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Why is the 'non-lethal' pellet gun killing people in Kashmir?

Numerous others have been injured, some have lost their eyesight permanently.

 |  3-minute read |   21-07-2016
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The weapon of choice for security forces to tackle the post Burhan Wani protests in Kashmir being described in the media as the "pellet gun" - giving it an almost harmless ring to it - is nothing but a regular 12-gauge pump action shotgun.

The pump action shotgun has been used by law enforcement agencies and tactical units world over for some decades now and "non-lethal", another term being flung around is not even mistakenly used alongside it.

Security forces operating in Kashmir may have their own reasons for using euphemisms to describe the 12-gauge shotgun but the weapon is not taken lightly by armed forces all over the world.

Gun geeks in India have been baffled by the use of the term "pellet gun" to describe the 12-gauge shotgun.

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In the US, police and tactical units use shotguns. In the military too, pump action shotguns are used for close quarter combat and were used by the US Army in Vietnam and earlier in the Pacific Theatre in World War II.

The key difference between shotguns used by law enforcement agencies overseas and what are being used in Kashmir is in the type of ammunition being used.

The OO buck, the most commonly used ammunition in shotguns by law enforcement agencies overseas has nine pellets each, roughly the size of a pea.

What it does to someone at the receiving end within effective range has been very accurately documented and seen in numerous Hollywood movies.

_90439569_mediaitem9_072116085429.jpg The ammunition for a 12-gauge shotgun comes in various types. (AP) 

Security forces in India are using shot number 9 - the smallest pellet size manufactured by Indian Ordnance Factories. The police have been claiming that the pellets only sting people.

True, they will only sting but only when fired beyond effective range which in case for a shotgun is usually 40 yards.

Within the effective range, a shotgun has every chance that it will kill. No wonder that two people have died in Kashmir even when they were hit by the so called "non-lethal" pellet gun.

Numerous others have been injured, some have lost their eyesight permanently.

The ammunition for a 12-gauge shotgun comes in various types. The upper part of a shotgun shell has a space that holds the "shot" which is usually a large number of lead pellets.

The pellets come in sizes 1 to 9 with 1 being the largest. Shot #1 would have the largest and the therefore the fewest pellets to fit in the space.

Conversely shot #9 would have the smallest and therefore the largest number of pellets.

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Considering that the charge in all 12-gauge ammunition is same, physics dictates that the larger the size of the pellet, the more lethal it would be owing to the momentum the projectile would develop when fired.

Twelve-gauge shotgun pellets have a muzzle velocity or the speed at which they travel in within the barrel of about 1,200 feet per second. Velocity decreases with the distance the pellets travel.

Not without reason have the police in Kashmir been told to fire beyond 50m and only on the back.

The category of weapon (a 12-gauge) and ammunition (shot size 9) being used by the police in Kashmir is used by skeet shooters world over.

What it does to the clay bird if fired within effective range is for all to see. Do you still want to call it the "non-lethal" pellet gun?

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Rahul Noronha Rahul Noronha

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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