- Retried Sky marshals- Stephen Rustad & Mordechai Rachamim.
- Cartridge manufacturers: Jim Maltenieks president of American Ballistics (ABS)
- Peter Pi, CEO of CorBon,
- Cameron Hopkins, CEO of Super Vel
- Cartridge collectors- Pete deCoux & Mel Carpenter
- Weapon experts- Hrachya Hayrapet & Maxim Popenker
- Mel Zaid- founder and former CEO of Technik Inc.
- David Louis Buehn, CEO of Rough & Ready Inc.
- John Edward Shields kin.
- Jeff Wybo of James Bond Canada.
- Grant Hutchison of Oikofuge for his Coriolis Effect trajectories' diagrams.
The Misconceptions of Firing inside a Pressurized Airliner or Spaceship
The Integrity of the Hull Materials
The Minute long Hurricanes
However, the reality is very different…sorry, Hollywood. Any hole in the hull big enough to create an initial flow with initial velocity similar to a hurricane ought to be major explosive decompression. Given this, the room where the breach accrues, the unlucky inhabitants will be killed from violent acceleration before been thrown to space. Any hole big enough to create such airflow will decompressed the airplane or spaceship very quickly, as the pressure drops so does the airflow so a minutes-long howling stream is partially impossible.
Suction through a Bullet Hole
Several experiments done in the 1960's on dogs shown that even after the “guinea pigs” were subjected to rapid decompression to near vacuum conditions, those dogs die off quickly and their body were swell to approximately double their normal size without any damage to the skin. (Poor dogs!). It is safe to say that any bullet holes won't be sufficient enough to force to tear down human skin if placed to seal the hole. Unlike the American tale about the little Dutch boy who save his hometown of Harlem by plugging a leaking dike with his little finger, in the case of leaking spaceship that boy could actually close the hole using his bare finger without any risk to the boy or the finger! Such finger partially exposed the 3 Kelvin coldness of space will be rapid cooled down by thermal radiation. My back-of-the-envelop calculations show that the heat loss via radiation to the 3K of space is equal to -60°c / -76°f heat loss in still air so frostbites are due, hence - more serious measures are needed to fix the leak after the initial plugging.
Unrealistic Short time to Full Decompression
Why Catastrophic Result of Airliner Indoor Shootout isn't a Catastrophe
In many of the cases of commercial airlines hijacking, the hijackers' goal was to divert the plane from its course towards a landing site sympathetic to their cause from where the hijackers could blackmail the government/s for the release and wellbeing of the passengers. A cold heart and cool headed decision could be made in advance by the government in charge for the safety of its people that a loss of an airplane along with its passengers is slightly better result of a hijacking attempt than a nation brought to its knees and comply with the hijackers' demands.
A nation allowed or mandate an armed security guard (like the US Federal Air Marshals) onboard airliners or spaceliners chose to take such risk with the hope that their decision will act as a deterrent to future attempts as the would be future hijackers factor in the fact that their hostages lives won't shields them.
Challenges and Options designing Pressurized Environments Firearms
Make it evil,” they’ve been told. “Make it totally clear that this gun has a right end and a wrong end. Make it totally clear to anyone standing at the wrong end that things are going badly for them. If that means sticking all sorts of spikes and prongs and blackened bits all over it then so be it. This is not a gun for hanging over the fireplace or sticking in the umbrella stand, this is a gun for going out and making people miserable with.”'.When consider scenarios where armed agents of the state are facing unarmed civilians and those arms aren't meant to be concealed it pay off to have those guns of intimidating and menacing as possible.
Not Missing the Target
crammed with people” and even the founder of DELTA, Colonel Beckwith, said that terrorist-held airplane would be their toughest tactical environment.
Not Over-Penetrate the Target
Even after a precious shot hit the target, there is the danger of over-penetration. In this scenario, the projectile could exit the other side of the tango and further travel, sometime in different direction, and endangering the bystanders and the vehicle itself. A common solution is to use ammunition that deform, tumble or break inside of the target body and dissipate its kinetic energy completely without emerging out. Ammunition types such as hollow point, soft-nose, fragment etc. exist and use or used by various air and sky marshal programs and armed pilots worldwide. Citing again Eric L. Haney’s Inside DELTA Force book and Colonel Beckwith's own book on the CT unit he founded, the original operators of DELTA selected use of the .45 ACP round over 9mm due to lower velocity and less risk over-penetration back during the late 1970’s spin-up of the Unit.
