The present study explored the usability of a less-lethal launcher from the end-user's perspective. A within-subjects field experiment (N = 16) tested the FN 303® in a lab condition, enabling optimal firing conditions and in a high-pressure simulated operational condition (SOC). Results showed that the high-pressure SOC, which was both psychologically and physiologically challenging, provoked significantly more subjective workload and substantial increases in cortisol biomarker secretion. Importantly, the SOC had a deleterious effect on participants' shooting accuracy at a static target at 30 m. Moreover, as might be expected, accuracy was affected, notably in the hazardous vertical y-axis. Finally, the SOC significantly influenced participants' perception of the overall usability of the FN 303®. These findings, combined with reduced accuracy, could become critical factors during real-life crowd control operations. To the authors' knowledge, no empirical work has tested less-lethal launchers from an end-user's perspective. Recommendations are made with regard to the selection, training, skill maintenance, and design.
Keywords: Cortisol; crowd control; less-lethal launcher; usability; workload.