Less-lethal Sponge Rounds a New Tactic for Madison Police

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November 20, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: November 20 on

The important role given by Madison police to less-lethal sponge rounds rocketed out of repurposed grenade launchers was showcased last week when the weapon was used to subdue a suicidal 29-year-old man outside his Far West apartment after he confronted officers with the knife he used to slice up his neck.

“That was a perfectly profound example of how something like (the less-lethal weapon) literally saved that young man’s life,” Chief Mike Koval said.

The Sage 40mm Deuce Launchers that fire 0.9-ounce 44mm eXact iMpact sponge rounds as well as numerous shotguns that fire beanbags filled with lead and tasers are the department’s key less-lethal weapons used to control situations that have the potential to become deadly.

But a demonstration of the weapons at the department’s training center on Femrite Drive on the Southeast Side illustrated why the star is the launcher and its sponge rounds that look like souped-up tips of badminton shuttlecocks.

They are more accurate and can be fired effectively from a much longer (125 feet) and shorter (5 feet) range than the less aerodynamic beanbags (75 feet and 20 feet) that come out of shotguns wobbling like a knuckleball, according to police officer Chris Masterson.

Masterson said the equivalent of getting struck by a sponge rocket is getting hit by a baseball traveling about 40 mph, or the speed of a ball thrown by a Little Leaguer. Getting hit by a bean bag filled with lead fired by a shotgun is like getting hit by a baseball traveling 45 mph to 50 mph.

More information on the Sage 40mm Deuce Launcher can be found at, http://www.sageinternationalltd.com/SCOI/DeuceSTD40.html.