Handgun of the Future
July 10, 2006 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Metal Storm Limited specializes in weapon systems featuring rapid fire electronically fired bullets, up to 1 million a minute. The weapons platform can be used to make the worlds strongest handgun as well as be used to equip unmanned drones with firepower. The most frightening of which is perhaps the "dragonfly" micro copter. Their site has a number of videos showcasing some of the various weapons applications. Metal Storm has been around for a while, without getting a product to market, but with a recent influx of funding it doesn't look like they are going to go out of business any time soon.
posted by reverendX (50 comments total)
This has previously been featured on Metafilter, but it seems like the technology has been updated a fair bit since 2001, and the videos were too good not to share. Enjoy!
posted by reverendX at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2006

Will this become the flechet (sp?) gun from neuromancer...I sure hope so, the world needs more guns. wait what the hell am i saying, why cant they use this tech for something cool like shooting shit into space.
posted by stilgar at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2006

The video mentions that the technology can be used for shooting down inbound supersonic missiles, so it seems to have both defensive and offensive capabilities.
posted by reverendX at 6:51 PM on July 10, 2006

Its pretty cool tech, but honestly do we really need new ways to kill one another...also how the hell do you reload this thing after its unleashed its storm of lead.
posted by stilgar at 6:54 PM on July 10, 2006

Looks like Blade Runner! Cool.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:56 PM on July 10, 2006

Some YouTube vids, for those who don't want to download.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:01 PM on July 10, 2006

Pretty nifty technology, but the copy on that website needs some work: "Metal Storm technology is ideally suited to the new generation of ‘network centric’ weapons that are designed to connect with today’s battlefield."

Change some nouns: Metal Storm technology is ideally suited to the new generation of ‘network centric’ applications that are designed to connect with today’s workplace.

I guess bullshit is bullshit, no matter what you're selling.
posted by Drunken_munky at 7:09 PM on July 10, 2006

Yeah 1200 rounds a minute, but how long until the barrels get white hot causing them to expand and catch the round (don't laugh, it happens) or cook off. Also, any tradeoff of not having to carry the weight of casings for your ammo is totally thrown off by having to carry full barrels if you want to reload. No wonder hey show robots hauling the system as any crew served team would have a real beef with carrying morethan two barrels.

I certainly do thing this would work best as a defensive item although anyone reading this thread has probably already seen the electronic shotgun mounted on israeli tanks and similar techniques already in use by the Navy. I could see a use for this in mortars, arty and direct fire support vehicles where you could get all your rounds in the air in one shot and start jockeying to your next position right away.
posted by furtive at 7:09 PM on July 10, 2006

Vaporware, 'sniff'.
posted by fingerbang at 7:11 PM on July 10, 2006


The video linked by the word handgun is more of an info video and has a simulation of such a mortar system destroying a convoy.
posted by sourbrew at 7:19 PM on July 10, 2006

furtive, the hole expands, too.

But it doesn't matter, because of the one thing they never mention: you can't reload it. If anyone wants to show me where they say you can reload it in the field, let me know.
posted by NortonDC at 7:20 PM on July 10, 2006

Bet Harry Wittington's glad Cheney wasn't playing around with one of these.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:25 PM on July 10, 2006

at that may rounds per second, it would also be able to fire for about... oh, a quarter second before even a large magazine would be expended. Probably it will be slowed down and turned into something useful... or not!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:27 PM on July 10, 2006

This is such bullshit. More money stolen from the People and being given to rich murderers.

"Defense Department". If they were a defense department, after they completely and utterly failed to defend the country on 9/11, heads would have rolled -- in fact, they got huge rewards for their failures, billions poured into the military.

/me spits.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:31 PM on July 10, 2006

I'm kind of surprised that the video was Discovery piece - nowhere do they mention what the technology actually is (although it might have been states in earlier or later segments).

Is it electromagnetic pulse ("gauss gun")? Juice stored in a capacitor attached to the shell? What?
posted by porpoise at 7:35 PM on July 10, 2006

Oh, nevermind. It's just stacked bullets where the charge is ignited electronically.

I like how the guy is saying how there's no firing pin, &c to get jammed - it seems like there are a bunch of electrical parts to short out.

Phooey. Gauss guns are cool.
posted by porpoise at 7:38 PM on July 10, 2006

...up to 1 million a minute

Uh, no. The instantaneous rate of firing is 10^6/min but it doesn't actually fire for one minute, so it doesn't fire a million rounds.

