China has developed CS/LW21, the first hand-held electromagnetic rail gun. This weapon is silent, smokeless, battery powered and can hold several hundred coin shaped projectiles that can break glass bottles or penetrate thin (3 mm) wood panels. The CS/LW21 is about 500 mm long and weighs less than three kg (6.6 pounds). Normally several hundred coin shaped projectiles are carried in the weapon and fired individually or continuously. The coin projectiles are effective out to about fifty meters. They hurt when they hit people and can put an eye out. The coin projectiles can be replaced with a smaller number of bullet shaped projectiles that cause more serious injuries at longer ranges.
CS/LW21 is considered a non-lethal riot control device and like all non-lethal weapons, is but one of many tools used for riot control. Another problem is that determined rioters are often willing to sustain a lot of pain and injury while still advancing. Existing non-lethal projectiles travel at over 60 meters a second. A lethal rifle bullet is ten times faster but a non-lethal shotgun projectile will hurt without causing a penetrating wound. Same situation with non-metallic, low velocity pistol and rifle bullets. Firearms make more noise and create gunpowder fumes that linger. CS/LW21 is silent, smokeless and easy to use in confined as well as wide open spaces. Developed, manufactured and sold by China NORINCO (the largest small arms maker in China), CS/LW21 will be seen at trade shows featuring riot control equipment. There will be some buyers and within a year we’ll know how successful, or not, the new device is.