Slower than a speeding bullet

It may sound like science fiction - a rifle that can be adjusted so it fires bullets at varying speeds, such as "stun," "disable," or "destroy."

Now researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory here say they have made the first step toward building such a weapon.

"The weapons would be mainly used for peacekeeping and humanitarian-type missions where you are under restricted rules of engagement but you need to defend yourself," says John Busic with the Defense Department's Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate.

Rubber bullets are now used for such purposes, but they can still kill when used too closely. An aluminum-based gunpowder replacement will solve this by controlling how much of the propellant fires at a time; thus, using "safer," variable-bullet speeds.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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