-Jon Andre Garberg, DSG Technologies' CEO, for is informative answers regarding the supercavitating ammunition DSG is developed, manufacturing and selling worldwide.
-Mel Carpenter, author of "MBA Gyrojets and Other Ordnance", for is generous help of clarified a lot of the mystery surrounding the Launchjet weapon system and the Gyrojet survival kits.
-I would also like to thank Yoel for his continued hard work on these FWS Armory blogposts!
Why do Divers Need to be Armed?
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how", and as we'll see in the next segment, there are a lot of "how" to be answered when designing a firearm to operate in this challenging environment of the deeps… so there should be a strong justification for "why" having such weapons. So, why do divers need to shoot someone or something in an aquatic tactical environment?
Human enemy combatants
Non-human enemy combatants
While a stroke from a dolphin nose is usually enough to kill a diver, several sources claim that special harness with spears attach were designed for those combatant mammals to strike a fatal blow to their foe.
The Other Weapons of Divers
Knives & spears
The Challenges of Using Firearms in Aquatic Environment
The problems in the list below are the problems facing "air-breather" guns when fired underwater and also are the challenges facing weapon engineers when develop underwater firearm.
Auto loading cycling problems
Bullet range & accuracy
Using Gloved Palms with Trigger Guards
Refraction & replication
Structure and triggering
Composed of very short smoothbore "barrel" that houses the cartridge attach to a fix "breach" with a fix firing fin via a compression spring. When the powerhead hits the target, the barrel section is retracting backward against the spring and the cartridge's primer is been hit by the firing fin. Usually, a safety pin is in place to prevent unwanted firing and needs to be removed before firing. Reloading is done by separate (usually unscrewing) the barrel from the breach, removing the spent case, place fresh cartridge in the barrel and assemble the powerhead back.
Round protective coating
Speargun Slip Tip
Seaway Bang Stick
- Lethality – according to some reports the Seaway could cut a shark into two halves!
- Loading speed - don't need to disassemble the powerhead, remove spent case, place new one & assemble; just place new round in place.
- Safety – the diver don't hangout with a loaded stick until he/she face a danger.
- Angle of approach – the front side of the cartridge has concentric circular ridges, when contacting with target at a shallow angle those ridges prevents the bangstick from slipping out and instead provides good traction for the cartridge to slip into the firing pin.
So, if it so good why isn't it the leading bang-stick in the market? Although the US Navy did test it and with good results, only a small number been purchase and the civilian market wasn't (and still isn't) large enough to justify manufacturing of such a custom-made rounds.
In the mid 1960's, the US Navy had a need for a new weapon for their divers. During the 1960's, it was the Navy SEALs job to secure and retrieve the astronauts from their splashdown capsules and the weapon needed also for the SEALs regular low profile operations. The Navy SEALs needed a weapon to repel shark attack quietly without cause the target bleeding, which only attract more sharks to the site. The solution was the shark darts and it was developed by scuba equipment company name Farallon Industries. Their solution was to use an small canister of compressed CO2 with a syringe needle that simply injected the gas into the shark body. The idea behind it was to apply "forced bouncy" to the shark, making it leave the area while the rapid release of CO2 freezes the penetration wound to prevent any blood spill. Farallon made several models including dagger-like needle, a pike and speargun's bolts.
Although those shark darts was intended as a less-lethal opinion, the field tests results were a bit gorier than expected, according to few eye eyewitness, the rapid release of gas to the shark's body results with the launch of the sharks' guts out of their mouths… yeah, so much for a silent discreet soft kill that the Navy fantasized about. Farallon Industries made & delivered an small number of shark darts to the Navy which apparently prepared bad protection to none. The age of the shark darts ended in the mid 1970's after the Apollo program was cancelled and the need to rescue astronaut was gone. In addition, it been discovered that the danger of sharks was overly exaggerated. There was not a single encounter with a hostile shark during any of the retrieval missions or the training. So much for Jaws.
WASP injection Knife
Underwater Firearm List
Identify and classify underwater firearms isn’t an easy task. The shadowy world of SEALs-like teams around the globe is rarely revealed to public eye and the fact that very small numbers of those guns are manufactured and issued, making the task even harder. Most of the information regarding the guns listed below should be taken with a grain of salt (sea salt?) since both the history & specifications of the guns are usually estimations.
B-V1-307 Underwater Handgun (Б-VI-307)
SPP-1 Underwater Pistol
Mark 1 Model 0/Mk.1 Mod.0 Underwater Defense Gun Pistol
Heckler& Koch P11 Underwater Pistol
Underwater Lancejet Speargun
The company MBA is most memorable for their revolutionary, but short lived, attempt to produce rocket-based small-arm system, commonly known as the Gryojet. While their Gyrojet pistol & carbine are well known MBA also had large number of experimental guns never gone to full serial manufacturing. One of those eye candies was the Launchjet speargun. The launchjet program has one of many MBA attempts to enter the military market, the initial intention was an anti-mine system designed to lance salvos of long and narrow launchjet rockets into the ground to deliver small explosive charge and dislodge the mines. The launchjets projectiles weren’t stabilized by fins like MBA's Finjets or be gyroscopic spin like MBA's gyrojets. Launchjet stability was due to its relative heavy nose that kept it from tumbling. The launchjet were fairly accurate for the role of showering Soviet minefields, but it been rejected by the US Army for been ineffective against the newer Soviet mines. MBA then decide to try to apply their launchjet technology for the use of divers.
