Category Archives: Future Weapons

We’d Have Called it the Drone Dropper… or Drone-B-Gon

This anti-drone device is going viral. They’ve clickbaited it well by calling it the Skynet anti-drone rifle, and it can directionally jam the GPS signals a drone needs to navigate, and the wireless video downlink.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-3The two white and black “barrels” are directional antennae in two separate GHz ranges. The backpack is the necessary power source. Anyone who’s got Electronic Warfare experience will tell you jamming is a power-intensive activity.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-1If you look at all the pictures available on the company’s website, and watch the video (below), the whole thing appears to be built on a (partial? modified?) AR-15 receiver, with a standard M4 receiver extension and stock. A bit overkill for just something to hang an arduino, a transmitter, and some highly directional (< 10º) antennae on, but it kind of makes sense to give people a familiar interface, and the AR-15 is the point and click interface for the 21st Century.

Along with this video, there’s a new one showing a live test. They claim a “suppression ratio” (difference between the range from the Skynet operator to the drone and the drone controller to the drone) of 8:1, which means (thinking of power squares here) that this jammer has vastly more power than the controller.

The two signal rangess it can jam are 1.450 GHz – 1.650 GHz and 2.380 GHz – 2.483 GHz, but it can only jam one at a time. Available hacks for, for example, the DJI Phantom drone (the one in the video) can take the drone control out of the target range, and could practically be developed for the video range.

There are a few other problems with it, to wit:

  1. As a jammer, it is almost certainly illegal to use in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission takes a dim view of jamming, and has considerable technical and legal resources it deploys to punish violators.
  2. It’s only effective against some common commercial drones and is unlikely to have any impact on a more sophisticated government or military system, which is likely to use robust, high-availability communications, and have backup onboard navigation (usually inertial) that’s immune to jamming or meaconing.
  3. It requires clear line-of-sight to the drone, ergo, it’s only useful as a point-defense weapon.
  4. It requires a human operator and visibility of the target. (How would it work in the dark, against a drone deploying LLLTV? We suppose there’s a Picatinny rail upon which you can mount an image intensifier or thermal sight).
  5. It has the scent of early prototype all over it, and is a long way from a commercial product or (alternatively) a flexible R&D platform. But even experimenting with this thing brings you back around into the sights of the FCC.

Finally, this is, we think, the firm’s first video, from May.

All in all, it smells to us like a gimmick. And within the range of this thing, there are other ways to take out a drone (one lady pestered by paparazzi drones seeking spy shots of a celebrity neighbor demonstrated her wingshooting skills and blew the drone to Kingdom Come. The paparazzi boarded their Range Rover — apparently invading privacy pays well — and were last seen heading back for Gawker HQ or whatever glutinous sump whence they emerged).

This is not the only anti-drone product out there. As well as other jammers, there are counter-drone drones that ram them or drop nets or cables onto their rotors. All of them are similarly immature at present, and no one knows if they represent a real market segment or just hobbyists tinkering.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

They’re not just working on a real world Invisibility Cloak. They’re working to make the message the shadowy IMF sent Jim Phelps back in 1966 a reality:

And not only messages that self-destruct in five seconds. Things that do.

DARPA is working on two separate programs here. One of them is called VAPR, or Vanishing Programmable Resources, and, as the agency itself tells the story, it…

…seeks electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner. These transient electronics should have performance comparable to commercial-off-the-shelf electronics, but with limited device persistence that can be programmed, adjusted in real-time, triggered, and/or be sensitive to the deployment environment.

This is not just a way of ensuring the non-propagation of the boss’s message to Jim Phelps, here, but also:

Transient electronics may enable a number of revolutionary military capabilities including degradable environmental sensors or medical devices for diagnosis, treatment and health monitoring in the field. Large-area distributed networks of sensors that can decompose in the natural environment (eco-resorbable) could provide critical data for a specified duration, but no longer. Alternatively, devices that resorb into the body may aid in continuous health monitoring and treatment in the field.

Any imaginative person interested in military and intelligence affairs can think of some uses for such a thing. Imagine, for instance, a cryptological device that self-destructs if it doesn’t exchange a “proof of life” heartbeat signal from its encrypted network at intervals. Losing a crypto unit would no longer require a wholesale rekeying of an entire unit or operation. By the time it’s on an enemy cryptologist’s bench, it’s an inert lump — or, even, completely vanished — VAPR-ized, you might say. There are more sinister and kinetic applications as well. How do you put someone on trial for a shooting if his gun vanishes from the evidence locker? Or, you could secure a flank with scatterable mines, secure in the knowledge that they will evanesce before your counterattack.

DARPA has been working on this kind of technology since 2013.

VAPR has shown products — no-kidding vanishing materials — that a follow-on article describes as:

…small polymer panels that sublimate directly from a solid phase to a gas phase, and electronics-bearing glass strips with high-stress inner anatomies that can be readily triggered to shatter into ultra-fine particles after use.

