Recently, much promise has been attached to non-lethal weapons as tools for managing contemporary security demands. The utility of this class of technology derives from the flexibility it supposedly offers in the use of force. Despite the growing literature on non-lethal weapons, few commentators have scrutinized them in a systematic fashion. Drawing on a wide range of academic disciplines, the article elaborates an approach for clarifying some of the crucial issues associated with 'non-lethals' and assesses the flexibility they afford. In doing so, significant grounds are presented for doubting the merits of this technology.