Mark I Model B Gyrojet Pistol Survival Kit
APS Underwater Assault Rifle
QBS-06 underwater assault rifle
Dual Medium Firearm List
The 5.45mm bullet extended way into the cartridge. The bullet length is 53mm out of the total of 57mm cartridge length. Having similar external dimensions as regular cartridge allows the PSP ammo to be stacked into a regular AK-74 magazine and avoids the need to have sliding the magazine catch. Changing the weapon work environment is done simply by replacing one magazine loaded with PSP ammo with magazine loaded with standard ammo. As with the ASM-DT all of the Russian accessories like grenade launcher, bayonet optics could be attached to the gun. Adopted into Russian Naval service in 2010.
Underwater gun SSU
DSG Technologies Ammunition
In addition, the bullets have the ability to enters water when shot outside of the water or emerge from water when shot underwater without any diffraction in the bullet trajectory even at low angle of attack.
To insure proper automatic cycling of the DST, it can offer tailor-made cartridge with the right amount of gunpowder required. The MEA outer dimensions are identical to regular ammunition and could be stack in magazine and loaded without any modifications. Currently, emphasize on currently, DSG doesn't produce or design optics for compensation refraction. Mr. Garberg explanation is that a skill shooter could easily compensate without any aid, but he claims that future development in that field is possible. Other than small arms, DSG is also design their ammunition for platforms such as naval turrets against mines and incoming torpedoes and for unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) against aerial targets. So…when will those MEA hit your local gun stores' shelves? Well, unfortunately while in the process of manufacturing and selling MEA to various coast guard agencies and park rangers for taking down aquatic animals like sharks & alligators, DSG does not have any plans entering the civilian market for the foreseen future.
Northrop Grumman Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS)
Has There Ever been an Underwater Gunfight between Frogmen?
The Future of Underwater Weapons
Propulsion - the renaissance of the rockets.
Payload - Explosive Warhead
Supercavitation - Gas Injective Nose
As stated above, firing from above the water at a submerged target or for an submerge diver to shot at sentry on the decks going to be a problem without optics for compensation refraction. Could we see specialized optical systems for underwater firearms? Not unless there is demand and the funding to do so.
The Far Future
Science Fiction and Underwater weapons
Full Underwater Arsenal in James Cameron AVATAR 2?!
The Electric Pellet Guns from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1871)
UNEF Jet propelled spears with Explosive warheads from The Forever War Novel
Explosive Warhead from the novel The Sphere (1987)
J-9 exploding head spears loaded with Taglin-50 charges". When fight the giant squid, the character of Norman use this gun to decapitated one of the squid tentacles. A fantastic book, but misguide film.
The APS Underwater Assault Rifle from Call of Duty: Ghosts
The Dual-Medium Crossbow from Half-Life
The H&K P11 from Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003
The Shark-Dart Repeater and Cartridge Base from Jaws (1975)
The Cartridge based Shark-Darts from Deepstar Six (1989)
Shark-Gun & CO2 Bullers from 007 James Bond Live and Let Die (1973)
As always, good old Q Branch equipped our favorite British Secret agent 007 with the right tools for the mission, this time Bond get a shark-gun fires bullets contains compressed CO2 propelled by a compressed CO2 cartridge in the gun grip.
The Gryojet Pistol Survivor Kit from Murderer's Row (1966)
The Incinerator "Flamer" from ALIEN: Resurrection (1997)
The Seatrooper's & AquaticTrooper's blasters from the Star Wars Universe
Next FWS Armory Article...Encounters of the Close & Personal Kind
Chris Rock once said that:"every punk can fire from across the room, but it takes a man to get close enough to stab", but why not both? Firearms sometimes can be use as a melee weapon and as a tool. Bayonet stabbing, Buttstoke kick, barber wire cutter, window breaker… in the next installment of FWS Armory, we'll examine closely the different ways a firearm can cause harm without any trigger pull whatsoever.
Next Time on FWS...
Space, also known as the highest frontier - And by the same logic the seas and oceans could be called (along with the dippiest mines) as the lower frontier. When thinking about the concept of underwater wars & conflicts most people will presume that the combat necessary have to be between submarines and ships or submarines and themselves.
Other form of battle could be involving frogmen fighting against other frogmen or frogmen against some alerted security guard standing on dock or a ship.
Fighting such wars requires different weapons than we the 'land-rats' know and use.
In this FWS Armory you will be find out everything there is to know about underwater firearms. Well… at list what is commonly known and available to Google search that is, the numerous "seals" teams around the globe are likely still holding unknown cards in their scuba suit's sleeves.
This article couldn't be complete and accurate without the help of two individuals:
Jon Andre Garberg, DSG Technologies' CEO, for is informative answers regarding the supercavitating ammunition DSG is developed, manufacturing and selling worldwide.
Mel Carpenter, author of "MBA Gyrojets and Other Ordnance", for is generous help of clarified a lot of the mystery surrounding the Launchjet weapon system and the Gyrojet survival kits.
**Why divers need to be armed?
Friedrich Nietzsche once said:"He who has a why to live can bear almost any how", and as we'll see in the next segment there are a lot of 'how' to be answered when designing a firearm to operate in this challenging environment of the deeps… so there should be a strong justification for 'why' having such weapons. So why do divers need to shot someone?
It is a fish eating fish out there under the waves and while the predators of the aquatic habitat had hundreds of millions of years to adapt to live and hunt in the water we homo species are fairly new guests and down there even Michael Phelps is at best no more than a retard fish, clearly we humans going to need a bigger gun when we go there.
