Baton Round
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Basic Information

A baton round is a form of less lethal ammunition designed to deliver a bludgeoning attack at rage and incapacitate a target with a reduced risk of lethal injury (compared to live ammunition). The true baton round is fired from a low velocity, large calibre weapon similar to a grenade launcher - the original "rubber bullet" (see below) being fired from a purpose built device known as the ARWEn1. Rubber coated bullets, which would also qualify as baton rounds, have also been produced for a variety of other small arms calibers, but these tend to be at higher velocity, denser and with a smaller impact area - making them more lethal. Baton round "slugs" and rubber shot are also available for shotguns.

Early experiments used wooden rounds (indeed, anyone so minded could have produced a blunt arrow or bolt in the pre-gunpowder era if it occured to them), but these were still fairly dense and hard and tended to generate dangerous splinters when striking solid objects, all of which made them rather more lethal than intended. A significant leap forward was made when the British MOD developed the rubber baton round in the 1970s, hoping to devise a weapon with which to control the near continuous inter-communal rioting in the Province of Ulster without too many fatalities. This "rubber bullet" was, if not completely harmless, still an improvement over wood and a lot better than ball. Later improvements moved from rubber to plastic to reduce ricochetting and introduced other innovations such as lightweight alloy or fiberglass bodies and even rounds which disintegrated on impact, reducing the damage from stray rounds and improving energy transfer.

Since they generate a known, demonstrable and physical impact they are more reliable under many circumstances than electrical or chemical incapacitants as they place no reliance on the target's physiology - all they do is hit them.

Baton rounds are still not entirely safe - as the name implies, the impact is similar to that of a baton or club and can cause bruising, fractures and even crippling or fatal injuries with an unlucky hit. Most users have a series of training doctrines to limit this by specifying minimum firing ranges and forbiding the targetting of the most vulnerable parts of the body, but these are not infallible. In addition, the small arms calibre varieties, as noted above, tend to concentrate more force on a smaller area and so create greater risks.

In order to mitigate the dangers of using baton, modern users have been developing either the frangible baton round (as described above) or the bean bag round. The shock round, which combines the effects of baton and Taser rounds is also on the cards, as are baton rounds with an auxillary payload of some chemical weapon.

For some reason it has taken a surprisingly long time for these to be produced in common grenade launcher calibres - the British ARWEn (L67) and its descendants were all 37mm weapons (themselves derived from a US made gas-grenade launcher). Transition to the popular 40mm caliber is relatively recent.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Can be something of a challenge for some rules sets to model - ideally these do virtually no damage but leave the target stunned or incapacitated for a short time.
  • Likely to be considered almost useless by most PCs.
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