Metal Storm - Deadly Weapon System
A Gatling Gun On Steroids
“Metal Storm” – the very name provokes a mental image of metal raining from the skies. This is a new version of the Gatling Gun but with no mechanical parts of the gun to slow it down. That is why is can produce a hail of lead down range at the rate of 16,000 rounds per SECOND. That is right - PER SECOND. The fastest Gatling Gun was capable of producing between 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per MINUTE. Compared to some of the fastest machine guns (1,000 rounds per minute) in the U.S. arsenal, the Metal Storm is exponentially faster.
Metal Storm – developed by Metal Storm Ltd. (based in Brisbane, Australia) - had the ability to fire off a staggering amount of ammunition. Metal Storm also have two modes. It can create a metal spear of sorts by placing several rounds in a straight line - even piercing armor. But it can also create a metal wall of bullets capable of stopping an incoming missile similar to shipboard weapons system known as the Phalanx CIWS - Close In Weapon System. Still the CIWS has a rate of fire of 4,500 rounds per minute.
How It Can Shoot That Many Rounds Per Second
Metal Storm uses the concept of a “superposed load” (also known as a “stacked charge”), which is multiple projectiles loaded nose to tail in a single gun barrel with propellant packed between them. This was not a new concept – the idea dates back to the old matchlock and caplock firearms (actually further back than that, as the Roman Candle uses the same concept of multiple charges). The desired aim was to have the ability to fire multiple shots from a single barrel without reloading. The problem to the concept, however, is the issue of sequential charges firing together, instead of one after the other - which would often result in a burst barrel as well as injuries to the weapon wielder.
With a combination of projectile design and an electronic firing system – the barrel and magazine were combined as a single unit, eliminating the need for a traditional firing mechanism. With the electronic firing system, electronic impulses are sent directly to the bullets when the weapon’s trigger is pulled, which ignites them at an incredibly fast rate of 16,000 rounds a second. Out of one barrel, that is astonishing enough – but the Metal Storm system combines multiple barrels (pictured above), and can fire bullets from several barrels at once.
Metal Storm 1 - The 9mm stacked projectile machine gun discussed above (named “Bertha”) had 36 barrels. As a prototype, it demonstrated a firing rate of just over 1 million rounds per minute for a 180-round burst of 0.01 seconds. Firing within 0.1 seconds from up to 1600 barrels (at maximum configuration), the weapon system gun claimed a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute - and creating a dense wall of 24,000 projectiles. Indeed, a metal storm.
Metal Storm 2 - The Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher (MAUL) – an ultra-lightweight, electronically fired, semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun that could be used either as an accessory weapon to a range of weapons (example - such as the M4 or M16 rifle) or as a stand-alone 5-shot weapon which could be fully loaded in less than 2 seconds, and fired repeatedly without cycling a conventional action.
Metal Storm 3 - The company had also developed (or at least patented ) a minigun with a belt of separate firing chambers using the electronic firing system.
Metal Storm 4 - Metal Storm also produced a semi-automatic 40mm grenade launcher with 3 grenades per magazine, for mounting under an assault rifle. Though only 3 grenades per magazine, the system was stated to be able to fire grenades at a rate of a half-a-million rounds per minute.
Back in 2007, the company announced that they had sold grenade barrels to the U. S. Navy’s weapon labs . As well, they announced a memorandum of understanding with well-known American robotics firm iRobot and showed off a droid armed with a quad-barrel Metal Storm 40mm grenade launcher, called FireStorm.
The Metal Storm systems are not particularly in wide-spread use because in most cases this many rounds per second can be a big waste of ammunition. Plus the Australian company went into “voluntary administration” in 2012 similar to a restructuring bankruptcy here in the United States.
Oh, it sounds fantastic, sure – enough to have been featured in many magazines and a few television shows (such as History and Discovery Channel) after its debut, as well as being cited by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's fastest firearm - but in the end, there are only so many uses for a rate of fire that high – such as when trying to shoot down incoming missiles.
The Metal Storm system also faces a magazine limitation – so ask yourself: does being able to fire one million rounds per minute make a whole lot of difference if one doesn’t have a one million round magazine? Or a million rounds handy at the moment?
So, in the end, several factors combined to cause the Metal Storm not to have been adopted into use in the U.S. Military. Extra cost of the ammunition, waste of ammunition during firing, weight massive amounts of ammunition, limited magazine size all combined to make this an expensive dud for practical use.