Fun with Pain Rays, Sound Cannons and Other Non-Lethal WeaponryS

This week's New Yorker (yep, you heard me right) has a cool piece on the development of non-lethal weapons for military and police. You can tell the writer, Alec Wilkinson, had a good time reporting it. The story focuses on Charles Heal, a badass part-time Marine and part-time LA Sheriff's Department officer known in some circles as "Mr. Non-Lethal Weapons." As a product evaluator and consultant, Heal has helped create about 25 different non-lethal weapons, including:

• Throwbot: A small camera on wheels that can enter rooms where a gunman might be hiding
• SkySeer: a UAV with a camera meant for urban police work
• PepperBall: Think paintball, but with pepper powder
• Bola Ball: A bolo that cops would use to trip up assailants (proved a tad hard to master)

The piece covers some sweet demos, like Raytheon's Active Denial System pain ray (which we've mentioned), the TigerLight pepperspray-shooting flashlight, and a blinding laser cannon meant to "visually dissuade" assailants.

At the end, the author and Heal visit to the HQ of one of the most successful non-lethal weapons: MAD, or magnetic acoustic device. It's not new, but it's only now being explored as a device for police forces. It's a sound projector that can shoot audio up to a mile in distance, and when it projected the sound of .50 cal machine-gun fire, the author says it sounded like it came from a gun "the size of a backhoe," and mentioned that all the birds in the vicinity took off in fear.

The link will give you a digest of the piece; I think you'll need to find an actual paper copy to read the full story. (What's up with that, New Yorker?? No love for the internet?) [New Yorker]