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Grenade-gasm autogun gets Raoul Moat Taser shells

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Metal Storm, the Australian weapons firm famous for its "million rounds a minute" superimposed-projectile technology, has partnered with Taser International to produce an electroshock stun version of its rapid-firing multishot grenade-launcher design.

The new Metal Storm format projectile will be based on Taser's existing XREP, a projectile which is fired from a 12-bore shotgun. On striking a target, an internal battery delivers an incapacitating electric shock through contact barbs, so removing the need for wires back to the weapon as with a normal Taser and allowing greater range.

XREP projectiles were controversially fired by police marksmen at the rampaging UK gunman Raoul Moat at the time of his death, in an apparent unsuccessful attempt to prevent him shooting himself. This action was later criticised as the XREP had not yet been formally cleared for UK police use by the Home Office.

Metal Storm's ammunition differs from standard types in that it uses all-burned-on-launch rockets which can be stacked one on top of each other in a gun barrel and which are fired electrically. This permits rounds to be fired one after the other from the same barrel very quickly, without any associated magazine or receiver: multibarrel Metal Storm test weapons achieved rates of fire above a million rounds a minute back in the 1990s, sparking worldwide interest in the firm.

The company has in recent years sought to use this idea to build an underbarrel 40mm grenade launcher of the sort commonly attached to normal assault rifles by modern armies: but the Metal Storm 3GL version would be three-shot and rapid firing, as opposed to ordinary single-shot units. The company has tested various kinds of 40mm warhead with its screw-on rocket bases, including trendy thermobaric bunker busters, but has had difficulty achieving mil-spec certification for these.

Now the intention is to put Taser XREP zapper warheads on Metal Storm's 12-bore rocket bases, so allowing the production of a five-shot MAUL underbarrel Taser-zapbomb launcher.

"We developed the XREP to provide an extended range for situations where a close approach was dangerous or not possible," says Taser founder Tom Smith in tinned quotes accompanying the announcement. "MAUL would provide this capability from a very lightweight, compact accessory launcher, rather than the operator having to carry a separate conventional shotgun."

That said, it is fairly routine to mount a normal pump-action 12-bore under an assault rifle – usually primarily for the purpose of firing door-breaching rounds – which would allow the use of ordinary XREPs if desired. And these days troops sometimes carry shotguns instead of assault rifles anyway.

It's unclear if the Taser deal can revive the fortunes of Metal Storm, which went public to much "million rounds a minute" hype in 1999 and listed on NASDAQ in 2001, but has yet to make any major sales. Its stocks have plunged to a tiny fraction of their initial value. ®

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