A new "less-than-lethal" weapon, already in use in Europe, is starting to gain traction with Texas law enforcement agencies.
The JPX Cobra 450 shoots a stream of pepper agent at 405 mph. It is touted as being more accurate and more reliable than the typical pepper spray officers use now.
"This thing has been tested at 30 mph crosswinds. I think it is a real breakthrough in law enforcement," said Ron Teeters, president of TEAM Products.
Teeters' company is the exclusive distributor of the Cobra 450 to law enforcement agencies in the United States. He is based in Huntsville, Texas, and said sales have been brisk since the recent release of the pepper gun.
Teeters believes the JPX Cobra 450 can also be more effective than Taser guns in some situations.
"If they knock out the prongs, Taser doesn't do you much good. That won't happen here," Teeter's said.
The Walker County Sheriff's Department, Trinity County Sheriff's Department, Houston County Sheriff's Department, Bowie County Adult Probation and Madisonville Police Departments have purchased two or more Cobra 450s, Teeters said.
"You want to use something that is safe not only for you but the suspect. This is another tool we can use for that," Walker County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Sullivan said.
The Cobra model for law enforcement agencies includes a laser sight and is effective up to about 23 feet away from the intended target. The officer is supposed to aim the weapon at the target's face. The result is a red stream of liquid that seconds after making contact produces a severe burning sensation. The idea is to temporarily incapacitate a suspect long enough to cuff him and put him in a patrol car.
The pepper agent from JPX Cobra 450 is twice as powerful as typical "OC" (Pepper) Spray, Teeters said. The effects wear off in 30 to 45 minutes.
The weapon is also available to the general public, although the consumer version lacks a laser-sight and is slightly less powerful.
Both the consumer and law enforcement grade versions cost $200 to 300 for the time being. Refill cartridges range from $33 to $43.