Service members joining the United States military today are generally issued a rifle that would look familiar to anyone that’s worn an American uniform since 1963. The M16 has seen several versions. But young troopers today essentially carry the same rifles as their grandfathers in Vietnam. The general operating principles haven’t changed all that much since the first American troops carried muskets into battle: a single barrel, a mechanical firing mechanism, and the same basic shape could characterize just about every service rifle that’s ever been adopted by a military. But now there’s a man from Colorado Springs that may change all that.
Martin Grier’s new rifle design seems unworldly. It has five 6-millimetres “barrels” drilled, or rather cut, through a single solid steel block using electricity, rather than a drill bit. Ammunition comes in blocks of five rounds, which line up with the five barrels and are then fired not via a mechanical mechanism like most rifles but using an electromagnetic actuator engaged by a switch in the trigger. The result is fewer moving parts that can malfunction and the ability to fire at incredible speeds. How incredible? According to Grier, it could feasibly fire 250 rounds per second, though it’s not quite clear how the ammunition blocks could cycle quickly enough to permit it. Further, the actuators could be engaged simultaneously, producing what Grier calls a “power shot,” in which the rifle fires five rounds simultaneously—like a shotgun blast with rifle rounds.
“A multibore firearm, with several bores within a single barrel, could potentially exhibit many of the advantages of a multibarrel design, while reducing the size, weight and complexity disadvantages,” reads Grier’s patent application.
All this firepower doesn’t come at the expense of weight either. Grier’s prototype, which he designed and built to the tune of around $500,000 of his money, weighs around 6.5 pounds, more than a half pound lighter than the Army’s current lightweight M4 Carbine. Much of that weight saving comes thanks to the rifle’s use of electronics rather than mechanics, with no bolt carrier group or piston to account for added weight. Ammunition blocks are stacked and fed through the weapon horizontally, and because the round firing is distributed through five barrels (or bores), the weapon boasts far better heat distribution than most automatic capable weapons. That could feasibly mean more consistent firing with less risk to the operator over existing automatic weapons.
Grier’s rifle is no flight of fancy—his prototype is already operational and the U.S. Army has now ordered a new military-grade prototype to assess what value this new platform might have. The Army has long been on the hunt for a replacement service rifle, with the last program canceled after six years of development in 2008.
If you ask Grier, he believes his rifles have a place in the hands of American infantrymen.
“Our guys have the same junk weapons as our adversaries,” he told The Colorado Springs Gazette. “I want to give them a Clint Eastwood kind of edge.”
Learn more about this unusual rifle below: