Pepper-spray projectile

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German policeman with Pepperball gun in Dresden

A pepper-spray projectile, also called a pepper-spray ball, pepper-ball or pepper-spray pellet is a frangible projectile containing a powdered chemical that irritates the eyes and nose in a manner similar to pepper spray. These projectiles are fired from specially designed forced compliance weapons or modified paintball guns.


A pepper-spray projectile may be a sphere, hence the name pepper-ball, but it may also come in other shapes. The irritant payload may differ from product to product but is usually a powder, less frequently a liquid, gas or aerosol. Some companies offer different substances as payload for their projectiles and launcher systems, so potential sellers can choose a substance that is certified for use in their country. Also, projectiles with an inert dummy payload are often offered, for training and testing purposes.

A powder called PAVA (capsaicin II) pepper is often used.

Pepper-spray weapons systems are used by law enforcement, military and other organizations, and individuals. The weapon is used generally in the role of stand-off weapons, where physical proximity to a suspect is deemed dangerous but deadly force is not warranted. The systems are not limited to classic standoff situations and allow agents to apply as many rounds as required to bring individual suspects, multiple suspects, or crowds into compliance.

Other uses[edit]

The projectile is usually sold to be used with a launcher or gun by the same company, to provide best reliability.[1] The different companies usually also sell other types of projectiles for non-lethal use or projectiles with combined effects. Such effects may include:[2][3]

  • break glass and disperse barricades
  • mark suspects for later round ups
  • force of impact effect


Although generally considered less-than-lethal when properly used (targets should exclude the face, eyes, throat or spine),[4] deaths have occurred when they have been fired at inappropriate areas. In one well publicized incident in 2004, the Boston Police Department killed 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove using a pepper-spray projectile weapon during a crowd control situation.[5][6]

In 2004, UC Davis police who wanted to break up a block party shot a pepperball at an unarmed student, Timothy C. Nelson. This damaged his eye and he lost his athletic scholarship and dropped out of college. In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled that the police can be sued. [3].


  1. ^ FAQ Page of Vendor PepperBall Technology - Retrieved October 7, 2011 Archived September 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Product Page of Vendor PepperBall Technology - Retrieved October 7, 2011 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2011-10-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ FN 303 projectiles Product Page - Retrieved October 7, 2011
  4. ^ Product sell sheet from vendor (PepperBall Technologies). Retrieved December 9, 2006 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-03-24. Retrieved 2011-01-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Associated Press. From The New York Times October 27, 2004. Retrieved November 30, 2006 from [1].
  6. ^ Slack, Donovan and Suzanne Smalley. The Boston Globe September 21, 2005. Retrieved November 30, 2006 from [2].