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This bullet-dampening device makes police guns less lethal, could save lives

In science fiction, heroes often have the ability to set their guns to stun. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in real life, but there’s at least one company in the world looking to change that.

San Diego-based outfit Alternative Ballistics has developed an innovative new firearm attachment that could give officers the ability to dampen their bullets and make them less lethal, potentially preventing unnecessary deaths during the apprehension of suspects.

The device, dubbed The Alternative, is a small plastic clip that can quickly be attached to the business end of an officer’s handgun. When the officer fires a bullet, it buries itself inside a metal ball, which detaches from the clip and is propelled forward at about one fifth of the bullet’s original velocity. Due to the secondary projectile’s larger surface area and lower speed, it can deliver a blow to a person without penetrating their body.

But that’s not to say it doesn’t cause any damage. Speaking to CNN, Alternative Ballistics CEO Christian Ellis stressed that getting hit with The Alternative isn’t exactly a walk in the park. “It’s gonna feel like you had a professional baseball player hit you in the chest with a hammer,” he explained, “so it is going to hurt.” The thinking is that this should be enough to suppress a dangerous person, without putting holes in them.

If this non-lethal projectile isn’t enough to stop an assailant, however, the Alternative is designed to immediately give officers the ability to fire regular bullets again. Each clip is single-use and will completely detach from an officer’s firearm after the first shot.

The technology has intrigued dozens of police departments across the nation. One of the first places its been deployed is Ferguson, Missouri, where a police officer shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last August.

It’s definitely not without its fair share of flaws — Can an officer break this out in time? Is there room for yet another item to hang from an officer’s belt?— but at first glance, The Alternative seems like it could definitely be a useful tool for reducing unnecessary shootings.