Metal Storm – What May Have Been And May Be

    Metal Storm was a brand name for a an emerging electronic ignition concept pioneered just before and actively marketed after the turn of the century. Known for its ability for near insane rates of fire, the technology peaked around 2003 and fizzled commercially with bankruptcy in 2012.

    Funny name aside, Metal Storm was and still is a highly interesting technology. By using electronic ignition, one can precisely control the moment of combustion and thereby create a more accurate weapon systems. If one were to pull the hammer or striker assembly out of a TrackingPoint, it’s fundamentally the same idea/ concept – at least for the timing of ignition.


    But where the electronic ignition truly had its moment was in the ability to rapidly expel multiple projectiles with minimal mechanical movement required. Imaging a minigun without the requirement to have multiple barrels and 1,000s of opportunities for a mechanical malfunction. In a rifle, two projectiles arriving near simultaneously in the near same location defeats most modern body armor – no AP ammo required. This idea was also achieved mechanically – look to the Russian AK-94.

    But, the technology did have its issues. It was not able to be “topped off” as all the projectiles were loaded into a single barrel – which also created a second issue, it was near impossible to create a precision weapon with Metal Storm. By using different barrels, there was no repeatability between barrels.

    But, the concept of electronic ignition is continuing to get research and development. In fact, I would contend that it will be the method by which “smart guns” of the future are controlled, given their likely electronic base. Further, for sniper rifles using electronic ignition can make them more accurate as even the slightest mechanical vibration can pull shots at extreme distances.

    While MetalStorm may be out of the picture (though their Wikipedia states they are still around, just in a different form), the electronic ignition technologies they pushed are not likely to go away anytime soon. Firearms are one of the few industries still largely unaffected by circuitry. Yes, this is for various good reasons, but I would contend that electronics will continue to push into firearms over the next few decades.


    Nathan S

    One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

    The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.