Written by Dave Page
During the ninth century, whilst attempting to discover the elixir of life, some Chinese alchemists would mix some charcoal, sulphur, and potassium nitrate with explosive results. The resultant ‘black powder’ was primarily used for the creation of fireworks and other crowd-pleasing explosions. However, it would not be long before the human propensity to devise more and more ingenious ways of killing each other would lead to this previously entertaining powder being weaponised.
The first example of this was the so-called “Fire Lance” a hollow Bamboo tube which would be filled with this powder along with a small projectile. When the powder was lit, the resulting explosion would propel said projectile from the tube with extreme force.
From this point onwards, advances in firearm technology would proceed at an incredible rate and they have never really stopped. As a result of this continuing advancement, both militaries and civilians around the world now have access to some truly incredible weapons. In today’s episode we will take a closer look at some of these as we investigate five of the worlds most advanced guns.
The ADS Amphibious Rifle
based on the A-91 assault rifle, the ADS amphibious rifle truly is a marvel of engineering. Designed by Russia’s Tula Instrument Design Bureau, it differs from previous underwater guns in several important respects. Firstly, it has a forward-facing ejection port which allows it to be used by either left or right-handed shooters without the need for any modifications with the added benefit that, when working in a team, there is considerably less chance of anybody being struck by ejected shell casings.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the ADS , unlike its predecessors the 5.66-mm APS assault rifle and 4.5-mm SPP-1 pistol, is extremely effective above water as well as beneath it. The rifle has an effective range of approximately 500 m above water and approximately 25m if submerged. In a further improvement on previous models, the ADS is built using as little metal as possible and, when metal is absolutely necessary, special coatings are used in order to limit corrosion by seawater.
The ADS was first employed in 2016 by the Russian Special Operations Force Command Combat Divers and has proven to be so effective that it was more widely adopted by the Russian Armed Forces in 2019.
The Ideal Conceal Cell Phone Gun
Designed for personal protection, the Ideal Conceal pistol is a double-barrelled Derringer style pistol available in both.380 and 9 mm versions. Although this does not sound in any way remarkable, this particular firearm has a rather impressive trick up its sleeve. When not in use, it folds up into an innocuous black plastic rectangle about the same size as a Samsung Galaxy cell phone.
To unfold it, you grip and rotate the handle away from the body of the firearm. When fully extended, the handle locks into place and you are ready to go. According to the manufacturer’s website:
“In today’s day and age, carrying a concealed pistol has become a necessity… the Ideal Conceal pistol has been designed to ‘hide in plain sight’ and easily fits into a purse or back pocket, making it ‘virtually undetectable’”.
One of the advantages of this weapon is that in open carry states it is possible to walk around with a pistol on your belt without everybody being able to see that you have a pistol on your belt.
However, not everybody is convinced that the ability to do this is such a good idea. Several European police agencies have expressed concern that this weapon will make its way to the continent through illegal channels, and this has led to at least one police alert giving details about the specifics of the weapon and warning officers to be vigilant.
It’s not just Europe that has concerns. In 2002, the state of Illinois passed a law which made it illegal to possess any form of firearm that is designed to look like a wireless device. This move sparked a great deal of controversy, with Kirk Kjellberg (The founder of Ideal Conceal) stating in an interview with TFB TV that the law directly targeted his company. According to Kjellberg, “They are just so revved up about getting gun control done that they pick on anything that is different. We were different and it was an opportunity for them to get an easy win against guns”.
Regardless of your views on these matters, it is inarguably evident that the Ideal Conceal pistol is an interesting example of both innovation and engineering.
The PHASR rifle
Developed at the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, the
“Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response” or, PHASR, rifle is a laser-based weapon designed to temporarily blind an adversary. Although similar weapons have been designed in the past, they were banned in 1995 under the United Nations’ Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the PHASR it’s not covered under this ban because it allegedly only causes temporary blindness.
Using its eye-safe rangefinder, it is able to automatically detect its distance from the target and to adjust the laser’s intensity accordingly.
