Hey Quake Fans, Here's What An Actual Railgun Looks Like

Say the word "railgun" around a PC gamer and they'll instantly start telling you stories about the Quake series, and how it's such an awesome weapon in a make-believe future universe.

They're right on the former, but on the latter, not so much, because railguns are real, and the US Navy has one. Here it is undergoing testing.

The project, which is being overseen by the Office of Naval Research, has been running for a few years now (indeed, experimental railguns have existed as crude prototypes for decades), but this is the first time it's been filmed looking like an actual gun.

Railguns don't work like normal firearms or cannons; they use rails and electricity to propel projectiles at speeds vastly greater than those possible with conventional explosive technology (modern weapons still use the centuries-old principle of an explosion to propel rounds).

Which is why the Naval Officer in the video loads not a shell but just a simple piece of metal into the weapon.

It's amazing footage. Next stop, handheld versions.


    this video has been around a while. Its pretty amazing. I don't think they're planning on miniaturising them and basically they are being planned as a direct-fire anti-capitalship weapon.

    None-the-less its still pretty amazing.

    It always saddens me that we make tech that would be superb for uniting humanity and exploring the universe, and we make a gun with it. All I see in that video is mega-awesome space launch platforms.

      I agree, we shouldn't be celebrating new tech designed to murder people mroe efficently (or at all)

        There's actually no military connotations in here other than these comments.

        It's a rail gun by concept, yes - but it's applications are limitless. You've chosen to single out the military application with no relevance to the video.

        They're showing that you can fire a projectile (could be a shuttle) using lorentz force through the concept of electromagnetism.

        The commenters at the end of the day are the ones dwelling how we use it for military only when there is nothing here that states that at all, other than the fact that it was overseen by the office of naval research.

        Negative ideas are introduced by negative people.

        I'm no scientist, but wouldn't getting launched in a shuttle, from 0km/h to whatever crazy speed a railgun launches an object at, have a slightly 'crushing' effect on the human body? Maybe launching satellites would be a better option, though I don't think they'd go unscathed either.

          Indeed. The probability of using such a platform to get assembled pieces of technology in to orbit seems remote for stated reasons of force. (As it is, that massive ball of 'flame' you see trailing from the projectile is the aluminium vaporizing due to friction.)

          The only application that '0-9000 kph in 0.00001 seconds' would have is blowing something to pieces. And I'm sure it will do that very well.

          As part of a larger technical demonstration though, once the technology has been created, then acceleration isn't such a great problem when you build a version at scale. Acceleration to orbital velocity in half a second will kill you. Doing it over the course of a couple of minutes (over a track that would admitedly be about a hundred miles long....) is more reasonable where transport is concerned.

          The real cost of putting things in to orbit comes from weight. The shuttle, for all its faults, was remarkable in this regard in that it could put something the size of a school bus in to orbit along with the crew to service it.

          This could become a lot cheaper if you were to send the components up individually, using a mass driver system, even if the mass driver's principal purpose was to act as a very large "Catapult" to assist a single-stage space craft to a velocity and altitude where it could then ignite an engine to get it the rest of the way. (It's really no different from what jet aircraft do on US Carriers to get to V1-2)

      Humanity is always the most ingenious when it in competition with something. War is simply another competition. Look at the space race, a competition between two super powers which gave us the internet, satellites and a whole host of other things.

      It's sad to think but without War, we might not have the advancements we've got today.

    Looks like they've come a long way. Can't see it ever being used in anything other than large ships though because of the electricity required to fire it. No chance of a handheld one any time soon.

    Also, this looks more Metal Gear Rex than Quake.

    You'd figure with the Atomic Bomb mans need for killing power would be sated.

    Whoever said man was a unquenchable thirst for knowledge is a liar, we still follow our primordial vices.

      We've moved away from bombs (like the atomic) which devastate large area's of land and kill indiscriminately to wanting to make weapons that kill only the bad guys and leave everything else untouched.

        "bad guys", who are the "bad guys" exactly?

    According top something I read recently, the best railguns send that projectile up 150km before it starts coming down to its target.
    Improve this enough and it could one day get satellites into orbit or beyond. It would not be so comfortable for human transportation however.

      News at 11, railgun defys law of gravity. Coming up next, the latest advances in perpetual motion.

    ... Was that a giant wrench?

      You can dodge THAT wrench; you CAN dodge a ball!

      Also, that's how you throw a spanner in the works!

      ... ok i'm done.

    pretty easy to. build a handheld one just not legal here in Australia

    The other benefit is the removal of the need to explore explosive shells on board - which would make ships a lot safer for the crew.

      now I'm imagining something like from Pirates of the Carribean when they start loading random cutlery and other detritus into the cannons - except with a railgun! :p


    Railguns were first invented in WW2 as a means to take down enemy plans, it just happened that it would take half the electricity of Manhattan to fire them. Also the heat generated is enough to turn the air to plasma so firing anything other than metal is not an option

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