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“For decades, the standard Soyuz survival pack included a deluxe all-in-one pistol called the TOZ 82 with three barrels and a folding stock that doubled as a shovel and contained a swing-out machete,” space junkie journo James Oberg writes at “There were a few dozen rounds of three types of ammunition—rifle bullets, shotgun shells and flares—in a belt attached to the gun.” This is not new news. What’s interesting: Oberg now claims the Russkies have stopped packing the TOZ 82 for their flights to the International Space Station. I’ll explain how he came to that conclusion in a moment. First, some tales of multi-national TOZ 82 training on the Black Sea . . .

In the early years of the ISS, NASA astronauts also trained with the TOZ 82. Familiarization usually took place during survival training in the Black Sea, when the crews trained to safely exit a spacecraft floating on the water. After floating around in the water for a day or two, the astronauts and cosmonauts would take a few hours to fire several rounds from each chamber off the deck of the training ship.

“It was amazing how many wine, beer and vodka bottles the crew of the ship could come up with for us to shoot at,” astronaut Jim Voss, who spent a stint aboard the international space station in 2001, told me. “It was very accurate,” he continued. “We threw the bottles as far as possible, probably 20 or 30 meters, then shot them. It was trivial to hit the bottles with the shotgun shells, and relatively easy to hit them with the rifle bullets on the first shot.”

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Astronaut Dave Wolf, who spent four months aboard Russia’s Mir space station in 1997-98, agreed that the space weapon was “a wonderful gun.” He added, “I found it to be well-balanced, highly accurate and convenient to use.”

Mike Foale, the only astronaut who served aboard both Mir and the international space station, trained with the gun and found it to be pretty standard. “Other than firing flares, birdshot and a hard slug from its three barrels, during sea and winter survival training, I can’t say it is very unique,” he told me. He added, as if in reassurance, “The Soyuz commander controls its use.”

OK, so Oberg addresses the central question: do Cosmonauts have access to the TOZ 82 onboard the International Space Station, just in case crew relations become a bit . . . strained? He says they did, but don’t now.

“The pistol is still on the official list of kit contents,”Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti recalled the Russian review committee chairman saying. “But before every mission we meet to review that list and vote to remove it for this specific flight.”

The reasons for this remain obscure. Her crewmate, Terry Virts, told me he suspected it was connected with the transfer of the cosmonaut training center from military to civilian jurisdiction. And there is growing pressure in Russia to return the center to military control.

So it’s clear that while there are, as of now, no guns aboard the space station, the option remains to put a pistol back on board a future mission. Maybe a special treaty IS needed, and those diplomats might earn their keep!

And maybe they’re lying. And maybe American astronauts are not without their own personal defense weapons . . .

[h/t JE]

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  1. Since one knows not what kind of creatures await on the landing site, I vote our boys and girls should carry Dan Wesson 10mm 1911s. Yes I know Glock makes a perfectly good pistol, but ‘Murrica, OK?

    Who am I kidding. Obama will instead mandate our astronauts wear plastic instead metal lapel pins, lest we bring a “potential weapon” into international territory…

  2. “And maybe they’re lying. And maybe American astronauts are not without their own personal defense weapons . .”

    Really? Under the Obama/Putin administrations? It is almost a certainty that the TOZ-82 is still on board the Soyuz, since Vlad the impaler wouldn’t accept letting squeamish Western sensibilities get in the way. It’s also a certainty that any self-defense gear US astros might have had were quickly taken away when Barry took office. Not that I believe for one second they ever had any.

  3. As interesting as this is…

    It’s not half as intriguing as how Warren Buffett could make me a millionaire or the list of which rappers are now broke…

    Those are some top notch ads you got there.

  4. The 13mm rocket firing MBA Gyrojet handgun made in the 1960’s was rumored to have been specifically developed for usage in space.

  5. And maybe American astronauts are not without their own personal defense weapons

    Cue the Mark Kelly jokes in 3, 2, 1, …

  6. A good pointy stick. You’re gonna fire a slug in a compressed oxygen cylinder? A: Don’t miss. B: I hope your target is 250 lbs.

      • No, but you will have to take orbital mechanics into consideration. It’s weird and screwy. Moving around in orbit isn’t intuitive.

        But at the short range you will likely be when shooting someone on the ISS, probably won’t matter.

        • There is a multiplayer first-person shooter that takes place in orbit, in a zero-G environment, with all the associated mechanics (like recoil actually sending you flying backwards… the suits have recoil compensators, but you can turn them off to use it to full effect). Pretty entertaining, and certainly very different from your stock FPS.

