You Can Now Buy a Practical Gauss Gun

Occasionally we come across a piece of information which reminds us that, while flying cars are still nowhere to be found, we’re definitely living in the future. Usually it’s about some new application of artificial intelligence, or maybe another success in the rapidly developing field of private spaceflight. But sometimes it’s when you look at a website and say to yourself: “Oh cool, they have 1.5kW electromagnetic accelerators in stock.”

Arcflash Labs, a partnership between [David Wirth] and [Jason Murray], have put their EMG-01A Gauss gun up for sale for anyone who’s brave enough and willing to put down $1,000 USD on what’s essentially a high-tech BB gun. The creators claim it obtains an efficiency of 6.5% out of its RC-style 6S LiPo battery pack, which allows it to fire over 100 rounds before needing to be recharged. Firing 4.6g steel projectiles at a rather leisurely 45 m/s, this futuristic weapon would be more of a match for tin cans than invading alien forces, but at least you’ll be blasting those cans from a position of supreme technical superiority.

The EMG-01A builds on the work of the team’s previous experiments, such as the semi-automatic railgun we covered last year. They’ve made the device much smaller and lighter than their previous guns, as well as worked on making them safer and more reliable. That said, the page for the EMG-01A has a number of warnings and caveats that you won’t see on the back of a Red Ryder BB gun box; it’s certainly not a toy, and anyone who takes ownership of one needs to be respectful of the responsibility they’re taking on.

Speaking of which, who can actually buy one of these things? The Arcflash Labs site makes it clear they will only ship to the United States, and further gives a list of states and cities were they can’t send a completed gun. Essentially they are following the same laws and guidelines used for shipping air guns within the US, as they believe that’s a fair classification for their electromagnetic guns. Whether or not the ATF feels the same way is unclear, and it should be interesting to see what kind of legal response there may be if Arcflash Labs starts moving enough units.

If you’d like to wage warfare on your recyclables without spending quite so much cash, you can always build your own for less. Or nearly nothing, if you want to go the full MacGyver route.

58 thoughts on “You Can Now Buy a Practical Gauss Gun

    1. Yeah, just under 150 fps? That’s not even enough to reliably punch holes in paper at a 10 meter airgun range. Typical airgun speeds are about 400 fps. For reference, the speed of sound at sea level is about 1123 fps.

      In other words, it’s not good for much.

      1. I’m pretty sure even in the US sound would prefer travelling in meters per second…
        And I think you wanted to say 32,8084 feet airgun range right? Or is this your brain, desperately trying to switch to metric? ;-)

        1. The international standard for air gun ranges is 10m. Just like a drag strip is 1/4 mile (or 1/8 mile, or 1000 feet) everywhere in the world. Here in Europe, everything is metric, yet we still use convenience units for certain things:
          Most people will discuss compare car horsepower (even if it’s just because the numbers are slightly bigger than when using kW), and for food we use calories rather than joules.
          You can always convert them when needed, e.g. when used in formulas where other units play a factor.

        2. FYI, velocities for firearms and airguns sold in the US are usually stated in fps. However, the standard for indoor competition airgun ranges is 10 meters. That’s just how it is.

      2. I have not tried this myself but I am willing to wager that a 4.6 gram slug traveling at 150 fpa will reliably put a hole in the target or rip the target off the retaining clips. Would probably do the same if the target were made of cardboard. A smaller pellet might have problems at that speed but the heavier projectile would prove harder to stop for the paper target.

  1. I wonder how much extra energy could be achieved with an active projectile. Basically 2+ coils of wire, high current switches. a processor and battery as the actual projectile. And there is also the possibly of two way communication between the projectile and gun, right up until it leaves the accelerator, using using the magnetic field

      1. Why not have the projectile load into a centrifuge and once up to speed, initiate the magnet sequence? If you get it precise enough, you could load 2, 4, even 6 rounds into the centrifuge and do them back to back as they come around and align with the “barrel”.

  2. They’re still using the coilgun principle, which has a tradeoff between velocity and efficiency because at higher accelerations the projectile becomes magnetically saturated and further increases in coil current give diminishing returns.

    Hence the low muzzle velocity.

    A switch to an active projectile made out of non-magnetic materials (linear induction motor instead of linear reluctance motor) would do the trick, but designing them is more difficult because the electronics become more complicated.

