Dec 8, 2006

The deadliest gun that never was

The sign reads: "The Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW) was a unique, multi-purpose weapon introduced in the early 1960's that was capable of firing bursts of tiny, lethal darts (flechettes) and three 40-mm high-explosive grenades. This particular experimental weapon represents only one of sixteen different prototypes. This specimen is the Springfield Armory Bullpup magazine SPIW. The bullpup design (meaning the magazine was behind the trigger) provided enough space to mount large, box-like magazine. The original concept called for a 60-round magazine. To hold 60 rounds in a typical single, staggered row would have made the magazine unmanageable. The solution was to combine two 30-round stacks one behind the other. The SPIW program came to an end when several problems could not be overcome. Most were engineering problems dealing with the ammunition. The expensive flachette round had to be fired in burst because the single-hit probability was very low (a 40% chance of a hit at 300 meters). Also, when fired, the fiberglass sabot that held the flechette in place as it traveled down the barrel would shred. In troops tests, soldiers suffered eye injuries when microscopic particles of the fiberglass blew back into their eyes. The final blow came in 1973 in the post-Vietnam days of tight budgets when Congress "pulled the plug" on this problem-beset program."

U.S. Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. Photo by Kim Choate ©2006