The Soviet Laser Pistol

English Russia have written a blog post about a little known Soviet laser pistol that they claim was developed for cosmonauts to shoot at enemy satellite optics. The english description they gave on how it works does not make a lot of sense. From what I understand it functioned just like the original ruby laser built by Theodore Maiman in 1960 (photo below). This laser worked by “pumping” a synthetic ruby rod with very bright light from a flashtube. The ruby rod would then emit a short laser pulse.



The Soviet laser gun looks like it had a ruby rod instead of a barrel. It’s fed by cartridges from a magazine. Either those cartridges contain a chemical flash powder, or they were ultra-high discharge batteries/cells that could power the laser for one “shot”, which would be multiple pulses, before having to be disposed of.



The output of this laser would be minimal. A quick glance through Electronic Engineering papers from the 1960s and 1970s report scientists achieving just 6% efficiency with ruby lasers. In other words, there is no way that this laser would burn a hole in a US or British satellite. If a cosmonauts really needed to do some damaged, they had the nifty Soviet TP-82 Space Pistol on hand.

Thanks to Arvydas for the tip.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Edgar Castelo

    Time for a shameless plug, even THIS Laser pointer is more powerful, methinks:

  • milo

    can anyone say Fallout?

    • noob

      the world would be a weird wasteland if everything turned out the way we thought it would in the 60s.

      • Griff

        There is still time.

      • Gunhead

        The world IS a weird wasteland, it’s just not evenly distributed yet…

  • Fox218

    The article says it was suppose to burn out optics. Not make holes in satellites. If they wanted to make holes in satellites they would have used a Rikhter R-23 rapid fire cannon from one of their Almaz space stations.

    • Giolli Joker

      Maybe the puny laser was enough to blind optics…
      Anyway the article jumps to conclusions assuming a few technical claims unsupported by data and based on the American benchmark.
      (I mean: I agree that no handheld laser device could (or can) pierce through steel, but nobody stated that the soviet “gun” employs a ruby laser nor any real value of efficiency for Soviet lasers).

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      I am not sure what “burn out optics” means, but if it means what it says, then it would not. It might blind a camera if you were right in front of the lens aiming into it …. but only for a nano-second (not enough to ruin the exposure of the film)

      • Callum King-Underwood

        Satellites did not use film, they used a “normal” digital camera sensor, some of which are highly sensitive and damaged by laser light at relatively low amounts.

        • RocketScientist

          I can attest to this fact. Or more accurately, the CCD on my phone’s camera can. My friend bought a new relatively powerful green laser awhile back, and while drunk one night we were taking awesome pictures of if (filled his garage with cigar smoke, so you coudls ee the beam, etc). Found out the hard way that while aiming a powerful laser directly at the camera produces some AWESOME images, it also kills pixels. Every picture taken since has a little black squiggle center-frame. I call it my watermark.

        • I think we’re talking about film since the time period is the early 1960’s.

        • Aurek Besh

          Early-generation reconnaissance satellites did use film, the satellite would take photos over designated areas, then either would de-orbit itself or eject exposed film cartridges, which were then recovered, developed, and analyzed. See for example CORONA, GAMBIT, or HEXAGON satellites.

  • Thamuze Ulfrsson

    Scale this sucker-up, rock maybe a ten gauge or eight-gauge scaled version of the cartridge, condense the output and voila, real-world las-rifle. Scorch squirrels when they get extra arse-pain-ish.

  • sianmink

    Ruby Rod? Supergreen!

  • allannon

    While I don’t doubt they could permenantly damage primitive (or, frankly, even modern) digital optics, I sincerely doubt the ability of a human to target the optics at any reasonable range, especially with a pistol.

    I also kind wonder if space wouldn’t be an inherently hostile shooting environment; I can speculate about some difficulties, but I’ve also never been there.

  • Rick

    how would one pull that tiny trigger with EVA suit gloves?

  • Clint Notestine

    how does one aim or did they leave that allah

    • wetcorps

      In Soviet Russia, guns aim you.

    • Anonymoose

      There is no “allah” in Glorious Soviet Russia, or any of your imaginary “gods” for that matter- only Comrade Lenin and Papa Joe.

    • Anon. E Maus

      What do you mean “Allah” ?
      Do you not comprehend what Soviet means? They didn’t allow religion in the Soviet Union, under threat of death in some places, you did not pray under communist rule. You looked up to the “Glorious Leader”, nobody else.

  • MurphyzLaw

    I think that by ‘burn out optics” they mean eyes (specifically the retina). It doesn’t take all that much power (100mW for 1/10th second) to cause permanent blindness. Based on the apparent size of the aperture, it’s unlikely that the laser would maintain focus over long distances. However, if used in a vacuum, the laser would be considerably more effective than it would be in atmosphere, as there would be basically no beam-scatter.

  • Jim Nanban

    Do note that English Russia content, while very interesting, often follows a different journalistic tradition in which the articles are musings inspired by the pictures, sometimes “fictional nonfiction.” So, grain of salt.

  • Jacob Wadsworth

    I see. So that is how it works. If it cannot so much as even put a small hole in the satellite then it is not much of good use then. Perhaps that is the reason why its production has been stopped during the time. –