What happened to the mythical undetectable plastic gun?

    Gun Digest 1987

    Back in the 70s it was rumored that the KGB possessed a three-barred disposable all-plastic pistol, called the Troika, that could pass though airport scanners undetected. So when the polymer-framed Glock pistol first came to market in the early 80s, it really excited the imagination of politicians, reporters and novelists who believed that plastic guns capable of being smuggled aboard airplanes were just around the corner.

    David Byron. Mother Jones Magazine Oct 1986, Page 31.

    In 1984, a couple of years after the Glock landed, David Byron, a 32 year old gunsmith and manufacturer of plastic pistol grips, filed for a patent on an all plastic pistol design. His patent, which was issued in 1987, does describe a plastic .22 gun but offers no hints as to what plastics and ceramics could be used to build it. Congress got wind of this patent and hysteria ensued. Members of the House tried introducing legislation to ban the importation and manufacture of these hypothetical plastic guns.

    David E. Byron’s “Polymer gun” patent #4703826

    Byron teamed up with a wealthy former cemetery salesman and formed Red Eye Arms Inc., a company dedicated to bringing the .22 pistol and plastic military weapons to market. Byron said to an Orlando Sentinel reporter:

    “Can you imagine the difference between a three-man crew firing a weapon from a tripod and one soldier running around the battlefield firing the same weapon from the shoulder? It would give our side so much firepower superiority that it wouldn’t be any contest. And with the reduction in midrange nuclear weapons, superiority in conventional weapons is what our country needs right now.”

    Between 1986 and 1988 numerous magazine and newspapers article were written about Bryon’s plans. After 1988 he seemed to drop off the map without having demonstrated a functioning plastic pistol.

    In 2000 he formed a company called Magnum Technology Inc. and in 2001 secured almost $800,000 of research funding from Department of Defense to construct a light-weight non-metal ceramic gun barrel. He claimed that the they had successfully fired small caliber rounds in ceramic barrels …

    … ceramic barrels that are reinforced to enable their satisfactory use as gun barrels. The basis of our technology is the reinforcement of materials that are extremely hard and brittle so that they may be used for purposes not previously feasible, such as gun barrels. Referred to as Composite Reinforced Ceramic Technology (CRCT), this technology has been privately researched and funded. A proof of principle has been successfully demonstrated with thousands of satisfactory firings in small caliber.

    The barrels were apparently made from a machined zirconia (a type of ceramic) over-wrapped with resin-coated carbon fibers.

    Computer rendering of Byron’s machined zirconia gun barrel

    Magnum Technology was shut down in 2007. I was unable to find any evidence that a functional lightweight ceramic barrel was actually delivered to the military.

    According to Byron’s LinkedIn profile, last year he started up a new defense-related company called AlEX Ventures. I suspect that this is his latest attempt at the mythical ceramic barrel and all-plastic pistol.

    Is Byron a dreamer or just a very clever salesman? I don’t know.

    [ Many thanks to Clayton for help researching. ]

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!