(Prince Rupert called. He likes what you’re doing with his Drops).

The same project manager who is in charge of the more general program, DARPA’s Troy Olsson, runs a specific instantiation of the idea as well. Project ICARUS (Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems) is spending some millions on delivery vehicles that would be based on the vanishing polymer technology developed under VAPR, such as drones or parachutes. The “Inbound” means they’re initially working at a way to deliver things to individuals or groups in denied areas, such as agents, guerillas, etc., so at this point the vanishing drones and chutes are meant to go into friendly areas.

darpa icarus comic

They held a proposer’s day in 2015 for Icarus (and here); the contract was awarded to MORSE Corp. in June.

The specific contract (Amendment 2) says that its object is this:

DARPA seeks proposals for the design and prototyping of vanishing air delivery vehicles capable of precise, gentle drops of small payloads. These precision vehicles must be guaranteed to rapidly physically disappear following safe payload delivery. Proposed efforts must integrate engineered vanishing materials into advanced aerodynamic designs to produce an autonomously vanishing, field- testable prototype vehicle by the end of the two-year program.

DARPA goes on to explain the problem at some length.

Precise air delivery to resupply operators or humanitarian teams on the ground requires disposable, low-cost, systems capable of carrying small payloads. This capability does not currently exist as the state-of-the-art systems are expensive (UAVs) or require pack-out of the system by the recipients (parachute-based systems). To resolve this capability gap for the nation, DARPA seeks innovative research proposals in the area of vanishing, precision air delivery vehicles capable of carrying small (up to ~3 lbs.) payloads. These systems should be capable of release from high altitude and must vanish while safely delivering their payload. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.

That last line is classic DARPA. They don’t want incremental or evolutionary, they want moon shots. Here’s how they explain the mission (one mission) at an UNCLAS level, and identify the credibility gap:

Supply and re-supply of small military and civilian teams in difficult to access territory currently requires the use of large, parachute-based delivery systems that must be packed-out after receipt of the payload both for operational security and environmental concerns. Small items including additional batteries, communications devices, or medical supplies – especially those requiring cold storage – could be supplied/resupplied using low-cost, disposable aircraft to sniper or Special Forces teams operating in difficult to access areas. These small teams aggressively minimize their loads and carry only the most critical supplies. Often extenuating circumstances warrants emergency supply such as critical combat casualty care in remote locations where medical evacuation is delayed. Even the availability of a small, 10 lbs. ventilator could significantly improve critical care outcomes downrange. The medical supply problem can be especially problematic in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions where the storage requirements of insulin, anti-venom treatments, and blood/plasma products limit their availability in remote locations or infrastructure-poor regions. For operators and even HADR personnel, delivery vehicles that do not require pack-out can simplify their operations and limit the environmental impact of a widespread response. Finally, operators in hostile territories require protection of their team’s location. As such, maintaining operational security forbids leaving behind supply vehicles. Weighed against the load concerns of pack-out this presents a logistical conundrum.

A critical capability gap exists in eliminating the leave-behind of air vehicles used to deliver supplies to personnel on the ground without requiring pack-out. Such pack-out of these systems is cumbersome, time-consuming, and adds significant weight to the individuals’ loads. DARPA is seeking to develop autonomous, precision, air delivery vehicles that both safely deliver their package(s) and physically vanish, i.e. the vehicle’s physical disappearance is part of its mission specification. Such a system would enable efficient resupply to teams in distributed locations, eliminate the need to repack/pack-out delivery parachutes resupplying small operating forces downrange, and create a capability to safely, and without detritus, deliver time-critical humanitarian supplies (e.g. food, perishable medical supplies) to civilian/NGO personnel serving in remote or dangerous areas.

Challenging, isn’t it? Wait till they get to specifics:

The Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems program (ICARUS) aims to develop a core capability to fill this gap for the DoD and nation through the development of vanishing, precision, air delivery vehicles for small (< 3 lb.) packages. These systems should:

  1. Fully vanish within four hours of payload delivery or within 30 minutes of morning civil twilight (assuming a night drop), whichever is earlier.

    "I don't understand... it was here five minutes ago!"

    “I don’t understand… it was here five minutes ago!”

  2. Precisely drop an up to 3 lb. payload within 10 m of the target landing spot programmed prior to air release.
  3. Exert < 100 G (1 ms peak, half sine wave) on the payload throughout its delivery.
  4. Cover a lateral distance of > 150 km when released from a stationary balloon at 35,000 feet.
  5. Span fewer than 3 m in its longest dimension.

#4 seems to exclude most traditional air-delivery parachutes, as well as unpowered gyrogliders (too low a glide ratio, approximately 4:1 in the case of the unpowered gyro). So you’re looking at an improvement in the capability of that technology of a very great degree, or you’re looking at a fixed or ram air wing, probably with significant on-board thrust of some kind.

