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 Herbicide Ballistic Technology at work (courtesy

Saying Hawaii is gun unfriendly is like saying I miss searching for Israeli models for extraneous linkage. The Aloha State is “may issue.” According to, the chief of police may grant a concealed carry permit “in an exceptional case, when an applicant shows reason to fear injury to the applicant’s person or property.” In other words, “may” means “no RKBA for you, bra.” So anyone out and about shooting trees with herbicide with a paintball gun could be in for a rather rude awakening, SWAT-wise. Someone needs to tell that to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaii . . .

Researchers call it “Herbicide Ballistic Technology,” or HBT. It looks a lot like a paintball game, but it’s not a game, and the gun isn’t shooting paintballs. It’s shooting little balls containing herbicide.

The technology was developed in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaii. “The process and manufacturing of these herbicide capsules is identical to the processing of the paintballs used in recreation,” said Dr. James Leary, an assistant specialist for Invasive Plant Species Management in the department. “But instead of targeting people in recreation, we’re targeting incipient weeds in these natural areas.”

The weed in question is miconia, a plant that has infested much of the Big Island and has been trying to gain a foothold on Oahu, Maui and Kauai. Miconia’s large leaves can block out sunlight for smaller plants, and its shallow root systems can increase erosion. A single miconia plant can produce eight million seeds a year.

“Miconia is the number one weed problem in the state of Hawaii that most people don’t know about because it’s impacting areas that people don’t have access to,” Leary told Hawaii News Now in an interview from the UH Maui Agricultural Center in Kula [reported by].

It’s also the reason why HBT was developed, according to Leary. Scientists with the guns are taken up in helicopters, allowing them to accurately and surgically target specific miconia plants in hard to access places while using a minimal amount of herbicide.

Helicopters? Oops. No islander would phone the po-po about a guy leaning out of a helicopter shooting into vegetation ’cause it’s bound to be the police shooting at grass growers and they don’t take kindly to people interrupting/questioning their work. So . . . a good time is had by all.

While it is utilized for a serious purpose, the paintball gun technology still looks like fun. “I get asked that all the time,” said Leary. “The fun factor is an obvious one. It’s helicopters and paintball guns. How can it not be fun?”

I smell a big ass boondoggle—and a commercial opportunity. How much would you pay?

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  1. Well that sounds like an outstanding use of government funds. With the helicopter and fuel plus the manufacturing costs of special paintballs I’m sure that the cost per weed killed is in the hundreds of dollars. Whatever you do don’t hire anyone at minimum wage or use prison laborers or welfare recipients to do this work. Jeezus. This is Hawaii land of crystal meth. If you put a 5 cent bounty on those things tweekers would be filling up shopping carts with them like aluminium cans….

    • +1 That is brilliant! It immediately made me think of a plethora of other things we could offer small bounties on. I now feel slightly stupid that I didn’t think of it, for once you pointed it out it seems to obvious! Thanks for that one, I now have a new favorite concept.

      • Sometimes I don’t get TTAG.

        Hog hunting on a helicopter with your AR? YES!!

        Shooting a paintball gun from a chopper? ARE YOU AN IDIOT?

        Yeah, yeah, Hawaii is anti-gun and all. But come on.

        • That’s because when you hunt hogs from a helicopter, you pay for the helicopter time, fuel, and your ammo.

          When hawaii shoots plants from a helicopter, the fuel, ammo, and personnel pay is covered by the taxpayer. It’s a waste of taxpayer money, especially because these plants could be eliminated using much cheaper means.

        • I’m sure if you have feasible ideas for elimination that are cheaper, they’d love to hear them. What are your cheaper means to eliminate an invasive weed on the uninhabited side of the island, halfway up a mountain, and a couple miles (or several times that) from the nearest road?

    • The problem with the tweeker plan is that these weeds are growing mostly in areas inaccessible to pedestrian access. The tweekers would destroy everything else in the area in an effort to find and harvest the weeds. I don’t think “We have to destroy the village in order to save it” is what Hawaii is going for here.

      • Why not use an herbicide paintball delivery system attached to a small heliodrone? It could have a small computer on board programmed to detect the exact plant by visual recognition and deliver the herbicide. Much less expensive, accurate, and can cover great distances.

    • Common sense says this is best case abuse and worst case outright fraud at the expense of the taxpayer. However, common sense is rarely applicable to uncommon issues.

