Unidentified anti riot round "BOLA SHELL"


I found this at a flea market this morning. Can anyone tell me where it is from and how old it is?
I know it’s not British military as these items are called baton rounds in British service.

It has an aluminium case with the following dimensions:

Calibre: 37mm
Length: 212mm (8.35")
Rim dia: 43.7mm (1.72")
Rim thickness: 3.18mm (.125")

There is no headstamp, and the case has a shotgun type primer. The only markings on the shell are “BOLA SHELL” stencilled in matt black paint.

The tube is made from dark brown cardboard and is marked
[color=#FF0000]BATON SHELL

Some of this text is missing where it appears that a seal was torn off before use.

Thanks for any info.


I can’t help much.

I collect all things special purpose and a lot of less/non lethal rounds, but admittedly much stronger with US examples.

I have never seen the “Bola” used with “less lethal” (usually impling “more lethal”) and usually associated with “gun show loads” of 2 balls (lead/steel) strung together with string/cable/chain. Thus…my guess would be two “batons”……(??) wood/rubber tethered together…who’s/were/when? I am clueless. The stenciling is a bit odd too.


I also thought that the stencilling looked a bit amateurish. Were any of these sort of launchers ever sold at gun shows in the USA or are they classed as destructive devices?


I had a thought earlier. I wonder if this could be some sort of movie prop made from the case of a flare or tear gas round?

It appears that the surface could have been shot blasted, which would have removed any markings. The “BOLA SHELL” could then have been sprayed on by the props dept. The large, clear lettering would be ideal if the shell had to be shown close-up during filming. Perhaps it was supposed to be some sort of anti alien / vampire / zombie / monster load.

It could also have been loaded with a fresh shotshell primer and blank charge for firing for filming.


The primer is struck but shows no sign of pressure. Did you get it from Denham? ( Approx 2 miles from Pinewood Studios where they make the James Bond films and lots of similar big productions) I know you go there a lot searching for goodies.

Look inside for evidence of powder burns. The word shell makes me a little uncomfortable in this context.


There are powder marks on the inside of the shell suggesting it has been fired. There is also a heat-damaged card wad stuck near the bottom of the case.


I’ll see what I can dig up.

With regards to 37mm launchers…they are sold legally commercially as ‘flare launchers’, Acc. to BATFE, possession of the flare launcher in conjunction with possession of any antipersonnel munition (inc. less-lethal baton, chemical, etc.) elevates to poss of Destructive Device. The 40mm is automatically a DD and is not sold commercially.

Constructive possession also applies.


With regard to this for Falcon’s benefit. if we can identify this as a film prop and the big word here is IF and if it were from a half decent film. The value goes up 10x if it were a James Bond film even more so. Film memorablia is worth much more. The problem now is identificaction


Mwinter–Is possession of live 37mm munitions legal if you DO NOT possess a launcher of any type? How about live 40mm non-explosive rounds?


As far as I know that depends on the munition…I don’t know of any fedlaw keeping a non-felon/DVC person from having any of the currently available 37mm LTL munitions, or inert/practice 40mm USMIL projectiles.

Given their nitpickery on fuses, components, constructive possession, etc. I’d be extra careful with .50+ items. All the 37/40 I have had recently has been for T&E on LTL launchers at my agency, and what I get to keep is spent casings and recovered projectiles.

I have to put a call into NFA next week anyways, so I’ll try to find someone’s brain to pick there. My local gal has been unavailable as of late.

I found a reference to ‘bola shell’ in a search, but it was fanciful hitpoint ratings on a 12ga shotgun shell in an online game (similar to what Pepper described).


Mwinter–Concerning the 40mm stuff I was thinking of the various flares, rubber baton, wood blocks, tear gas, etc., in other words, any of the non-exploding 40mm grenades, besides the blue practice loads. How about the Inert gold HE loads used for display and training?


The last I remember - the wood, rubber, and foam baton rds and less-lethal rubber “beehive” loads etc… were legal to own in 37mm and 40mm as long as you did not also own a device capable of chambering them and/or show intent of combining such items to utilize. The gas rds and flare rds are legal in any case as far as I know (a few states like CA have restrictions).

The manufacturers really don’t like anybody other than law enforcement or military getting a hold of any of these loads other than flares, but the online resale market has the non-lethal stuff and gas loads showing up once in a while. Usually for too much money.

There are also some adapters which allow the use of full power .22lr, 12ga or .410 loads in 37mm or 40mm launchers (as opposed to the cheap aluminum ones which are only rated for 12ga flares), and supposedly you can own those devices as long as you do not own a device capable of fielding them (which seems kind of pointless but…). Of course if you have the right level of FFL, then you can own any combination of this stuff. It does seem odd that a .50BMG semi-auto rifle with API loads is fine for anybody over 18 to purchase and own, but virtually nobody can have a wooden baton rd and a launcher capable of fielding it. Which I guess has to do with the “nothing greater than .50 cal” rule which also doomed the 13mm Gyrojet.