This photo was taken of a Cobra helicopter. You can see the gun pod houses twin mini guns. The gun pod housing has an interesting warning painted on the side.


This is not something one typically realizes unless you have worked on or around mini guns.

To prevent negligent discharges there is a way to stop the barrels from spinning.

See that rectangular hole in the OD green metal bar? A rod is inserted up into that hole to physically block the barrels from rotating.


  • Major Tom

    Say it with me now:


  • John

    Huh. I’m surprised there isn’t a manual safety in the cockpit. Turning at high speed could exert enough pressure on the barrels to turn them and fire.

    • SGT Fish

      they take a little bit of force to turn. you have to overcome the firing pin spring and all the friction of the system and non-powered motor. Its not like spinning your fidget spinner, but you are able to turn the barrels and get them to shoot. You can even do it on the 20mm Vulcan, trust me, you can

      • Brett baker

        Don’t ask how you know that?😉

      • mikee

        Having worked on rotary guns, to make them safe the “safing” sector was always removed after use and replaced when the guns went live. This takes about ten seconds and made the gun unfireable even if you rotated the barrels.

    • marine6680

      It’s a function of how these guns work. The entire mechanism is powered by the rotation of the barrel assembly. Feeding, firing pins… it’s all levers and cams, they move when the barrel assembly moves… This is why you must physically prevent rotation of the assembly to prevent firing.

      It could be done with a solenoid controlled part to prevent/block movement… But…

      Solenoids use power, and when you shut off the aircraft, it will kill power to the solenoid. This would disable the safety system…

      You could make the solenoid, when in the power off or at rest state, be the safe position… But…

      That means a failure of the system would disable the gun… Not a good thing in an attack helicopter. You don’t want a simple fault to disable critical equipment.

      Whenever possible, you want a system failure to default the system to the safest or most useful configuration. For a gun on an attack helicopter, the most useful configuration is the ability to fire.

    • Just about the ONLY Gatling based weapons that won’t do this are those that use electrically primed ammo. And electrically primed ammo brings it’s own problems with it (such as ammunition incompatibilities with other weapons in the same nominal chambering, HERO -Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance; i.e., someone keys a radio and the ammo fires while you’re loading the gun- issues).

    • Phillip Cooper

      Big ol’ nope. This is a helicopter, not a jet fighter. I don’t know the VNE of this model, but due to trailing-blade lift issues helis max out at around 250 knots (293MPH). Add in that there is some internal friction in the weapon and that’s just not an issue.

      • Sickofoligarchs

        Not Airwolf 🙂

  • Tim

    I heard this in my head when I read this…

    Peter Venkman: “Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.”

  • A.WChuck

    I have a similar picture taken back in the ’80s of Cobra chin turret with the same warning. Only a single gun on the one in my picture, not dual-wielding like this gunslinger.

    • mig1nc

      Single 20mm > twin 7.26mm 🙂

      • unless you are hog hunting…

        • mig1nc

          Haha, yeah, I guess that’s true. 20mm won’t leave much usable meat.

  • Alex A.

    I’m curious as how how many people spun the barrels till someone got the bright idea to write a warning about it.
    Usually someone has to get shot for something like that to go up.

    • Qoquaq En Transic

      It’s happened.

      • Alex A.

        Poor bastard.

        • Qoquaq En Transic

          Yup. As I heard it, he got it right in the eye. He was looking to clear some “malfunction” and decided to look down the front of the gun when he also decided to turn the barrel assy.

          • Renato H M de Oliveira

            So many mistakes at once.
            He deserves a Darwin Award.

          • Qoquaq En Transic

            It’s certainly a sad event.

            But it was indeed Darwin.

            Every gun safety rule was violated = in spades.

          • CountryBoy

            That’ll ruin your day!

        • Maybe not. There is something great to be said for dying suddenly, with no warning.

    • Klaus Von Schmitto

      It happened in the munitions bunker at McDonnell Douglas too.

    • Tim

      It would surprise you how many, seemingly durp, placards are stinceled all over aircraft.

      It’s a job in itself to keep up on placards alone.

      • Zebra Dun

        Somewhere no doubt on the fuselage of this chopper is a stencil that says WARNING DO NOT STENCIL.

    • DirtWeazle

      Post-it notes are not a reliable form of notation.

      • survivor50

        Crew Chief school 1969 Ft. Rucker Alabama…you turn this…it goes bang !!! Col’s kid looked down the barrel and found out…

        • glenn cheney

          Ah, Auto-Rotor University.

    • Prolly that first one to spin them didn’t enjoy the benefit of hindsight.

    • retrocon

      Shouldn’t the warning be on front?

  • deadeye21

    Begging the question of whether Ruger’s warnings really need to as large as a Cobra’s warning stencil.

    • burningwar

      Great. Now you are making me question whether or not I really want to pickup that SP101.

    • Secundius

      As I recall the Warning had to be “Visible from 30-feet away”!/? Not necessarily “READABLE” from 30-feet away…

  • J-

    Some rope, a handle, and pull start that like a lawnmower….

    • Jeff

      You might be a redneck….

    • noob

      I think there was an Airwolf episode like this. The fictional helicopter was crash landed broken rotors and they only had aux power for some sensors and not enough to operate the weapons properly so they got the central american villagers to lift and aim the helicopter on some kind of boat trailer and shot the weapons by hand. It was part of their “CIA vs the Narcos” storyline iirc, which seems darkly ironic now.

      • glenn cheney

        That was just a misunderstanding on revenue sharing.
        Last I checked, the Bush’s negotiated a deal and it’s been Bidnez As Usual ever since.

    • Random Disabled Person

      Naw , what ya wanta do is, put ya’lls foot on it and kick start it like a dirt bike….. Inward leg of course

    • LOL. Good one.

  • Michael Gallagher

    No, that was something different. The rocket that was fired should never have been electrically connected while waiting in line, safety procedure was bypassed. Then old, unsafe ordinance exploded when exposed to the ensuing fire.

    Read the article you posed and you will learn that.

    • Renato H M de Oliveira

      Thanks for the info.
      You know of any case of HERO f**k up?

      • Michael Gallagher

        Google it.

      • Actually, dealing with that is my day job…

        • Renato H M de Oliveira

          Any declassified accidents (“yours” or not) you know about?
          My Google-Fu is lame…

  • Mack

    So i take it the movies/video games led me astray in that you can’t pre-spool the barrels and then fire it, if barrel moves its firing?

    • Michael

      Correct. As soon as the barrels move, it fires.

    • noob

      depends on the gun. some weapons have dual ammo feed so you can select HE, AP or nothing with one control and another control spins the barrels. This gun, it’s all simplicity.

    • Note that in a Minigun with a delinker at least, the feeding system has to process enough cartridges initially to get the first of them into the rotating barrels / bolts block. After that, though, it will fire instantly, because there are already cartridges at the ready and in the block. Now, a weak motor can have a “spin-up time”, but it will simply fire slower at first. Also, if you interrupt the ammunition flow, it will expend everything that’s in there and then spin idly. After that it’s again as above.

  • Broz

    Sounds like the story (prolly an urban legend) I heard at Ft Knox during training in the summer of ’71….dude was showin’ his non-tread head buddy an M48 and in the drivers position when his buddy said “How do you make the turret rotate???” Dude told him “Ya gotta grip the clutch (grip safety) on the TC’s control”…he leaned his head back into the turret basket at the same time as his bud depressed the ‘grip safety…the turret went spinning around an decapitated the guy in the driver’s position…

    • Tom Currie

      NOT an urban legend. I can’t swear to either the dialog or the date, but the basic scenario occurred more than once at Fort Knox (then the Home of Armor) and similar events ave occurred elsewhere. Usually not a clean decapitation, more often “crushed like a melon” is the phrase that comes up.

      Another turret power fatality at Fort Knox during the winter ’69-’70 involved a crewman on an M60 tank who was trying to dismount the gunner’s IR sight at night while wearing gloves – he couldn’t feel the latch on the back of the sight so he managed to squirm around to get his head where he could see it – which put his head between the gun and the the M105 telescope – he somehow managed to activate the controls causing the gun to move enough that is head was “crushed like a melon”

      As we were reminded several times in training at Fort Knox: tanks are designed to kill and the tank doesn’t really care who.

