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Nick’s Blog

Friday, December 14, 2007

CSI:Miami’s DX4 “vaporizer” isn’t entirely vaporware

The latest episode of CSI: Miami featured a plot that revolved around a weapon they called the DX4 or the “vaporizer.” In the opening scene, three gun smugglers are blown into tiny pieces my a mystery weapon later revealed to be an electronically fired multi-barrel gun. Though lots of folks may have thought it a flight of Hollywood writer fancy, there is a grain of truth to be found.

The technology behind the DX4 is, in fact, been in development by an Australian company called Metal Storm for some time now. The animated technology demo given on the show to illustrate how the gun worked was wrong. They had a single shot per barrel, making the DX4 the biggest single-shot blunderbuss I’ve ever seen. The real Metal Storm system uses stacks of ammunition in each barrel.

But after getting the technology wrong, which is de rigueur for Hollywood, you have to look at more basic plausibility issues. And if you do, you won’t like what you see. For one, it’s unclear why the perpetrators of the three opening scene murders resorted to such ridiculous over-kill when a double-tap would have been just as effective (and given the victims’ line of work would have raised far fewer eyebrows). Then there’s the problem with assassins moving swiftly and silently through the shadows lugging a giant sedan-chair sized weapon around – never mind aiming it properly at 3 armed stooges who presumably are trying not to be shot. Lastly, if you were to set off all the barrels in such a gun at once, with the purpose being to vaporize a human target, the recoil would be, well, memorable. Do we even need to mention the ever present exploding gas tank myth?

But despite all that, the episode was rescued at the last minute by Horatio Caine shooting the perp in the forehead in mid sentence. In that one instant, I was transported back to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” and Tuco’s memorable advice to all would-be villains who find themselves with the upper hand on their nemesis: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”

Nick’s Blog Friday, December 14, 2007 CSI:Miami’s DX4 “vaporizer” isn’t entirely vaporware The latest episode of CSI: Miami featured a plot that revolved around a weapon they called the

Bourjaily: Metal Storm’s “Vaporizer”

The DX4 in this clip is a prototype made by Australian-based Metal Storm, which is an appropriate name for a company that makes a gun with a rate of fire up to a million rounds a minute. The gun itself is nicknamed “The Vaporizer.”

The DX4 not only shoots caseless cartridges, those cartridges come in a “stick” of several rounds stacked end to end. The whole stick — in this demonstration there are five rounds in each of the 36 barrels — slides into the barrel at once.

The propellant for each round is contained within a skirt at the base of the bullet. As the first bullet in line travels down the muzzle, the expanding gases push the second bullet in the stick back onto the next one. The skirt of one bullet and the nose of the next create a seal around the propellant that prevents the entire stick from going off in a chain reaction like a Roman candle. Instead, each round is individually ignited electronically.

Between electronic ignition, and the fact there is no need for the action to cycle or eject empties, the gun has no moving parts. None.

Metal Storm makes several different weapons based, including 40mm cannon, a shotgun, and the 36 barrel DX4 seen here. If you don’t mind clouds of fake blood you can google the DX4’s guest appearance on CSI:Miami last season.

The DX4 in this clip is a prototype made by Australian-based Metal Storm, which is an appropriate name for a company that makes a gun with a rate of fire up to a million rounds a minute. The gun itself is nicknamed "The Vaporizer." The DX4 not only shoots caseless cartridges, those cartridges come in a "stick" of several rounds stacked end to end. The whole stick — in this demonstration there are five rounds in each of the 36 barrels — slides into the barrel at once.