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This came across my desk courtesy of Red Hills Arms of Tallahassee. They are a fantastic family owned gun shop with a great selection of firearms and ammunition. Even now in the panic, they’re trying to keep prices low and inventory in stock as best they can.

So what is in the box? A gun of relative obscurity that was supposed to be revolutionary, something that would utterly change firearms forever. It came from the minds of Robert Mainhardt and Arthur Biehl who formed MB Associates — MBA — in sunny California. And the rest is history.

What did the gun shoot? I’ll give you a hint. It costs more than $100 a round these days…if you can find the ammo. And you thought the current panic pricing on 9mm ammunition was bad.

We’re looking at about $1, 500 worth of ammuniton right here.

Here’s your last hint. It weights only 22 ounces and is made out of cheap Zamac, a zinc alloy. That’s the same stuff used to craft Hi-Points and Lorcins.

So what is it? This obscure object of desire is a Mark 1 Model B Gyrojet Pistol.

Original sales flyer.

This is an original model in its factory wood display case with dummy rounds and a commemorative medallion.

Behold the early 1960s in all of its modernist glory. This is one ugly gun and holding it, you can feel the cheapness oozing from it.

The commemorative coin immortalizes Robert H. Goddard, considered the father of modern rocket design.

As if I’d ever openly display this thing as something to be proud of.

The semi-automatic Gyrojet was, if nothing else, an interesting design. Instead of using conventional ammunition, it fired a 13mm (.51 Caliber) solid fueled mini-rocket. As you can see in the photo above, the back of each cartridge had four exhaust ports that when ignited, caused the round to spin and stabilize in flight.

The barrel is smoothbore with no rifling whatsoever. The barrel and chamber are weakly constructed because this isn’t a self contained cartridge in the traditional sense. There is no explosive gas pressure to be contained while launching a bullet down the bore. That made the Gyrojet pistols quiet and very soft-shooting.

MGM Gyrojet rocket pistol
Courtesy MGM

In theory, this must have sounded like a good idea at the time. In reality it was an utter failure. Rounds cost about $3 each at the time (that’s about $25 a round in current dollars).

The theory was that you could make the gun cheaply since you didn’t have to worry about heat transference like you do with a traditional firearm. Also, since each round is actually a little rocket, the pressures involved are far lower so you don’t have to build the gun to such tight specs.

Also contributing to the Gyrojet’s failure was the fact that those little projectiles sucked for the most part.

A rocket round doesn’t achieve its full speed at the muzzle. It actually continues to accelerate long after it leaves the barrel. So a close range shot is significantly weaker than a longer range shot. The 180gr rocket doesn’t burn all of its fuel and achieve full velocity until about the 60 foot mark. At that point it is traveling at about 1,250fps.

Anyway, let’s look get up close and personal with this ugly beast.

The safety is an “ON” “OFF” switch and those synthetic grips are just to die for. Very ’60s.

The Gyrojet was actually a handheld rocket launcher.

Those Phillips head screws just scream build quality.

The Gyrojet pistol was crafted out of the finest Zamac money could buy.

Those sights are actually better than a WWI vintage 1911. Honestly, I’ve seen worse. They’re not great, but they’re not horrible.

The patent was pending and so were any design aesthetics.

Yes, some truly great guns came out of California. Designs like the AR-15 for example. But the Gyrojet wasn’t one of them.

So what do these things go for today? Easily over $1,000. Rock Island listed one in similar condition at between $2500 and $3500. Oh and good luck finding the ammo. I’m pretty sure that Starline doesn’t make brass for it and Hodgdon’s probably doesn’t make the solid fuel for the rounds.

These aren’t guns to shoot and play with at the range. These are guns that you buy as oddities and pull out of the safe occasionally to show your friends.

Again, a big thank you to Red Hills Arms of Tallahassee.


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  1. I remember seeing these in magazines when they first came out. I think they were used in a Bond film.

    Too science fiction for me.

      • Sorry to highjack the thread….

        (sung to the tune of any song)

        This new format suuuuuuucks.
        This new format suuuuuuucks.
        This new format, it really sucks.
        This new format SSUUUUUuuuhhhhUUUUUHHHHuuuuhhhUUUUCKS!!!

        TTAG has to do what it needs to do. However, I can choose after…7+ years?…to no longer visit.

        • Royal Suckage. But they warned us…

          Last time the site was intentionally broken – er, excuse me, transformed into ugly as shit and ten times as hard to navigate – Dan told us all that whether we liked it or not, that format WAS coming back after numerous problems were fixed… despite the fact that hatred of it was universal. Well, apparently he meant it.

          TTAG, you are going to lose a LOT of regular readers and commenters over this… I hope the bump in revenue makes up for the loss. I’m saddened that your regular consumers have been ignored.

        • Yep. Formerly a daily reader. I’ll check back once a week or so for the next month, to see if they fix this mess, but otherwise I’m done.

