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Weapons: Al Qaeda Deploys BB Guns
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June 29, 2011: A wanted al Qaeda leader (Fazul Abdullah Mohammed) was recently killed in Somalia. Among the weapons found with him was a BB gun. Well, not just any BB gun, it was a Umarex Steel Storm. This weapon looks like a compact 9mm submachinegun, but is actually an automatic BB gun. Weighing 1.25 kg (2.75 pounds), it is 38 cm (15 inches) long, with smooth bore barrel. The Steel Storm can fire single shots, or six BB bursts. The 4.5mm BB's come out barrel at 135 meters a second. That's about a third the velocity of the 9mm pistol round commonly found in submachineguns. Only a lucky shot in the eye would be fatal, but these steel BBs cause a lot of pain, which makes it sort of a non-lethal weapon.

The Steel Storm carries 300 BBs (which must be shaken, 30 at a time, into the "magazine"). When you reload the BB container, you have to replace the two CO2 gas cartridges in the pistol grip. Effective only a close range (under 30 meters). The Steel Storm costs about a hundred dollars. Ammo is cheap (per round cost of gas and BB is a few cents). But this is not a combat weapon. What was the al Qaeda big shot doing with it? Well, it could be used to terrorize, and he was a professional terrorist. Security guards have sometimes been seen armed with this (usually) non-lethal weapon (with a 9mm pistol as a backup). The Steel Storm looks intimidating, and being able to fire dozens of those small steel balls quickly would, at the very least, prove distracting to those on the receiving end. 

Air guns, like BB guns, have been around for over a century. Some of those available today fire bullet-like projectiles at velocities near those achieved by some 9mm pistols. But the size of these projectiles remains small (rarely more than 6mm), and these high powered air guns are meant for hunting small animals, not humans.


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frylock       6/29/2011 7:01:33 AM
Airguns have actiually been around a lot longer than a century. They were outlawed in many areas for fear poachers would use them.
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Overload       6/29/2011 10:45:56 AM
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Xorle       6/29/2011 10:10:52 PM
Was the first I had heard of airguns existing so long ago.
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WarNerd       6/30/2011 12:35:56 AM
Another article on what may be one of the actual air rifles used by the Louis & Clark is here h**p://
The air rifle is a .54 cal Girandoni Austrian Repeating Military Air Rifle. The Louis & Clark expedition took 2 of them to use for hunting in order to save their gun powder for defense.
The .46 cal Girandoni Austrian Repeating Military Air Rifle was used by the Austrian Army between 1780 and 1815, and was the first repeating rifle officially adopted for military service! It had a 22 round magazine, could be reloaded while prone, and fire up to 30 rounds before the air reservoir need to be recharged.
The rifle was withdrawn from service because of problems with the air reservoir, which were difficult to make and maintain, prone to leakage, and difficult to recharge (reportedly it took 1500 strokes of the air pump supplied with the gun to recharge the reservoir).
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