The U.S. Navy is currently in the process of developing an electromagnetic railgun that can fire projectiles at a staggering 4,500 miles per hour. An American YouTuber, however, has beaten the Navy to it by creating his own homemade railgun, which resembles a weapon straight out of a Star Wars movie.
The Youtuber, who goes by the username Ziggy Zee, managed to create a railgun that clocks in at a whopping 250 pounds. It’s fueled by various capacitors laid out at the back of the owner’s car, which fire the weapon at 27,000 joules of force. In the U.K., a weapon only needs to produce a minimum of eight joules in order to be considered a firearm.
Far from being a traditional handheld gun, a railgun doesn’t rely on a chemical explosion to propel ammunition; rather, it uses high current and electromagnetism. It depends on speed, rather than explosives, to decimate a target.
Let the Lorenz Force be with you
Ziggy Zee used a 400-volt car battery to power his railgun. Once the trigger is pulled, an aluminum projectile enters two parallel copper rails where it melts and provides lubrication. An electrical current flows through the rails, giving rise to an outward force in all directions, otherwise known as the Lorenz Force. The end result is a blast that accelerates the projectile to approximately 50 mph.
You can see the gun in action in the video below:
It took Ziggy Zee two years to build the weapon. He uploaded videos from the last twelve firing tests, which also documented the building process.
The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is currently in the preliminary phase of testing hyper velocity projectiles (HVPs) using gunpowder-based deck guns on most U.S. Navy surface ships. These projectiles should be able fire projectiles twice as fast as those fired by an Mk 45 five-inch gun used on most guided missile cruisers and destroyers.
The Navy hopes to make the weapons a reality sooner than expected by using pre-existing guns. The Navy has wanted to use HVPs for their ability to send non-explosive projectiles at seven times the speed of sound within a range of 100 miles. In addition, they are cheap, easy to transport and do not carry the risk of leaving explosive weapons lying around following a war.
Another reason the Navy wants to switch to existing guns to test HVPs is because a U.S. Navy ship doesn’t generate enough power to fire a standard railgun. It takes approximately 25 megwatts to fire a traditional railgun, while a 21st century stealth battleship with electrical engines churns about 78 megawatts; firing a railgun would zap one-third of the ship’s energy.
According to NAVSEA, the Navy is looking to test HPVs with guns even bigger than the Mk 45. A BAE Systems-designed railgun will be tested for the first time next year, at sea.
A brief history of railguns
Railguns were first contrived and patented a century ago by French inventor Louis Octave Fauchon-Villeplee. Nazi Germany later took up the research in order to adapt its own anti-aircraft guns.
The idea of a railgun was deployed in Star Wars in the form of the Dug railgun, which was used in the Battle of Malastare during the Clone Wars.
The U.S. Navy’s “Star Wars weapon” can fire missiles at three times the speed of sound. The new guided rounds are part of the Navy’s railgun project. They hope to fire them at Mach 5, otherwise known as hypersonic speed, by 2025. At present, however, Navy authorities believe they could adapt the projectiles to be fired through normal guns, although at the slower Mach 3 speed.[1,3]