  2. The late Tim Bixler of S.C.R.C. collected Gyrojets for a while. Before he worked as a hard-hat diver on oil rigs off the Louisiana coast, he spent some time as a rescue/recovery diver for the city of Chicago back in the 70’s. He told me a story of taking one of his Gyrojets on a routine dive in Lake Michigan. He wanted to see if it would work underwater. He was about 30 feet down and fired the Gyrojet straight up. He said if successfully lit off and the projectile headed straight up toward the air. After the dive was over and he returned to the boat, he asked the guys on the boat if they had seen anything. They had indeed seen the rocket breach the surface and head off into the sky.

    • That may be the only situation in which a GyroJet outperforms a conventional firearm. In normal use, it’s slow initial velocity ruins accuracy.

  3. >>>”The patent was pending and so were any design aesthetics.”

    Hahahaha! Thanks, that made my day there! 😀

    Congrats on your new acquisition.

  4. I stayed in Roswell, NM for a couple of weeks and got to visit the Goddard museum they have there. Part of his lab at the time as well.

    The whole ‘space age’ of the late 50s and 60s was a fantastic time. Cars with fins, turbine cars (jay leno has one) Everything was jets and space flight, including this gun.

    Now look at us….at least we have doors that swish open and better communicators than the original Star Trek…but that’s about it.

    Interesting write-up and pictures. I didn’t realize they looked that cheap until now. Still..I would not turn my nose up at a piece of history. Thanks, I learned a little more today.

  5. It is a good thing that those gyrojet projectiles only produced 1/10th the recoil since the bore axis on that “handgun” is higher than a 1960s hippy at the Woodstock concert.

  6. These things were made back in the 60s. I wonder if someone could revitalize and prefect the concept using modern technology.

  7. On a more serious note, the design is pure genius in its simplicity.

    I wonder if the far simpler feeding/hammer arrangement could translate to modern handguns? (Off the top of my head, I cannot see how that could work with a cartridge which has modern smokeless powder and the ignition pressures which accompany it.)

  8. I knew what this was with the first image that wasn’t an old box(the single pro-jet-tile). Cool concept, accuracy could probably suffer greatly since every round relied on the one before it to burn at the same rate and have the nozzles manufactured to the same specs.

    This might be a cool design for a sniper rifle, especially if it can continue to gain momentum.

  9. “So a close range shot is significantly weaker than a longer range shot.”

    What it lacks in impact velocity, I’d imagine it would more than make up for with still-combusting rocket fuel – like USS STARK, except in your body 😮

    • That’s a feature of modern anti-ship missiles like the excellent French ‘Exocet’…

    • I’ve heard that you could safely catch the rocket at the muzzle. Peaking at 1250fps at 60′ means linear acceleration of 20fps/ft. In reality, the acceleration will increase with distance as the thrust remains constant and the weight decreases, and the acceleration will be even less at the muzzle. So, the velocity at 6″ could reasonably be 10fps or less, and 0.04 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. For comparison, a 500fps BB is 2.75 ft-lbs.

      Another interesting difference is the firing method. The firing pin is fixed to an immobile breechblock. The hammer is in front of the rocket. It hits the nose and pushes the rocket back into the firing pin, which detonates the primer, ignites the propellant, and the rocket launches when it gets enough thrust to overcome the hammer spring and push it down for the next round as it passes over it. This also let’s it spin a bit in the gun to stabilize, but the accuracy was nothing to write home about.

    • From a physical (or, physiological) aspect, having a rocket fired at you probably makes up for the relatively low-velocity of the round. On the other hand, a .51-cal bullet has gotta hurt regardless of how fast it’s traveling.

  10. Spiffy! I believe I saw a video on one of these on a Sportsman Channel/Outdoor Channel…perfect for SPACE FORCE©

    • Thanks for the video link, the advertisement showing the German Luger cost caught my attention because my dad had a couple he brought back from WW2

    • “Ronald Reagan owned one.”

      I’m sure he forgot all about it as his Alzheimer’s progressed to its inevitable conclusion…

  11. Thing about the early 1960s is that women’s breasts were located 3 inches higher up on their chests then modern day women. One of the great mysteries of science.

  12. Nice…, Just like I’ve said before, some of the goofiest stuff at the time it’s released, that nobody wanted, & they didn’t sell a lot of is worth big bucks today.
    Same with almost everything from cars to electronics,
    Back to the subject though, strange, Ugly, guns bring good cheese later on when there’s not many left,
    Basically a collector’s thingy.

  13. I vaguely remember a news segment back in the day when these were first introduced. They did a comparison of the Gyrojet recoil against the 1911 which was still in general US military use then. It was going to be the next big thing.

  14. I saw the first screenshot of that single round and knew it was the Gyrojet. Maybe I need a second hobby.


  15. The sound is like a lawnmower backfiring so not as loud as a pistol round. The machining costs for the rounds affected quality. I’d expect if someone would capitalize modern ammunition manufacturing then the ammunition cost and quality would be better.

    Also the newer gyrojets have faint rifling. This is a batfe compliance design change. The rifling is not used.

  16. modern tech today could probably make this work better today, with fold out fins and even guided tech in it. I would display one if I had it along with that picture of Miss Helga Brant holding it.and maybe if I could find one of Aki.


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