New weapons tech makes bullets less deadly

The police department in Ferguson, Missouri, is among many experimenting with the Alternative, a new technology that its creators say makes bullets less deadly. Designed to save lives on both sides of the gun, it's become more relevant in the wake of high-profile police shooting cases, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

The goal whenever cops draw their guns is not only to stop a deadly threat, but also to save as many lives as possible.

Alternative Ballistics CEO Christian Ellis thinks his company has a solution.

"If the officers' life or an innocent bystander's life is in immediate danger, they need to react with their weapon. That is their first lethal force option. We just want to provide them a second one," Ellis said.

The Alternative is an orange plastic bracket that snaps onto the barrel of the gun. When a bullet is fired, it embeds in the round metal chamber at the end of the bracket and propels it toward the target at about one-fifth the speed.

"We slow the velocity down and we make the projectile larger, which means the likelihood of penetration and death is reduced greatly," Ellis said. "It's going to be like a major league baseball player hitting you in the chest with a hammer."

The technology has intrigued dozens of police departments across the nation.

One of them is in Ferguson, Missouri, where a police officer shot and killed 18 year-old Michael Brown last August. Ellis said he trained five Ferguson officers how to use the Alternative last week. The department did not respond to a request for comment, but Ellis hopes Ferguson will soon introduce the $45 device to its entire force.

But not everyone is convinced.

"There's only one shot. If you miss the shot, and the police in many places miss 80 percent of their shots, then you have to go lethal," former police officer Eugene O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell said he hasn't used the Alternative, but worries about those crucial split-second decisions in deadly-force situations.

"There might be a crucial window of time that would be lost," O'Donnell said. "You might forfeit valuable time in trying to adapt your mindset to using this weapon."

Ellis said it takes about three seconds to snap the Alternative on a weapon.

"If the officer cannot safely do it in three seconds, we tell them to not think of our device," he said.

The Alternative's impact has never been tested on a person, but criticism of police shootings has many agencies wondering if it's time to give it a shot.