Moving Towards Electromagnetic Guns

Firearms are considered a mature technology. The basic concept hasn’t changed in centuries. Since inception firearms have effectively been tubes designed to contain pressure and direct it out a specific direction. Inside the tube is a projectile placed in front of a chemical propellent and when the propellent is ignited it creates pressure that propels the projectile out of the tube. The need to contain and direct pressure is one of the limiting factors in firearm design.

3D printed firearms have become a buzzword as of late. While politicians and the media are making 3D printed firearms out to be the next destroyer of civilization the truth is there are currently severe limitations on what can be manufactured on an affordable printer. While this will improve over time I think it may be time to consider investing resources into improving electromagnetic guns.

The reason I say that is because electromagnetic guns don’t rely on high pressure to propel a projectile. Rail guns rely on closing a circuit between two rails with a conductive projectile, which creates Lorentz force to move the projectile. Coil guns rely on timing a series of electromagnets to pull a projectile down a barrel. Neither design involves high pressure created by burning chemical propellents. A rail gun will generate a great deal of heat as the projectile moving down the rails generates a lot of fiction. That leads me to believe a coil gun design would be a better option if one’s goal is to create a firearm that can mostly be manufactured on a 3D printer.

Obviously the electromagnets, capacitors, and other necessary electronics can’t be manufactured on an affordable 3D printer at this time. But those components are all readily available either online or an electronic hobbyist shops. And best of all buying the parts doesn’t announce to the world that you’re building a firearm or explosive (something that buying chemical propellents or components necessary to create chemical propellents can do).

There are major drawbacks to such a gun though. At this point in time traditional firearms are a known quantity. We know how to manufacture them in a way that is reliable. Coil gun designs are in their infancy and a lot of research and development would be necessary to make such weapons that could perform all of the duties of a traditional firearm can. Being able to accelerate a projectile to anywhere near the speeds of a traditional firearm isn’t easy and reliability will likely be an issue for some time. But coil guns may represent a weapon that is easier to manufacture in the home during this age where knowledge of electronics is becoming more common that knowledge of metalworking. Furthermore the components needed to build a coil gun are more difficult to control than components needed to build a traditional firearms (namely chemical propellants). In fact this is probably the most appealing aspect of electromagnetic weaponry, the components need to build a coil gun are also used in everything that our modern civilization relies on. Controlling such commonly available components is impossible (technically controlling anything is impossible but controlling commonly available components is orders of magnitude more difficult than controlling specialized components).

I think pursuing electromagnetic guns is something the gun rights movement should consider and maybe even invest resources into investigating.