I've never been very impressed with this; I don't understand why some people think this is such an important advance. Fact is, it seems to be a solution in search of a problem.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:39 PM on July 10, 2006

I can see the larger guns being used but an electronicly fired handgun (or rifle) is vulnerable to EMP
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 7:39 PM on July 10, 2006

Why is it a good idea to have such an immensely destructive weapon controlled entirely electronically? That's far easier to sabotage than a conventional firearm, I would think.
posted by clockzero at 7:40 PM on July 10, 2006

furtive, the hole expands, too.

Baloney! Is space expanding inside the hole to accomodate the so called expansion of the hole? I was talking from experience, I don't know what hole you're talking out of.
posted by furtive at 7:44 PM on July 10, 2006

This stuff has been 'just about to be released' for so long that it makes Duke Nukem Forever look like a prompt delivery.
posted by sien at 7:48 PM on July 10, 2006

furtive, that's wrong. The hole expands. Heating could allow barrel deformation that would obstruct the projectile's path, but the hole still got bigger.
posted by NortonDC at 7:55 PM on July 10, 2006

The metal expands, not the air inside of it. That means it is expanding both outwards and inwards (constricting the path of the bullet).
posted by IronLizard at 8:01 PM on July 10, 2006

Well, to nitpick, the air expands too, but it can escape the barrel ;-)
posted by furtive at 8:07 PM on July 10, 2006

Holes expand.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:13 PM on July 10, 2006

They do have a video of it reloading.
posted by IronWolve at 8:15 PM on July 10, 2006

posted by IronWolve at 8:16 PM on July 10, 2006

A million rounds a minute... I'm wagging that the bullets are 3 inches long... and say 2000 fps... 16666 bullets per second... that's a wavelength of 1.4 inches. Less than the length of any typical bullet. Something doesn't add up here.
posted by chef_boyardee at 8:19 PM on July 10, 2006

Multiple barrels.
posted by Thoth at 8:39 PM on July 10, 2006


Thanks. Looks like a barrel swap for each reload. Glad I don't have to hump that around.
posted by NortonDC at 8:49 PM on July 10, 2006

Meanwhile...back in the real world... MTSX is trading at $2.13 vs. $14.20 in '02. Are we buying puts or calls, class?

(Answer: neither, options aren't traded on the dog).
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:49 PM on July 10, 2006

Just wait until the "insurgents" have this technology.
posted by Balisong at 8:53 PM on July 10, 2006

at that may rounds per second, it would also be able to fire for about... oh, a quarter second before even a large magazine would be expended. Probably it will be slowed down and turned into something useful... or not!

It dosn't use magazines, all the bullets are in the barrel. Rather then reloading with a new magazine, you simply grab another barrel. Probably more expensive, though.
posted by delmoi at 8:57 PM on July 10, 2006


with a control system presumably tied to electronics inside i bet they are recyclable.
posted by sourbrew at 9:00 PM on July 10, 2006

Looking at the longer video with reloading, it dosn't look that difficult at all. the "magazine" is a long tube, not unlike a shell for a regular bullet. It can fire four times, then the tube is pulled out and replaced.
posted by delmoi at 9:04 PM on July 10, 2006

A roman candle on crack. Does it really out-perform a one-use rocket of the same size?
posted by fleacircus at 9:26 PM on July 10, 2006

Killin' is a growth industry.
posted by spock at 9:36 PM on July 10, 2006

I would think one of the biggest limiting factors on this weapon would be the fact that you can only stack so many bullets up in a barrel. For an aircraft weapon system, a shipboard phalanx-style system, or really, for anything belt- or hopper-fed, I would think would be a significant disadvantage. Certainly adding an array of barrels mitigates this problem somewhat, but at the added cost of weight and volume (of the barrel arrays themselves). Then you have the whole reloading issue -- you can't belt feed a barrel array.

At a minimum, it's not going to replace infantry-carried support weapons like the M249 any time soon.

Also, as others have noted, this seems to be a solution in search of a problem. You can't really lay down supression fire at a million rounds a minute. Having a high rate of fire is all well and good, but once it's so high that it's for all intents and purposes simultaneous then you are just simulating a (much) bigger bullet. So why not just use a bigger bullet, or maybe explosive bullets.

OTOH, I suppose they could throttle the rate of fire to what is appropriate, the system being electronically ignited and all. This mitigates that issue, but then points out the fact that the "million rounds a minute" claim, while maybe technically true, is pure, total hype.

