Light-Based Weapons
Part 1: Science fiction? Nope. You can buy a light-based weapon today.
The concept of using light as a weapon sounds like science fiction. From the phasers of "Star Trek" to the light sabers of "Star Wars", people have dreamed of magical weapons that would stop an enemy without touching them. click for large image
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Laser Dazzlers
• Part 2: High-power Flashlights
• Part 3: Blinding Techniques
• Part 4: Impact Techniques

Even in this new millennium, it's doubtful that a light saber will become the weapon of choice for martial artists. However, even today there are light-based alternatives to physical force.

Laser Weapons

One device, the Laser Dissuader, is manufactured by military contractor Science & Engineering Associates (SEA). Little known outside defense circles, this laser-based device projects high intensity light radiation in a coherent beam--basically, a really, really high intensity flashlight. SEA declined to be interviewed for this article, citing a reassessment of their marketing plans for the device.

A similar device, the Laser Dazzler, is in use by SWAT teams in the Los Angeles area. Inventor Jay Kehoe, a sniper for a Conneticut-based agency, sought a use-of-force alternative to shooting suspects. About the size of a large D-cell flashlight, the Laser Dazzler is an easily-portable means to temporarily blind suspects.

"Our goal was to produce a hand-held green laser to deliver a limited amount of force at distance, without causing any injury," Kehoe said. "The idea started after I encountered operational roadblocks on actual situations."

Safety Issues

Testing at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (USAFRL) showed that the levels of laser radiation emitted by the Laser Dazzler were below the threshold of permanent eye damage. However, given the United States' acceptance of the Blinding Laser Protocol of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, a section of international law that restricts blinding weapons, the Dazzler and similar devices may not be legally viable.

Lt. Kehoe addressed the safety issue, stating, "the Laser Dazzler is eye safe at the aperture by ANSI standards. That is, the operator could turn it on him/herself and end up with nothing more than a headache." Kehoe notes, "the power level is well below the ANSI standard--and the standard is 10 times below the level where the slightest amount of damage occurs."

Light-based weapons aren't limited to shadowy government operatives, though. Ordinary folks can pick up high-intensity flashlights that can be used for self-defense.

Next page > High-power Flashlights > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

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