Rocket pistol
July 26, 2008 3:14 PM   Subscribe

The gyrojet pistol (video) - a handgun firing 13mm rocket ammunition, was an attempt to revolutionise gun design in the 1960s. Around a thousand were produced, and some may have seen use in Vietnam. Rifle and carbine versions were also produced. Design problems meant that it never seriously competed conventional firearms, but there is a modern attempt to revive the concept.
posted by Artw (38 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Caution: Those Death wind people might be absolutely crazy. Also "http://www.classicfirearms.org" appears to have been converted into a link farm site at sometime after the Vietnam material was taken from it. Also, for whatever reason, the Gyrojet pistol exerts an uncanny fascination on freerepublic style right-wing types and people operating spammy, ad infested sites with poor HTML, so clicking around or searching may bring up some odd stuff.

Pffft BANG!
posted by Artw at 3:17 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sayeth the portly gentleman in the YouTube video: "This is a real hunk of junk."
posted by Burhanistan at 3:22 PM on July 26, 2008


I dunno about their branding, either. DeathWind sounds more like a disease. Still, it's the next step from dumb bullet to the Iain Banks fully AI-powered "knife missile", so props, I guess.
posted by imperium at 3:23 PM on July 26, 2008


imperium - It's a bit Warhammer 40k, isn't it?
posted by Artw at 3:27 PM on July 26, 2008


Agreed, mate, perhaps that's how they spend the rest of their time. Perhaps they'll do a larger version one day simply called the Warhammer.
posted by imperium at 3:41 PM on July 26, 2008


A gun that can be used in Outer Space? Sounds like just the thing to combat all those SPACE PIRATES!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:55 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is exactly what the world needs- a better weapon.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:04 PM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can't you use a regular gun in outer space? I guess recoil would be more of a problem, but still.
posted by delmoi at 4:17 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


"DeathWind"? Are they taking their inspirations from heavy metal album covers? Why not go whole hog and call it The Stalking Death That Whispers In The Night™?

I remember the concept from a "how we will live in the future" book I read as a child - and I remember that I asked myself even then how they'd manage to get these bullets up to speed. This kind of slow acceleration and long range requirement might work for sniper weapons, but even then I'd imagine severe sensitivity of the bullet during the initial, slow flight phase to crosswinds and the like. Plus I'd imagine that the bullets themselves would have to be machined extremely precise and filled with a very even-burning core, or else you'd get vectored thrust instead of straight acceleration... a pretty cool concept, but nothing I can imagine being used in combat situations in the near future. Not that that's a bad thing.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:22 PM on July 26, 2008


As mentioned in the YouTube video, if the velocity of the projectile starts off slow then accelerates, it's an intrinsically poor design for a handgun round which must have an incapacitating velocity at very short range.

I wonder why the round is knocked backwards by the hammer rather than being hit by the firing pin from the rear? What is the supposed advantage? What happens if the hammer jams, and the round became stuck in the chamber or barrel? Could it "cook off" the other rounds?

A 13mm round would limit magazine capacity, especially in a handgun.

Frankly firearms technology reached its peak early in the 20th century. Progress since then has been mostly incremental, with advances in materials technology like synthetic stocks.

Interesting stuff, though, and a worthwhile post.
posted by Tube at 4:22 PM on July 26, 2008


Can't you use a regular gun in outer space?

I don't see why not; the gunpowder in bullets contains its own oxidizer, so the lack of oxygen shouldn't be a problem.
posted by Pyry at 4:31 PM on July 26, 2008


"DeathWind" is a name I can't take any more seriously than "Metal Storm". Both sound like things you'd find in a 12 year old boy's network next to line drawings of boobies and soldiers fighting with swords.
posted by Nelson at 4:34 PM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


From the "related videos" sidebar in that YT link - the M65 Nuclear Rifle which fired a very small nuclear weapon.
posted by XMLicious at 4:45 PM on July 26, 2008


Didn't Gene Simmons use one of these in Runaway? Ginchy.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 5:01 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


GYROJETS! PEW PEW!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:43 PM on July 26, 2008


> Can't you use a regular gun in outer space?

According to the PBS series Nova, it's been done. The Nova program "Astrospies" describes a 1970's-era Soviet manned surveillance space station, project Almaz. Almaz's Orbital Piloted Station 2 (disguised as Salyut 3), launched in 1974, successfully test-fired its NR-23 23mm aircraft cannon in orbit. Some sources say it was the NR-23's big brother, the NR-30.