Furthermore, I'm curious as to the ballistics of these beasts. The length of the barrel has more than a little effect on projectile ballistics, and since each round is going to be travelling a different length of barrel I suspect this will have at least some effect on performance. This is not to mention the question of what effects exhaust gases from previous rounds are going to have on subsequent rounds.
posted by moonbiter at 11:38 PM on July 10, 2006

I think its the "no moving parts" that makes it interesting, and the electrical discharge method of triggering the bullets.

But they have machine guns that fire as fast.
But using multiple barrels, thats not an even comparison.
posted by IronWolve at 11:50 PM on July 10, 2006

Also featured heavily in the metahuman inspired books Those Who Walk In Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn (fear not - affiliate free Amazon links)... Not exactly good, but enjoyable, books that explore interesting ammunition options.

(No, I am not a gun freak. My home defense is a baseball bat...)
posted by Samizdata at 12:41 AM on July 11, 2006

The patriarch of the clan was Martin Fugate, who settled along the banks of Troublesome Creek near Hazard, Kentucky, sometime after 1800.

posted by furtive at 1:18 AM on July 11, 2006

There's one obvious application for this gadget: dealing with hypersonic surface-skimming anti-shipping missiles such as the 3M80 Moskit (aka SS-N-22 Sunburn). As FAS comment, "the 3M82 "Mosquito" missiles are extremely fast and give the defending side a maximum theoretical response time of merely 25-30 seconds, rendering it extremely difficult employ jamming and countermeasures, let alone fire missiles and quick-firing artillery."

Current point defense on NATO warships typically consists of short-range missiles, and CIWS gun systems like Phalanx or Goalkeeper . (The latter is a Dutch design, also used by the UK; it's similar to the American Phalanx system, but uses the GAU-8 30mm cannon -- same as the A10 Thunderbolt -- rather than the smaller 20mm cannon used in Phalanx.)

A comment from the Wikipedia entry for Goalkeeper is relevant here: "The systems reaction time to a Mach 2 sea-skimming missile from automatic detection to kill is reported to be 5.5 seconds with the engagement starting at a range of 1500 m and ending with a kill at 300 m."

Anything that puts a heavier, denser wall'o'lead in front of a sea-skimming missile has got to be a Good Thing from a naval officer's point of view. And Metal Storm has a couple of clear advantages over the existing Gatling gun technologies -- far fewer moving parts, less stuff that can go wrong, and the ability to throw the same amount of metal in a shorter period. Ships don't have the same problems with carrying heavy reloads as an infantry weapon, and if it keeps your $1Bn Type-45 Destroyer (or equivalent) from being T-boned by a 3M80, it's cheap at the price.
posted by cstross at 1:50 AM on July 11, 2006

And Metal Storm has a couple of clear advantages over the existing Gatling gun technologies -- far fewer moving parts, less stuff that can go wrong, and the ability to throw the same amount of metal in a shorter period

(Hey, I know that guy. Say hi to F and Fluff for me...)

The other win is barrel length. The Phalanx's problem is the round size is too small for reliable knockdown, but the Goalkeeper's problem is the barrel length needed is so long that traversal becomes a factor. So, the Phalanx can get on target, but has trouble with knockdown, the Goalkeeper has no problem with knockdown, but can't get on target.

(Goalkeeper, a much more capable weapon system overall, also cost twice as much per copy, and requires real work to install, including a large hole in the deck and a magazine below.. Phalanx needs a 5x5x5 cube of space on deck with boltdowns, 440V AC, and some cooling water.)

Neither is a great solution, but these are last-gasp defensive weapons. Ideally, you could argue, you'd mount both, but they aren't cheap. Traversal speed is becoming a huge problem with both systems, the current trend has been towards short ranged missles in the CIWS role -- with the longer range, you can engage further out, which makes traversal much less important (so much less that vertical launch becomes a smarter move, though most of the current crop of missle CIWS are designed to plug into the spots where existing systems are, and traverse using the old mount)

Being able to put out that much metal out of a short barrel means you can traverse fast and have a good knockdown chance -- ideal in a last-gasp weapon.

The real problem, of course, is the control system. You have to be careful that your CIWS doesn't do things like engage chaff clouds (as the USS Missouri about that one) or friendly aircraft. Indeed, the software safeties caused real problems in the early days -- the Royal Navy quickly termed the weapons as "Christ, It Won't Shoot!"
posted by eriko at 5:01 AM on July 11, 2006

fleacircus: A roman candle on crack.

Probably the best description of Metalstorm i've ever seen. I've been following this technology for a while (about 4 years). On one hand, i'm fascinated with what they've accomplished. As a gun geek, the speed is nothing short of astounding.