When diving and wonder at the variety of aquatic live one might want to share his experience with others at land by taking shots with a camera to capture the rich tapestry of colors and shapes of the surroundings. Others will use some kind of weapon to shot and have excess to the rich tapestry of tastes of those same animals.
In the decades past both Scuba, snorkel & free divers been fishing as hobby and a sport using weapons a bit superior to the standard harpoon launchers, especially when it is a 'big game' those divers are after.
*Human enemy combatants
The primary reason to have anything resemble our dry land guns is to outgun those enemy frogmen of the other side who are also armed. Several navies' trains & deployed units of defensive frogmen protecting key positions such as ports & harbors from infiltration of 'offensive ' frogmen trying to booby-trap and explode ships & infrastructures. And when the fight begins you don't want to be the frogman who brings divers' knife into a gunfight.
**Non-human enemy combatants
There are many reports and rumors that both the USA and USSR navies trained several species of marine mammals such as dolphins, seals & sea lion to do their dirty work like mines detection, mines placement and of course replacing defensive frogmen on a hunt & destroy of enemy divers.
While a stroke from a dolphin nose is usually enough to kill a diver several sources claim that special harness with spears attach were designed for those combatant mammals for striking a fatal blow to their foe.
Such aggressor (if it more than urban myth) have the speed and agility of aquatic predator with the harmful intension of enemy solider is a good motivation to have an automatic underwater rifle and might be the explanation to why the Soviet arm their divers with such weapons.
*The other weapons of divers
Mainly the weapons divers take with them to the great blue aren't firearms by any definition. Both melee weapons and spearguns are basically cold weapons, similar to those used on land. This article excludes those weapons out.
*Knives & spears
Both knives and spears are used by divers for short range protection weapon. Knives are also been used as a tool for underwater works and such.
The most common of the range weapons of the deeps, spearguns use either a compressed gas canister or some sort of tensioned tether to launch a spear toward the target.
Mainly those spearguns are for fishing and given that fishes usually don't killed by a single shot those guns' spears are connected by wire to a pulley type mechanism in the speargun similar to what could be found in fish rods to enable the diver to captured and retrieve its prey.
Depth charges are simple explosive devices fused by depth fuse, those bombs damp or lunched form surface ship with a preset exposition depth. Most of those charges are barrel size dropped against submarines. Smaller versions are anti-frogmen charges, small as a standard hand grenade and can be toss as grenades. Before throwing them one had to specify the depth of explosion.
*The challenges of using firearms in water environment
Although probably all of FWS readers know that fact I will still clarify the subject – guns CAN fire underwater and do it without air's oxygen! How so? Don't you need oxygen for a 'fire'?
Well yes you need O2 but not necessarily from air. Gunpowder composes of both fuel and oxidizer, the saltpeter ingredient act as oxidizer and provides the gunpowder the oxygen it needs. The complete burning of the powder happened inside the cartridge without any external source of oxygen.
The problems in the list below are the problems facing 'air-breather' guns when fired underwater and also are the challenges facing weapon engineers when develop underwater firearm.
The dangerous thing to have is a gun blow in your hands… firing a gun underwater when its interior, especially the barrel, filled in water could result of anything from rapidly ware off the gun and short its life expectancy to fatal blowing in your face.
When the gun barrel is full of water the firing charge has to push the bullet and water out, the result is higher pressure last longer than what the gun originally designed to.
*Auto loading cycling problems
Auto loading gun is a precise balance of returning spring tension and firing chamber/bolt piston pressure, when the balance is disrupted due to the presence of water in the interior the auto cycling could be disrupted too.
*Bullet range & accuracy
Water is 1000 time denser and 50 times more viscous than air. A bullet fired is subjected to enormous drag force slowing the bullet quickly to a full stop after ridiculously short travel.
Accuracy also goes out the window cause the high drag tumble the projectile out of its course.
Water is an excellent conductor for sound and firing noises could easily damage the shooter hearing and the same time reviling his presence and location to his foes.
Visibility underwater is very low, at best no more than 40 meters.
Also bullet firing leaves a distinctive bubble like trail reviling the shooter presence and location.
Water, especially saltwater, is highly corrosive sun of a bitch which can rapidly corrode even the most resistive materials.
*Using gloved palms with trigger guard
Guns' trigger is usually covered by a narrow strip called trigger guard. Job of the guard is to prevent any accidental pull of the trigger. Using thick gloves like divers do could be problematic… some guns like M-16 have a removable trigger guard for gloved palm, the guns designed to operate underwater are already have larger trigger guard.
Navigating underwater isn't an easy job, minimal visibility even when the sky is clear and no GPS signals coming through. To navigate the divers use a magnetic compass on their wrist.
Of course magnetic compasses are distracted by the presence of ferromagnetic materials such as iron or steel. The usual scuba gear doesn't contain iron or steel but guns do...
*Refraction & replication
A serious problem to anyone who want to shot from above the water at a submerge target or for some submerge diver to shot at sentry on the decks is the fact that light bend when passing from air to water or vice versa.
According to Snell's law when a beam of light passes between two different mediums with different light speeds the beam is bent. The practical result is when you shot your target is not really where it appears to be.
Other problem is what called the 'Total internal reflection'; in shallow angels the water surface acts like a mirror for observers underwater prevents them to observe and shot those annoying sentries.
Powerhead is a crude but effective device; it’s a single shot zip-gun design to carry and fire regular cartridges. To offset the pathetic short range & low accuracy regular bullets have when fired underwater the powerhead is fired at point blank range, the weapon muzzle is been pressed against the target to activate it and fire the bullet.
