Daily Digest: Better Late Than Never Edition

Bushmaster AR-15 (courtesy ar15.com)

“A gun activist group founded by former Rep. Ron Paul has been trying to give away an assault-style rifle.” Trying? Do or do not. There is no try. “It’s part of a campaign to empower people to know their rights when it comes to firearms; however, giving away a weapon similar to the one used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was not sitting well with some people in Newtown. They said they were speechless while others said to stop blaming the guns.” And there you have it, via wfsb.com. Except for this: “‘I’m trying to be neutral about this,’ said Lisa Reda, of Bethlehem. ‘But I just don’t see the need for that.'” I think she means the raffle, not the need to be neutral. But it works either way. Your Lockdown of the Day™ comes from . . .

Santa Fe, New Mexico. A 12-year-old boy took a nonfunctioning rifle to his elementary school Friday morning. He said didn’t want to go to class and told the school principal about the rifle, and ran to his grandmother’s car out in the parking lot. According to the Alberquerque Journal, the principal “defused the situation” and retrieved the .22-caliber rifle from the back seat of the grandmother’s car. The rifle was missing the bolt and there were no bullets for it, and the grandmother didn’t know the rifle was even in the car. The school was placed under a “shelter-in-place order” (a lockdown by any other name…) for about an hour, “as a precaution.” The boy was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation, and robo-calls went to to parents informing them of the event, both as it occurred and more calls after it was resolved. I’m glad I was out of school before the era of the robo-call.

Because I can’t rewrite it any better, from KSDK.com, a story where sanity did not prevail. An unloaded gun was found Friday morning on the campus of Francis Howell High School in St. Charles County, Missouri. In a letter sent home to parents, Principal Dr. Dave Wedlock says a security guard saw the gun inside a student’s vehicle during a routine patrol of the parking lot. The gun was inside its original packaging, and after questioning a student, it was determined the student was going to go target shooting after school. Wedlock says no threat was ever made to students or staff. According to the school district’s code of conduct, the student could be suspended for one year or expelled.

The Navy has released a video of a test of their Electromagnetic Railgun, which fires an oddly shaped projectile at Ludicrous Speed (that’s a thing). The high-speed video would make Richard Ryan jealous. According to an attached story, the prototype will be going to sea in 2016, on a Navy transport with a civilian crew. The initial at-sea tests will be one shot at a time, with multiple-round tests following in 2018. Installation of a working gun on a combat ship will come some time after that. So for now, enjoy the video, and the visible wake the 23-pound projectile leaves behind as it travels at seven times the speed of sound.



  1. avatar dwb says:

    uhh, why is there fire coming out of the barrel of a railgun when there is no gunpowder? Is there a real explanation, or is this video just marketecture?

    The high-speed video might make Richard Ryan jealous, but its still a long way from a Jerry Miculek video.

    1. avatar Backyardsniper says:

      The fire from the weapon’s barrel is the molten steel, created by the heat produced from air friction at its hypersonic speed (over mach 5), from the projectile’s sabot. The explosion at impact of the projectile into the target is the product of the projectile’s kinetic energy, there are no explosives involved.

      1. avatar dwb says:

        But the hypersonic speed does not melt the metal in the projectile because…?

        Actually, thinking about it, I think as the projectile is going down the barrel, there is an induced electric current in the sabot that’s heating the metal. Not friction.

        1. avatar Ben says:

          The projectile is probably made from tungsten, which has a ridiculously high melting point, 6192 degrees F to be exact.

        2. avatar peirsonb says:

          It would almost HAVE to be tungsten, if for no other reason than the price tag. That’s not a $25,000 hunk of steel.

  2. avatar jwm says:

    The heaviest armed transport in the world. Ever. Now to ensure that Dr. Evil doesn’t get the ship.

    1. avatar pyratemime says:

      Maybe they should do the sea trials around the Horn of Africa. Imagine what that thing would do to a pirate skiff.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Now you see the skiff. Now you don’t.

  3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Just did the math (on paper, so I may be off), but over
    17 million ft/lbs of delivered energy!

    Add this one to the 10 guns to shoot before croaking.

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      Now if they would just make it with a 18″ barrel in .204 Ruger.

  4. avatar Jake W says:

    Hey, I know Richard Ryan!

    Course, he doesn’t know me. Just waves at me when we pass each other at Walmart.

  5. avatar Publius says:

    Rail guns, like many technologies, are quite interesting – but do you really want to put that technology in the hands of people so horrifically corrupt and untrustworthy as the government? They’re the absolute last people I’d want to see with that kind of firepower, because they will abuse it.

    1. avatar Ben says:

      Well, to be fair, they’ve had the power to obliterate cities in the blink of an eye for over half a century now and nothing’s happened.

      1. avatar peirsonb says:

        Cities? Closer to 3/4 of the planet. But that’s ok because the soviets only had enough to wipe out half, so we won.

      2. avatar Publius says:

        Yeah, nothing’s happened other than a complete erosion of our rights because “Rights are outdated – besides, the government has nukes, so what are you going to do against them?”

        1. avatar jwm says:

          What kind of shape would your rights be in if the soviets had won?

  6. avatar neiowa says:

    WOW couldn’t blast a Duece and a half before now. I wonder if they had NBC prepare the truck for the test.

    Really can’t put PBOFG (plain boring onld fashioned guns) on their ship but a nifty mythical overpriced RAILTOY. WOW cost no object.

    1. avatar Felix says:

      Any 1600s cannon would have blasted that deuce and a half too. Your point?

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      Try pricing a cruise missile, a ship to ship missile, or a surface to air missile. This shoots a solid projectile at mach 7, time to target at horizon in 7 seconds, max range 110 nm. Projectile is utterly safe (no explosives or propellants), utterly simple (no or limited electronics), and can be stored aboard in huge quantities–a fraction of the space for the old 2000 lb, 6′ long, 16″ shells used on our battlewagons (not including propellant). Also provides air defense capabilities from the same gun, something no main battle gun has ever been able to do. The main limiting factor to date has been the amount of electrical power needed to accelerate the projectile to over 5000 mph (7800fps) in 20 feet.

    3. avatar Ben says:

      Let’s also not forget this weapon costs a tiny fraction of what modern missiles cost.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        Factor in R&D costs and I seriously doubt that.

    4. avatar Ardent says:

      The advantages of a rail gun are many but in a naval setting they multiply:

      The extreme velocity give such weapons incredible armor penetration, something that is useful in ship to ship warfare as well as in targeting on shore bunkers. Such weapons require neither propellant nor explosive projectiles, meaning that they are inert until fired from the weapon. The greatest fear on a warship is fire and in particular fire in the areas where propellant is stored. This sort of weapon eliminates that concern while preserving the long range heavy fire power role that is the stock in trade of some types of warships.

      Another advantage to that velocity is that there are no effective counter measures. At those speeds shooting the projectile down just isn’t feasible at this time.

      With the reduced complexity of the projectiles and essentially endless supply of ‘propellant’ such a weapon should eventually result in savings over more conventional artillery and certainly over any ‘smart’ missile technology.

      Also, without the need for propellant more ammunition can be stored in the same area giving a vessel with a rail gun a combat and logistical advantage over one the same size using conventional artillery.

      The reason the US military has been and continues to be the best in the world is, in an nut shell, innovation of this type.
      Without the innovation and continual development of the aircraft carrier and naval aviation the war in the pacific during the first 2/3 of WWII would have been lost. Without the development of atomic weapons the casualties of a landing in Japan (on both sides) would have been horrific.
      Without the very costly retooling of virtually every industry to the war effort we could not have been the ‘arsenal of the world’ and have supplied not only our own gutted and grossly underfunded military but also the Brits and more importantly the Russians, and Eurasia and Africa (if not the Americas) would almost certainly be a part of the Third Reich.

      In the post war period had we not developed superior ballistic submarine technology, better missile guidance systems, strategic bombers like the B-52, and a host of other tech the Soviet empire would likely still stand and just as likely would have grown through proxy states until it accomplished what Hitler originally had in mind; world domination.

      One could argue that the enormous advantage in military technology developed by the US since the cold war is a large part of why the Chinese are not more aggressive than they are.

      It’s not even arguable that the first Gulf War would have been a much bloodier and costly affair were it not for the massive technological advantage of US troops over the Iraqis.

      At every stage of the game the US technological advantage has either held tyrannical dictators in check, defeated them, or convinced them not to try, largely without firing a shot. Anything that weakens the US military, particularly in developing the latest technologies is a direct threat to the hegemony and eventually the sovereignty of the United States and indirectly to world peace.

      So, no. It wouldn’t do to just mount conventional artillery on US naval vessels, or at least it won’t do in 2050, and if we don’t develop these technologies now we wont have them when we need them.

      1. avatar Larry says:

        I bet you could design a ship that used the projectiles as armor, potentially having tens of thousands on hand should you need them (even though using them would decrease the thickness of your armor!). And if a sabot works that well, try to imagine the AA capabilities of the equivalent shotgun shell!

    5. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Two disadvantages of a rail gun:
      – You need the electrical capacity to support a small city to fire it.
      – You can fire it how often before it requires a new barrel?

  7. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    To the last video. That is if there is a navy left by then.

  8. avatar BillF says:

    “Better Late Than Never”, but always worth waiting for. Thanks again for the Daily Digest, Matt.

  9. avatar LongBeach says:

    The only thing faster than that projectile is the speed at which I achieved full mast while watching the video.

