A brand new compact, light-weight weapon will cease a target in their tracks from a 100 meters away with out lethally harming them. Nicknamed the Pogojet, it is a radical less-than-lethal design from a senior research scientist, Jeffrey Widder, from Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio.
The Pogojet — whose official title is the Caseless Telescoping Less-lethal System — is unique in that the propellant burns inside the round, pushing on a piston that propels it ahead. The motion resembles a pogo stick, therefore the name. As soon as the piston reaches its full extent, the exhaust gases could be vented sideways, so the round continues ahead at the same pace, or directed via holes in the base of the round like a rocket exhaust to provide as much extra boost as required. That is the ‘jet’ aspect of the Pogojet, which Widder compares to the old 1960s Gyrojet rocket pistol.
It is an intelligent design meant to get around an annoying problem. Conventional wisdom says that the non-deadly rounds used to stun suspects have to be big, soft, and sluggish. Consider the bean bag rounds fired from police shotguns, the 40mm sponge grenades utilized by the military, and conventional “rubber bullets.” Their low speed gives them a much shorter range than a rock which is thrown by a strong hand—a critical drawback when dealing with rioters.
The other problem with less-lethal impact weapons is balancing effectiveness with safety. A round that travels slowly enough to be safe at point-blank range will be ineffective at greater distance. Enhance the muzzle velocity to knock down a threat further away and the weapon turns into a potentially lethal one when used from a closer range.
Widder’s challenge was to discover a method of varying the muzzle velocity depending on the distance to the threat so that the bullet always hits at the sweet spot of between 77 and 87 meters per second. His ultimate design uses a small .50 caliber weapon firing a hard projectile that utilizes that gas venting technique to hit the goal at optimum velocity. This variable velocity makes the Pogojet safe at short distances and efficient at longer distances. Widder says it is going to be effective at 100 meters, much more than any existing kinetic round.
“When the gas comes out, it can be throttled,” says Widder. “The technical issue turned out to be remarkably simple. Once I figured it out I did not know why I thought it so tough.”
The Pogojet will use a laser rangefinder—technology that already exists for small arms, however is principally used with military grenade launchers. The Pogojet will interface with a rangefinder to make sure that the proper muzzle velocity is automatically chosen with out any manual control. Constructing the interface is one of the next steps in the challenge. However the key aspect, the variable velocity system, has already proven extremely dependable.
Widder’s design has another benefit in that it produces sufficient pressure to work as a semi-automatic, in contrast to the pump-action bean-bag shotguns. In contrast to other less-lethals, the Pogojet may be fired as rapidly as wanted, so the shooter can get off another shot if they miss the threat the first time.
The piston arrangement also means even a really short barrel is sufficient for high velocity and accuracy, making the Pogojet compacter than the alternate options. Widder imagines the weapon fitted as an under-barrel extra to an M4 carbine, giving troopers an easy, long-range, multi-shot alternative to deadly bullets. The Pogojet may also be used individually as a pistol, with out the rangefinder and set to the lowest velocity. It may still be efficient up to 50 meters, in comparison with 20 meters maximum for a bean bag gun and even less for a Taser, giving cops an easily transportable alternative.
Most non-deadly kinetic rounds are designed to flatten on impact and spread the blow over a big area. This improves safety by minimizing the danger of a penetrating injury. This also explains why such rounds tend to be large caliber: small caliber ones can go through an eye socket with serious consequences.
Widder takes a special approach. His round is spin-stabilized and has a flat trajectory so it can be aimed precisely. Shooters are trained to aim the deadly rounds on the target’s center of mass, and the Pogojet is fired in the identical manner. Other non-deadly rounds are supposed to be aimed on the thighs or buttocks. The Pogojet bullet doesn’t deform on impact but delivers all its power over a small area. Widder says that it produces a high degree of pain with less kinetic energy than the standard method.
“It is like a bee’s sting. It is only over a small area, however it’s intense enough to be effective.”
The small rounds may appear dangerous compared to more conventional, bigger-diameter non-deadly weapons, however Widder argues that a high degree of fire self-discipline is always wanted. And unlike different kinetic weapons, the accuracy of the Pogojet means it will hit the place it’s aimed.
“The greatest threat of severe injury or death happens from impacts to the face, the head or neck of the supposed target or a bystander, ” Widder says. “The usage of more accurate weapons with disciplined fire can considerably scale back the probability of this unintended consequence.”
The next stage of Pogojet’s development will be to build the semi-automatic mechanism and the rangefinder interface, in addition to replacing most of the metallic components with plastic. So it will be ready for Human Effects Testing to ensure the Pogojet actually is effective and safe. If it is as great as Widder says, then the weapon may someday provide a new option for police and members of the military faced with situations where regular firearms would constitute excessive force.