-lethal projectile, so it’s going from 1,100 feet per second to maybe 300 feet per second.”

Christian Ellis is the CEO for 'Alternative Ballistics', the company who makes 'The Alternative.' “So what we do is we deliver a blunt force trauma to knock the person down," says Ellis. "They can end up with some broken ribs but the likelihood of living is very high when compared to a bullet."

But attaching a device to a real firearm has drawn its share of skepticism. “It would take a tremendous amount of training for applying this to your sidearm to not take any attention away from the subject that you’re looking at,” Wyant suggests.

Officers would also have to decide when to use the device. “We have the three second rule, if the officer cannot safely apply this in three seconds then so not even think of our technology,” Ellis says.

Whether or not law enforcement agencies adopt this latest option, Wyant says there are many more less-lethal alternatives not attached to a real firearm heading to the market soon saying, “Some electronic apparatus out there that will make you sick to your stomach and temporarily blind you and all of those are in development, but I would say in the next few years we’ll be seeing some of those that I talked about.”

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