Chicago-based startup Salt has launched a crowdfunding campaign for a less-than-lethal weapon designed as an alternative to firearms for home and personal protection. The pneumatic pistol is designed to stop intruders using an incapacitating powder that temporarily blinds them while drastically lessening the possibility of family members being killed in an accident.

The founders of the company were inspired by a 2014 shooting near their homes in Chicago. Concerned about the large number of accidental deaths and suicides caused by handguns purchased for home defense, they came up with a less lethal alternative.

The Salt is a CO₂-powered air-gun that fires hollow plastic spheres similar to paintballs, except that instead of paint, they are filled with a proprietary powder made of oleoresin capsicum and other ingredients. On impact, the spheres burst and a fine spray of the powder spreads around the target. This powder is extremely irritating – causing an intense burning sensations that temporarily blinds anyone who encounters it while making it difficult to breathe.

The makers say that the powder is stronger in many respects than those used by the military and law enforcement and is designed for maximum stopping power. The effects last up to 50 minutes, though they begin to wear off after 15 to 30 minutes. Because it's a dust, the Salt rounds can not only be used to shoot an assailant directly, but can also lay down a cloud 4-5 feet in diameter that acts as a barrier against attack.

In addition to its less-than-lethal qualities, Salt also emphasizes that the gun is user friendly without the noise or recoil of a conventional firearm. It can also be used at a distance that would not be possible with a Taser or pepper spray. The rounds lose potency over time, and the company recommends replacing them every 3-4 years.

According to the makers, Salt is legal in most US states, with California being the notable exception. It is available for preorder as part of the Indiegogo* crowdfunding campaign for a US$299 early bird price, with shipments scheduled to begin in December.

*UPDATE October 29, 2015:

The Salt campaign was removed from Indiegogo today because it "straddled the traditional categories of safety device or weapon." The creators of Salt have stated that backers will automatically receive a full refund and are seeking an alternative crowdfunding platform. Here's the full update from Salt:

Thank you to everyone that shared/liked/supported/believed in SALT and a better, safer gun that does not have to take a life in order to protect a life. We were so excited to see so many of you as passionate about a firearm alternatives as we are. In a debate as polarizing as gun safety, we have found that the courage needed to take a stand for a new way can be very hard. Andy and I were very disappointed to find that IndieGoGo removed the SALT project this morning because it straddled the traditional categories of safety device or weapon. Of course, anyone who purchased or donated to SALT through IndieGoGo will automatically receive a full refund.

Given the excitement and interest around SALT, we are working as quickly as we can to find an alternative crowdfunding site that will support our mission to make the world a safer place. In the meantime, we would love to keep you up to date on SALT news and where you can place an order. Please enter your contact information below and we will notify you as soon as pre-orders are available again. We are excited about the future for SALT and the technology we will bring to the marketplace to help protect the ones we love.

*UPDATE October 30, 2015:

The company is now taking pre-orders on its website with the price set at US$279 + shipping. The creators say the Salt gun will ship when they've raised $75,000 in pre-orders – the the time of writing that figure is just above $10K.

Source: Salt

The video below shows a test of the Salt powder.

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