Gas-launched sponge rounds are the newest tactical option available to police officers.

From tomorrow, the XM1006 "sponge round" will be available to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) and national Special Tactics Group (STG).

The rounds, which have a high density sponge nose, can be fired up to a distance of 30m.

The nose has a large surface area designed so the rounds won't penetrate on impact, police national tactical groups commander Superintendent Bruce Dunstan said.


"The sponge round provides specialist police staff with an effective tool that can help resolve dangerous incidents from a safe distance, where previously firearms may have been the only remaining option.

"This supplements the variety of tactical options that are already available to us during callouts, as the rounds provide a mid-range option that helps enhance staff and public safety."

The sponge round is designed to be fired from a 40mm gas launcher, a product already used by STG and AOS.

It can be used at "extremely" close range with no increased risk of injury, police said, as the 40mm projectile was designed to spread its energy across 4.5 times the surface area.

"While the round does cause pain, bruising and abrasions, there is a wealth of international medical evidence that shows the risk of serious or life-threatening injury is extremely low" Mr Dunstan said.

However, if it helped police to resolve an armed situation safely without using firearms, its use was justified, he said.

The round wouldn't be replacing other tactical options.

"While the sponge round is a welcome addition to the range of tools currently available, it's important to stress that no single tactical option is always necessarily fully effective."