No Penetration of the Hull
In case the shooter missed the target, it is important that the bullet will not penetrate the airplane or spaceship inner and outer walls. This will require calibrating of the ammunition's penetration performances to be lesser than normal ammunition loads, so that the walls resistance capability will ensure that any stray shots won't go through and through. As stated above, this deteriorates rapidly into a caliber debate online, but in the realm sci-fi there is often customized designed weaponry or settings for VBSS style boarding operations.
Bullet Disintegration and Shattering
Not to be Misused
FWS Armory article.
Free-fall and Low-Gravity Scenarios
The lack of gravity or even a low-gravity environment would influence many aspects of gunfights inside the pressurized cabins. It is gravity that mount foots to the floor, braced against the gun's recoil and its gravity that grab and pull the hot spent brass down.
Such phenomena is greatly depended upon gravity, the weaker the gravity the less heat is removed by convection and at freefall heat can removed from object only by slow conduction and thermal radiation. The absence of gravity is a factor in everyday life aboard the ISS, from compatible ambient temperature for the inhabitants to force convection fans for electronic racks. It will also be a consideration when choosing what guns to use in such environments. Whenever gun is fired it will heat very fast and very hot and it will takes a considerable longer to cool down.
If the ladder is inside narrow tube as one inside the station's spokes the drift will drive the two shooters' bullets hitting the tube walls instead each other.
If the station designers bless it with circular corridors and you have a tango up spin barricade you could shot counterspinward and your bullets will complete a full round and bite the enemy in the rear! If an enemy is placed on a platform directly overhead a shooter at ground level can aim spinward to land bullets on his head, the enemy can also hit you by fire spinward too. Such opportunistically trajectories greatly depends upon that velocity ratio and clear field of view and firing that doesn't really exist in small space stations and always never in spaceships. For the rim velocity to be in the magnitude if typical gun bullets, which are in the hundreds of meters per second the space station should be in the range of couple hundreds meter in radius, for a O'Neill Cylinder 8km in diameter rotating once every two minutes the rim velocity is 200 m/c, comparable to slow sub sonic-pistol ammo, if the bullet is very aerodynamic and fired counter spinward it will cruse a significant path above the ground before falling. Every shot against a tram running parallel and close to the axis or shot down one slowly falling Captain John Sheridan will have to account this drift too.
Pure Oxygen Atmosphere
An Oxygen-rich low pressure reduce the mass of the air carried to orbit and the reduce pressure allows reducing the craft structural integrity, further lowering its mass.
A lower pressure also minimize the pressure leakage and reduce the mass losses overtime.
The use of pure oxygen atmosphere have additional advantages, using one component atmosphere eliminate the need to carry and store two separate gas tanks on-board and eliminate the need of complex gas mix regulator and sensor constantly measuring the atmospheric make-up.
The fanatic over exaggerate fear of pure Oxygen atmosphere is rooted in the horrible 1968 Apollo 1 accident where while ground testing a fire broke in the pure Oxygen environment of the capsule burning the three astronauts alive. It is a common misconception that NASA switch to Nitrogen-Oxygen mix as a result of the accident, in fact the Apollo Program continued to use pure Oxygen air till the last mission, Apollo 17 and use mix on the ground, switching to pure oxygen on the rocket ascend to orbit.
Another misconception is that the Apollo 1 inferno is solely the fault of the pure oxygen atmosphere, the reason the fire break out and burned the astronauts alive is caused by the ground testing conditions. The lunar command module was over-pressurized to 1.2Atm in order to check the module tolerance to 0.2Atm pressure gauge it will endure in space. The combination of 1.2Atm of pure oxygen and the full gravity of Earth that induce convection currents feed the flames with oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide created the perfect storm that consume the module and the astronauts. A low pressure pure Oxygen is still dangerously flammable though, the air contains as much Oxygen molecules as Earth atmosphere but without the damping effect of the inert Nitrogen any flame ignited have the potential to evolve to major fire. A future spacefaring civilization might chose to switch back to pure Oxygen environment cause of all those listed advantages and bite the bullet of greater flammability. Speaking of bullets; the nature of the atmosphere will shape the requirements and specification the firearms will design to operate in such conditions.