      Consider the geography of the Hawaiian islands – especially the parks and preserves where they are trying to eliminate these invasive species. These areas are virtually inaccessible except by air. Which of the following options is the better use of government resources:
      1) A team of 6 – 10 park rangers / scientists / contractors funded to destroy miconia on foot in the park. Assume the logistics of travel to and from the site, sustainment, packing out everything, and at least a week worth of operations on site – not including travel. Assume also they must repair damage caused upon cutting a trail into the park. This mission repeats as required to cover the area.
      2) One pilot and one scientist in a Robinson R22 over 2-3 days of operation to cover the whole site.

      Let’s assume the worst case that all labor is hourly for both options. Further consider, for both of these options, the recurrent costs for continued suppression of miconia.

  2. OK to kill shady plants, but not OK to kill shady person with gun in Hawaii. Got it

  3. I smell a 42 million dollar government grant.
    Should last this guy another couple years.

    • Do they not have RoundUp in Hawaii??? This sounds like an overly complex, extremely expensive solution to a problem that could be easily fixed by a trip to Home Depot.

      On the other hand, I’m always down to shoot stuff from helicopters. HI could probably get tourists to pay to do this for them.

  4. I was stationed out there for awhile and even buying a gun is an annoying process. Want to shoot it? Have fun waiting for hours to get on a lane at koko head.

  5. Oh, and in answer to the question asked at the end of the article… I don’t know how much I’d pay, but it sounds like a large amount of fun.

  6. From what I’ve been able to gather, paintball guns aren’t that accurate. Couple that with funky winds roaring around a helicopter and I have to wonder what the hit rate is on a setup like this.

    Shades of the Vietnam era shots-fired-to-dead-guy ratio. And each of those pricy little capsules filled with herbicide going God knows where…

    • I’m boycotting Hawaii because of that, and the heat and sunshine. I hate heat and I’m light sensitive, so the combination of disrespecting the Bill of Rights, and hot, intensely bright days makes Hawaii extremely unappealing.

  7. Jeez. Just get a 2-gallon jug of Roundup and put NC Star picatinny rails on the applicator. More effective. And cheaper.

  8. Hawaii may be a “may issue” state according to law but in reality it’s a No issue state. No one has even seen a carry permit.

  9. I used to work in invasive plant removal here in Hawaii. Approaches like this do make sense if you have had to hang off a 200 foot cliff in the rain where the trail is liquefying underfoot. Using guns in any form (paint ball included) in an endeavor that is recognized to have public value should be embraced by us firearm owners as it builds awareness of the usefulness of guns.

    The real issue here in Hawaii is that concealed carry is a defacto ban. Only the Police Chief has the authority to issue carry permits. There is at least one lawsuit challenging this. I would love to see an article on how “may” issue is really “no way in hell” issue.

    • we’re fighting the fight. we’re supposed to have an answer from the court soon.

      Also, the guy running this program is my cousin. He’s a great guy.

      and as someone said, no, you cant just get a gallon of roundup. this is for keeping control of stuff on mountainside and other hard to reach places.

      • I hope the court rules in support of our rights. The next frontier is getting the laws changed that ban all select fire weapons, silencers, and other NFA registered items.

  10. The herbicide I’ve seen mentioned for this application is triclopyr (aka “Garlon” as a brand name), which has ground persistence. Triclopyr is very good against broadleaf weeds, even vines and “woody” species.

    Roundup (glyphosate+surfactant) is largely ineffective when you’re dealing with a plant that has satellite plants (as this one does), plus the frequency of rainfall. When I’ve applied Roundup (or a generic glyphosate), I usually wanted at least four hours (and better overnight) with no rain. Due to the soil persistence, triclopyr works if you give the plant a foliar application and continues to have some efficacy if it gets washed off the plant and soaks into the ground.

    Glyphosate salts are inactivated as soon as they hit the ground. There’s no soil activity or persistence. Unless it soaks into the leaves and is translocated to the root system, it won’t work well (or at all).

    Invasive species control is usually much harder than controlling a bit of crabcrass in your driveway or dandelions in your lawn.

    BTW, the invasive plant control folks in HI are already using helo’s for the plant surveys – to cover as much ground as quickly as possible when mapping infestations. If they can whack a new outbreak of an invasive weed while they’re already in the air doing the GIS work, then hey, they’re actually saving money.

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