Off hand, I can see that you'd be worried about "sealing the bore" of the weapon so that the gas pressure drives the bullet instead of leaking uselessly into space. But I think that's something gun manufacturers worry about down here on Earth, too.
posted by sdodd at 5:54 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not just the short range, below lethal velocity issues that limit the utility of such weapons as DeathWind purports to make, it's the fact that such rounds are relatively easily perturbed in early flight, by factors as common as high wind (particularly carrying dust loads), or foliage, making reliable long range accuracy, even as a rifle round, problematic under field conditions. Generally, a military weapon is not judged by its potential, but by its worst case performance under poor conditions, and a gun that has problems in a high wind is not going to be acceptable.

Beyond that, in a related vein, deflection problems in brush, and penetration on target have largely prevented non-rocket powered flechette rounds being used as common military ammunition, despite more than 100 years of development effort. And flechettes at least are going fast when they leave a shotgun barrel. Anyone with a 12 gauge shotgun who wants to experiment with flechettes for himself can generally buy commercial ammunition, but nobody I know who has tried it, ever bought a second box.

DeathWind "ammunition" is also orders of magnitude more expensive than common military ammunition, without offering a proportional degree of demonstrated improvement in any mission. That's a serious drawback for private use, and a concern even for deep pocketed military quartermasters.
posted by paulsc at 6:15 PM on July 26, 2008


And for underwater operations, there's always the:
APS Underwater Assault Rifle

... APS has been in active service with combat divers of the Soviet and Russian Navy since circa 1975.

The APS is designed for special underwater cartridges, which fire 5.66 mm needle-like projectiles 120 mm long. The projectiles are stabilized using a hydrodynamic cavity, generated by the flat point of the projectile. ...


(via random link from a google search)
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:31 PM on July 26, 2008


I wonder why the round is knocked backwards by the hammer rather than being hit by the firing pin from the rear?

I suspect that because the whole thing is bore sized there was no good way to headspace the cartridge. A rear firing pin would push the cartridge forward and not ignite the primer reliably.
posted by 445supermag at 6:35 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


"A Gyrojet bullet, on the other hand, is still building speed, which not only causes accuracy problems, but made the Gyrojet unique in that it was the only gun you could protect yourself against by sticking your finger in the barrel."

Heh.
posted by bicyclefish at 7:07 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I suspect that because the whole thing is bore sized there was no good way to headspace the cartridge.

Of course! That makes total sense, thank you.
posted by Tube at 8:19 PM on July 26, 2008


The Alt. History Vietnam War where everybody got issued with gyrojet rifles must be super fun.
posted by Artw at 9:11 PM on July 26, 2008


A Gyrojet figures prominently in Larry Niven's short story, "The Meddler", in which the protagonist is up against a Martian armed with a squirt gun.
posted by dhartung at 9:35 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Huge long page of sci-fi weapons and vaguely sci-fish looking guns - including the gyrojet, fletchette rifles, bullpup assault rifles etc...
posted by Artw at 9:52 PM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Of course you can fire a gun in space. The difference between the surface of the earth and space is only one atmosphere, while thousands of atmospheres press against the base of the bullet. (Ex. 7.62mm M80 round develops ~3473 atmospheres at the breech) Extra leakage around the bullet is therefore also of no concern.
posted by c13 at 9:53 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Look, if someone doesn't make a Star Frontiers joke I'm going to have to...
posted by Cyrano at 9:55 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Look, if someone doesn't make a Star Frontiers joke I'm going to have to...

There was a thing called a Gyrojet? Sounds vaguely familiar. I think we were the only ones who ever played that game though.

I was a Vrusk named Vexten zotev.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:56 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


This was the only picture I could find, (from this website, about 2/3 down) but GyroJets are still alive and well in the military in the form of flare launchers...

i had no idea that the concept was ever applied to a lethal weapon.
posted by bilgepump at 11:32 PM on July 26, 2008


The difference between the surface of the earth and space is only one atmosphere,

And that whole gravity thing. The recoil from firing a handgun in space would have to be balanced (e.g., as in a recoiless rifle) or the shooter might find himself on a path into the Sun.
posted by three blind mice at 11:41 PM on July 26, 2008


The initial design and prototype is for a nominal .50” diameter projectile, ... wide range of use from approximately .25” diameter all the way up to objects as large as dirigibles or submarines with varying levels of effectiveness.

