Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Weapons of James Bond - Fact or Fiction?; The MBA Gyrojet, the REAL Golden Gun

You Only Live Twice; James Bond certainly did, returning as the most unlikely Japanese man since Benny Hill... the movie itself is a riot of Sixties-007; Space-rockets, Volcanoes and even a monorail. But what about those weird rocket guns Tiger Tanaka (Bond's colleague from the Japanese Secret Service) demonstrates?. Could they be real? - or just some special effect cooked up for added grooviness?. What about that cigarette - the one Bond kills a henchman with?. Are there such things as rockets in cigarettes?. Let's find out.
American Art Biehl designed an armour-piercing rocket. Teaming up with the legendary Bob Mainhardt to form MBAssociates (Often just MBA) the two went on to develop a range of weapons, a family that included rocket-pistols, machine-guns and an underwater version.

Above: The core of the Gyrojet family; as well as the pistol and carbines there was a converted Rohm derringer!
Below: A page from the 1968 Shooter's Bible

The concept was simple; a self-contained solid fuel mini-rocket would be fired from a pistol or rifle, with virtually zero recoil and more punch than conventional rounds. In practice, the early rounds often failed to fire or were off-target, until a design change introduced angled vents to impart spin as well as thrust. Spinning rounds - as any soldier knows - have extra velocity and accuracy. Even with the new design, manufacturing flaws meant the designs never really achieved their potential. Other design flaws, such as the lack of removable magazines made reloading cumbersome and slow.

The US Military were enthralled by the concept (who wouldn't be?), but after extensive testing, the flaws spelled the end for the Gyrojet. Apart from a few examples sold to personnel heading for Vietnam, most were sold commercially. Gyrojet survival flares, however, did rather better, being standard-issue to the USAF for years.
Above: Welcoming customers the MBA way. From the start the company had a different, refreshing approach.

The Plot Thickens...
After reading that quote, I revisited the film on Blu-Ray and, there's a golden Gyrojet pistol right there on Tanaka's table. It's not Serial #0007, which makes me wonder; where is #0007 today?. Either gun could be worth a fortune today... also on the table is, if you look closely, a multi-shot version that was intended to be showcased in the film. 

So, what of that Rocket-ciggy?, well, one of Bob Mainhardt's party pieces was to startle Pentagon types with a remarkable gadget called a Finjet. Launching them either from a plastic launching block or even Sweetheart drinking straws, he would fire them into anything deemed suitable as a target. The finjets came in various configurations, but were generally capable of killing a man at 100 yards. A further development was to be launched in a massive block slung below helicopters; similiar in concept to the flechette rockets being used in vietnam, if less practical. A parachute-retarded system was also envisaged where, after the parachute had stabilised the payload the launcher would fire masses of mini-rockets down onto the hapless enemy. 
Above: Tanaka issues 007 with a finjet fag...
Above: Certified at last!
 Below: Promotional shots featuring Karin Dor and a Gyrojet. Even the poster artist featured the hi-tech gun in a fairly impossible pose...

Above: Just imagine Scaramanga with one of these!. This model comes in presentation case with dummy rounds and a medal honouring a pioneer of rocketry.

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