In such an atmosphere, the danger of muzzle flash, the unburned gunpowder residues, will force the installation of silencer mount to any gun. Hot brass pose anther ignition source and brass catcher have to be attach to any autoloader or use of revolvers instead. The lower air pressure will reduce the natural convection heat transfer, the guns will heat up very fast and will takes longer time to cool down. Any expose metal part should be cover in the equivalent of full body barrel shroud that prevents any contact between the hot metal to any flammable material if the gun dropped or fall down. Two unexpected perks of the lower pressure; firstly sound transfer reduced by the lower air density and with combine with the obligatory silencers eliminate the need of hearing protection. Second; the lower air density, a fifth of Earth sea level, meant that the air drag is also approximately fifth of what the bullet face in normal Earth air. Most if not all of the special purpose cartridges designed for reduced hull penetration and reduce over-penetration have terrible aerodynamic properties. A lower pressure cabin will allows such types of ammo lower velocity drop and larger ranges beyond their Earth bound specification.
Gunpowder contamination of human and life support
The Colt Shields Revolver
Colt directed the interesting requests to one of their subsidy companies: Colt Technik of Jericho, New York. Colt Technik converted small number of Colt revolvers to test prototypes mules.
It is likely that the name was part of creative gun retailer marketing strategy to associate the strange gun with the well-known Air Marshals.
Pressurized Environments Cartridges
Under that loose term of “Pressurized Environments cartridges” every cartridge that either issued to or developed for armed individual to be used inside a plane, either air/sky marshal or armed airliner crew member, in order to deter or stop mid-flight violent behavior be listed below.
Glaser Safety Slug
The frangible structure of the bullet is deigned the break and fractured inside the target body deliver its full kinetic energy without over penetration.
The cartridge was replaced sometime in the late 1980's with some unknown conventional hollow point round as those were much cheaper than the Glaser.
Speer Gold Dot .357
The Bingham Ltd; Devastator 22LR
Only one of the rounds explode, the one that hit White House Press Secretary James Brady, who survived a head shot from that so called Devastator round (albeit Brady remained permanently disabled from the shot). When interviewed days later, Sandy L. Brygider, head of Bingham Ltd, he claim among other things that the Devastator was designed for “Sky Marshals”. There is no evidence supporting Brygider claim and it appear that it was more of Brygider's attempt to whitewash the fact that Bingham Ltd products were just used in attempt to take down a president. Brygider claim, however, did forge the myth that FAMs were issued Devastator rounds.
The MBA; Short-Stop
MBAssociates is best known and remembered for their Gyrojet weapon system, a revolutionary small size rocket ammo. Less known are their less-lethal family of products. One member of this family is the Short-stop, a miniaturized beanbag compressed and loaded into .38 Special cartridge. When fired, the bag is engaged with the barrel's rifling that spins it up, when leaving the muzzle, the centrifugal forces unfold the bag and increase its diameter and the air drag, the increased air drag slows the bag very rapidly. As result the Short-stop bullet have effective lethal range of 15 meter ( 50 feet) with further sharp decline in velocity and energy and the bag extended size and plasticity prevent it from penetrating wall or ricochet, the bag also wasn't intended to penetrate the target rather than deliver its kinetic energy as a deadly punch.
Although the Short-stop weren't developed with the Air Marshal market in mind, it become its only buyer. MBAssociates combine with Speer Inc. participant in U.S. Air Force trails in early 70's against Super-Vel (and maybe American Ballistics XAL?).
The Air Force specifically tested the cartridges penetration abilities against various airliner materials to evaluate the safety of using them in airliners. The Short-stop picked as the winner of the trial surpassing Super-Vel in accuracy and safety and chosen by the USAF to be issued its Mobility Airlift Command (MAC) aircrew members.
