WTF: Less Lethal .50 BMG

Less Lethal Africa, a South African company, had their less lethal .50 BMG rounds on display at SHOT.

While these rubber bullet loaded cartridges are not powerful enough cycle a rifle or machine gun action, I do wonder what the effect of a large pointed piece of polymer hitting a protester in the stomach. I suspect it is less “less” and more lethal.

UPDATE: Apparently this ammunition is designed for anti-piracy use at long ranges.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Alaskan

    Since there is not enough “poop” to cycle an action,I figure it’s more of a sharp stinging pain than a 12 Gauge beanbag round. Maybe it’s a shin breaker?

    Wouldn’t you like to show up at a OWS rally in full “Mall Ninja” tactical gear,while carrying a Barrett M82 and 2 mags of these rounds? The “shlack-shlack” of a pump shotgun and the sound of a .50Cal round being chambered MIGHT convince the crowd to calm down and disperse…who knows?

    • Axel Nordberg

      I think if you came to the average OWS protest in non-uniform tactical gear threatening people with a .50 caliber rifle you would risk getting shot, and with good reason.

      • Alaskan

        What I inferred was that some of the gear the police are using,is straight military grade,and maybe just a tad overdone..especially when it comes to crowds.
        Serving a high risk warrant,or a hostage situation..sure.

        Riot police do need protection,but not gear that is rated to Level IV,to stop incoming AP least that’s not what I’ve seen on the news.
        Why wear 40lbs of “protective” gear when you could reasonably wear 15lbs? This isn’t Fallujah.

      • W

        and i don’t condone such actions against protesters expressing themselves while they are protected under the 1st amendment. Its sad that we have seen such terrible violations of out constitution (like “free speech” zones also)…it really shows you who has our law enforcement and government bought…and its not the people.

        I could see such a bullet useful for controlling violent protests and riots. A protesting group of people angry because they were lied to is an entirely different matter.

    • Komrad

      You plan show up at a large political rally/whatever with tons of people while wearing tactical clothing and carrying large rifles and shotguns and expect an already fairly rowdy crowd to calm down?

      And I shit chocolate ice cream.

    • mosinman

      i dont agree with OWS or the like but as long as they are peaceful and dont block the roads , they have a right to protest

  • PavuK_cz

    “…when one store in New Tokyo ran out of stocks rubber nuclear weapons had to be deployed to disperse the crowd.”

    [Red Dwarf S2Ep02]

  • Mr. Fahrenheit

    I think these LL rounds are meant more for hard targets rather than people.

    When you don’t really want to crack an engine block until you really, really have to.

  • Derrick

    South African crowd control techniques involve firing into the ground and “bouncing” the projectile at abdomen height into the crowd…

    • Bob Barker

      The bouncing technique is specific to certain types of less lethal rounds, particularly older ones. For example plastic rounds are known to bounce uncontrollably and have caused deaths by unintentional hits to the head/eyes instead of the extremities or abdomen(?). Also modern bean bag rounds obviously do not bounce and are designed for direct fire against the extremities only as they are still powerful enough to break ribs and cause internal injuries/bleeding.

    • Maverick Moore

      The bouncing method was first used when the Japanese had those teak bullets. They bounced them off the ground and a lot hit people in the face. These would be very bad to hit someone in the face

  • Jeff Smith

    Doesn’t a 12 gauge bean bag round kind of flatten out after leaving the barrel? I think they are about 1″ square when flattened out. It looks like focusing the energy of a .50 BMG into a point, even if it is a polymer, could be pretty lethal.

    Also, what would be the advantage over 12 gauge less lethal rounds or 37mm/40mm less lethal rounds?

    Also, I’d love to know the distance at which they become “less” lethal.

    • Mang

      Honestly, there probably isn’t one. This only makes (limited) sense as an anti-materiel round.

      The projectile’s at least 2 inches long, half an inch wide, and who knows how much it weighs. Pointed tip, as Jeff mentioned. If it’s got enough powder to shoot from ship to ship, it’s definitely got enough powder to penetrate, fracture a skull or tear up internal organs.

      • Jeff Smith

        Just checked their website. They list the minimum safe distance for 12 gauge less lethal as 20-25 meters.

        No telling what it is for .50 BMG.

  • 18D

    This is a terrible idea! Combining “less lethal” munitions with a “lethal” weapon system is asking for trouble. These things offer no advantage over dedicated less than lethal systems.

    • Derrick

      If you check there website, they also do 9mm and 5.56 aswell as 7.62. What must be remebered is these may often be issued to military for Peace keeping. Many forces this side do not have the budget for dedicated less lethal. I agree though, it could be an issue!

      • Can you call firing on anyone, even with less than lethal bullets, peace keeping?

    • Tinkerer

      There have been “less lethal” riot-control rubber rounds for use in standard issue firearms for decades. Nothing new there.