According to Tobias Feakin, an expert at Bradford University’s Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project in the UK: “In the past, the problem with lasers of this type has been that they often permanently blind human targets”. In order to prevent this from happening, the PHASR is fitted with a lower intensity laser than its predecessors. In addition to this, the laser system is capable of operating on two different frequencies which makes it much more difficult to counteract its effects with specialised goggles or visors. This sort of weapon could prove particularly useful for temporarily incapacitating drivers that refused to stop at checkpoints but could also be invaluable for use in law enforcement, home defence or any other situation where nonlethal force is preferable.
Liberator 3-D printed gun
Possibly the most controversial firearm in recent history, the Liberator can be made almost entirely with any off the shelf 3-D printer. With the addition of a single nail to act as a firing pin, the Liberator can fire a single .380 round. Designed by Cody Wilson and inspired by the one-shot pistols that were created to be air-dropped over France during World War II, the liberator is more an example of the potential behind 3-D printing than a practical handgun.
Due to the fact that it is made almost entirely from plastic, the weapon is only really capable of firing one round before the barrel needs to be replaced and, although this is a fairly easy process, it is not really practical in most situations. The gun’s fully plastic design has also come under fire from both law-enforcement and border security agents as, without the addition of a small metal block, it is undetectable by metal detection systems and, despite its previously mentioned limitations, it still has the potential to be used for things like hijacking or assassination attempts.
In light of these concerns, there have been several attempts to have the (freely available) instructions for making this weapon removed from the Internet but these have failed for two reasons, the first being that it is impossible to truly remove anything from the Internet and the second being that people such as Wilson, claim that this would be an infringement of his rights to freedom of speech under the first amendment. When asked about the risks attached to his invention, Wilson said: “I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people. That’s what it is: it’s a gun. But I don’t think that’s a reason to not put it out there”.
Unfortunately, with the increasing problem of ghost guns in the United States, weapons such as this really do have the potential to cause more harm than good.
LS9 Smart gun
It is an indisputable fact that injuries and deaths caused by guns are on the rise. The United States gun violence archive lists 39,492 cases of death or injury in the year 2020, with 999 of those being the deaths of children under 11 years old.
According to Gareth Glaser, CEO of LodeStar, many of these deaths are caused by small children accidentally getting hold of guns that belong to their parents or older teenagers using guns that do not belong to them to commit suicide or engage in such atrocities as mass shootings in schools and other public venues.
These are exactly the kind of tragedies that Glaser and his team hope to prevent with the introduction of the LS9. As its name suggests, The LS9 is a 9 mm handgun. However, this particular handgun comes with a range of innovative security features not usually found on your average model. In addition to a fingerprint scanner which allows you to lock and unlock the weapon, the LS9 can also be unlocked with an RFID enabled bracelet, a Bluetooth enabled smart phone app or, if all else fails, via a small keypad built into the handle of the weapon.
In an interview with thehill.com, Glaser said that “the gun owners would be able to add up to four authenticated users for the LS9, but if the firearm is eventually used by law enforcement, the authentication threshold could allow for an entire police force to be able to unlock a single LS9.”
Having more than one way of unlocking the weapon plus the addition of multiple user profiles goes some way towards allaying concerns that have been previously raised with regards to this sort of technology. Disappointingly, the release of weapons such as this has been considerably slower than perhaps it might have been because several dealers that decided to sell them were inundated with complaints and, in some cases, death threats.
These somewhat extreme reactions were due, at least in part, to a now repealed 2002 law that would have banned the sale of any other handgun in the state of New Jersey as soon as the first smart gun became available on the market. This law was replaced in 2019
by one which will require all gun shops in New Jersey to offer smart guns as soon as they are available.
So, will the introduction of smart guns bring an end to tragedies such as the recent school shootings in south Texas? In short, no. However, the introduction of these weapons does have the potential to drastically reduce the number of deaths caused by stolen or misused firearms and, in our opinion, this can only be a good thing.