No system currently exists that fulfills the complete specifications described above. State-of-the- art precision delivery using Tandem Offset Resupply Delivery Systems (TORDS), Joint Precision Airdrop Systems (JPADS), or civilian quadcopters or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) typically require complex materials and/or controllers to meet the aerodynamic requirements, but simply cannot vanish. Furthermore, precision notwithstanding, no air delivery vehicles have been fielded with a disappearing or transience capability. Recent advances produced in both DARPA’s Vanishing, Programmable Resources (VAPR) program and in the wider materials science literature indicate the potential for triggered, transient structural materials that may be applied to the aeronautics problem posed herein. DARPA defines transience as full and complete physical disappearance (to the naked eye) of a complete system and its constituent materials – independent of the surrounding environment. As such, any remnants must be < 100 μm on the longest dimension. Implementation of the transient materials in the VAPR program has advanced the transience characteristics (e.g., rate, triggering) while simultaneously improving the structural properties (e.g., Young’s modulus) for their application to various types of electronic packaging and substrates. The VAPR program has partially de-risked the main materials tradeoffs between transience rate, stability and modulus. Further innovations in materials engineering, subsequent materials scale-up, and incorporation into a high-precision aerodynamic design will require cohesive, multidisciplinary teams working in a well-integrated fashion to produce a working design and fabricate a field-testable prototype.

DARPA is interested in the fundamental question of whether a large, functional structure can be made transient. This will have impact in many different core areas where a leave behind will have environmental and/or unintended logistical consequence. There is a potential future where systems can be made cheap enough to be disposable limiting the logistics trail, and maximizing range for a given flight system.

We’ll give you one more block-o-text from the DARPA proposal Amendment 2, but there’s more there:

ICARUS seeks to design, prototype, and demonstrate an autonomous, guided, precision, vanishing air delivery vehicle capable of delivering a small package (up to 3 lbs.) to a GPS-programmed location (10 m accuracy). Following a night drop, the air delivery vehicle must completely, physically disappear within 4 hours of payload delivery or within 30 minutes after morning civil twilight, whichever is earlier. To be considered not visible to the naked eye, DARPA nominally quantifies physical disappearance, or transience, as producing remnants not exceeding 100 μm on the longest dimension. Preferably, the orientation of the payload with respect to the ground will be maintained after delivery (i.e. the payload will be delivered right side up). Since transient electronic microsystems are currently under development in the VAPR program, this BAA allows for the proposed vehicles to carry a guidance/control system exempt from the transience requirements provided it is housed in a package no larger than a tennis ball (max. volume 146 cm3) with a maximum ellipsoidal aspect ratio of 3:1. Any components of the vehicle existing outside of the tennis ball package must be transient. Camouflaging schemes, removal or departure of the vehicle, and other approaches that would be described as “technically disappeared” are not of interest to DARPA and are considered non-responsive. Delivery vehicles may land with the payload at the landing zone (LZ) or proceed to a different location after safely dropping the payload. In both cases, the vehicle must be completely transient. Multi-stage implementations (analogous to multi-stage rockets) are within scope, again provided all stages are fully transient regardless of whether initial stages land at a distance from the payload LZ. Simply put, if the proposed delivery system does not fully vanish it will be deemed non-responsive – transience is the highest priority design requirement. Prototypes developed under ICARUS must be field- testable in the specified environmental conditions by program end. As such, while ICARUS will include some limited fundamental research, the program’s overall objective is to demonstrate a field-testable prototype by the end of its second year and is not considered a fundamental research program.

They want applied research, not lab tomfoolery. But man, it definitely is a moonshot.

Along with MORSE, the Bettinger Group and the Matyjaszewski Polymer Group (ventures of two Carnegie-Mellon University engineering professors) are working on ICARUS technologies. Both have experience with degradable and time-limited materials. CMU calls it “sci-fi tech.” A contract has also been awarded to DZYNE Technologies of Fairfax, VA and Irvine, California.

Faster, please!

Silencerco SWR Radius Rangefinder

Silencerco says the objective of its Silencerco Weapons Research subsidiary is “to bring advanced technology to the public at an attainable price.” We had not heard of that, or of SWR for that matter, until they came up claiming mission accomplished: “with the announcement of a capability-heavy range finder for only $999, we’ve done just that.”

Have they? Here’s a silent (apart from music and maybe gunshots) video of the SWR Radius in action.

This video describes some of the capabilities:

Sure, it’s not TrackingPoint, but TrackingPoint is not available for pre-order at $995, either.

The Tracking Point system includes several other modules, such as an air data computer that accounts for atmospherics (density, ambient pressure, altitude, temperature), a ballistics computer that knows the bullet performance at a given range, an aiming point module that adjusts the digital reticle on to target, a target reference module that “understands” where a marked (“tagged”) target is in three dimensions, and trigger control that, in a digital update to the way a Contstantinesco gear interrupted fire of a World War I fighter plane unless the propeller was clear of the trajectory, only allows the trigger to fire when the aimpoint is on target.

A unit like this, if it were able to output data through an RS232/RS422 port or something like that,  could be a component of such a system, and if the rangefinder alone succeeds, the likelihood that SWR builds in this direction is increased.

Of course, the one nut that even TrackingPoint has yet to crack is wind.

None of these developments are really, in the truest sense of the word, inventions. They’ve all been around for a century, manually calculated and optically ranged, in naval gunnery, and for most of a half century (including laser ranging) in tank gunnery. The new development is this technology reaching levels of portability and affordability where it can be installed on (or in) an individual weapon.

There are  couple less in-your-face developments embedded in the Radius. One of these is the display of not just one, but the top three range returns. This is a big deal if you’re engaging a target screened by vegetation, a chain link fence, or any of the other embuggerments that give a laser rangefinder a false return.

Another is the selectable use of visible and IR laser. The two lasers coalign, so that the laser can be boresighted or sighted-in with the visible laser, and then switch to the IR for actual field use, and use it with confidence.

This suggests that, while full firing system integration à la TrackingPoint is one way this can go, there are other ways. For example, a unit integrating this laser capability (in milspec strength) with current IR/visible laser floodlight and point illumination would be catnip to the military services.

How would you use this? No manual is posted yet, but a .pdf spec sheet is available.

And as an exit video: here, they’re hinting at some future capabilities.

Dude, where’s my jetpack?

If your Level of Serum Clue Drops Too Low…

You write stuff like this. Some clown named Franz-Stefan Gady at the Asia-Pac website The Diplomat was let loose with the sort of minimal and wrong understanding of infantry combat that comes from too much reading and not any doing. (His source of expertise? He has traveled to “war zones” as a reporter. Oooooh. Can we touch the hem of his garment?)

Anyway, he concluded, and some readers thought he really had something, that the US Army is about to revolutionize warfare:

The U.S. Army is introducing a new shoulder-fired weapon that has the potential to change infantry tactics and revolutionize infantry warfare in a way unseen since the Battle of Königgrätz in July 1866. That battle, which marked the beginning of the end of the line infantry attack, saw Austrian troops carrying muzzle-loaders outgunned by Prussian infantrymen carrying breech-loading needle guns.

via Will This Weapon Change Infantry Warfare Forever? | The Diplomat.

One aside, that should be right in Gady’s lane if he’s the reader he wants us to think he is — If Königgratz revolutionized warfare, why were tactics entirely unrevolutionized as so-sophisticated Europe blundered into the Great War?

For that matter, if changing to breechloaders is so revolutionary, how long did it take Austria (and all the other nations of the world) to catch up. True or False: every nation worthy of the term “power” was breechloading by 1870?

But wait, we haven’t told you what weapon Gady thinks is going to, we quote, “Change Infantry Warfare Forever.”

Hey, it works in the laboratory!

Hey, it works in the laboratory!

The XM-25 counter-defilade weapon, the rump end of the OICW boondoggle, which was simply SPIW dragged into the 21st Century and placed across the shoulders of the rifleman like Christ’s Cross, as if that poor devil — the infantryman, not Jesus — needed another burden.

The Army’s going to blow $100 million on these things over the next five years, Gady tells us.  His story is a bit inconsistent internally, at one point suggesting that it makes cover obsolete (!) and at another, quoting a PEO Soldier booster — from 2010, before the weapon’s utterly inconclusive combat deployment — that “our soldiers can remain covered/protected and use their XM25….”

We’re serious about his claims:

…the impact of the XM25 could be revolutionary and fundamentally change small infantry tactics. The XM25 will essentially destroy the value of cover and with it the necessity of long-drawn out firefights. It will also make the old infantry tactic of firing and maneuvering to eliminate an enemy hiding behind cover obsolete.

“Small infantry tactics?” Crap, he’s heard about Colonel Tattoo’s Dwarf Brigade, “Death from Below.” Twenty years of black-budget midgetry down the drain….

More seriously, even if this bloated, intricate gadget works, it’s going to change “small infantry combat” (Lord love a duck!) about as much as any of the other weapons has, from the Macedonian bronze-headed sarissa to the Roman’s Iron Age gladius to the rifle-musket to the machine gun.

Somebody’s been reading too many press releases (and, indeed, Gady’s sources for  the capabilities of the awesome XM25 are the manufacturer’s own website, and an anonymous “senior U.S. military official.”)

About the only things that the XM25 claims to do that the 60mm mortar doesn’t already do are:

  1. Transfer a large sum of money to a defense contractor; and,
  2. Work (supposedly) without requiring the shooter to learn via expending ammo in training.

The 60 is, of course, going to be too heavy for our new generation of female infantrymen, but this thing isn’t much better.  And the 60, as a good old muzzle-loading mortar, is going to work damn near 100% of the time you ask it for a whoonk…. wait for it… BLAM! on demand.

Fortunately, we’re not going to need riflemen (or female riflemen) any more because Ash Carter has redefined the US as a non-fighting power. In fact, we’re not only through fighting, said Carter on a trip where he seemed to accept China’s extended sovereignty of the South China Sea, we’re not even going to be intimidating anyone anymore.

So, why not female infantrymen? It’s not like the current DOD management is planning to fight a war again, ever. And after all, the world has a great record with politicians’ declarations of Peace For Our Time™.

3D Update for 8 April 2016

Here’s a few things that may be useful or entertaining to people working with, exploring, or just interested in this technology.

AR-15 Printed Lower: Print Bed to Ready to Load in 20 min

This video shows what appears to be the real time assembly of a FOSSCAD Vanguard lower from the print bed to a complete (if sightless) AR.

We’d quibble about some of his shortcuts and techniques — no, a piece of copper wire is not a suitable substitute for a roll pin, and while it’s neat that he used 3D printed pivot and takedown pins, how are they retained? Oh, they’re not — but we’ve been telling you for years that this technology was maturing, and now we’re showing you.

We suspect this fellow’s channel is going to be worth watching in the future.

Shuty MP-1 by Derwood Night Fire (10 sec. video).

We’ve discussed the gun before, here’s a video of it shooting at night.

Unlike his earlier versions of the Shuty, Derwood won’t be publishing these files on SendSpace. He also notes that the MP-1 still is limited; 18 rounds is all it takes to soften the thermoplastic around the barrel. Of course, he’s already working on improvements, as an intellectual exercise in home workshop engineering.

The media reaction to his firearm has been… interesting. Even 3D Printing industry journalists are journalists at heart, and can’t see this except through the prism of their anti-gun politics. For example, Benedict at 3Ders.org tut-tuts that “the relatively new phenomenon of open-source, downloadable firearms seems to promise a greater deal of harm than good,” whines that, “the maker circumvented all gun control laws, creating a totally legal weapon without so much as an ID check,” and closes with, “So is it sensible to put lethal weapons in the hands of all and sundry with an internet connection and 3D printer?” Andy Greenberg at Wired, long prone to involuntary incontinence in his Aeron over this issue, hyperventilates similarly: “Deadly, working guns that anyone can generate with a download,” that have “spooked gun control advocates” — those unnamed “gun control advocates” being named, naturally, “Andy Greenberg” — and “successfully circumvented all gun control laws”.  Our only question to Benedict and Greenberg is, “With your string of pearls in one hand and your blankie in the other, how do you type your articles?”

3D Printed Rimfire Stuff

We had been unaware of the 3D action over on RimfireCentral.com, a membership forum. Lots of 3DP based threads there, including:

 

Spud Gun Camera Module

GoPro Spudgun roundNow we get silly. Here’s a “projectile” that lets you fire a GoPro camera from a spud gun and recover the camera, rather than see it dashed to pieces. Well-engineered, with spring-loaded stabilizing fins just like “real” FS smoothbore rounds. You’re on your own for more martial applications, and mind the Destructive Device laws.

Yes, this is very silly. And?

Mark One Reinforced Printing

This is the Mark One in action. This is not ours, it’s Sumdood’s, but we finally have time to work on ours this week! The Mark Two is even cooler as it can winkle the reinforcing fiber into smaller areas… the Mark One can’t turn the reinforcing around a corner any smaller than the size of a quarter.

 

Exotic Fibers for Everyday Printers

Of course, the Mark Forged printers require proprietary fibers. But exotic fibers are becoming available to open-source printer users as well. Here’s an enthusiastic young Australian named Angus showing off a quadcopter frame with arms of four different materials: common ABS and PLA, and exotic Thermoplastic Polyurethane (rubbery) and Colorfabb Carbon Fiber (rigid).

One of Angus’s really good ideas: using a raft of ABS as the basis for the exotic print. (A “raft” is an expendable base laid down underneath the “money” print). The sales page for the TPU says don’t use rafts, and that’s because they mean, rafts of TPU. He also didn’t heed the warning about using steel nozzles with the carbon fiber, and he explains why.

Instead of laying continuous fiber reinforcement like the Mark Forged printers, the Colorfabb XT-CF20 “Carbon Fiber” filament seems to have sort of chopper gun microfilaments in it. The trade off is less reinforcement strength vs. more flexibility of employment.

Of course, the Mark Forged printers also use nylon as their basic material. Nylon. as we have seen, has significant advantages over PLA or ABS. (One of the nicest things about it is it does not emit a noxious smell).

Check out his channel, Maker’s Muse, it’s full of interesting stuff. He also has a video on “metal” filaments that you may have seen advertised.

Taulman3D Materials

Speaking of materials, especially nylon variations, but also a “better” PLA and an elastomer, all kinds of new stuff from taulman3D. Lots of horses for lots of courses there, and that link’s just their new stuff.

Update

Know those Shuty 4.0 MP-1 files that derwood wasn’t going to release? Well, he didn’t, but….

 

Tracking Point. .300 BLK. Night Capable. $6995.

They’re positioning the new Tracking Point NightHawk as a Homestead Defense gun, but we’re seeing the king of all hog harvesters.

night hawk

This latest iteration of TP tech is supposed to list at a that’s-what-my-truck-cost $15.5k or so, but they’re jump-starting sales by selling the first 100 for $6995. Tracking Point writes:

The… NightHawk .300 Blackout. Designed for homestead defense, NightHawk has a fully integrated night vision capability and is offered at an introductory price of $6995 for the first 100 purchases – the lowest price ever offered for a Precision-Guided Firearm.

To us, the NightHawk seems like a slightly-decontented .300 version of their 5.56 M600 SR service rifle. Unlike the M600,  the NightHawk is limited to engaging targets at speeds of 7 mph.

A follow-up email had more on the special offer:

The TrackingPoint team would like to thank everyone for a tremendous response to our NightHawk product launch. We were overwhelmed by the genuine interest in our night vision system designed for homestead defense. The NightHawks have literally been soaring off the shelves!

“Literally soaring?” What, it’s a drone, too? Or is Vice President Biden, the National Mangler of “Literally,” writing TrackingPoint’s ad copy these days?

This is a notification that we have a limited supply of the first 100 NightHawks for the exclusive offer price of $6,995*. Place your order today to guarantee this discounted price and receive the most advanced Precision-Guided Firearm to date for the lowest price ever offered.

To place an order, please call (512) 354-2114

*MSRP $15,490

Tracking Point also offers financing now, which may make some of their pricy firearms more accessible to regular Joes. $7k is a lot for an AR, but considering that the scope and night vision are included, the delta between NightHawk and a build-it-yourself day/night rig is not as big as it seems at first.

Technically, the night vision is an add-on to the TrackingPoint system that uses an infrared illuminator (as in early active night-vision products, like the M3 Carbine and Infrared Snooperscope, or the infrared driving light on a 1960s Russian tank), but they claim it gives Generation II equivalent performance. The night vision capability is available as an option (including as a retrofit) for the rest of the TrackingPoint line. Here’s what they say about it:

NightHawk includes fully integrated Night Vision Kit which enables CMOS sensor technology to deliver Gen2-like night vision performance. After dark you are able to acquire and track targets just as you would in daylight. Nighthawk also includes a rail-mounted IR Illuminator.

Also, in a first as far as we know, the NightHawk has programs for TrackingPoint branded ammunition but also off-the-shelf ammunition using the Barnes 110 bullet. Previous TrackingPoint precision guided firearms have required TrackingPoint ammunition for predictable ballistic performance.

Other new capabilities (or perhaps, new description of an old capability) include a mode making the “tag” on a target automatically seek center of mass on that target, and using the TrackingPoint precision-guided system to enable image-stabilized shots from offhand to provide “firing supported” levels of precision and accuracy. The tagging system and guided trigger also increases hit probability on moving targets or on shot at stationary targets while shooting on the move.

The one question still open in our mind is this: how does it fare with a suppressor? Seems to be leaving a signature capability of 300 BLK behind, if it’s not suppressor-ready and can’t account for the point-of-impact shift that comes with most suppressors.

More information on the NightHawk is available on TrackingPoint’s website.

A Personal (or Personnel) Request from Cody Wilson, etc.

Want to change the world? Support gun rights to a disruptive degree? Do you have some chops in mechanical engineering, software (node.js), CAD/CAM? Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed need your help. They have some part-time jobs, and they need volunteers.

The WeaponsMan Ghost Gunner, early in its testing, hogs one of the gunsmithing benches with a Mac and a PC (we were checking that a connection problem was not emulation-related. It wasn't, it was a driver issue).

The WeaponsMan Ghost Gunner, early in its testing, hogs one of the gunsmithing benches with a Mac and a PC (we were checking that a connection problem was not emulation-related. It wasn’t, it was a driver issue).

Well, let’s just let Cody tell it, beginning with why:

A Short Note on the Passing of Scalia

The author of the Heller decision is dead, and the Supreme Court no longer maintains a majority to protect the Second Amendment. The Senate majority leader has signaled he will not schedule a vote on any Obama appointments to be made over the next 9-11 months, and the NRA will keep the heat on Congress and the 2016 candidates. But after the election, the fate of our 2A is in serious doubt.

There are now no ultimate authorities to hold together your Second Amendment. Recent decisions like Kolbe v. Hogan, or those coming like Mance or our own case Defense Distributed v. U.S. Dep’t of State, will be decided circuit by circuit. Keeping your battle rifle is now, more than ever, a local and do-it-yourself project. And it will require enormous work.

I’m personally asking for volunteers and more part or full-time employees to help us in our work at Defense Distributed. Do you know Node.js? Are you a mechanical engineer? Can you work in a major CAD suite? Please email me if you have the skills and time to offer for this fight, a fight for the future and the soul of the Second Amendment. We have only ourselves now. Please do not delay.

Cody R. Wilson

We have to say we’ve struggled with the GhostGunner, but that’s largely our own fault, in that we go weeks without time to mess with it, and then make great progress when we have a few hours.

Pretty sure the blue LED means we threw a limit switch. Might get to it on Weds.

Pretty sure the blue LED means we threw a limit switch. Might get to it on Weds.

Some of the guys at DefDist have been a great help to us (notably Haroon and Ben. Thanks, guys). We actually started cutting metal on it yesterday, then it threw a limit switch (see above). After that, it was plane-building session time (exit photo, left wing skeleton shapes up).

wrong_brothers_wing_progress

We’re really hoping to use the GhostGunner as a general purpose mill in order to, among other things, make stuff for airplanes. We’re least interested in its capability to run a canned AR-15 lower process.

In related news, the court case between the anti-gun US Department of State’s politically-staffed Department of Defense Trade Controls and Defense Distributed lurched forward a peg with a filing from State. Received via email from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is intensely interested in this and in several other export-restriction issues:

3-D Printed Gun Case Moves Forward

The U.S. Department of State has filed its response brief with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in the suit brought by Defense Distributed, which challenges the controls the department placed on the export of computer data files that would enable anyone with a 3-D printer to potentially produce an operable firearm.

In its filing, the department argues that a license is necessary because 3-D printers are available worldwide, and because the publication of the computer data files at issue would be tantamount to dissemination of the firearms themselves. The department asserts that the Arms Export Control Act confers it with great discretion to identify items, such as the “technical data” contained in the computer data files, that require a license to export and that it therefore acted within its authority to order the removal of Defense Distributed’s computer files from the Internet. Additional briefing in this case is expected.

State’s motivation, of course, is nothing of the sort; it’s purest anti-gun animus.

“Thank God, we’re saved, the diplomats of the State Department are on the job!” — said no one. Ever.

UPDATE

Cody’s own (widely-published) email address is crw@defdist.org. We’re including it in response to requests in the comments.

Also, a great way to support Defense Distributed is to buy a GhostGunner.

Psychotronic Guns? Whaaat?

Back in 2012, a British tabloid reported that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has ordered full steam ahead on the production of psychotronic guns. We started to write about it at the time, but never finished, and now we thought we’d revisit the psychotronic arsenal of Mother Russia.

Not just any pychotronic guns, mind you: mind-bending psychotronic guns.

Yeah, we said “whaa?” too, and we’re supposed to be the go-to gun guys. We just aren’t that up on guns that mess with people’s brains, other than by opening up their protective braincases and letting blood and stuff out, and lead and air in. That bit we can do, but the Russians are claiming to have some sort of weapon that messes with the mind, but leaves the organism intact. Or technically, the British journalists are claiming the Russians are claiming — eh. It gets kind of mind-bending.

Of course, the comparison to a certain Hollywood meme is inevitable:

Let’s see what the Daily Mail had to say:

Mind-bending ‘psychotronic’ guns that can effectively turn people into zombies have been given the go-ahead by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The futuristic weapons – which will attack the central nervous system of their victims – are being developed by the country’s scientists.

They could be used against Russia’s enemies and, perhaps, its own dissidents by the end of the decade.

Sources in Moscow say Mr Putin has described the guns, which use electromagnetic radiation like that found in microwave ovens, as ‘entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals’.

Mr Putin added: ‘Such high-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons, but will be more acceptable in terms of political and military ideology.’

Plans to introduce the super- weapons were announced quietly last week by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov, fulfilling  a little-noticed election campaign pledge by president-elect Putin.

Mr Serdyukov said: ‘The development  of weaponry based on new physics principles – direct-energy weapons, geophysical weapons, wave-energy weapons, genetic weapons, psychotronic weapons, and so on – is part  of the state arms procurement programme for 2011-2020.’

Specific proposals on developing the weapons are due to be drawn  up before December by a new Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Research into electromagnetic weapons has been secretly carried out in the US and Russia since the Fifties. But now it appears Mr Putin has stolen a march on the Americans. Precise details of the Russian gun have not been revealed. However, previous research has shown that low-frequency waves or beams can affect brain cells, alter psychological states and make it possible to transmit suggestions and commands directly into someone’s thought processes.

High doses of microwaves can damage the functioning of internal organs, control behaviour or even drive victims to suicide. Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Military Forecasting Centre in Moscow, said: ‘This is a highly serious weapon.

‘When it was used for dispersing a crowd and it was focused on a man, his body temperature went up immediately as if he was thrown into a hot frying pan. Still, we know very little about this weapon and even special forces guys can hardly cope with it.’

The long-term effects are not known, but two years ago a former major in the Russian foreign intelligence agency, the GRU, died in Scotland after making claims about such a weapons programme to MI6.

Sergei Serykh, 43, claimed he was a victim of weapons which he said were ‘many times more powerful than in the Matrix films’.

