Why You Should Add The 12 Gauge Shotgun To Your Less Lethal Arsenal

April 18, 2019
Separate your lethal and less lethal shotguns, properly train with the product and create a solid less lethal policy.

The purpose of nonlethal projectiles is to provide standoff capability, whether it is crowd control, disarming EDPs or other tactical situations where the potential for delivering less lethal over lethal exists.

I started working on this article when several companies involved in less lethal products contacted me with questions about 12 gauge less lethal deployment and products. Law enforcement agencies had been contacting these companies and asking them what products to use for less lethal—that is, people purchasing munitions were asking which shotguns to use and which stocks to buy. Meanwhile, agencies that were purchasing retrofit orange or red stocks were asking which munitions to purchase. There seemed to be a lack of resources for these agencies when it came to 12 gauge less lethal options.

Why were these agencies interested in 12 gauge less lethal options in the first place? 12 gauge less lethal is just about the best bargain in law enforcement today, in my opinion. The munitions are inexpensive, practice and training is inexpensive and these systems simply work.

LEOs participate in a less lethal survey

I polled many agencies to see what they were using for less lethal and to get a look at their practices. Although most of the respondents stated that their agency uses TASERs, more than 1/5 of all the agencies used shotgun-launched less lethal munitions. The majority of the shotgun users employed dedicated less lethal shotguns. Very few did not have dedicated shotguns.

It was no surprise to see that 20 percent of respondents reported their agencies issued less lethal shotguns to everyone on patrol, and about the same number issued them only to supervisors.

The only alarming result from our survey was that 1.61 percent of officers reported that specialized training or deploying less lethal munitions was not required in their agency.

Several agencies reported that they do not use less lethal tools at all. In an open-ended question, allowing officers to respond with a sentence or two, they explained that they didn’t have a policy for tools for delivering anything less lethal.

One respondent stated that they use a shotgun for less lethal applications and controlling wildlife. I can only infer from the response that a single shotgun is used for lethal and less lethal purposes, specifically for wildlife and law enforcement response.

Several reported that their agencies use other less lethal delivery systems not listed in the survey, including FN 303 launchers and PepperBall launchers. Respondents who reported using 37mm and 40mm (which were quite a few) stated they use sponge projectiles.

There are many types of projectiles, including .50 caliber rubber balls, rubber buckshot, elastomer “star” projectiles and drag stabilized socks. Our survey suggests that the sock type is the most popular.

By a wide margin, the most common less lethal tool is the TASER.

Use training to develop policy

Regardless of what less lethal options are used or not used at an agency, training with the equipment and having a strong policy in place is of key importance. One of the most common questions asked is where to get the training. First, every state has a version of a POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training). I reviewed the catalogs of several states and found that most of them had some sort of training on less lethal delivery. Most of the development courses in the catalogs were “train the trainer”. In the California POST catalog, the host agency even specifies which munitions systems are trained at the session. It is important to be educated in equipment and legislative updates.

The Safariland Training Academy offers training in several less lethal delivery platforms—obviously, officers will have an opportunity to see Safariland products. Some survey respondents reported that this training was useful in developing policy.

Mace Tactical Solutions has a 4-Day Less Lethal Instructor Course and a 2-Day Recert. They also cover a portion of liability and documentation, which is useful for helping an agency formulate a policy. If we look at some of the parts of the course included in Mace Tactical Solutions Training, it covers agents, munitions and policy development.

When looking for a training program, it helps to know that the training has a more global field of view.

It is critical that officers receive formal, documented training and routinely receive training updates, both legislative and hands-on. The training needs to be organic and nonorganic (or produced and not produced by the agency). This will ensure that the agency can demonstrate a cognizance of objectively reasonable use of force, as in Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor. That is, if officers are trained by experienced trainers, they are exposed to concepts that produce a level of reasonable training and experience. Additionally, training adds the understanding of rapidly changing environments that require split second decisions.

The more training an officer gets, the more it is reasonable to deduce that their actions reflect the current law and policies in effect at the time of the application of force.

Separate your shotguns

I want to make this clear: It is unreasonable to use the same shotgun for delivering lethal force as it is less lethal force. Most agencies recognize this and retrofit their shotguns with orange or bright red stocks. This retrofit should probably include a locked case for the shotgun and even a policy that states that the less lethal user cannot have lethal rounds on their person or in their vehicle. Some agencies who have made a complete transition have policies stating that lethal shotgun rounds are not allowed in any of the properties of the agency.

The EX Performance Stock and Forend from Adaptive Tactical is a M4 style furniture set available for Remington and Mossberg products. The set is made of high-impact polymer and the material is slightly heavier and stronger than the stuff I have on my Remington right now. They are bright orange, which is hard to miss. The rear stock operates and extends in the same manner as adjustable AR-15 products, although the adjustment pin in this one is oversized, which makes it stronger. It has integrated QD swivel attachment points and a spongy recoil pad that stays on the shoulder. The pistol grip is also a little thicker and friendly to gloved hands.

The bright orange forend is the best part. It has heavy bolded lines and a wide bottom, adding to the positive grip. I found it easy to support the shotgun with just the buttstock and pistol grip with this set up. This is definitely a consideration when the less lethal officer is holding a ballistic shield while steering a shotgun. The orange color is in the material, not on the surface. No amount of scratching or rough handling will cause a color fade. The best part is a 2-inch Picatinny rail concealed under the nose cap of the forend. Adaptive Tactical makes a 300 lumen light that clips into this rail. For users who like this setup, it comes in black also.

Shotgun-launched less lethal products are still relevant and efficient. The 12 gauge less lethal tool may be the most cost-effective thing out there for law enforcement agencies and will continue to be useful for decades to come. Agencies must be certain, however, to train with their equipment and have a solid policy in place. 

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