Pistols in Space


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StrikeEagle
August 17, 2007, 09:23 PM
I remember reading years ago that the Astronauts had pistols aboard on the Apollo missions. The idea, as I recall, was not to repel moonmen or space invaders, but as a final option in case of some dark and desperate (but very human) eventuality.

Supposedly, the pistols were .45 cal 1911's.

This is going back 30 years or more. I can't find anything about this now. Does anyone remember what I'm talking about, or perhaps have any information about it?

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dubious
August 17, 2007, 09:57 PM
I don't know anything about this... but I can add my speculation. If they were armed, perhaps it was in case of a landing in not friendly territory? Pilots have been armed for bailouts and crash landings for a long time. Maybe they had an ar-7 survival rifle for squirrel hunting too!

hankdatank1362
August 17, 2007, 10:12 PM
Well that one astronaut had a pistol in the movie "Armageddon" with Bruce Willis... so if it happened in a movie it must be true!



All joking aside, it wouldn't suprise me....it makes sense for many reasons, several of which have already been mentioned here.

osamaslice
August 17, 2007, 10:13 PM
I cannot comment on the American's using guns in space, the Soviets certainly have them.
http://www.jamesoberg.com/russiangun_tec.html

GRIZ22
August 17, 2007, 10:19 PM
If they did they were probably for survival use if the capsule came down in the Amazon jungle. I would quess any use of them in the capsule would result in a real depressurization quick. The lunar lander was made of a mylar type material about as thicj as cellophane.

SDC
August 17, 2007, 10:38 PM
Here's another pic of the Russian TP-82; it's a "drilling"-style pistol, with two 32 gauge shot barrels over a 5.45x39mm rifle barrel. They're issued shot, ball, and flare rounds for the shot barrels, and expanding-bullet rifle ammo for the rifled barrel.

http://i124.photobucket.com/albums/p22/StaceyC123/TP-82-1.jpg

esmith
August 17, 2007, 10:47 PM
It would be sweet to shoot a pistol in space cause there would be like no drop at all. Except when you shot a whole in your shuttle thing then youd be frozen and like sucked out or something.

zinj
August 17, 2007, 10:52 PM
I read a book by Jim Lovell a while back, and he stated that despite the rumors (guns, cyanide pills, and the like) there were no suicide provisions aboard the Apollo missions. Rather, if the astronauts needed to terminate themselves they could open one of the observation windows.

Ron James
August 17, 2007, 11:02 PM
I have never read nor heard of our astronauts carrying firearms in space, if so , then it wouldn't be the 1911 and it would be for survival on the ground only. As far as the Russians, well they were not as advanced in some areas as the US and there was no telling where in the late Soviet Union they might land. As you may be aware, many of the member states of Soviet Republic were not overly fond of their masters and would have loved carving up a couple of wayward cosmonauts. As far as shooting a standard recoil type firearm in space :), Guys , remember back to high school science, for every action there is a opposite and equal reaction. :rolleyes:

Timthinker
August 17, 2007, 11:46 PM
Stories of American astronauts carrying firearms into space is an old and unsubstantiated tale which we might call an urban legend today. But our astronauts did carry knives into space as part of a survival kit should they land far from their intended recovery zone. Even today, the old Swiss Army Knife (SAK) is carried as a useful tool for stripping wires and other practical matters.


Timthinker

robert garner
August 18, 2007, 09:53 AM
Waugh!
Russians sure got some cool stuff!

DMZ
August 18, 2007, 10:14 AM
So, would a pistol fire in space, as there is no oxygen to ignite the powder?

FieroCDSP
August 18, 2007, 10:51 AM
DMZ-Almost all smokeless powders have the chemical make-up to fire in the absence of oxygen, be it underwater or space. It's simply a matter of chemistry. At the burn rate of the powders, the little availiable air in the case(if any), and the tight fit against the chamber wall, would result in a fizzle instead of shot due to lack of oxygen to burn, if there weren't chemicals that make up for it.

iiibdsiil
August 18, 2007, 02:03 PM
Come on guys, we all know it would be a Glock and not a 1911 in space! Even if they weren't around at that time...

gandog56
August 18, 2007, 02:07 PM
No way Jose. It would be an AMERICAN made gun.

