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How this powerful handheld device increases your de-escalation options

The SD Projectile Launcher from Byrna Technologies requires less accuracy to be effective, giving officers added time and distance for safer engagement


Sponsored by Byrna Technologies

By Warren Wilson for Police1 BrandFocus

Considering that 2021 was the most dangerous year in the past quarter-century to be a cop amid skyrocketing crime statistics, anything that might enhance public and officer safety should be given some consideration.

The Byrna SD Launcher is a reliable and rugged less-lethal device that is effective at a distance of up to 60 feet but is still small enough to go on an officer’s belt.
The Byrna SD Launcher is a reliable and rugged less-lethal device that is effective at a distance of up to 60 feet but is still small enough to go on an officer’s belt. (Warren Wilson)

As a general rule, I’m skeptical of any new product marketed to law enforcement. Frankly, I immediately rank them from marginally effective to downright inane and dangerous until I’ve personally vetted the item. When I was approached to review the Byrna SD Launcher, I was skeptical, as usual.

My first test of a company and their product in this situation is to ask for a test unit. If they won’t send one, that’s a red flag. The folks as Byrna seemed excited that I’d asked, and I had one in my hands in a matter of days. They were also excited to participate in a video conference with me.

Joshua Schirard, Byrna Technologies’ director of law enforcement and private security – himself a former cop – walked me through the operation of the SD Launcher. After our conversation, I felt very confident in this organization, comprised entirely of former law enforcement officers, and their mission.

HOW THE BYRNA SD LAUNCHER WORKS

The Byrna SD Launcher uses a system of a pneumatic level and compressed CO2 gas to launch its projectiles. The CO2 cartridge is loaded into the launcher but is not pierced until the first round is fired. That prevents the cartridge from leaking over time. Each cartridge is good for 18-20 rounds.

Byrna offers a variety of chemical and kinetic projectiles. The kinetic projectiles are designed for defense and training. They do not break on impact. They can be and have been used to break vehicle windows but will not penetrate 10% ordnance gelatin. The training projectiles break on contact and are filled with inert powder to simulate the less-lethal projects. The pepper projectiles contain – of course – OC (oleoresin capsicum). The Byrna Max projectiles are a mixture of OC and CS (tear gas). All the projectiles are color-coded and are visible through windows in the magazine for quick recognition.

I deployed a few of the Byrna Max projectiles at the range, and they’re no joke. Within a relatively small zone, the cloud of angry dust is potent but fades relatively quickly. That’s the perfect combination of factors for the unit’s intended usage.

PUTTING IT TO THE TEST

It was time to actually try out the SD. I was unable to shoot it very well at 60 feet right away. The trigger is necessarily (for the pneumatic system) very different from what cops will be accustomed to in their duty guns. That’s a good thing. It’s imperative that less-lethal options feel and look different to avoid, “slip and capture” errors by cops.

Our SWAT team commander was able to readily put five projectiles into an 8-inch circle from that distance. I let several other cops and citizens shoot the SD, and all were able to manipulate it effectively. After a little practice, I was able to do very well with it. The initial training offered by Byrna and yearly qualifications are good practice to build these skills.

ADVANTAGES OVER CONDUCTED ENERGY WEAPONS

I’ve been desperately looking for something to supplement conducted energy weapons for our officers. CEWs work very well, but only when the deployment is nearly perfect. They are also very expensive to purchase and maintain. The cartridges and batteries are constantly being improved, and therefore the cost is constantly increasing.

There are many situations where a CEW can’t be used, too, such as running subjects, potentially flammable environments or densely wooded areas where foliage can interfere with the flight of the probes.

A lieutenant from a Kentucky department told me they’ve had several successful deployments of these launchers, including one where they knew a suspect was nearby but could not clearly see him. They thought he could potentially be armed and therefore they could not safely approach. They launched several less-lethal projectiles at the subject, and he immediately surrendered. He also told me of a deployment on an aggressive dog at the site of a high-risk warrant service. The officers used the Byrna launcher to safely de-escalate the dog without harming it.

These two examples are situations where it would be difficult or nearly impossible for officers to effectively use a CEW because their deployment must be very accurate to succeed. But the Byrna SD Launcher can be deployed both directly on a subject or indirectly, such as hitting a nearby wall or the ground in front of the subject – including a runner.

A COST-EFFECTIVE LESS-LETHAL OPTION

For me, the cost is the most exciting part about this system. The SD, two magazines and 10 CO2 cartridges retails for $350. An officer can be outfitted with all the above, plus a holster, inert rounds and operational rounds for about $550. That’s about half of the price of a CEW.

The initial training for instructors is a blended online/in-person 12-hour class, which costs $360. The recertification course is only $30 every three years. Byrna recommends that officers requalify annually with 15 practice rounds. That costs less than $5 in projectiles and one cartridge.

A FAMILIAR TOOL REFINED

Less-lethal launchers, commonly referred to as pepper ball guns, are not new to law enforcement. That said, the Byrna SD Launcher is reliable, rugged, effective to 60 feet and still small enough to go on an officer’s belt. These units have a large and growing following among law enforcement around the country. In fact, many of them have reported their success back to Byrna as evidenced in these videos.

As I stated above, I’m skeptical of any new products to law enforcement and am very hesitant to put my name on any products. Your reputation can only be ruined once in this business. That said, I believe the Byrna SD Launcher is something that agencies should look at very seriously. I’ll be perusing my department’s less lethal budget, because I believe Byrna is truly onto something here.

Visit Byrna Technologies for more information.

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