The history of pellet guns

Last Updated 21 September 2018, 11:46 IST

Pellet guns are also called as 12 bore pump action gun or PAG

In the 1970s, pellet guns were used for the first time in Northern Ireland

It led to a substantial number of severe facial injuries

Between 1987 and 1993, Israel Defence Forces fired rubber and plastic bullets to deal with Palestinian protests


Paramilitary forces first used pellet guns during mob demonstrations in 2010 in Kashmir

It resulted in the death of 120 people

Once again used in Kashmir in 2016 to tackle the crowd

Pump action guns have also been modified. Two attachments, muzzle deflectors and muzzle
adaptors are now being fitted with the PAG.

Deflectors divert the lead balls towards lower body parts whereas Adaptors are used for firing PAVA shells from this gun

Properties of pellet guns

The ‘non-lethal’ guns are shotguns of 12-gauge pump action, which are primarily used in hunting with a wide range of pellet sizes and numbers

The smaller the size of the pellet, the larger the number of pellets in one cartridge

Comes in 2 sizes: No-1 cartridge has a fewer number of bigger size pellets while a No-12 cartridge has a larger number of smaller size pellets

Guns are manufactured at Rifle Factory Ishapore (W Bengal) and ammunition in Kadki (Maharashtra); Ishapore started producing pellet guns in 2012

In Kashmir, mostly cartridges No-6 (300 pellets of 2.79 mm each) and No-9 (600 pellets of 2.30 mm each) were used

For both these very small size pellets, what matters is the distance from which the pellet guns are fired.

Usually, they have a range of around 45 metres and hence stipulated to be shot only from a distance beyond 50 m

If used at closer ranges, the pellets do not have enough time to disperse and travel in a compact group, moving at very high velocities, making them extremely harmful, almost behaving like handgun bullets, enough to penetrate deep and cause severe damage to bone and tissue

Apart from keeping a firing distance of more than 50 m, instructions for using the pellet guns in crowd control only under dire circumstances include aiming for the lower body parts, thus causing minimum injury

These conditions have been outlined in the United Nations’ “Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials” and India’s own laws on crowd control

But reports have repeatedly shown that these conditions are often impossible to follow given the stressful situations under which crowds have to be managed

The wayward behaviour of pellets combined with improper aim and range of use is responsible for severe injuries and death from these non-lethal weapons.

Clinical studies on survivors and victims of pellet gun injuries in Kashmir show that only one-third of the injury sites were the lower limbs, the remaining affected other parts of the body with more than one-fourth hitting the head region

Nearly 1.3 million pellets were used by the paramilitary forces in just a month in Kashmir

Ishapore has now developed a reflector; with this, instead of spreading in different directions, all pellets are diverted to hit one target

(Source: Indian Journal of Medical Ethics; Lancet; Parliament questions)

(Published 04 August 2018, 18:55 IST)

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