An Imgur user uploaded pictures and video last week of a homemade railgun that he apparently created with a 3D printer. The above-embedded video demonstrates the weapon being used to fire an aluminum rod.
A railgun is a type of projectile launcher that uses electricity and electromagnetic energy rather than explosives and propellants to fire projectiles.
The man, who goes by the username “NSA_Listbot” on Imgur and Reddit, claims that the “railgun is capable of firing copper plated tungsten, aluminum, carbon and teflon/plasma” at speeds exceeding 560 miles per hour. He noted that the “railgun uses 6 300J, 350V, 5500uF capacitors which combined weigh 20lbs and can deliver >1050V and 1.8kJ of energy to the projectile.”
“It isn’t likely lethal, but it would definitely hurt,” he pointed out in a Reddit discussion on the do-it-yourself project.
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Engadget identified the weapon’s designer as David Wirth and noted, “It indeed works just like a full-sized railgun, using parallel electrodes to fire an ‘armature’ bullet.”
Wired’s Cara McGoogan wrote, “Railguns are more commonly associated with military operations and NASA. The 3D printed railgun is far less powerful than military-grade prototypes. In 2012, BAE Systems tested a railgun that can fire at 5,600 mph. The most powerful railgun on record — created by the US military — produced 10.64 million joules.”
Though NSA_Listbot described the weapon as handheld and included features in its design that would at least appear to provide that functionality, McGoogan says, “The claim that the railgun is ‘handheld’ is dubious — the capacitors alone have a combined weight of 9kg. And the gun is almost as long as it is tall.”
Another test firing of the weapon, this time with a carbon rod as the projectile of choice, can be seen below. The weapon’s creator said of this attempt, “I have no idea what happened to that piece of carbon- probably just vaporized.”