Nonlethal Self-Defense

PepperBall-LifeLite pepper spray launcher system

PepperBall brings law-enforcement experience to RVers with its LifeLite launcher, designed to neutralize criminal aggression

Personal protection is a subject that is constantly debated among the RV community. The sheer nature of using lethal force to prevent or stop an attack by an unscrupulous person is controversial, and RVers must make critical decisions on whether to carry a weapon to protect themselves. Guns, of course, are at the forefront of this debate and are usually the weapon of choice. But, what if you are not comfortable with handling a gun? After all, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility that goes with gun ownership. Unless you are properly trained, using a gun can be dangerous, and in some cases lead to personal injury and issues with legality — possession and the use of lethal force, depending on the state.

Pepperball info graphicAn alternative, or even a supplement, to owning a gun is to use a pepper product to stop aggression that can lead to bodily injury or death. PepperBall, a company that supplies nonlethal weapons to law-enforcement agencies, markets a uniquely designed propellant device, the LifeLite launcher, that “shoots” pepper balls at assailants to stop aggression and defuse a bad situation immediately.

Packaged into a device that looks like a large flashlight, the LifeLite has built-in LED and laser beams that make hitting the target easy, even for those who are not experienced with the use of weapons. The launcher uses CO2 cartridges as a propellant and can be loaded with five pepper balls that explode on impact. When the red laser dot is on the subject, the pepper ball will hit the intended target as long as the person is within a range of 60 feet.

To put that distance into perspective, that’s about three car lengths, which means users need to be well versed when interpreting what constitutes a threat to one’s self, family and even friends. The performance of the LifeLite projectile far surpasses the capability of pepper spray or a taser, which have effective ranges of 12 and 15 feet, respectively, according to PepperBall.

Sequence of photos to show the loading of the pepperball launcher
A) The plunger is unscrewed and removed from the front of the launcher for loading the CO2 cartridge (B), which is not punctured until the first round is triggered. The cartridge is good for launching five pepper balls. C-D) Removing the rod in the rear of the launcher makes it possible to load five rounds. Photos by Bob Livingston

To test the accuracy of the LifeLite launcher, inert practice balls are pro­­-vided with the kit. We set up a target at a distance that would be easily recognized as “close enough” for an assailant to be a real threat, and test-fired the launcher. Accuracy was good, and getting ac­climated to the flashlight, laser and trigger took only a few minutes. While the launcher is on the heavy side, it’s ergonomic enough to be comfortable to handle by just about anyone.

The pepper is pharmaceutical grade (PAVA), and when it explodes, the powder immediately affects the nose, throat, chest and eyes. After impacting the target, the ball bursts, allowing the pepper powder to disperse into air, forming a 12-foot “cloud” around the attacker. While the laser is accurate, adrenaline can easily affect aiming accuracy, so as long as the ball bursts close to the assailant, the pepper cloud is designed to build an adequate defense zone. The debilitating effects last for 15 minutes, according to the company, which gives the user enough time to diffuse the situation or retreat. And the impact alone on one’s chest might be enough to encourage the assailant to retreat, since it is equivalent to the sting of a paintball.

Most people, and especially crooks, have good respect for a red laser dot. There’s a profound psychological effect one experiences when seeing a red dot on their chest, which could palliate the situation. Bad people will not want to stick around long enough to find out if the other end of the red dot is a gun, which in a crook’s world is likely the case.

As far as the effectiveness of pepper is concerned, we were not able to find a willing volunteer to test the product, for obvious reasons. The company has a strong track record, and I checked with a couple of law-enforcement officers who confirmed that pepper in the concentrations provided by the LifeLite will do the trick. Both officers were impressed with the design and feel of the device.

While it’s easy to build confidence in the capability of the launcher, firing the projectile inside the close confines of an RV might result in collateral irritation for the user. Since the pepper powder is said to produce the aforementioned 12-foot cloud, there is a good chance of getting a rebound effect from the pepper inside a trailer or fifth-wheel. For example, if the launcher is fired in a fifth-wheel from the bedroom into the hallway at an intruder who forced open the entry door, the pepper will likely also affect the residents. But that might be a small price to pay for preventing a serious crime.

Loading the launcher is a pretty simple process. The CO2 cartridge loads from the front through a screw-down plunger. The end of the cartridge is not punctured until the trigger is pushed for the first time, and after that it will propel the other four pepper balls. Five balls, stored in the sleeve used for transporting, are loaded through the end of the handle. The live “rounds” are red, and the practice (inert) balls are purple. One CR123 battery powers the flashlight and laser sight only. Depending on flashlight time, the battery should last for a while, but a rechargeable version is available for $24.95.

A couple of accessories that we found useful were the mounting bracket ($19.99) for storing the launcher in a logical, easy-to-grab location on the wall inside an RV, and the holster ($29.99) that has a clever design for hanging on a belt. It’s on the larger side, but the holster comes in handy while on walks. Refill kits, including five inert and five live balls, and two CO2 cartridges sell for $19.95. Practice balls are available in packages of 20, but live rounds are not sold independent of the refill kit.

PepperBall’s LifeLite launcher provides good peace of mind when it comes to self-defense, but it’s prudent to check with local and state laws as to possession and firing legality.
Obviously, it’s best never to be in a situation where a weapon is needed for self-defense, but reality suggests that it’s better to be prepared.


bob-livingston-headshotAn RV/MH Hall of Fame inductee and publisher emeritus of Trailer Life and MotorHomeBob Livingston has written countless RV technical and lifestyle articles and books, and created and appeared on the weekly television show RVtoday. A lifelong RV enthusiast, Bob now travels and lives full time with his wife, Lynne, in their fifth-wheel trailer. He continues to be a regular contributor to Trailer Life.


 

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