Those types of weapons are almost exclusively civilian market guns, specifically for the 'big game' fishing community. There is no 'regular' gun companies selling those guns and any company making such powerheads is so called 'boutique' gunsmithing shop often establish and run by some 'big game fisherman'.
The powerheads are attached to the tip of a spear; the smaller caliber powerheads can be mounted to small speargun's bolts and could be launch like common speargun's bolt, the large caliber once are mount to the tip of a handheld lance.
The handheld powerheads versions are usually called bang stick (THIS is my BANGSTICK!)
**Structure and triggering
compose of very short smoothbore 'barrel' that house the cartridge attach to a fix 'breach' with a fix firing fin via a compression spring. When the powerhead hit the target the barrel section is retracting backward against the spring and the cartridge's primer is been hit by the firing fin. Usually a safety pin is in place to prevent unwanted firing and need to be removed before firing. Reloading is done by separate (usually unscrewing) the barrel from the breach, removing the spent case, place fresh cartridge in the barrel and assemble the powerhead back.
*Round protective coating
The use of dry-land cartridges poses a problem when they submerge, seawater could enter into the case thru the primer or the crimp rims around the bullet. To protect the cartridges it is common to use coating material like nail polish or varnish around those soft spots.
*Speargun Slip Tip
The powerhead isn't a weapon of war but for hunting and like their land hunter cousins the divers want to bring back home something to eat. A slip tip is a barbed head dart placed inside the powerhead barrel. The cartridge blast propels it into the target. The slip tip is connected with be wire to the bang stick or the speargun so the diver can retrieve the prey.
********Seaway bang stick
In 1977 a company name Aqua Craft from San Diego developed for the US navy THE ultimate bang stick that ever been. Unlike the other amateur bang sticks designed around standard rounds the Seaway bang stick was the only MIL grade powerhead ever made and had it own designated cartridges (bangridges?).
The Seaway bang stick was designed to give US navy divers a supreme protection against sharks by emitted the most appreciated part in the gun – the bullet!
It turn out that the slug effect against targets like sharks is minimal, unless you hit it in the head the shark could still survive for the needed time to eat you. More lethal than the slug is the shockwave of the massive gas expansion causing tissue damage.
For applying damage by shockwave Aqua Craft invent the weirdest blank cartridge in history.
The cartridge is a Chimera assembly of modified .30-30 Winchester blank round with a .38 S&W blank cartridge insert backward into the .30-30 cartridge were the .30-30 bullet should have been. The .30-30 primer had been replaced by thin diaphragm. This peculiar round appears like two ends cartridge with no front side.
The powerhead itself is a single piece of stainless steel tube, open from the front and close in the rear with fix firing fin. Around the firing fin there are six radial holes.
The Seaway is muzzle loaded, the diver strip a cartridge from 6 rounds bandolier on the diver belt and place it into the muzzle with the .38 end pacing the pin. The cartridge structure prevents it to slide all the way to the firing fin and instead it stacks 1/2 inch sticking out of the tube.
When contacting the target the cartridge slips in and ignited. The .30-30 diaphragm is blasted and the target receives its deadly dose of shockwave. After the initial blast there is a short period of low pressure in the front area of the spent cartridge and water flow thru the six holes to push the spent cartridge out of the powerhead and it ready to be loaded with a fresh cartridge again.
As stated the Seaway is superior to civilian bang stick in any way:
Lethality – according to some reports the Seaway could cut a shark into two halves!
Loading speed - don't need to disassemble the powerhead, remove spent case, place new one & assemble; just place new round in place.
Safety – the diver don't hangout with a loaded stick until he/she face a danger.
Angle of approach – the front side of the cartridge has concentric circular ridges, when contacting with target at a shallow angle those ridges prevents the bangstick from slipping out and instead provides good traction for the cartridge to slip into the firing pin.
So, if it so good why isn't it the leading bang-stick in the market?
Although the navy test it and with good results only a small number been purchase and the civilian market wasn't (and still isn't) large enough to justify manufacturing of such a costume made rounds.
In the mid 60's the US Navy had a need for a new weapon for their divers. During the 60's it was the Navy Seals job to secure and retrieve the astronauts from their splashdown capsules and the weapon needed also for the Seals regular low profile operations. The Navy Seals needed a weapon to repel shark attack quietly without cause the target bleed which only attract more sharks to the site.
The solution was the shark darts, developed by scuba equipment company name Farallon Industries. Their solution uses a small canister of compressed CO2 with a syringe needle that simplify inject the gas into the shark body. The idea behind it was to apply 'forced bouncy' to the shark making it leave the area while the rapid release of CO2 freezes the penetration wound to prevent any blood spill. Farallon made several models including dagger like needle, a pike and speargun's bolts
Although those shark darts was intended as a less-lethal gear the field tests results where a bit gorier than expected, according to few eye eyewitness the rapid release of gas to the sharks body results with the launch of the sharks' guts out of their mouths… yeah, so much for a silent discreet soft kill the navy fantasized about.
Farallon Industries made & delivered Small number of shark darts to the Navy which apparently prepared bad protection to none. The age of the shark darts ended in the mid 70's after the Apollo program cancelled and the need to rescue astronauts gone. In addition it been discovered that the danger of sharks was overly exaggerated, there was not a single encounter with a hostile shark during any of the retrieval missions or the training.