SDC
August 18, 2007, 02:28 PM
If there WAS a firearm on US missions, it would make sense that it would likely be the same as was standard-issue for the Air Force at the time in question (either the M4 rifle or the M6 combination gun). The TP-82 seen above is what the Russians use for their pilots' "bail-out" gun, so why would the US do anything differently? (Well, looking at how much they spent on toilet seats and tools, they certainly COULD have done it differently, but it still wouldn't make sense.)

boredelmo
August 18, 2007, 04:00 PM
You could also propel your way back to the shuttle if you drifted too far away :p

Rokyudai
August 19, 2007, 12:28 PM
Fiero,
So, is it correct in saying that the gun would not fire a lethal round in space? I always thought this wouldn't work either. At the best, would not be a reliable method...if there was a 'suicide' method, then why not use cyanide capsule or gas? Kind of a dark thread but anyway to put a spin on it...what a great 'advertising campaign' for the time...."Buy the same gun that the astronauts carried to the moon." Heck...worked for the makers of Tang.

k-frame
August 19, 2007, 01:17 PM
No way Jose. It would be an AMERICAN made gun.

And they were built to NASA specifications and cost $300,000 with only 10 made.
:D

My vote is urban legend.

Can't see any need for a firearm and given that weight was very precious it would seem like a tremendous waste of a few pounds.

All of the US moon program capsules - Mercury, Gemini and Apollo - were designed to splashdown in an ocean. And given that the world's surface is 3/4ths water the chances of coming down on land were mighty slim. I can see how a flaregun could be useful if they were waaaayyyy off course and needed to alert a passing fishing boat or freighter.

As for the action/reaction of a firearm while in free fall, try this some time. Stand relaxed on the range, fire your handgun of choice, and see how much it pushes you back. Chances are very little for the same reason that a bullet impact - as much as Hollywood would like us to believe - doesn't slam the bad guy backwards 10 feet.

The mass of that bullet is way, way less than the mass of the average astronaut. Sure, in freefall there would be some additional movement of the astronaut's body but it wouldn't be much. Mass is mass.

As for suicide, just let the oxygen pressure run down too low and generalized hypoxia sets in. Go to sleep, don't wake up.

Feanaro
August 19, 2007, 01:21 PM
So, is it correct in saying that the gun would not fire a lethal round in space?

You misread him. Fiero is saying that if there weren't oxidizers in the case already, they wouldn't fire anywhere. The primer and powder have all the oxygen they need. In fact, a firearm would be MORE lethal in space. No atmosphere and no gravity means that the bullet would continue in a straight line, at the same speed, until those conditions changed.

Joe Demko
August 19, 2007, 01:39 PM
Some years back, I was acquainted with a US space program historian/author named Pete Pesavento. If you google his name you can read some of his stuff online. I once asked him about guns in the US space program. He said that there were early photos, basically publicity shots, showing the astronauts in their pressure suits wearing shoulder holsters. He wasn't really a gun enthusiast but thought the pistol might have been one of the early Smith & Wesson 9mms. He said that there weren't any guns aboard any of the actual missions. NASA was extremely concerned about fire in the high-oxygen atmosphere in the spacecraft. So concerned, in fact, that even the survival machete carried on the moon missions had special polymer handle slabs. Gunpowder and primers were considered out of the question.

sig226
August 21, 2007, 09:42 PM
I read a book by Jim Lovell a while back, and he stated that despite the rumors (guns, cyanide pills, and the like) there were no suicide provisions aboard the Apollo missions. Rather, if the astronauts needed to terminate themselves they could open one of the observation windows.

Since mass is a premium commodity on an orbital launch, I can't imagine NASA putting machines of several pounds' weight in a space vehicle. However, a handgun could be easily stashed in the capsule if they put it in between the observation window and the screen. :D

A firearm would work in space, depending on the ammunition used. There are films of military tests firing 1911s and M1 rifles underwater. There is enough oxygen in the case to burn the powder. The question is the seal. Military ammunition is sealed to keep water out. This form of seal is not the same thing as a seal designed to keep air in. If the ammunition was loaded at sea level, the air in it exerts 14.7 psi. Space has 0 psi, so the air in the cartridge would expand and exert force to push the bullet out of the case. I have no idea if the air in a cartridge is capable of exerting enough pressure to do that.