      • gunsandrockets

        Another advantage for the old S tank! No turret head crushing.

      • Broz

        Thanx, my friend…heard that story in Aug of ’71 while at Leadership Prep School – a two week course prior to AIT (at the time all the training schools/companies were full up and we got the choice of LPC or two weeks of mowing grass and painting rock…of course it mightta been two weeks of mowing rocks and painting grass)…we were told all sortza horror stories about accidents in tanks….mostly from VN vet E7s & E6s…at that time ’71-’74 just about everyone in the grades of E6 and above had been to ‘Nam at least once!!!

  • noob

    “See that rectangular hole in the OD green metal bar? A rod is inserted up into that hole to physically block the barrels from rotating.”

    Won’t somebody please think of the [REDACTED]?

  • Tom Currie

    Pretty much standard way the military handles the development of new equipment — if testing shows that doing something reasonable but unnecessary will cause a dangerous outcome, the first step is to put a WARNING in the Operator Manual (some manuals have 50 or more pages of WARNINGS and CAUTIONS at the front of the manual, with about 4-6 separate warnings per page).

    If it happens again and someone gets hurt or something expensive gets destroyed, then you add a warning sticker (or painted warning) on the equipment.

    • noob

      There’s also a glossary for safety terms in consumer civillian engineering at least:


      The signal words ‘Danger’, ‘Warning’ and ‘Caution’ used in this manual indicate the degree of hazard that may be encountered by the user. These words are defined as:

      Danger – Indicates death or serious injury will result if proper precautions are not taken.

      Warning – Indicates death, serious injury or property damage can result if proper precautions are not taken.

      Caution – Indicates some injury or property damage may result if proper precautions are not taken.”

      • Tom Currie

        I recall once seeing where some joker had used his company’s commercial sign making software to produce a sign in all the proper OSHA-standard colors/symbols/fonts that said:
        DO NOT
        Under Any Circumstances
        Read This Sign

    • CountryBoy

      The railroads are the same way. Years ago I was in Diesel Operations as a locomotive operator for a while, and our instructors reminded us that every rule in the book was written because someone was maimed or killed by doing something that we now call “stupid”.

  • USMC03Vet

    But does it have a magazine disconnect safety…

    • Blake

      Hey there USMC vet, since when do cobras have twin miniguns under the nose? I thought they had single 20mm gatling guns under there?

      • Since the Golf model in 1967. The switch to three-barreled 20mm with the “modernized” and “upgunned” -S models happened from ’78 to ’81.

        • noob

          That’s like a 75% reduction in the number of barrels to clean and a bigger bore to get your cleaning rod into. Sound like a win from a maintenance point of view.

        • Sgt G

          Texas Over Everyone….That would be “Sierra” Model to supersede the AH-1 “Golf”. Hey you wouldn’t be an old fellow 68M or 68J type would you?

      • Realist

        You’re looking at an older AH-1 variant…they were armed w/two 7.62 mini-guns.

      • Zebra Dun

        Once long ago the AH-1 had a two barrel chin gun, one was 7.62 x 51 simple MG and the other was a 40 mm grenade launcher.

    • Realist

      More importantly, does it have a Bullet Button…must be CA compliant.

      • Bill

        And it doesn’t have a flash suppressor, a collapsible stock or a detachable magazine. CA, take note.

        • CountryBoy

          What about a “featureless grip”?

          • Zebra Dun

            NO BAYONET?

          • CountryBoy

            Of course. It’s illegal in CA to have the needed lug! 😉

            Notice, no retractable stock either, though that would certainly make for a bruise on the shoulder!

          • Zebra Dun

            No doubt has ten rd magazine as well.

          • CountryBoy

            Of course. For safety, you know. Wouldn’t want a bad guy to get hold of a larger magazine than what he could use in .0035 seconds, now, would we? 😉

    • Jenny Everywhere

      Does it also have the shoulder thing that goes up?

  • Sid Collins

    So, as a back-up to a weapons failure, one of the crew members climbs out on the skid and cranks it like a Gatling?