But i will be honestly surprised if this system is ever fielded by actual solders. That it's not field reloadable (hauling around extra barrels is not a real option) is going to kill it. Not unlike the G11, the design necessitating that you need the factory to reload the barrels will keep this technology limited to very specific applications.

Also, that the accuracy will be affected by the fact that each shot is going to be coming out of a different length of barrel is not going to help with it's popularity.
posted by quin at 5:09 AM on July 11, 2006

We need a gun that shoots quarters. Only $10 for a 40 shot clip!
posted by elderling at 7:43 AM on July 11, 2006

It’s nice, but I like common ammo and being able to engage Greedo at 100 yds, I’ll stick to my Han Solo, thanks.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:51 AM on July 11, 2006

Not unlike the G11, the design necessitating that you need the factory to reload the barrels will keep this technology limited to very specific applications.

Er, no. The G11 fired from a magazine. Unless you mean you need to send the G11 to the factory for repairs due to internal complexity, which is debatable.
posted by Ryvar at 9:06 AM on July 11, 2006

Sorry Ryvar, I could have been more clear. Yes, the G11 was magazine fired, but the mags themselves couldn't be reloaded in the field. Because of the oddities of the cartridge the it fired, the magazines had to be loaded at the factory, this meant that if the magazine became dirty or damaged, it couldn't be unloaded and the ammunition transferred to another magazine.
posted by quin at 10:45 AM on July 11, 2006

Neal Stephenson's description of the Vickers machine gun in Cryptonomicon:

In Shaftoe’s post-high-school experience he had found that guns had much in common with saws. Guns could fire bullets all right, but they kicked back and heated up, got dirty, and jammed eventually. They could fire bullets in other words, but it was a big deal for them, it placed a certain amount of stress on them, and they could not take that stress forever. But the Vickers in the back of this truck was to other guns as the bandsaw was to other saws. The Vickers was water-cooled. It actually had a f*cking radiator on it. It had infrastructure, just like the bandsaw, and a whole crew of technicians to fuss over it. But once the damn thing was up and running, it could fire continuously for days as long as people kept scurrying up to it with more belts of ammunition. After Private Mikulski opened fire with the Vickers, some of the other Detachment 2702 men, eager to pitch in and do their bit, took potshots at those Germans with their rifles, but doing so made them feel so small and pathetic that they soon gave up and just took cover in the ditch and lit up cigarettes and watched the slow progress of the Vickers’ bullet-stream across the roadblock. Mikulski hosed down all of the German vehicles for a while, yawing the Vickers back and forth like a man playing a fire extinguisher against the base of a fire. Then he picked out a few bits of the roadblock that he suspected people might be standing behind and concentrated on them for a while, boring tunnels through the wreckage of the vehicles until he could see what was on the other side, sawing through their frames and breaking them in half. He cut down half a dozen or so roadside trees behind which he suspected Germans were hiding, and then mowed about half an acre of grass.

By this time it had become evident that some Germans had retreated behind a gentle swell in the earth just off to one side of the road and were taking potshots from there, so Mikulski swung the muzzle of the Vickers up into the air at a steep angle and shot the bullet-stream into the sky so that the bullets plunged down like mortar shells on the other side of the rise. It took him a while to get the angle just right, but then he patiently distributed bullets over the entire field, like a man watering his lawn. One of the SAS blokes actually did some calculations on his knee, figuring out how long Mikulski should keep doing this to make sure that bullets were distributed over the ground in question at the right density—say, one per square foot. When the territory had been properly sown with lead slugs, Mikulski turned back to the roadblock and made sure that the truck pulled across the pavement was in small enough pieces that it could be shoved out of the way by hand.

Then he ceased firing at last. Shaftoe felt like he should make an entry in a log book, the way ships’ captains do when they pull a man-of-war into port. When they drove past the wreckage, they slowed down for a bit to gawk. The brittle grey iron of the German vehicles’ engine blocks had shattered like glass and you could look into the engines all neatly cross-sectioned and see the gleaming pistons and crankshafts exposed to the sun, bleeding oil and coolant.

posted by mecran01 at 10:46 AM on July 11, 2006

elderling writes "We need a gun that shoots quarters."

You can load dimes in an unchoked shotgun, acts like a fragmentation slug.
posted by Mitheral at 12:19 PM on July 11, 2006

« Older Mmmm, mmm good... Freshly squeezed crude!   |   8=8 Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments