Ask Foghorn: Gyroscopes for Guns?


Kurt writes:

I’ve always been doing photography and I remember there was a gyroscope that you could attach to say a Mamiya RB67 (which was a big pig of a camera) and handhold this at a slow shutter speed. Even though the gyroscope added even more weight, the added stability more than offset this. So the question is, do they make gyroscopes for rifles? If not someone should and make loads of money.

Yes, yes they do. But first, the why and the how.

Shooting from a solid firing position is an absolute must for placing rounds effectively on target. That’s what makes the prone position the most accurate — it provides the most stability and keeps the rifle from flopping about. The more the rifle moves, the less accurate your rounds will be.

Getting a solid firing position when your feet are firmly planted on solid ground is relatively easy. But getting a solid firing position when you’re in a moving vehicle is damn near impossible, especially when its a helicopter. Not only do you have to account for the known movement of the platform, but also anticipate any turbulence or change in direction.

That’s where the humble gyroscope comes in.

A gyroscope is really nothing more than a fast-spinning plate of metal, but the effect of that spinning is amazing. It creates something called “angular momentum,” which causes the gyroscope to be resistant to changes in orientation. In other words, when you move the device it keeps pointing in the same direction. Its this same principle that we tap into when we use rifling to spin a projectile and try to keep it on target.

For shooters, keeping your gun pointed in the same direction no matter what’s going on with the platform is exactly what you want. And because of the ability for the gyroscope to maintain its orientation, ever since the 1960’s they have been built into a number of aerial firing platforms to help the gunners stay on target.

While most of the stabilizers designed specifically for firearms are only available for military and law enforcement, there is an option available to the civilian shooter: get a kit and build a system yourself.

Kenyon Labs sells gyroscopic stabilizers and stabilizer kits designed primarily for use with photography (as our reader mentioned), but I know that these have been successfully integrated into weapons platforms for civilian shooters before. The main obstacle to this is the cost, as the starter kit runs about $3,000.

But if you have the money, the benefits of stabilizing your rifle with a gyroscope are definite and obvious. As long as you don’t have to carry it very far, that is.

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