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The U.S. Army is Buying Pepper Spray Paintball Guns

   The U.S. Army is buying paintball guns designed to shoot pepper-filled balls. A nonlethal alternative to bullets, the balls explode on contact to create a cloud of disabling pepper spray. The guns are meant to give U.S. forces in Afghanistan the option of disabling potential threats instead of shooting them.

The Army has awarded Pepperball, a nonlethal weapons company, a contract worth $650,000 for the purchase of an unknown quantity of Variable Kinetic Systems (VKS). The vaguely named VKS is a paintball gun that bears a strong similarity to the Army’s M4A1 carbine weapons, right down to the rails on the handguard and the stock.

The similarity between the two weapons is only superficial, however. Unlike the M4A1, the VKS is not a deadly weapon. It does not shoot 5.56-millimeter bullets but rather .68 caliber balls. The Pepperballsbreak open on impact and disperse a cloud of military-strength spray.

The company’s “Live” balls are filled with 5 percent pelargonic acid vanillylamide (PAVA), a synthetic version of pepper spray. (Civilian PAVA agents are only 3 percent in concentration.) Another ball type, "CS", is filled with 2.5 percent CS gas, otherwise known as tear gas. Yet another ball type is a mixture of both irritants. It’s unknown which type of nonlethal ammo the Army is buying.

Like regular paintball guns, the VKS is powered by a tank of compressed gas hidden in the M4-style shoulder stock. The VKS has a fire control system similar to the M4A1, allowing soldiers who are accustomed to their personal weapons to train quickly. Pepperball’s product page says the weapon has an effective range of 120 to 150 feet. The weapon can shoot 20 projectiles per second and can feed from either a 180-round hopper typically used in paintball guns or a 10- or 15-round bullet-style magazine.

The weapons are apparently headed to Afghanistan, as the Army’s purchase was “in support of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) Joint Force Protection Directorate.” Exactly how the Army will use these weapons is unknown, but they would be ideally useful for crowd control and riot situations. An inquiry to Pepperball by the Army Times did not reveal exact quantities or delivery dates.

The VKS weapon system is limited to government and agency sales, however paintball guns and paintballs filled with pepper spray are readily available on Amazon.

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