Toy rocket inspires variable-speed bullets

July 23rd, 2008 - 11:04 am ICT by IANS  


Chicago, July 23 (IANS) A US company is developing a gun that can fire bullets with variable speed and can be set to kill, wound or just cause a bruise. Lund and Company Invention, a Chicago-based toy design studio, which makes toy rockets that are powered by burning hydrogen, is receiving funding from the US army to adapt the same technology for firing bullets as the army is interested in weapons that can be switched between lethal and non-lethal modes, NewScientist reported.

The new weapon, called the Variable Velocity Weapon System, lets the soldier use the same rifle for crowd control and combat, by altering the muzzle velocity. It could be loaded with “rubber bullets” designed to deliver blunt impact on a person, full-speed lethal rounds or projectiles somewhere between the two.

Bruce Lund, the company’s CEO, says the gun works by mixing a liquid or gaseous fuel with air in a combustion chamber behind the bullet. This determines the explosive capability of the propellant and consequently the velocity of the bullet as it leaves the gun.

“Projectile velocity varies from non-lethal at 10 metres, to lethal at 100 metres or more, as desired,” Lund said.

Police already fire non-lethal projectiles from standard shotguns. These are known as “beanbag” rounds - bags of lead shot which can knock down a suspect at ranges of up to 10 metres. Though termed “non-lethal”, these can cause bruising or even broken ribs.

The existing design is a .50 calibre (12.7 mm) rifle weapon, but Lund says the technology can be scaled to any size - “handgun to howitzer”.

A demonstration version of the weapon would be ready within six months, and it could go into production within 18 months of approval, the company said.

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