The FN 303 is a semi-automatic less-lethal launcher developed by FN Herstal.
The launcher was created in 2003, and is based on a project by the Monterey Bay Corporation known as the XM303, based on technology used in paintball markers.
The 303 uses compressed air to fire its projectiles, with the air stored in a refillable tank off to the side of the weapon. The weapon is designed to inflict blunt trauma on a person to incapacitate them without causing critical injuries. It has a Picatinny rail and iron sights, and can also be mounted as an underbarrel weapon.
The FN 303's projectiles are fin-stabilized 17.03mm projectiles, designed to break up on impact to reduce the risk of penetrating injuries. There are 5 variants of the bullet, each with a different color or filling:
- White - Impact round with a non-toxic glycol base, used when the impact sting is the preferred deterrent.
- Yellow - Permanent paint round, has a latex-based paint to mark targets for later inspection.
- Pink - Washable paint round, has a water-soluble paint for short term marking of targets.
- Orange - Oleoresin capsicum irritant round, filled with pepper spray rated at 5 million Scoville heat units mixed with a glycol base.
- No filling - Training round.
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While advertised as less-lethal, the FN 303 has managed to critically injure or even kill people on some occasions, with the most controversial being the death of Victoria Snelgrove, a 22-year old Bostonian journalist from Emerson College, where a round from an FN 303 fired by a Boston Police officer struck her in the eye and caused her to bleed out before help arrived on October 21st, 2004; she died about 12 hours after the impact, where an autopsy revealed that the pellet opened a three-quarter inch hole behind her eye, broke into nine pieces, damaging the right side of her brain in the process. Due to this, the Boston Police destroyed their remaining FN 303s, stating they were more powerful and lethal than they had expected. Another incident happened in Luxembourg on May 21st, 2009, where an FN 303 round struck a cameraman, breaking his finger. A similar incident happened on December 6th, 2013 during Finnish Independence Day riots, where an anarchist was struck and injured in the eye by an FN 303 round.