    • If they load it with frangible rounds it shouldn’t be a problem. I would imagine a space station would have some kind of defense against micrometeors. Also, in close quarters, I would imagine any fights could be concluded with a single buttstroke from that gun.

      • There are some techniques developed for that purpose but I don’t believe they are used on iss. Besides those methods are supposed to protect the hull from puncture from outside. The shield may well stop the bullet… After it punctures the hull.

  7. The version I have heard of the story as to why the gun was there in the first place was that one mission, they re-entered hundreds of miles from where they were supposed to be.

    So there they were, in the middle of bum-phuque nowhere, and as night fell the local wolves took an interest to their presence.

    They were picked up some long hours later (maybe 2 days or so, can’t remember) and the gun was in their survival pack after that.

    The Russians also managed to pack not a small amount of vodka. Something about bottles of vodka mysteriously appearing from the arms and legs of the Russian space suits.

    • Yep. The Space Russkies used to carry Makarovs on board, but after that incident they quickly realized how useless a Mak is for survival in the frozen woods. Hence, the sawed off drilling with the meat cleaver stock.

    • That’s the story I heard. American astronauts came down in the ocean. They got water purifiers and fishing gear. Russians came down in vast streaches of mostly unihabited wilderness. Lots of bears and wolves. They got guns.

      • According to comentors on that blog there is no reason to ever have a gun in a survival kit. One guy challenges us to name a single incident when a bear or other animal has EVER attacked a human, like EVER!! Name ONE time he says! Another guy blames modern American gun culture for this decades old soviet decision to take a disgusting gun to space. There is some real intilectual talent over there.

  8. If I was an american astronaut I would bring my glock 17 into space with me. Not because I needed superior firepower to the cosmonauts. But because I could then go for a space walk and shoot at the moon. I think I would need an orbitology expert to calculate the lead for me though. I’m not sure why but ripping through a mag of 9mm in space seems like a great deal of fun.

    • Shooting at the moon would be fun. Did the math on this, and if you were using a 115 gr 9mm NATO load, with a muzzle velocity of 1300 fps, it would take the bullet about 11.393 days to actually hit the moon. So, unless you feel like just empty a mag into deep space, knowing that it will eventually hit something, you’re going to need to plot the orbit of the moon parallel to your location in orbit around the earth, and fire at the moon a week and a half in advance to hit it. This isn’t that hard, as the moon is big target, and gravity will help make sure that if you get close enough, you will hit eventually.

      Now, really impressive would be trying to hit the lunar lander with a pistol from a quarter of a million miles away.

      • There are a couple of other things you would have to fit into the calculation. First is the orbital velocity of the ISS. Second is the fact that the bullet would have to reach escape velocity, which, as I recall, is about 17,000 MPH (or 6,120,000 fps). So the trip would be much shorter if such velocities are reached, or would never leave earth orbit.

        • Escape velocity can have a variety of values depending on what you are escaping. I believe the 17,000 MPH is the velocity required to make it into earths orbit (the ISS velocity is about 17,150 MPH).

          I did a quick search for the Delta V required to make it to the moon from low earth orbit and it looks like it’s 5.93 km/s (In orbital mechanics every thing is based on the change of velocity or Delta V so to make it to the moon from LEO you need to accelerate another 5.93 km/s to go back you would decelerate or more accurate accelerate in the opposite direction of your velocity vector 5.93 km/s). So in order to shoot the moon you would need a bullet that fires at 19,500 fps.

      • Now, really impressive would be trying to hit the lunar lander with a pistol from a quarter of a million miles away.

        So, a .45ACP then.

  9. A quick internet search turns up several articles about the TOZ/TP-82 having been retired back in 2007. All indications are that the specialized ammunition (unique 5.45×39 and 32-gauge birdshot) produced specifically for the space program had all run out or expired.

  10. From what i read the reason they stopped using that gun is that all ammo for it is past its exp date and the do not make it anymore

  11. If they made one of these that took standard ammo I bet it would sell like gangbusters. I know I would buy two, just for the novelty. One to shoot and one to keep as a collectible.

    • Build one, you would need a tax stamp to make it as seen (or two? Would you need one each for the rifle portion and the shotty?) but it could be made in a common caliber/gauge. The real question of course is just that, and what scale to build it at. Scaled up to 12guage/.308 it might not be a short barrel after all.

      • If it was legal without all the xtra hoops to jump thru I’d take one in 20ga over .357 or .45 colt. With a folding stock, not one of those machete thingies that go up.

        As a foraging gun birdshot from the 20 ga would do for pot meat and the pistol caliber barrel would bring down any bigger critters like deer.


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