Russians have sent guns into space before. Back in the day, Russian astronauts carried a combination rifle, shotgun, and survival axe designed to keep them alive (and out of enemy hands) should they land somewhere other than Mother Russia. While weapons of mass destruction are banned from being placed into orbit, Russia didn’t have any second thoughts about placing heavily armed space stations into orbit during the turbulent 1970’s. Thanks to a Russian TV program, we’re getting a glimpse at the configuration of Russia’s orbital R-23 machine gun. The gun was intended to . . .
defend Russian spy space stations in orbit, but in practice that probably would have been massively impractical. The gun was mounted on a single stationary hard point, meaning that the entire space station needed to be rotated in order to aim the gun. And when the trigger was finally pulled, the thrusters on the station would need to be constantly firing in order to counterbalance the recoil from the massive firearm.
The gun was only ever fired once — remotely, shortly before the spy space station it was attached to burned up in re-entry. There’s no word on whether the row of beer bottles in Yekaterinburg they were aiming at were damaged.