When the Apollo program coming to an end, Farallon industries set their sight toward the diver civilian market. Besides their cartridge base darts Farallon produce in 1974 a new type, cartridge free dart known as "Farallon Repeater". There were a few models, some dagger like other pike shaped, all based upon build in rechargeable small pressure tank. The tank could be recharge using any source of compressed air and according to some accounts could produce several 'shots' before deflated.
****WASP injection Knife
Farallon industries stop making their shark darts a long time ago and as far as I could find went bankrupt 4 years ago, today the closest thing to shark dart can be found in the WASP injection knife. This incent looking knife contain CO2 canister inside the handle and a thumb bottom to release the compressed gas into the target when needed. As with Farallon's shark darts the purpose of this knife is to bleed seal the wound in the target while force it to buoyant away from the diver.
*Underwater firearm list
Identify and classify underwater firearms isn’t an easy task. The world of navy seals teams around the globe is rarely revealed to public eye and the fact that very small numbers of those guns are manufactured and issues makes the task even harder. Most of the info regarding the guns listed below should be taken with a grain of salt (sea salt?) since both the history & specifications of the guns are usually estimations.
**B-V1-307 Underwater Handgun (Б-VI-307)
The first (known) attempt to produce underwater firearm, design and produce by the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine (ЦНИИТочмаш) in the mid 60's, the B-V1-307 was the Russian navy test-bed pistol for new armament for their frogmen.
Twelve been made and delivered to the Navy in 1969, the pistols were four smoothbore barrels with single double-action rotating striker. Each trigger pull instead of rotating a cylinder and cock an hammer like revolvers do, the B-V1-307 cock a striker and align with the new fresh cartridge in the next barrel. The gun loading and reloading be done by open the gun like hinged-break shotgun.
As the Navy's test-bed gun several different ammo types were tested including 6mm mini-rockets darts. The rocket darts nose was specially designed shape to generate cavitation bubble around the dart to reduce water drag.
While the gun design been favorable by the Russian Navy's brass, the innovative rocket darts idea been rejected in favor of the more traditional gunpowder ammo variants.
********SPP-1 underwater pistol
After tinkering and testing the B-V1-307 the Russkies adapt the mature SPP-1 pistol to their service and export it to a few eastern blocs' navies.
The gun is similar in design to its Progenitor, four barrels hinge-break gun with DA rotating striker.
The gun loaded with needle like cartridges clustered in four round moon clips.
The cartridges have watertight shells though the sealing isn't impregnable, long duration exposure will contaminate the gunpowder. The solution is to hold those quadruplets in a small sealed case.
The gun is still in use at the hands of former eastern bloc's frogmen.
**Mark 1 Model 0/Mk.1 Mod.0 Underwater Defense Gun pistol
The Mk.1 Mod.0 pistol was the first gun the US navy adapts for the use of its combat divers. Developed and adapted in the 70's and been use till the mid 80's when it was replaced by the German H&K P11.
Technically, Mk.1 Mod.0 is the every diver trusty six-gun… the gun is a pepperbox configuration, double-action trigger; gun is fire from 6 o’clockposition (bottom barrel). Unlike its Russian counterparts in the Mk.1 Mod.0 it’s the barrels cluster that rotates and the trigger unit is fixed.
Six smoothbore barrels are arranged as single long cylinder, gun reloading is done by replacing spent cylinder by fresh one. Spent cylinder can be reloaded with fresh barrels.
The barrels structure themselves is interesting and unique, when ignition occur the expanding gas push forward a piston inside the barrel which push and eject 100mm length on 2.54mm diameter needle, the fined needle diameter is smaller than the constriction in at the barrel muzzle. The result – the needle is been launched while the piston and the gunpowder burning gases kept enclosed in the barrel.
As a result the Mk.1 Mod.0 firing is totally quiet and with no giveaway bubbles stream.
**Heckler Koch P11 underwater pistol
The name Heckler & Koch is no stranger to any gun enthusiasts but very few know about their underwater pistol, the P11.
Developed in the early 70's, the P11 become the standard armament of all of the western navies' combat divers and it still in service.
The pistol's distinctive feature is its five barrels cluster, each barrel contain powder charge and small needle. The clusters are factory loaded and any cluster which all of its rounds been fired need to be sent to back to H&K for reload.
Reloading the pistol itself is by simply removing spent cluster and replacing it with fresh.
Two 9V batteries in the pistol grip provide the energy for electrically Ignition of the charges.
For every single trigger full the system ignites a different barrel.
********Underwater Lancejet speargun
The company MBA is most memorable for their revolutionary but short lived attempt to produce rocket-base small-arms and while their Gyrojet pistol & carbine are well known MBA also had large number of experimental guns never gone to full serial manufacturing.
One of those eye candies is the Launchjet speargun.
The launchjet program has one of many MBA attempts to enter the military market, the initial intention was an anti-mine system designed to lance salvos of long and narrow launchjet rockets into the ground to deliver small explosive charge and takeoff those mines.
The launchjets weren’t stabilized by fins like MBA's Finjets or be gyroscopic spin like MBA's gyrojets. The launchjet stability was due to its relative heavy nose that kept it from tumbling.
The launchjet were fairly accurate for the role of showering Soviet minefields but it been rejected by the US army for been ineffective against the newer Soviet mines.
MBA then decide to try to apply their launchjet technology for the use of divers.
At least three launchers were built and they were single-shot guns, loaded from the muzzle with launchjet rocket and fire using single action striker. Cocking the striker was done by pulling backward a large knob in the gun's rear.
The gun itself was constructed from light non magnetite materials and had 'natural buoyancy' to prevent it from sinking or floating if dropped from the diver hand.