    1. avatar CB says:

      “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of my massive throbbing erection.”
      -Sterling Archer

  10. avatar Josh H says:

    The fire coming out of the barrel isn’t fire. It’s plasma induced from the shockwave of the projectile moving at ludicrous speed.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:


  11. avatar benny says:

    The last time I watched a prototype rail gun test, the gun and surrounding systems weren’t ANYWHERE near as small as this one.
    Just like powered armor and optic camo, we could have had man portable prototypes by now. Instead, we’re spending a metric ton of capital on what the army uniforms will look like -___-

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      The could make the rifle–but the weight of the batteries is killer, and they haven’t managed to make a back pack nuclear generator yet.

      1. avatar Dennis says:

        Operative word, “yet.”

      2. avatar Hryan says:

        Soon we’ll all be wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on our backs.

  12. avatar Erik says:

    Thank you founding fathers for putting “arms” not “guns” or “swords and guns” in the 2nd amendment. I doubt we’ll ever see a commercial one this size, but man am I hoping for some sci-fi style man-portable versions. It’d make for one hell of an awesome anti-tank gun too!

    1. avatar pyratemime says:

      Once the technology exists on a small enough scale to be transportable on a mobile land based chassis tank warfare dies. It will be akin to when the Brits commissioned HMS Dreadnought and made every single other battleship on the planet (including theirs) obsolete. Only difference is there is no point to an arms race to build more and more tanks because there is not enough armor on the planet to protect it from this kind of weapon.

      Well at least not until we get micro-fusion power plants, 200 cm powerguns, and iridium armor in which case I am changing my name to Alois Hammer.

  13. avatar Mk10108 says:

    Nothing more than a toy for big brain armament physicist and a procurement colonel masturbating for a star. How much money spent on this contraption? Most likely more and then school lunch programs for five western states. Range 110 miles….my ass. Guidance none…over the horizon hit rate…zero. Weapons that can take the rail rod out…At least a hundred in every third world arsenal. This is how government goes mad.

  14. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    Dark Hammer would have loved to have one of these!
    One thing for sure, the recoil makes this a vehicle or boat mounted item at its smallest usable version….Newtons third kinda sucks!

  15. avatar fuque says:

    Not sure I understand the rail gun part when it belches fire .. but love the high speed photography..

    1. avatar CB says:

      Much like shooting a space shuttle at someone, the plume of flame is caused by the friction when the projectile tries to move through the atmosphere at that speed. Handy if you need to reach out and touch Ohio from the Atlantic.

      And yes, watching the sabot separate was glorious, Boeing did a good job on that projectile considering the nutballs speed involved. A big step over the bricks they were throwing out of it back in 2011.

  16. avatar Theone says:

    IIRC an AR-15 was not used in the Sandy Hook shooting.

    1. avatar Larry says:

      I heard it was the equivalent sold in that state, ie cosmetic differences.

  17. avatar peirsonb says:

    I can’t watch the video here (damn firewalls) but I’m assuming that’s the vid I caught on the Nightly News last night. If so, something struck me as strange in the very beginning. They mention that the Navy has been “secretly developing” the rail gun for years. I don’t recall it really being a secret. They weren’t publishing wiring diagrams and ballistics tables, but I remember small tidbits in the news here and there dating back to High School. Back when the prototype covered the better portion of the foredeck on a good sized missile cruiser.

  18. avatar Henry Bowman says:

    Regarding the rail gun… Why, Navy? The last real naval battle was ~70 years ago (for the U.S). And the naval gunfire support mission is almost non-existent today. Shooting pirate skiffs with these seems like overkill. HEAT and KE-ET rounds are pretty effective and much cheaper.

    At this point, rail guns just seems like masturbation.

    1. avatar John says:

      Think of how much of humanity is established within 100 miles of a coast. That is why you put your first big, experimental models on a ship. Plus, I’m certain the experience they gain will help them scale it down to models for artillery, aircraft and infantry later, but it’s got to start somewhere.

      1. avatar Henry Bowman says:

        I worked on these as a physics post-grad. It’s impossible to scale down (even given forseable technology developments) because the energy needed to launch the projectile at desired speed requires several very large (think car-sized) capacitors. If anything, it should be scaled up… like the moon-to-earth-delivery system in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

        While I believe rail guns are not compatible to any naval mission, the Navy has dumped way too much money into the tech to back out now.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:


  19. avatar Pascal says:

    Regarding the story from WSFB — this is great Agitpop — they take a story that has nothing to do with CT or Newtown and make it into an emotional Agitpop peace — for what value besides to further the antigun agenda.

  20. avatar Stinkeye says:

    Wasn’t the lead story on this Digest last night the one about the old broad in the pretty-picture contest? Or did I have a stroke while I was asleep?

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Apparently the People magazine story had already been covered here, and I missed it, so it was pulled from the Digest.

  21. avatar Pahtun6 says:

    Could you imagine calling in fire support from a rail gun equipped destroyer. Correct me if I’m wrong but there is a pretty substantial effective range on the weapon system.
    The kid who left his firearm in side a locked vehicle is just dumb. He should have known better, I hope he is suspended just for being dumb, not because of the weapon. As for the child who brought the .22 it seems like he really doesn’t like school. At the same time it seems that the school totally over reacted.

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