Rubber bullets are rubber or rubber-coated projectiles that can be fired from either standard firearms or dedicated riot guns. They are intended to be a non-lethal alternative to metal projectiles. Like other similar projectiles made from plastic, wax, and wood, rubber bullets may be used for short range practice and animal control, but are most commonly associated with use in riot control and to disperse protests. These types of projectiles are more correctly called baton rounds. Rubber projectiles have largely been replaced by other materials as rubber tends to bounce uncontrollably.
Such "kinetic impact munitions" are meant to cause pain but not serious injury. They are expected to produce contusions, abrasions, and hematomas. However, they may cause bone fractures, injuries to internal organs, or death. In a study of injuries in 90 patients caused by rubber bullets, one died, 17 suffered permanent disabilities or deformities and 41 required hospital treatment after being fired upon with rubber bullets.
Riot control use 
The rubber riot control bullet is part of a long line of development of non-lethal riot control cartridges that dates back to the use of short sections of broom handle fired at rioters in Singapore in the 1880s. The Hong Kong police developed wooden baton rounds but they were liable to splinter and cause wounds. British developed rubber rounds—the "Round, Anti-Riot, 1.5in Baton"—to replace the wooden rounds, where they were widely used in Northern Ireland. A low power propelling charge gave them a muzzle velocity of about 60 m/s (200 ft/s) and maximum range of about 100 m (110 yd). The intended use is to fire at the ground so that the round bounces up and hits the target on the legs causing pain but not injury. In Northern Ireland over 35 years (1970–2005) approximately 125,000 baton rounds were fired—an average of ten per day—causing 17 deaths. The baton round was made available to British police forces outside Northern Ireland from 2001.
Israeli rubber bullets are produced in two main types. The older type, the standard rubber bullet, is a steel sphere coated in a thin layer of rubber, weighing 14 grams, while the new improved rubber bullet, introduced in 1989, is a rubber coated metal cylinder 1.7 cm in diameter, weighing 15.4 grams. These bullets are fired from a special adapter attached to the muzzle of a rifle, similar to those used to launch rifle grenades. The rubber bullets are loaded into the front of the adapter, and propelled with a blank cartridge. Of the lethal injuries from this projectile, most are suffered to the head. 
Smaller rubber bullets are used in riot shotguns, and are available in a variety of types. One company, for example, makes both rubber buckshot rounds, containing 15 8.3mm diameter rubber balls per cartridge, and rubber baton rounds, containing a single 4.75 gram projectile.
Self-defence use 
In some countries non-lethal guns firing rubber projectiles may be used by civilians for protection. In Russia, a variety of handguns are carried with specially weakened construction and barrel with internal lugs, making use of full-power loads and/or firing hard projectiles impossible, while rubber bullets just compress when passing the lug and so may be fired. Most common calibers are 9 mm and 10 mm with muzzle velocity sometimes almost matching normal handguns and bullets as light as 0.7 g.
Recreational use 
Rubber bullets, powered only by a primer, are usually used for short-range indoor target practice or training, generally with handguns. They are intended only for target shooting, unlike paintballs or airsoft pellets, which are intended for use on suitably protected live targets. Rubber bullets, if used with a suitable backstop, can be recovered undamaged after firing, and reused numerous times.
See also 
- Emily Yoffe (Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2000). "What Are Rubber Bullets?". Slate.
- WILLIAM D. CASEY. "Meister Bullets, Inc. Purchases 'X-Ring' Primer powered rubber bullet company". Officer.com.
- Anthony G Williams. "Less-lethal Ammunition".
- Hogg (1985) p.67
- Hogg, Ian V. (1985). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ammunition. London: The Apple Press. ISBN 1-85076-043-8.
- Bozeman, William P.; Winslow, James E. (2005). "Medical Aspects of Less Lethal Weapons". The Internet Journal of Rescue and Disaster Medicine 5 (1).
- Millar, R.; Rutherford, W. H.; Johnston, S.; Malhotra, V. J. (1975). "Injuries caused by rubber bullets: A report on 90 patients". British Journal of Surgery 62 (6): 480–486. doi:10.1002/bjs.1800620613. PMID 1148650.
- The Technology of political control, Carol Ackroyd, p.210
- Hogg (1985) p87
- Hogg (1985) p67
- Williams, Anthony G. "Less-lethal ammunition". "an amended version of an article which first appeared in Jane's Police Products Review, October/November 2007, and includes information from British 37mm Baton Rounds, which appeared in Small Arms Review in August 2008"
- T. Lavy, S. Abu Asleh (2003). "Ocular rubber bullet injuries". Eye (Nature) 17 (7): 821–824. doi:10.1038/sj.eye.6700447. PMID 14528243.
- "Fiocchi Munizioni 12 gauge riot control ammunition (Italy), RIOT CONTROL EQUIPMENT". Jane's Police and Homeland Security Equipment (Jane's Information Group). 2005.
- "X-ring rubber pistol bullets".