      I can only think of one use for this very specific round: non-lethal neutralization of specific targets at medium-to-long distances. Yeah, that’s a mouthful.

      • Rangefinder

        Just in time for the Super Bowl. Don’t charge the field. You will lose.
        Seriously, how about a gel test.

  • Flounder

    I seem to remember hearing about these on Kitup! I think… The 50 BMG rounds are more for ship to ship things. If I remember right they were developed to protect ships from pirates… I’m not entirely sure though.

    • Thats an interesting idea. Firing long range against pirates.

    • What rocket scientist would actually think using these would be a good idea? If you’ve got to fire on a pirate ship then do so and destroy it.

      • Bryan S.

        Heath, this may get around maritime laws for weapons on merchant ships…

      • Chrontius

        Lawyers happened, I suspect.

  • SpudGun

    If you rock up to a crowd situation where .50 cal rubber bullets fired from an M2 are required, then I think you’ve already lost the day. Either that or your government is doing something very, very wrong.

    • Sam87

      I completely agree. These look to be a tool that semi-tyrannical governments can issue out, and when hundreds of people end up seriously injured or dead, they can say ‘But we only gave out rubber bullets! We didn’t mean to hurt anyone!’. If anything, they make injuries and deaths more likely because the chances are that the troops feel they can use them more freely because they are ‘less lethal’, and even if they don’t directly kill people the ensuing panic definitely will.

      Even assuming these rounds genuinely won’t kill someone at a reasonable range, I can’t see the reason why you would need add rubber bullets to any 50cal platform. Firing either M2’s or M82’s into a crowd does rather send the message of ‘Massacre’ even if people aren’t being badly hurt.

      You apparently can’t fire them from a full-auto weapon anyway because they won’t cycle the action, and if you are limited to semi-auto anyway, then literally any other form of rubber bullet has got to be a better choice.

      No rubber bullets are genuinely safe anyway, and I have to believe that these things are going to be REALLY carrying some energy. If they aren’t, then why even bother using a .50cal round as the base ?

  • Matt G.

    Perhaps this is for use on dangerous animals such as hippo’s/elephants/water buffalo?

    • Paul

      that’s what first occurred to me, too.

  • Alan

    Q: Is a less lethal .50 BMG more lethal than your average 9mm?

  • DB Cooper

    I don’t think these are less lethal rounds at all. These are probably meant for short-range target practice. Using polymer .50 rounds does a hell of a lot less damage on backstops.

  • PCP

    Are they selling to the public? If so I expect an idiot with a sternum fracture crying in the emergency room within… five minutes after arriving at their home/range. Because you know… there is always some idiot.

    I think those things can be useful as a long range less (this is important) lethal round for when carpet bombing with cs or pepper spray the crowd still not an option, or to avoid getting there.

    And if I`m not mistaken I heard a rumor on the internet about the US military showing interest in this kind of round for road blockades uses. I suspect in that application two HMG would have to be used one lethal one less because mixing both rounds in the same ammo chain is as stupid and dangerous as it gets.

  • Paul

    if they don’t have the power to cycle the action, why are they linked?

  • mosinman

    50cal..check… rubber spitzer bullets….check…… enough power to cycle the action…. check. = less leathal….. sounds legit….

  • jack

    Could it be used to control collateral damage? I would imagine a normal round would obliterate anything unarmored it hit initially and probably everything behind it as well.

  • Derrick

    This is a posting from the developers on a South african forum. Makes sense.

    The .50 BMG was made initially for fun ! Just to see if we could do it – and it works fine out to 150m. We place the belt of ammo out at shows to add interest. However, the joke was on us because a couple of S.E. Asia countries saw the ammo at the DSEI show in London, UK and wanted it ! They want it for use on patrol boats that interdict illegal immigrants; these immigrant boats are unarmed and tend to move at night. So the patrol boats load a belt with alternating .50 Blank and .50 rubber round and crank off a few – the illegal immigrant boat sees huge flashs and hears big bangs and then there are rounds splashing beside them and some are thumping into the hull. What are they to think ??? Apparently they heave to and the law takes its course. It is now against the law to just kill everybody – you may want to – but the consequences are enormous; even in S.Africa. Its great to talk tough, but death is so permanent, there needs to be a less lethal option. It is NOT always the best option but at least its there primarily for Law Enforcement folks.

  • I have been at their booth. The bullet is made out of SILICONE, not polymer.

    The .50-BMG is not used for on-person use, it is for maritime purposes (to draw attention from ships by Naval forces).

  • Evan

    Keep in mind they’re “Less lethal” not “non lethal,”

    In all seriousness the idea isn’t as bananas and i’m sure it’ll have some use.

  • Sam Suggs

    yeah getting around consevation regulation for not shooting rhinos and elephants is about all this is good for I use the term good loosely as those regulations are neccary for certain species if we want to keep hunting