It isn't known what type of revolver the MAC aircrews were using.
When MBA decide to terminate their line of less-lethal armament in 1976, the Short-stop production was ended as well. There is no available information what cartridge the MAC was replaced the Short-stop with. It is also unknown if the current Air Mobility Command (AMC), which inherent MAC roles, aircrews are armed too and if they are, with what.
American Ballistics; XAL
Extreme Shock; Air Freedom (AFR)
The SP-8 (СП-8) was the only known cartridge specially designed for commercial airliners.
The cartridge was developed by КСПЗ, a Russian cartridges manufacture, by the order of the KGB in the early 80's. Back then at the long-range flights the pilots of Aeroflot, USSR national airliner, carried a Makarov PM locked in a safe in the cockpit, and onboard some international flights an armed plainclothes KGB agent was added. The cartridge is mostly hollow bullet variant of the standard 9×18mm Makarov PM cartridge. The projectile low mass and tendency the fragment upon impact was to insure no over penetration of airplane walls. Not much else is known of the cartridge, as far as my research went. Oddly, the current Russian government, like the previous one, still does not possess a dedicated Air Marshal program like the US and the question of whether or not the pilots of civilian Russians airlines are still armed is unknown as well. This is very odd considering the threat of terrorist aimed at Russian commercial airliners.
The Case for Space Boarding and Armed Boarding Parties
If you want to shot, shot! Don’t board!"
If a stealth ship objectives is disabling the enemy it could do so by placing small explosive charges instead of a big nuke next to the enemy ship's crucial parts before sneak out, achieving the objective without messy boarding.
The third reason is to grab hold on the ship itself or something valuable the ship carries, be it may some important HVT or data in the ship's memory banks (has seen in the Wing Commander film), but all boiled down to this: the ship should not be harm (too much) and someone have to board into it to retrieve that something or someone. The problem begins as the first major step prior to boarding is crippling the target so it couldn't resist the boarding, if the motive for boarding is the value of the boarded ship and the boarder value the ship more than its scrap metal price any damage inflicted to the target to make boarding possible also diminish the target value and the justification for boarding in the first place.
webpage devoted to future quasi-military organizations, the outer space equivalents to coast guard, customs, etc. All basically relays on boarding civilian ships for search and inspection, similar to modern coast guard day-job activity.
Other Potential Users of Pressurized Environments Firearms
Security and Military Police
Starjackers and Pirates
Interstellar Repo Men
Of course, the loaner isn't fond of losing either and that what new businesses and entrepreneurs are best at, most businesses fails and they can't or won't want to pay the lander to repay the loan. This futuristic space loaner, like his counterparts back on Earth, have a way around loses.
Explosive Decompression Myth in Popular Media
Firearms and Cartridges of Submarine Crews
Luckily, the engineering constrains that dictates a thick and sturdy hull that handle the outside pressure can basically shrug of most of small arms bullets without harm. Nowadays, at least from the available information about US Navy submarines, the subs' crew carry various firearms including pistols, SMG & shotguns, for the intended purpose that is NOT to repel boarders or the arm the crew for boarding enemy submarines either or fighting off the kraken…such scenarios are nigh impossible.
Designing the Perfect PEF
Contrary to common believe, it is possible to suppress revolver if a proper gas seal is archived between the cylinder and barrel (known as 'cylinder gap') as in the case of the Russian Nagant M1895 revolver. Another option are revolvers designed for totally enclose piston cartridges. All those techniques used for silenced a revolver could be used to prevent cabin air contamination.
The revolver was double action trigger, per each pull of the trigger the cylinder rotate 120 degrees in the case of the .38 cylinder and 72 degrees in the case of the 22 cylinder. The doubled firing pin hummer hit both cylinders in the 6 and 12 o'clock positions but hit and ignite the right cartridge only when it aligned with it matching barrel. The Cobray is a break open revolver with swappable cylinders, unfortunately the removal and replacement of cylinders is anything but fast, and there were only those two cylinders supplied with the gun. A future design focus on fast ejection of spent cylinder when break open and easy insert of fresh cylinder combined with Shields' preloaded dispensable cylinders could results with the most versatile revolver possible, a handgun that can fire a range of various ammo types in two separate calibers and with the ability to be rapidly switched from one type of ammunition to another with mere swap of the cylinder.