The launchjet's rockets themselves could be made in various configurations & lengths by screwing the needed nose to the rocket motor. Different noses include plain pointy spear, spear with barbered flanges, barbered flanges head with wire attach so it could retrieve a fish etc.
The launchjet been tested by the US navy and more interesting by the CIA, both reject it.
There is no known reason for this rejection but either way the launchjet like most of MBA's products disappear to the dustbin of history.
*Mark I Model B Gyrojet pistol survival kit
More than a thousand Gyrojet pistols were made and one of the models was a survival pistol for pilot and air crewmen. Along with the gun MBA intent to sell a small survival kit that includes various types of projectiles for 'survival' like rocket flares and small spears for fishing your next dinner till rescue comes.
There are at least two versions of this kit and its spears:
The first type is unmotorizes spear with a cup that sits on the Gyroget muzzle. When the trigger is pulled a standard gyroget round is capture by the cup and propels the spear like a bullet propels rifle grenade.
The second type has its own launchjet rocket engine that ignites from the stroking of the gyrojet rocket on its rear end.
None of those survival kits were sold to either the Navy or the civilian market.
**APS underwater assault rifle
The first auto-loader of the deeps, the APS was developed in the early 70's at the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building (ЦНИИТочмаш) by a team lead by Vladimir Simonov (despite the similar surname and profession, he is no relative of Sergei Simonov, inventor of the SKS carbine).
The weapon adapted by the Russian navy in 1975 and later been sold to other navies of the Warsaw pact.
Both externally and internally the APS resembles the good ol' AK-47. The gun is long piston gas operated, rotary bolt, selective fire and fed from box magazine.
APS's cartridges construct of regular 5.45 x 39 cases, sealed from seawater, and 120 mm long needle bullet. Housing the monstrous rounds is a monstrous long (front 2 bottom) magazine contains 26 rounds.
Although called assault rifle the APS isn't really a 'rifle' since its barrel isn't rifled.
The gun automatic cycling at different depths and above the water (fired only in emergency) is achieved using self-adjusting gas valve.
Fire ranges vary widely depends on the depth but no more than 30 meters, firing above the water is practically useless since the projectiles are spin stabilized.
******QBS-06 underwater assault rifle
In 2010 the Chinese revealed their own copy for the Russian APS. The QBS-06 is almost identical to the old APS. The minor changes are a different caliber around the new Chinese cases of 5.8 x 42 with long needle as bullet resulting in a slightly more powerful shot but reduce the number of rounds in the magazine to 25.
*Dual medium firearm list
All of those underwater firearms mention are best suitable for firing down under, above the water their accuracy, range and durability decreases dramatically.
When an amphibian operation is been conducted and there is a demand to tackle enemies both on land and at sea those SOF members had to carry (at least) two guns for the two so different environments.
But what if there could be a versatile gun, like a shotgun, that could be loaded with both kinds of ammo: regular and harpoon like? Well that was exactly what the Russian and Yugoslavians set to devolve – an amphibian gun that eliminates the need of two separate guns.
During the 90's Tula Institute been converting & testing modified versions of the APS for achieving amphibian capabilities. The smoothbore barrel replaced by barrel with shallow rifling and the sliding magazine catch.
By Sliding the magazine catch back or forth the weapon can fire both standard 5.45 x 39 cartridges out of standard AK-74 magazine and APS cartridges out of APS magazine.
The shallow rifling provides the standard 5.45 x 39 some minimal spin stabilized for above the water fire accuracy.
Other features distinguish from the APS are frame mounting points for accessories like grenade launcher, bayonet, optics etc.
The ASM-DT has been in service of the Russian navy from the year 2000.
The holy grail of amphibian guns is the all new Russian ADS dual-medium rifle. While previous guns had to compromise with their above water performance of accuracy and durability the ADS perform above water as good as any modern assault rifle.
The gun basic layout and mechanism is drowned from the regular bullpop assault rifle A-91 with several changes including self-adjusting gas valve for the different environments, corrosive resistance materials etc.
Tula Institute cleverly designed new type of cartridge for this gun, the 5.45x39 PSP, and while externally it similar to old AK-74 rounds out counts is its internal side.
The 5.45mm bullet extended way into the cartridge. The bullet length is 53mm out of the total of 57mm cartridge length.
Having similar external dimensions as regular cartridge allows the PSP ammo to be stacked into a regular AK-74 magazine and avoids the need to have sliding the magazine catch.
Changing the weapon work environment is done simply by replacing one magazine loaded with PSP ammo with magazine loaded with standard ammo.
As with the ASM-DT all of the Russian accessories like grenade launcher, bayonet optics could be attached to the gun.
Adapted to service in 2010 to the Russian navy.
*****Underwater gun SSU
< TO BE FILLED TILL 22th BY ME!!!>
The Russians got their try with the B-V1-307 rocket spears but achieving stable supercavitation wasn't an easy task.
Today, two companies still working developing projectiles encapsulates inside supercavitation bubble, both companies developing their supercavitation base on bullets rather than rockets.
***DSG Technologies ammunition
A Norwegian company Defense & Security Group (DSG) introduce back in 2011 a real game changer armament any combat diver or navy seal be happy to call it is own; DSG introduce a full family of supercavitation ammunition under the name Multi-Environment Ammunition (MEA) .
According to DSG their MEA generate its own supercavitation bubble allows it to travel underwater several tens of meters, depend on the caliber.
In addition the bullets have the ability to enters water when shot outside of the water or emerge from water when shot underwater without any diffraction in the bullet trajectory even at low angle of attack.
