Wrap Technologies of Las Vegas, Nevada recently introduced the BolaWrap 100 less lethal device for law enforcement.
The BolaWrap is a hand-held device appearing to be a cross between a large remote control and a flat electric razor, and has earned a nickname of the “Lasso Gun.” Using an easy bush-button trigger, the BolaWrap is designed to propel a Kevlar tether at about 380 feet-per-second (fps) towards the intended target.
As the Kevlar tether leaves the BolaWrap cartridge it expands out in a horizontal line. Upon impact with a target the tether wraps around legs, body or arms of the target with enough energy to wrap the target several times, leaving no unused portion of the tether dangling free.
But, does it work? If so, when would it be appropriate for law enforcement use?
Use of Force
Police use of force is one of the hottest debates in America today, so law enforcement leaders and officers must take note and continue to examine, review, and even modify training and procedures.
Along with those reviews, keeping abreast of new technology, techniques, and opportunities to de-escalate dangerous confrontations should be paramount. There are plenty of gimmicks on the market to avoid, so wise police administrators should be cautious when evaluating the newest device or technique.
Occasionally, a new idea makes a lot of sense. Does the BolaWrap make sense for your agency? It has some pros and cons, so it is not a clear-cut answer.
We’ll dive into the benefits and limitations of the BolaWrap and let you decide.
Wrap Technologies BolaWrap 100
The BolaWrap 100 is a less lethal device designed to restrain potentially violent or actively violent people.
As previously mentioned, the BolaWrap 100 can be held in one hand, and is about the size of a large remote control or flat razor. A push-button trigger is used to discharge an 8-foot Kevlar tether towards the intended target, and there is a safety lever behind the trigger to prevent accidental discharges.
Wrap Technologies uses a half-charged 9mm casing as the propelling force to launch the tether. The 9mm casing blank does not have a bullet inserted, and uses only half the normal powder charge to achieve proper discharge.
As the BolaWrap is discharged the Kevlar tether begins to expand outward into a horizontal line. Similar to ancient hunting bolas, upon impact with the intended target the Kevlar tether wraps itself around the target several times until completing the wrap. Each end of the BolaWrap 100 has a small treble fishing hook attached to ensure the tether stays in place once the wrap is complete.
- Relatively small and easy to use device
- Laser aiming device for better accuracy
- 8-foot Kevlar tether extends to wrap target extremities
- Kevlar tethers come in separate click-in cartridge for easy and fast reloads
- Propelled using a half-charged 9mm casing (blank)
- Tether leaves device at 380 feet per second (fps)
- (2) treble fish hooks at the end of the tether secure the tether once wrapped
- Effective range – 10 to 25 feet
- Less intrusive means of less-lethal force than some other options
- Training requirements are minimal
- MSRP: $800.00, Replacement cartridges $30.00.
According to Wrap Technologies, the BolaWrap 100 has an effective range of 10-25 feet. The lower end of the effective range is due to the time and distance the Kevlar tether needs to expand properly for wrapping.
Targets within the 10-foot minimum range are less likely to be properly wrapped up by the tether, or to have the tether properly secured with the treble hooks, so the efficacy of using the BolaWrap 100 within 10-feet of the target is significantly reduced.
At the 25-foot distance the tether is now fighting against gravity, wind resistance, and lost energy from discharge. Targets a few feet beyond 25-feet are less likely to receive proper wrapping due to these factors.
With an effective range of 10-25 feet the BolaWrap 100 is solidly in the intermediate ranges of police use of less lethal force. This places the BolaWrap 100 as an alternative to the widely used Taser electronic control device (ECD), that is used in many police departments across America.
In fact, Wrap Technologies is advertising its BolaWrap 100 as a tool to be used just above Verbal Commands on a Use-of-Force Continuum. This would place it below even Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray, and obviously below a Taser as well.
Though I appreciate the Wrap Technologies sales pitch placing the BolaWrap 100 so low on a force continuum, the one they use is not accurate for many police agencies.
For example, in the midwest where I work the Taser (BolaWrap 100’s primary competition) is not just below lethal force, but is actually in the middle of the use of force continuum.
The Taser is often below intermediate striking weapons like batons, and in the middle of the continuum at the same level as soft, empty hand techniques (control maneuvers with joints) or hard, empty hand techniques (strikes with hands and feet). Placement often depends on the agency’s administration view on the pain level delivered by a Taser.
This is not to say some areas of the country, do not place the Taser much higher on the Use of Force Continuum. Indeed, despite the highly successful use of the Taser in many violent encounters, there has also been a high level of public scrutiny and even controversy with the use of the Taser. Despite this, the Taser has been highly effective in preventing violent suspects from assaulting officers and reducing injuries to suspects.
Despite some of the obvious appeal of the BolaWrap 100, I can already see several flaws in the advertised success of a less intrusive use of force.
For instance, the BolaWrap 100 does not extend the range of contact between officers and suspects. If an officer attempts to use the BolaWrap 100, a suspect may still be able to assault the officer with a firearm, knife, or by other means.