This is the Outer Space Future – Where is my Ray-Gun?
Some readers might object to the exclusion of Directed-Energy Weapon (DEW) options when designing my perfect PEF and it sure it is odd that any future scenario where deep manned space flight is ongoing and there is human presence off-world exist that the preferred gun of choice to those spaceship boarders are confided to old wheel guns, not so different from their ancestors of the Wild West of beloved Terra. Why an old technology to my mind more likely to dominate the highest frontier at the expense of modern or futurist firearms?
Not all Technologies Scale Down Well
If It's Not Broken…
Examples of Pressurize Environments Firearms Examples in Sci-Fi
Mr. Garibaldi’s .38 Revolver from Babylon 5 Episode “Grey 17 is missing”
Shortly after the station cut its ties with Earth and the Clark Government, Zack Allan noticed Garibaldi marveling his grandmother's Smith & Wesson. 38 Caliber revolver. Allan apparently never saw such antiquity outside of museums and Garibaldi schools Allan that EarthForce preferred the PPGs because those kills by "burn flesh" and won't punch a hole in the spaceships' pressurized cabins. According to Garibaldi, back on Earth, slug throwers are still in use for private security and practice shooting. It is also noted that although the PPGs of Garibaldi and other B5 security members are DEWs their structure and appearance is more street cop service revolver style, a fresh air after the Star Trek sanitized Phaser "Dust Buster" layout.
The TR-116 Rifle from ST: DS9 Episode "Field of Fire"
The Lack of Slug-Throwers in the Star Wars Universe
The Accident with the Hadley’s Hope Weyland-Yutani Atmospheric Processor from ALIENS
The Federal Marshal Browning 2000 shotguns from OUTLAND
The Fall Train from Total Recall (2012)
The Fall and its Null G phase are the scene for a dramatic free fall shootout as Douglas Quaid spray bullets at the bad guys he simultaneously propel himself and Melina backward away of danger.
Quaid is using TDI Vector SMG, likely chamber of 45ACP, and holds 25 rounds with the extended magazine. Colin Farrell mass is 80 kg and Jessica Biel is 55Kg (according to Healthy Celeb website). Factoring in 45ACP bullet mass 230gr and nuzzle velocity 255m/s, a full mag damped should propelled the weightless couple to 10.8m/s. this is over simplify calculation neglecting the mass of the gun and ammo as each shot should propel back the yet fired cartridges but in that scene the two seem to driven by the recoil slower than this 10.8m/s. So, I would declare that as at least plausible if you ignore that such off the center of mass recoil should impart the two with both linear velocity and angular velocity make them tumbling in midair.
The Limited Range Shotguns from The Forever War
The Robo Ammunition from Seveneves
The Boarding of USS Benedict from ALIENS: Outbreak Dark Horse Comic
Next Time FWS Armory – Heading to the Black Void…Armed!
A question – what will SpaceX Mars colonists be armed with? A Musk-et! Yeah I know, tumbleweed moment. Regardless, the question of arming Astronauts or Cosmonauts is and will be an issue best think of and prepare for in the here and now. The rigors of outer space, in free fall out of the airlock or on the surface of Mars will stress humans and machinery alike. Designing guns for such daunting battlefields will be the topic of the next FWS Armory article: the EVA Guns!
Next Time on FWS...
In the aftermath of the popularity of Mobile Suit Gundam, came more titles centered around mecha like Super Dimensional Macross and Fang of the Sun Dougram. Each one of the works added more to the sub-genre of mecha and they themselves gave rise to new titles as well. With the success of the Dougram, the creative team and the same studio decided to embark on another wartime mecha anime TV series that became one of the most popular and influencial in anime history: Armored Trooper VOTOMS! In the next installment of Future War Stories of the East, FWS will finally be discussing this much requested title.