The company offers ammunition at 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x51mm NATO and .50 BMG.
To insure proper automatic cycling of the gun DST can offer tailor-made cartridge with the right amount of gunpowder required.
The MEA outer dimensions are identical to regular ammunition and could be stack in magazine and loaded without any modifications.
Currently, emphasize on currently, DSG doesn't produce or design optics for compensation refraction. Mr. Garberg explanation is that a skill shooter could easily compensate without any aid but He claim that future development in that field is possible.
Outer than small arms, DSG is also design their ammunition for platforms such as naval turrets against mines and incoming torpedoes and for Unmanned underwater vehicle against aerial targets.
So… when those MEA hit gun stores' shelves? Well unfortunately while in the process of manufacture and sell MEA to various coast guard agencies and park rangers for taking down aquatic animals like sharks & alligators DSG don't have any plans entering the civilian market for the foreseen future.
*Northrop Grumman Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS)
The RAMICS developed by Northrop Grumman for the US navy for neutralize mines in hostile water. The system includes Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) for detection and aiming and 30mm MK44 Bushmaster II auto-cannon placed onboard MH-60S helicopter.
The gun uses special MK 258 Mod 1 armor-piercing, fin-stabilized rounds, like DSG ammo the RAMICS's slugs create supercavitation bubble around when penetrate the water.
According to few sources, unlike DSG armament, RAMICS's bullets can't enter the water at a low angle of attack rendering any future possibility of placing similar system onboard a ship as turret gun.
Was there ever been underwater fight between frogmen?
While writing this article William ask a question I already asked myself – with all this arsenal of underwater guns is there ever been underwater gunfight?
While there rumors on the web there is no known battle between frogmen, of course even if such battle were occurred it is unlikely we would know about.
My guess is that such battle never happened yet because the likely scenario in which two groups of divers fighting each other is when one group is trying to booby-trap ships and other hardware while the other group, the defensive divers, try to stop them.
Such attack on multi-billion worth of assets and thousands of sailor's lives on the line can only occurs as part of full scale war. There was never a full scale war between US and USSR; otherwise you wouldn’t have read this article, so the underwater arsenal of the world still never was tested.
*The future of underwater weapons
At present, underwater firearms are only niche filler and the number of guns manufactured around the world is so small that it will be unlikely any nation will shift large budgets for new and breaking technologies without any good reason to do so.
If we see humanity heading to the big blue and colonize the deeps such weapons be needed against the local habitants and against each other.
Propulsion - the renaissance of the rockets
Rocket propulsion has many advantages over the conventional slug thrower makes it more suited to aquatic environment.
For starter, rocket bullets don't leave the muzzle with a loud ear-piercing bang that deafening the shooter and expose its location for any tangos.
Second, rocket builds it velocity gradually and provides a solid impact at longer distances than a bullet that dissipates its velocity quickly once left the barrel.
Third, slow acceleration means the projectile is subject to lower G's enabling "smart-up" the projectile; add explosives, fusing and guidance.
Forth, the low gun's pressures and temperatures associate with rocket guns allows the weapon engineers the privilege to choose from wider range of possible materials for construction like non-corrosive & non- ferromagnetic metals.
*Payload - explosive warhead
The Powerheads demonstrate the power of a small charge of explosive underwater. Water is non-compressible fluid and therefore a great transmitting medium of explosive.
A small explosive charge at the tip of a spear propelled by gunpowder, rocket, compressed air or tether bow could effects number of targets in its blast radius.
Explosive needs some kind of fuse, the simplest one is contact fuse- spear hit target and warhead explodes. A more sophisticated fuse could be mixed contact-time fuse; the warhead will arm itself after small period of time (and distance) past since the launch, insuring the spear distanced enough from the shooter to not jeopardize him when the warhead explodes.
A truly developed weapon system could have computer program fuse's projectiles capable of mid flight explosive, aka air-bursting.
Self-propelled, explosive warhead with programmable fuse… if our little projectile start to appear more like a mini-torpedo why not go full ahead and add some guidance?
Hope by the time we humans will fight using personal torpedoes' launchers that someone figure out how to avoid those pesky things from making a U-turn and return back at the shooter! You know… like what they do in every submarine's movie.
**Supercavitation - gas injective nose
All the current and past attempts to produce supercavitation bullets are similar in one aspect – the supercavitation bubble generated by the bullet's nose shape.
However there is one other way to generate supercavitation bubble, the Russian torpedo Shkval emits small portion of its rocket engine's exhaust gas through an injection holes in the nose, those gases creates a bubble around the torpedo and eliminate the water friction.
The result- the Shkval can travel at supersonic speeds.
Miniaturize that system for small arms is possible too.
As stated, firing from above the water at a submerge target or for some submerge diver to shot at sentry on the decks going to be a problem without optics for compensation refraction.
The usage of electromagnetic fields to accelerate projectiles isn't limited only to dry land; underwater versions of regular Gaussguns & Railguns could be used. The obvious change need be build the guns waterproof because water and electricity are bad mix…
*SF and underwater weapons
The field of underwater Science Fiction in general and underwater MSF in particular is largely under developed and ignored by writers, game designers, movie producers etc.
As a result we barely see underwater weaponry in action, when disputes need to be resolved the blow exchanges are between some sorts of futurist submarines.
There two possible futures where underwater firearm could be used, both appeared in SiFi:
The first is the good ol' alien invasion trope with aquatic alien splashing to the sea and trying to colonize our blue oceans, the PC Game ' X-com: terror from deep' revolve around such scenario, and we homo-sapiens taking the battle to the aliens newly territory.