The discharge of a half-charged 9mm casing is still very loud, and could result in “contagious fire” by other officers believing lethal force is justified, mistaken belief by onlookers the officers actually shot the suspect (worse when dealing with a mentally ill subject) leading to uninformed videos or on-site protest of police, and potential hearing damage to the officers nearby.
Wrap Technologies advertises the BolaWrap 100 as being “painless” and causing no injuries, but even the videos show the treble hooks used to secure the Kevlar tether can insert into the suspect’s body and tear skin. These injuries can be exacerbated by an extremely committed violent suspect intent to fight or flee, under the influence of mind-altering drugs, or suffering from the highly problematic excited delirium.
Finally, all of the tests of the BolaWrap 100 that I can find in available videos, show its use on non-moving or slow-moving subjects or mannequins. These displays make the deployment appear wonderful and successful each time, but are far from the realities of dynamic movement during actual field encounters.
To be fully informed and prepared for any decision to purchase and use the BolaWrap 100 agencies and officers must consider and weigh the pros and cons of such a device. The next sections will cover the benefits of what the BolaWrap 100 offers, but also some critical limitations of using the BolaWrap 100 as well.
BolaWrap 100 Benefits and Advantages
- Easy to train officers on use
- Simple method of deployment in the field
- Relatively easy for officers to carry on duty (if carry pouches/holsters are developed)
- Simple method to replace tether cartridges
- Potential to restrain dangerous or resistive suspects or mentally ill subjects
- Less intrusive use of force than some other methods or devices
- Potential for greater acceptance among the public and media
- Could provide an excellent option for armed but stationary mentally ill subjects
- Potentially a very solid option for use on elderly or juveniles requiring restraint
- Possible use in Correctional facilities
- Relatively affordable for most police agencies.
BolaWrap 100 Limitations and Concerns
- Effective range keeps officers in close proximity to potentially dangerous suspects
- Use of treble hooks to secure the tether will cause puncture and/or tear injuries to skin
- Tethering the suspect/subject’s legs still allows them to use hands for weapons
- Improper deployment could cause more serious injuries
- choking (if tether hits high around neck)
- eye injuries (if tether or treble hooks strike the suspect’s eyes)
- facial injuries from wrapping or treble hook punctures
- tripping into hard objects causing blunt force trauma
- tripping causing a fall from an elevated surface causing serious injury or death
- Potential puncture/tearing injuries to sensitive areas (genitals, female breasts, etc.)
- Failure to properly wrap on fast-moving suspects/subjects
- Suspect/subject removing tether by simply moving their arms/legs closer together for space to slide off
- Concern of “contagious fire” at the discharge of a half-charged 9mm casing
- Hearing damage to nearby officers from discharge (videos shows eye and ear protection used)
The BolaWrap 100 from Wrap Technologies is an interesting and unique approach to apprehending dangerous or violent suspects, mentally ill subjects, or other resistive subjects requiring restraint. There are definitely some benefits to the concept of wrapping a suspect in a tether to obtain compliance or the inability to continue resisting arrest or fleeing. Using the BolaWrap 100 may also be more palatable to the general public or media than other currently used less lethal devices, particularly for situations involving the mentally ill, elderly subjects, or juveniles.
However, there are still several valid and serious concerns with the application of the BolaWrap 100. To advertise there is no pain in using the BolaWrap 100 is more than misleading, it is simply not true. One of the demonstrations on a reporter clearly showed the puncture wounds to his leg from the treble hooks.
This does not even consider the potential for serious injuries or death once a target is wrapped up. The SWAT example was as close to an example of a “running” subject deployment, and when the subject’s legs were wrapped he fell face first to the ground. The demonstrations provided are often very sterile, and fail to provide accurate feedback on real-life examples of deployment on highly mobile, agitated, and determined adversaries.
Despite the lack of reality in the demonstrations, there does appear to be room for the BolaWrap 100 in the overall police use of force approach. There are benefits in overall appearance, and if the deployment ends up with a successful wrap and control of the suspect that is obviously a victory. However, any agency or officer desiring to deploy with the BolaWrap 100 must seriously consider the negative aspects and limitations of the device, and always be ready to switch tools or even escalate the use of force should the offender present a higher level of threat.
In the end, the BolaWrap 100 appears to be another use-of-force option, but by no means a “be-all, fix-all” solution. This means there are viable situations to use the BolaWrap 100, but also legitimate concerns of the efficacy of its success in many dynamic, real-life situations. As with nearly every less lethal technique or device, there will need to be clearly articulated training, deployment procedures, and verbal announcements when using the BolaWrap 100. Similar to the “Clear” or “Taser, Taser, Taser” announcement for Taser deployment, of the “Impact” announcement prior to shotgun launched bean bag rounds, clear and articulate verbal announcements for deploying the BolaWrap 100 will be required as well to avoid any confusion on what use of force is being used.