    • retrocon

      I was visualizing the opposite… with rules of engagement what they are in military these days (well, at least not too long ago), they probably had to keep the physical locking pin in place until ready to fire…

  • BrandonAKsALot

    I’m not going to lie, first thing I thought when I saw this photo was how I wanted to spin the barrels. Then I read the warning. I’m way too much of a fiddler to be around aircraft.

  • Tommy Thompson

    Soooo, hand jobs work on Cobras…?

  • DennisBechtel

    i remember these rods they were meant to stop the barrels from rotating,worked on some cobra gun ships 45m,that was many yrs ago during the beginning of my mil spec schooling.

  • Jim Kiser

    Sorry guys, but that problem isn’t bad enough to get it kicked out of my gun safe. If I was lucky enough to have one in my gun safe.

  • Zebra Dun

    I saw this on one of the son’s Cobra’s during open house at his base once.

  • Donnie Buchanan

    We were taught this in basic infantry training.

  • RUKdnMe

    Hmmmm ! I sense a ” hold my beer, watch this ” moment….

  • Anthony “stalker6recon”

    Anyone that has ever been in the military, knows that no matter how stupid a warning may be, there is good reason for it. These warnings are ONLY posted, when some idiot has proven what the warning states.

    For instance, when I was stationed in Germany, there were ponds outside my barracks, disgusting holding ponds, that even ducks would not want to swim in. But there was still a warning posted “holding pond, do not enter, you will drown”, something to that effect. Why was it there? Some idiot joe decided that after a night of downing quality german beer, he would skip the shower and go for the fast bath in the pond, only to be pulled out dead, some time later.

    People that need these warnings, are proof these warnings should never be posted, just let nature take it’s course.

  • Richard

    All moot, all AH-1 Cobras were turned in around 9-11 to foreign military sales, we flew our last three to Ft Drum, NY for turn in near the end of SEP 2001where they were all stacked in two compounds, sad to see.

    • RetiredSOFguy

      Uh, the Marines are happily flying AH-1s today…

      • Richard

        They are, but not anywhere near the Army’s AH1’s, the Marines are flying a twin engine AH-1 and always have. Pictured is an Army AH-1G or AH-1S which could mount a mini gun and a 40MM granade launcher or two of either one. The newer Army AH-1E and AH-1F had the 3 barrel 20MM cannon, as does both the older and newer Marine Corps AH-1’s models.

        • RetiredSOFguy

          No worries. Just wanted to make sure you were aware some of that old iron is still out there in the fight! Good stuff.

          • Richard

            I flew an AH-1F in the first gulf war after Iraq invaded Kuwait, we were the second team but the Cabra would fly and fight with one or two systems down, while the AH-64 became just a vehicle to get you home.

          • RetiredSOFguy

            I missed that conflict but made up my time in the latest. I have much love for all you guys that bring the hate on call. Thanks for what you did!

          • Blake

            I freaking love the Cobra. I wanted to join the Marine Corps specifically to fly it. Although I never had a good answer to “why not fly the way-newer Apache?” other than “because your mother”.

  • Mr.SATism

    Important warning is important

  • retrocon

    Makes for a short game of Russian Roulette…

  • TeaBagReady

    Somewhere along the top of each rotor blade it says “NO STEP”.

  • gregge

    So, why is the hole all buggered up? People attempting to fire the guns with the safety bar inserted?

  • Ranger Rick

    I remember seeing that on a Cobra back in 75.

    • Secundius

      Were they “Guard” or “Regulars”?/! The “G” Model stayed in Production until September 1973. Some National Guard Units were still using them as late as December 1989. One report suggest Reserve Units were STILL Operating the “G’s” in 1993…

      • Ranger Rick

        I’m going to say regular, perhaps 1st ID.

        • Secundius

          I don’t recall seeing any at Down Barracks between 1973 and 1980!/? But that’s not saying that there weren’t any serving other Units. The later “G-BF” models were capable of Firing TOW Missiles, but still retained the Chin Mounted Twin “134’s”…

          • Ranger Rick

            I believe that the aircraft that I saw might have been from Fr. Riley, but again this was 40 years ago now.

  • glenn cheney

    Lends value to “Hands up, don’t shoot.”