  3. Now if only this can accelerate, and induce a spin on a projectile it would remove the need for a rifled barrel, reducing friction. Would also be nice if the magazines come with the capacitors, so that changing the mag also replaces the used up capacitor with a pre-charged one.

  4. “Firing 4.6g steel projectiles at a rather leisurely 45 m/s”

    Firearms projectiles are weighed in grains, in the US and elsewhere. 4.6 grams is about 71 grains.

    My AR-15s (note the plural) can put a 68-grain projectile downrange at velocities in excess of 3000fps (914 m/s). Let’s assume the two projectiles are the same weight, which they nearly are. Then, the muzzle energy on an AR-15 is 914^2/45^2 = approximately 412 times greater.

    But I think Gauss guns will get there, eventually. Need to go to AC induction, as an earlier poster indicated.

      1. Yes but then one have the problems of chemical propellants added to the problems of EM propulsion.
        Would make more sense to use a ETC (Electro Thermal Chemical) design to spice up the chemical design, improve the combustion using an electrical plasma discharge.

    1. Yes, the US use many strange units of measurement and they even try coerce people outside of them to their units. When I was a child, TVs were measured in cm, now, with computer monitors everywhere inches appear. Big thumbs down! I can imagine, what 4,6g is, but not what grains are used for measurement. millet? wheat? corn?
      Of course this gun is an (expensive) joke, but that is no excuse to promote ancient units of measurement.

      1. The problem with the metric system is that it was invented by the French. “Everyting muss be en base 10 n’est pas?”
        So every measurement the French used they converted to base 10 and forced the system on all the Europeans. Mileage, velocity, weight, volume, distance, and temperature are all base 10. The French are a simplistic people who basically make wine, cheese and clothing. It’s a shame we let them change the Imperial system the Romans devised that everyone understood for 2500 years.

  5. Fail, using magnetic projectiles. You need non-ferrous metals. Military and commercial use an aluminum or copper sabot.

    The problem with ferrous is that you are relying on the magnetic field of the coil to attract the projectile. But first, the eddy currents that build up in the projectile act to repel, then only as the eddy current dies down can the coil attract the projectile.

    But then as it leaves the coil, the magnetic field is pulling it back into the coil. When you collapse the field, the change in field induces another eddy current that again retards the forward motion of the projectile. Lenz’s law, the eddy current flows in the direction that creates a magnetic field that opposes that change in magnetic field that created it.

    As was pointed out above, also, with a ferrous projectile, you reach saturation of the projectile, limiting acceleration.

    Eddy currents also waste energy as heat.

    You might try using, oh, I don’t know, a lead projectile in a sort of copper, shall we say jacket? That doesn’t seem difficult to find.

    Then you are relying only on the repelling of magnetic fields. The faster the change, the better as it gives less time for the eddy currents to die down and stop pushing.

    Dammit, I don’t have enough free time/money! I need to win several hundred million in the lottery.

    1. Steel projectiles experience minimal eddy currents because the skin effect in magnetic materials is very strong.

      The skin effect is a problem for induction guns as well, which is why the military is intersted in proper gauss guns which operate on the Lenz law: there’s a DC current going sideways through the projectile, while the rails induce a vertical “static” magnetic field, which causes a force at right angles to the current and the field, i.e. along the barrel.

        1. A Gauss gun is a generic term for magnetic accelerators, but it originally meant an arrangement of permanent magnets (a science toy) where the static magnetic field would provide the acceleration when the arrangement is tipped past its balance point, releasing the stored potential energy from when the magnets were arranged.

          For some reason, people started to claim the term to mean a coilgun which is just a solenoid without a backstop. A railgun on the other hand is more of a “pure” Gauss gun because the magnetic field is “static” much like in the science toy. There’s no switching of currents going on, except for when you turn it on, and when the projectile leaves the rails.

  6. Has anyone ever tried to build a gun using whatever tech allows some of those roller-coasters to launch really fast (which I believe is in turn a higher speed variant of whatever allows maglev trains to work)

  7. My bet is that the muzzle velocity is not due to coilgun limitations, but a legal safeguard to stay in the BB-gun ballpark and avoid all the “proper firearm regarding muzzle energy” hassle.

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