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The Alternative: A unique approach to less-lethal force

For officers facing combative subjects, it provides a new option that fills a key gap

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The Alternative is a novel solution that instantly turns any officer’s regular service weapon into a less-lethal device – and then immediately back into a lethal one after it’s deployed.

Alternative Ballistics

Sponsored by Alternative Ballistics

By John Erich, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

Historic data tells us around 15%–20% of individuals arrested will require the use of force. That’s a convincing argument for equipping law enforcement with effective less-lethal alternatives for obtaining compliance. In those instances that require going hands-on, such tools may help officers gain control of situations without killing or seriously injuring suspects.

Today’s officers can choose from a broad assortment of less-lethal approaches. These include not only traditional blunt-force weapons like batons and rubber, wooden and beanbag rounds but also chemical agents, conducted energy weapons and more. The case studies surrounding these products do not come without criticism; however, each has been tested, deployed and used in real-life situations. And in the right circumstance, they all do their job reasonably well.

They may not account for all circumstances, though. For those they don’t, Alternative Ballistics Corporation has another answer.

“We believe each less-lethal option has its place on an officer’s tool belt, applicable in certain situations,” said Steven Luna, the company’s CEO. “And we believe our product is an effective additional option, one that can be carried on every officer’s duty belt and, when appropriate, preserve life and optimize officer safety.”

That product is The Alternative, a novel solution that instantly turns any officer’s regular service weapon into a less-lethal device – and then immediately back into a lethal one after it’s deployed.

It’s an option shown by extensive testing to be as safe and effective as any other less-lethal product in the law enforcement market today – and the only device that can convert the user’s weapon from lethal to less-lethal while preserving the lethal-force option if necessary. That especially suits it for situations where suspects are armed with deadly weapons other than firearms – think knives, clubs or broken bottles – where officers may have to change modes quickly.

“We believe giving an officer the option to instantly convert their service weapon into a less-lethal tool is one of the biggest strengths of our platform,” said Jason LeBlanc, COO of Alternative Ballistics. “For us it’s a feature.”

An onus to evolve

Worn on an officer’s belt or vest, The Alternative is a small, light direct-fire impact munition that quickly attaches to a wide range of common 9-mm and .40-caliber firearm models. It consists of a spherical aluminum alloy projectile, 1.3 inches in diameter, joined to a plastic dock that fits over the end of the firearm. A cavity in the projectile aligns with the bore of the barrel, and when the gun is fired, it captures the bullet and becomes a combined projectile. This travels at around 20% of the velocity of the bullet alone and spreads its impact over a larger target area, without penetration.

Once the bullet is captured in the cavity of the projectile, its combined mass is roughly 50 g for 9-mm and 54 g for .40-caliber. Within the recommended deployment distance of 20–35 feet, that reduces the average velocity from 1,200 to 210 feet per second for the 9-mm and 1,025 to 220 feet per second for the .40-caliber – decreases of 82% and 78%, respectively. Subject to variables like distance, clothing and body part impacted, this may pose a risk of moderate (AIS 2+) injury, but lower possibility of severe injury and little risk of death. The Alternative has been comprehensively tested using recognized industry methods and produces injury profiles similar to or better than less-lethal impact munitions currently used by law enforcement.

Most uniquely, once The Alternative is fired, its high-visibility orange docking unit ejects, returning the firearm to full function for follow-up shots if necessary to stop the threat. This new technology can be a bit of a conceptual shift. With the evolution of policing, tactics, knowledge, wisdom and adaptability, departments are looking into every option available to provide their officers with appropriate tools for doing their job.

“Probably the most common question we get is about less-lethal technology being incorporated into a lethal platform,” said Alex Perez, retired chief of the North Las Vegas Police Department in Nevada, currently Alternative Ballistics’ strategic law enforcement consultant. “As a former policy maker, I assessed less-lethal technologies firsthand, and we understand that concern. However, this concern can be mitigated through extensive training provided by the company through our law enforcement professionals.

“For all of us in law enforcement, there’s an onus to evolve and open our minds to new technologies and new ways of doing things. That’s what The Alternative is: It’s a tool that can be readily available for officers when time is on their side in certain situations. It’s light, it’s easily carried on a duty belt, and it can’t be used against officers if it gets into the wrong hands.”

That’s an important point: If officers lose control of their Tasers or firearms, those weapons can be turned against police and other victims. If a combative suspect pulls The Alternative off your belt, the worst they can do is throw it at you.

Training is key

With any new system, training is essential. The Alternative is fast and easy to apply and recommended for planned-event situations where officers have determined to deploy an intermediate force option. However, doing it fluidly with your nondominant hand, as you maintain control of the weapon and suspect with your dominant hand, is a skill that must be attained through practice and repetition.

“Like any repetitive motion, you develop muscle memory,” said Perez. “When I was on patrol, I used a Level III safety holster, which had three individual retention mechanisms. That was a positive for safety, but I had to practice removing my gun as quickly as possible, so I’d be efficient in real-life scenarios. Manipulating The Alternative is no different – you should practice and be familiar and comfortable with all your equipment.”

To that end Alternative Ballistics offers a training and certification program with both classroom and range components. Its training team, all former law enforcement, visits new users and trains their trainers, who in turn train their officers. Training includes procedures for safe handling and attachment; developing muscle memory for efficient deployment; and methods to mitigate the risk of sympathetic and double-tap firing. It’s a one-day course with scenario-based and live-action components.

With its featured product, The Alternative, Alternative Ballistics Corporation aims to provide law enforcement with another option to lethal force. Said its executive team in a joint statement, “We firmly believe our flagship product will prove its place on an officer’s duty belt and serve its purpose to preserve life and optimize officer safety.”

For more information, visit Alternative Ballistics or Police1.