The second is that humanity set its collective sight from space to the oceans and the new wars and conflicts will be between nations, corporations, pirates etc. the prime example was the TV show Sea-quest, although oddly no underwater firearm were seen on the show.
*James Cameron's Avatar 2; underwater full arsenal?
Avatar 2, the long awaited sequel, is due to hit the cinemas at 2017. One of the revealed data pieces we have is that the movie full name will be "Avatar 2, the lost ocean" and parts of the movie will take place underwater. In fact the primary reason this movie been frequently delayed is the challenge of underwater 3D motion capture, and you can bet your bottom dollar that what James Cameron is trying to shot down there isn't a bunch of human and sea-Na'vi chatting and singing Cumbia ! Will we see a full scale underwater firearm arsenal? Giving that Cameron is a living MSF-films god I'm very excited to see what he will come up for this one…
***20000 leagues under the sea (1871); electric pellet guns
One of the first ever SF involving underwater adventures is the first place to search and find to first underwater firearm. Those guns are a compressed air guns like modern speargun but their bolts aren't mere spears. According to Captain Nemo the Nautilus's standard gun fires small 18th century ball-shaped super capacitor (roughly based on the real world Leyden jar).
When impact a target those balls discharge a deadly electrical shock to the target.
In the 1954 film adaption to the novel the speargun appears to fire reddish regular spear instead of those electric balls.
Forever war, the novel (1974); Jet propelled spears with Explosive warheads
After the failed Tet-2 campaign Mandella & Potter, both lost limbs, shipped to military hospital at Heaven planet for rehabilitation and limbs re-grow.
Spending the time there William joined to a little hunting party to kill a native aquatic predator that infiltrated from the ocean through the hospital repulsive field and into the hospital's resort beach. The party members are equipped with scuba gear and armed with Jet propelled spears with Explosive warheads and they blow the shit out of that buster but not before it cut the legs of one of the party's members, no worries – the rehabilitation hospital isn't faraway…
*Sphere, the novel (1987); Explosive warheads
This novel is using a fictional speargun with spears equipped with powerful explosive warheads which navy officer Barnes refers as "J-9 exploding head spears loaded with Taglin-50 charges". When fight the giant squid Norman use this gun to decapitated one of the squid tentacles.
**Call of duty: Ghosts; APS underwater assault rifle
The APS appear in two aquatic missions in Ghost Single-player mode. Both the player and its enemies carry those assault rifles.
*Half-life; Dual-medium crossbow
Half-life was one of the first 3D shooter present specialized underwater firearms ever.
The crossbow fires bolts both underwater and above water with great effect.
The bolts are covers with deadly neuro-toxic poison and could be fired underwater or as a sniper rifle for long range killing above water.
*Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003); H&K P11
While exploring submerge ancient temple Lara carry a protection gun with her – the H&K p11. The gun is never been used against any underwater targets but used against her completing tomb raiders inside the air pocket of the temple.
*Jaws (1975); Shark-dart repeater and cartridge based
One of THE classics of Hollywood has two of Farallon's products in it.
In a movie centers around hunting a killer shark some shark dart have to be placed by the prop master… both cartridge fed and repeater shark-darts appear in the movie but none of them are used against Jaws. Only the repeater is seen held by Hooper in the famous cage scene when it drooped to the sea floor when the shark attacks the cage.
*Deepstar six (1989); cartridge based shark-darts
Haven't heard of this B-movie before? No worries you didn't miss much. In their attempts to kill some unidentified monster attacking their underwater research station/missile base the soon to die crew try to use shark-darts against the beast, did them little good by the way…
***007 James Bond Live and Let Die (1973); Shark-gun & CO2 bullets
As always good old Q equip 007 with the right tools for the mission, this time Bond get a shark-gun fires bullets contains compressed CO2 propelled by a compressed CO2 cartridge in the gun grip.
*Murderer's Row (1966);Gyrojet pistol survival kit
In this B-movie spy film the villain is using Gyrojet pistol with spears of a survival kit to threaten the daughter of Dr. Solaris and force him to use his invention, a mighty city-killer laser, according with the villain plans. The spears are never been used against submerge targets.
***Alien: Resurrection (1997); Incinerator 'Flamer'
They can ran, jump, crawl and climb; yes the Xenomorph is one stubborn son of a bitch! But can they swim? If you seen Alien Resurrection you the answer do you?
When diving through the folded kitchen the survivors encounter by two Xenomorphs, Johner use the Flamer's grenade launcher to blow one of those hell creatures.
The grenade itself left the tube without big blow and traveled in a slow and constant velocity indicating it to be a rocket propelled grenade.
*Seatrooper's & aquatic trooper's blasters; SW universe
Both the Grand Army of the Republic and the Galactic Empire had their specialized troops for underwater clashes against aquatic species. Both the Republic's aquatic trooper and the Imperial Seatrooper wear state of the art light body armor totally protective against the water, breathing equipment, backpack propulsion system and of course their own version of blaster. The guns were blaster-speargun hybrid capable of performing both above and under the water.
*Next FWS Article – encounters of the close and personal kind
Chris Rock once said that:"every punk can fire from across the room, but it takes a man to get close enough to stab", but why not both? Firearms sometimes can be use as a melee weapon and as a tool. Bayonet stabbing, Buttstoke kick, barber wire cutter, window breaker… in the next installment of FWS Armory, we'll examine closely the different ways a firearm can cause harm without without pulling the trigger.