What Is A Bean Bag Round?

Bean bag rounds have been around since the 1970s. They even sound quite benign. On the news, you may have heard the term when armed confrontations are involved.

They’re not common so a lot of people only hear the term occasionally. So, what is a bean bag round?

A bean bag round is a 12 Gauge shotgun less-lethal round. They are like clay shooting cartridges with birdshot, but the shot pellets are encased in a cloth. They look like regular shells but the effect is to fire a non-penetrative round at an assailant.

They are most often used by police forces wishing to have a non lethal option to end a standoff.

What Exactly Is A Bean Bag Round?

A bean bag round, also known as a flexible baton round, is one of the most popular baton rounds introduced in the 1970s. Baton rounds are less-lethal rounds that are often used in riots or in situations where law enforcers want to incapacitate the assailants without killing them.

A bean bag round comprises of #9 (number 9) shots in a small fiber cloth. On the outside, they are similar to regular shotgun shells. 

You can fire other shotgun shells from the bean bag round shotgun. The only difference is that, the shots in other shells are not in a small fiber cloth. The fiber cloth doesn’t “open up” like the crimps in shotgun shells. 

As a result, it limits the shot’s spread to 1 sq. inch on the target.

Weighing at around 40 grams, these rounds travel at 230 to 300 fps. They also have a maximum range of 18 to 20 meters (70ft). 

These rounds don’t penetrate. 

They will cause a muscle spasm, which will stop the assailant without causing severe tissue damage. The piece of the cloth that is left hanging helps stabilize the round and maintain accuracy.

Most of the shots are round-shaped, but the original ones were square-shaped. Their velocities have also been reduced from 400 fps to 300fps over the years.

Most law enforcement agencies mark their bean bag designated rifles with green or orange markings. These markings indicate that that firearm shouldn’t have live ammunition in it. 

But these rounds can be fired from all shotguns.

Bean bag rounds aren’t that accurate, though, especially for long-range shots. That’s why they may still hit vital organs even when the user aims at the legs and torso.

What Are Bean Bag Rounds Used For?

Bean bag rounds can be used to disarm people who are a danger to others and themselves. 

For instance, when someone attempts to commit suicide and they’re holding a bladed weapon, shooting them with a bean bag round is better than fist fighting with them for the weapon. 

These rounds are also used to de-escalate riots.

Some even have a green shade. When the rioters get hit and are immobile, the shade scatters on their clothes. The officers can now easily find them and arrest them.

Bean bag rounds are capable of causing severe damage if misused. That’s why police officers are advised to aim at the assailant’s torso. Shots at the head, neck, and spine areas have caused death on some occasions.

The shooting in Austin is one of the most recent cases where a bean bag round has severely injured civilians. 

In this case, the police officers allegedly aimed at the victim’s head.

Can Civilians Use Bean Bag Rounds?

Civilians can use bean bag rounds. 

Semiautomatic and auto shotguns don’t always fare well with bean bag rounds. This is because they have less gunpowder than other shotgun shells. 

What you should be worried about is the consequences of using this round.

In cases where lethal force isn’t necessary, firing at someone with a bean bag round can be treated as equal to firing at them with regular shotgun shells – especially if you severely hurt or kill the victim.

If you need to use deadly force, then you’ll be at a disadvantage if you use a bean bag round. It would be best if you used the regular shots and slugs for home defense.

Final Thoughts

Bean bag rounds are a good option for police officers to de-escalate hostile situations without using lethal force. 

The idea is to have a non-penetrating round cause a blow to a target with limited risk in causing permanent injury.

It’s not a guarantee, as some incidents have shown us, but the idea is to cause someone to stop what they are doing while they deal with the effect of being ‘punched’ by a round, rather than dealing with a serious injury.

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