The FN 303 Less-Lethal Launcher

    When nauseating substances hit the fan, as it most often happens in civil riots and similar manifestations, LE forces have to count on whatever equipment items that may help them to deal with the very complicated process of applying progressive use of force, or the so-called proportional response. The use of lethal force, of course, is the last desirable resort, and something must be available to fill the gap between a conventional police baton and a firearm. Enter the less-lethal systems.

    The compressed-air powered FN 303 is in wide use worldwide by police and military forces. It fires as quickly as one can actuate the trigger, enhancing the system’s effectiveness.

    For a decade or so, law enforcement units, special units, and military forces in five continents have been using the FN 303 Less-Lethal Launcher from FN Herstal, Belgium. It’s a pretty interesting system designed around an 18mm caliber impact projectile combined with a dedicated shoulder-fired or compact (add-on) launcher that uses a compressed-air cylinder as a power source for its semi-automatic operation. The dedicated ammo is stored in a 15-round drum magazine, available projectiles being of five types: impact glycol or inert powder (delivers a sufficiently dissuasive level of pain to temporarily disable targets), impact + washable marking paint, impact + indelible paint, impact + irritating effect  (OC – oleoresin capsicum type). Whatever projectile is chosen, the flight trajectory is very constant and allows good precision at ranges up to 50 meters, approximately. Muzzle velocity is given as about 90 m/s. The launcher looks like a small carbine, being 750mm long (250mm barrel) and weighs 2.9kg with a loaded magazine.

    A compact version is also available for under barrel use, but the standard, carbine-like model is more common.

    The FN Herstal less-lethal launcher is seen here in use by Rio de Janeiro Military Polices’ BPChq – Batalhão de Choque (Shock Battalion), the specialized riot-control unit. Employment includes rioters contention, dispersion and paint marking for eventual following and subsequent arrests. Blunt trauma is, sure, its most effective attribute.

    The FN 303 is seen here with its drum magazines and color-coded projectiles displayed alongside a Condor TA-26 Taser gun, a 12-ga CBC Tactical shotgun, and a 37/38mm Condor AM 640 launcher, all Brazilian-made as well as the non-lethal rounds shown.

    Ronaldo Olive

    Ronaldo is a long-time (starting in the 1960s) Brazilian writer on aviation, military, LE, and gun subjects, with articles published in local and international (UK, Switzerland, and U.S.) periodicals. His vast experience has made him a frequent guest lecturer and instructor in Brazil’s armed and police forces.