So...they're going to make missiles too?
posted by nomisxid at 12:25 AM on July 27, 2008


I wonder what the regulations are regarding building one of these yourself?

Not that I know what I'm talking about regarding military and firearms, but this thing entertains me so...

As mentioned in the YouTube video, if the velocity of the projectile starts off slow then accelerates, it's an intrinsically poor design for a handgun round which must have an incapacitating velocity at very short range.

The deathwind guy makes the good point that this should have been marketed to the military first as a rifle, given the relatively flat trajectory and performance at longer distances. He claims that at 70 yards it has double the muzzle energy of .45 ammunition. If the average range of engagement for infantry is under 50 meters, this doesn't seem too useful for anything.

I wonder why the round is knocked backwards by the hammer rather than being hit by the firing pin from the rear? What is the supposed advantage? What happens if the hammer jams, and the round became stuck in the chamber or barrel? Could it "cook off" the other rounds?

I'm sure headspace is the right answer, but at first I thought it was to put enough resistance in front to allow the round to build up enough pressure to have some initial velocity as it left the barrel. Then I realized the side vents go all the way back to the firing nub (it's stubbier than a pin).

A 13mm round would limit magazine capacity, especially in a handgun.

But I'd guess the weapon itself could be made a tenth the weight of a .45 with modern materials, and if you are going to buy into something as wonky and impractical as a gyrojet, you might as well slap a 30 round helical magazine on top of the pistol (yes, I know jam, jam, jam, and poor sighting).

I'd think that if this had a miltary use it would be as some kind of cheap light polymer composite multi barrel gun used for ambushes at a distance where a claymore would be impractical, underwater operations, in a pinch against a light vehicle, or for trying to detonate unexploded ordnance. There are so few other uses for it that I can see that I'd think any military would be idiotic to complicate their logistics with it's weird ammo, not to mention the extra training. Still if they could get the intitial velocity to be higher it might be useful.

As for hunting and target shooting, I'd think a low recoil and quiet gun could find a market, if the ammunition could be made cheaply enough. Certainly the gun itself would be amazingly inexpensive.

Paulsc, the commercial flechette round manufacturer spells penetration as penitration, which makes me want to make some kind of freudian slip crack.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:53 AM on July 27, 2008


Ok now I know what kind of weapons Valve should make for the Soldier class patch of Team Fortress 2.
posted by darkripper at 6:16 AM on July 27, 2008


And that whole gravity thing. The recoil from firing a handgun in space would have to be balanced (e.g., as in a recoiless rifle) or the shooter might find himself on a path into the Sun.

What does gravity have to do with recoil?

And while we're on topic of recoil,

I wonder why the round is knocked backwards by the hammer rather than being hit by the firing pin from the rear? What is the supposed advantage?

In a normal gun, recoil is used to cycle the weapon and load a new cartridge into the chamber. (Or gas from the barrel) Since this gun has practically no recoil and the barrel is vented, they had to come up with some other way to re-cock the hammer for the next round. So they placed it in front to be recocked by the passing round.
posted by c13 at 8:03 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it sounds like a much better medium to long range weapon than a short range weapon. There is no point in making this in handgun form whatsoever, since a normal handgun is clearly superior. Looks like the real advantage of this may be for for sniping - little or no report, little or no recoil, flat trajectory, and an increase in velocity/power. Large vehicle mounted gyrojet weapons might be good in certain situations.

FWIW, you can fire handguns underwater, and are apparently still potentially lethal at ranges under 6 feet. Rifles and shotguns don't work so well underwater, as the column of water in the barrel poses a problem. Saw it on Mythbusters, in one of their better segments :)
posted by Xoebe at 8:33 AM on July 27, 2008


This is my first post. My twin grandaughters call notreally's passed gas the deathwind.
posted by notreally at 8:56 AM on July 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Large vehicle mounted gyrojet weapons might be good in certain situations.

Yeah, they're called rocket launchers.
posted by Skeptic at 9:12 AM on July 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Oh goody, my illudium Q36 explosive space modulator!" [.wav]

Judging by the video, the Gyrojet isn't very good at hitting jugs of antifreeze at 20 yards.

the M65 Nuclear Rifle which fired a very small nuclear weapon

"It couldn't launch its payload beyond the radius of the resulting nuclear fallout." Oops.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:25 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds more like a Sniper weapon patch to me.
posted by Samizdata at 4:49 PM on July 28, 2008


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