Volume 20, Issue 2 (April 1975)
Ballistic Studies and Lethal Potential of Tear Gas Pen Guns Firing Fixed Metallic Ammunition
Contemporary conventional tear gas pen guns that expel a mist or vapor of chloroacetophenone (CN) or orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS) are simple, inexpensive devices designed for noninjurious self-protection. These pen guns are not presently classified as firearms by Federal statutes if they have not been modified to accommodate fixed metallic cartridges or shotgun shells . Victims as well as persons firing pen guns, however, have sustained serious injuries, including permanent blindness, from the intentional or accidental discharge of these devices at close range [2–5]. Injurious components include the wadding and, especially, the incompletely vaporized powder of the chemical agent. Nonlethal and lethal wounds caused by firing conventional threaded tear gas cartridges reloaded to simulate miniature shotgun shells have been described . Suicide, homicide, and nonlethal accidental injury caused by illegal older model and foreign-made pen guns firing fixed metallic ammunition have also been reported . Recently a law enforcement officer wounded another officer by accidentally discharging a caliber .38 bullet from a pen gun seized during a routine stop and search. Even more recently a bizarre fatal injury occurred while a man was test-firing a caliber .45 cartridge from a tear gas pen gun. Recoil from the discharge propelled the pen gun backward, out of the operator's hand, through his eye, and into the center of his brain.