While bean bag rounds sound like something that goes hand-in-hand with a kid’s toy, they’re far from friendly.
There’s a lot of debate on the Internet about whether bean bags for home defense is a good idea, and we’re here to set the record straight.
What Are Bean Bag Rounds?
A typical bean bag round is a fabric pillow filled with #9 lead shot, weighing about 1.4 oz, and is usually fired from a tactical 12-gauge shotgun. Usually, bean bag rounds have a range of 70 ft but are really only accurate at about 20 ft.
Bean bag rounds are not as popular as many other anti-personnel weaponry, such as tear gas, pepper spray, mace, or rubber bullets.
This is because while bean bag rounds are considered to be non-lethal, they can cause serious harm. The round doesn’t penetrate, but it will provide a very forceful impact to oncoming assailants, meant to immobilize them. Bean bag rounds can still cause long-term damage and, in some cases, death.
In some ways, bean bag rounds are more violent than lethal weapons, and here’s why:
The force of a bean bag round to the chest can break the ribs and the ribs can potentially puncture the heart. When fired at the head, bean bag rounds can break the skull, neck, nose, or rupture eyeballs.
Shots to the stomach can cause internal bleeding or disrupt breathing and heartbeat, making them potentially lethal despite not having any puncturing power.
There are numerous reports of civilians suffering long-term trauma from bean bag rounds. During a protest in 2020, Austin police offers fired bean bag rounds at civilians. One of the rounds hit a 20-year-old in the yead, fracturing his skull and causing a brain trauma and a seizure. Other instances have left victims blind, disabled, and psychologically scarred.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Bean Bag Rounds for Home Defense
Can civilians use bean bag rounds?
Technically, yes, civilians can use bean bag rounds. Though, you might have a hard time finding them for sale. Not to mention civilians don’t have the proper training to use bean bag rounds.
Some people use bean bag rounds if they want a non-lethal home defense weapon, or if they’re not super enthused about using other firearms. However, there are plenty of reasons why bean bag rounds shouldn’t be used for home defense.
Legal Issues with Bean Bag Rounds
It’s midnight, you’re about to lay down to sleep when you hear a window breaking downstairs. Your first thought is of your toddler in the next room over, and how they need to be protected at all costs.
You grab your shotgun, load a bean bag round, and head downstairs. You find a burglar searching through your entertainment center and you level your weapon, telling them to stop. They turn on you, knife in hand. You fire a bean bag round directly at their stomach from ten feet, and it crumples them to the ground.
Now, you might think you’ve successfully thwarted a home invasion, but the drama isn’t over there.
The burglar eventually sues you for physical harm and you lose the lawsuit, having to pay thousands in medical bills for his injuries.
Legally, bean bag rounds are a big no-no for home defense.
In most states, the statutes that outline self-defense call for lethal force if your life or your family’s wellbeing is in jeopardy. In the above example, you would have gotten off better had you used a handgun to shoot the burglar, because that’s lethal force, and you were completely within your rights.
However, using a bean bag round indicates to the judge that you, in fact, did not believe you were in imminent danger and only had intent to wound. This means that your “self-defense” is no longer self-defense, it’s assault.
This isn’t true in all states, but possession of bean bag rounds and a modified tactical shotgun to fire them indicates to the judge that you had premeditated intent to harm. Not only does this add another layer to the complexity of your “self-defense” case, it also can set you up for a couple of different charges, none of which are good.
Alternatives to Bean Bag Rounds
If you’re worried about home defense, there are plenty of options that are far better than bean bag rounds.
For example, non-lethal protection that’s better than bean bag rounds include:
- Pepper spray (oil-based is best, between 5% – 10% o.c.)
- Stun gun rings and handheld devices
But, if you’re not sure if non-lethal defense is enough to protect yourself or your family, you have some other options.
Knives, handguns, shotguns, and small legal hand weapons are all considered to be deadly weapons and can save your life in a home invasion scenario.
When we say small legal weapons, we obviously mean small knives or other weapons that aren’t illegal to possess or use. Brass knuckles, for example, can be a deadly weapon but are illegal in almost every state. Before purchasing any kind of weapon, make sure you check your state’s regulations on blade length, spring-assisted knives, and permitted weapons.
It’s also worth noting that the legal standing of deadly weapons and deadly force is a bit confusing.
For example, a knife is a deadly weapon. If your life is in danger, and you stab someone without killing them, the law sees it as an attempt to kill, even if you didn’t. That’s the nature of a deadly weapon.
On the flip side, if you have a handgun and fire a warning shot, you just gave up any plea of self-defense. The warning shot indicates, much like the bean bag rounds, that you’re not in immediate danger, therefore the use of deadly force or a deadly weapon isn’t merited.
Forget the Bean Bag Rounds
At the end of the day, bean bag rounds are more trouble than they’re worth. While they might come with a good (well, good is relative) intent of preserving life, they aren’t seen that way in the eyes of the law.
Using bean bag rounds in a scenario that might have merited deadly force is a vast misjudgment and will put you in a sticky legal situation down the line.
Even police departments are considering abolishing bean bag rounds because the long-term trauma associated with them isn’t worth it.
If you’re worried about home defense, stick to mace or tasers, or deadly weapons if you have to.