Father Knows Best
August 21, 2007, 09:57 PM
DMZ-Almost all smokeless powders have the chemical make-up to fire in the absence of oxygen,
It's not just smokeless powders, and it's not "almost" all. All propellants used in firearms, since the invention of the firearm, have contained both a fuel and an oxidizing agent, i.e., a source of oxygen. The original "gunpowder" was what we now know as "black powder." It was discovered by the Chinese over 1,000 years ago. Black powder consists of charcoal (the fuel), saltpetre (aka Potassium Nitrate, the oxidizer), and sulfur (a catalyst that lowers the ignition temp and speeds the reaction). Black powder will burn just fine in the absence of atmospheric oxygen.

Smokeless propellants were invented in the late 19th century. They are composed principally of nitrocellulose. Again, the powder itself contains both the fuel and the oxidizer, so no atmospheric oxygen is needed.

Schwebel
August 21, 2007, 10:39 PM
My favorite thing they do actually carry on the shuttle is the "anti-psycosis" pack. It contains duct tape (to tie the person up) and a large amount of haldol (google it) to calm (snow them) them down.

suprmatch
August 22, 2007, 08:02 PM
I use to be such a space geek when I was a young grasshopper. I read( I don't know where) that any astronauts that went on the moon or out of the capsule carried a pistol to propel them back to safety. On the moon if they fell in a crater it would have enough force to get them out of trouble, or propel over a small ravine. Basically a survival tool, not a defence tool. If it is carried now, I don't know.

SDC
August 22, 2007, 08:32 PM
I have my doubts that they'd use a PROJECTILE firing "gun" for any sort of propulsion, when they could get safer, more consistent propulsion by using some sort of compressed gas; in this pic, Gemini astronaut Ed White is carrying a compressed gas "gun" for propulsion during a spacewalk.

http://www.scienceandsociety.co.uk/results.asp?image=10300399&wwwflag=2&imagepos=4

Joe Demko
August 22, 2007, 11:16 PM
suprmatch,
The "pistol" you are thinking of is shown in Ed White's hand in the photo at the beginning of this (http://www.vibrationdata.com/space/eva.htm) article. It is a maneuvering device that used some kind of compressed gas, not a firearm. Also, to the best of my knowledge they didn't use them on the moon.

Edited to add: Sorry, SDC, I didn't see your post before putting my own up.

k-frame
August 23, 2007, 09:54 AM
Also, to the best of my knowledge they didn't use them on the moon.

They wouldn't have worked on the moon.

The compressed gas gun used by Ed White on Gemini 4 had barely enough thrust to move him around while in free fall.

On the moon, even in 1/6th gravity, it would take a large tank of highly compressed gas (think of something the size of a SCUBA or acetylene tank) to move an astronaut any appreciable distance.

Gifted
August 23, 2007, 10:41 PM
A gun wouldn't be used for suicide. A gun would be used in situations where someone or something needs a hole put in it quickly and violently. A gun wouldn't be the most efficient form of suicide weight-wise.

Feanaro
August 23, 2007, 10:49 PM
A gun wouldn't be used for suicide. A gun would be used in situations where someone or something needs a hole put in it quickly and violently. A gun wouldn't be the most efficient form of suicide weight-wise.

Can you imagine it? "A Report on Methods of Suicide Inside Space Vehicles: Focusing on the Weight/Cost to Effectiveness Ratio."

Joe Demko
August 23, 2007, 11:21 PM
If they were going to include a suicide device, why wouldn't they have just gone with the shellfish poison-coated needle as issued to U2 pilots?

Norm357
August 24, 2007, 02:19 AM
The first astronauts did carry guns. Early S&W 9mms.(I am not familiar enough with S&W model numbers to tell you what gun exactly) Not in a shoulder holster as mentioned in this thread, but in a holster secured with velcro under the arm. Not for use in space mind you, in the early days, NASA was really concearned that Russia would try and kidnap our astronauts after their return to earth.

Norm357, NASA junkie.:D

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