Mr Serykh died after falling from a Glasgow tower block with his wife and stepson in March 2010. While his death was assumed to be suicide, his family fear there was foul play.

Last night the Ministry of Defence declined to comment.

via Putin targets foes with ‘zombie’ gun which attack victims’ central nervous system | Mail Online.

This actually sounds somewhat derivative of US research, as is the Russian establishment of a DARPA, imitation being the sincerest, etc. The US has developed a variety of weapons that have CNS effects but has aimed our research more at making riot-control and nonlethal weapons of that sort.

They’re not all that new. A Doktor Inginieur Wallauschek supposedly developed a devastating sound weapon for the Nazis, with which they won the… oh. Never mind.

Actually weaponizing and deploying these weapons has proven to be somewhat difficult. For one thing, they’re not highly directional or precision guided. (The stuff in our safe that can affect your brain is quite to the contrary, to about 1/4 MOA at best). A psychotronic weapon that couldn’t be aimed would also zombify its own operators… which could make it kind of hard to turn off once you got it going. (That was actually one problem with Wallauschek’s weapon that killed by sound. Despite its directionality, it affected anyone near it, making it kind of hard to train on any moving target).

The US has deployed some of these weapons systems overseas but has been unable to come up with good situations and targets, and so has never used them. The Long Range Acoustical Device is one example.

So we thought, the Russians are some smart Ivans, if they’ve been working on this since 2012, surely there’s been something reported in the four years since. But a Google search found us only the pack journalists of 2012, plus these two stories:

Tentative conclusion: Vladimir Vladimirovich is not going to turn us into zombies any time soon.

Bonus: search for “psychotronic” anything, and Google serves you ads for quack products and nostrums to save you from the brain waves.

Fortunately, the well-shielded egg heads of MIT are all over it. (Bonus Video).

Washbear 3D Printed Revolver Update

Back in September, we introduced the Washbear, the first successful 3D printed .22 revolver (although it looks like a pepperbox, it has a rudimentary barrel), and we promised you more information, including the files, when it was time.

It’s time.

James R. Patrick has continued to develop theWashbear and he now has it working even better. In addition, the files are available. This is his rendering of the current version:

Patrick Washbear Release Rendering

It is all 3D printed, except for one roofing nail (firing pin), one elastic band (mainspring), and a grip-enclosed steel mass if one must meet the requirements of the United States’ Undetectable Firearms Act.

This video is a design analysis by Patrick himself, followed by a brief video of a shooting session of a version printed by FP (FreedomPrint) of the FOSSCAD group. There are two separate cylinder designs: a eight-shot cylinder, with steel liners, for printing in ABS filament; and an six-shot cylinder that requires no liners if printed in nylon filament. The cylinders are interchangeable. There’s no reason you couldn’t print a nylon, lined, 8-shot cylinder, too, for increased strength.

It is designed with more attention to safety than to perfect function at this point. The clever mechanism rotates the cylinder half-way on trigger release, so that the DAO trigger only has to move the cylinder half-way — but also so that the firing pin rests on the cylinder between chambers, in between shots, rendering the firearm drop-safe. (We would suggest making a notch in the cylinder’s rear face to receive this firing pin, locking the cylinder between shots and ensuring the cylinder can’t be torqued sideways and initiate an out-of-battery fire, for added safety. That would not be a factor in a center fire version, which would probably require materials advances). James Patrick notes that the current mechanism leads to a suboptimal trigger press.

Well, it’s early days.

Again, back in September, we promised you the files when James was ready to release them. He released them this past weekend. You can download the zipfile from Sendspace here. Follow that link and click on the blue button:

https://www.sendspace.com/file/kgn4xq

Note that James’s own website remains blocked by some antivirus software. Should you not be under that handicap, it’s here:

http://www.jamesrpatrick.com/

Are we still the best place to get technical firearms news on the web, or what (they said modestly)?

 

 

 

Source Document: FBI Pistol Solicitation

500px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgGents, you saw it here first. The complete FBI new pistol solicitation, which we mentioned back on 7 November, is now available verbatim and in full detail.

Have at it:

FBI Pistol Solicitation Bid, Oct 2015.pdf

Don’t say we never gave you nothin’.

We’re impressed by the thoroughness of the document. For example, it gets into the weeds on just about every facet of the firearm’s design. It goes so far as to suggest the color of magazine followers, and the design of floorplates:

fbi_mag_floorplate

Not only must all mags have a “toe” on the floorplate (as shown in Fig. 1)  to aid extraction, but magazines for the Inert (red) training pistol and Simunitions (blue) force-on-force training pistol must have color-coordinated floorplates.

As previously reported, the FBI knows what it wants in terms of safety, or at least a safety: none. No safety catch, no decocking lever, no grip safety, no magazine safety, no way to cock the pistol except by manipulating the trigger. Sounds like it’s right up Glock’s alley, except, as our previous report noted, no finger grooves.

For a government solicitation,the FBI’s is quite legible. As we said, have at it.