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Airgun trainer for spy weapon

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

You’ve all heard of airguns that are used as military trainers. We know about the aerial gunnery trainers from WWII and more recently the Daisy Quick Kill BB guns used in Vietnam, but airguns have been out of the military eye for several decades. Or at least that’s what everyone thought.

Last week, I learned that Crosman has developed an airgun trainer for the recently declassified implant gun that was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the late ’90s. The military declassified the “arm rifle” after it was shown on the evening news last year. Some of you may have seen it on the special Fox News report just last week, when the Pentagon officially declassified it.

What they’ve done is replace a major portion of the radius bone in a man’s forearm with a breech and rifled barrel. The barrel extends through the index finger of the subject’s hand, though it]s not visible or even noticeable to anyone. When the subject is thus “armed” (a term that has a renewed meaning), he simply points his index finger and commands the gun to fire a caseless cartridge. The body’s own electrical impulses are sufficient to fire the cartridge. A .30-caliber bullet exits out the tip of the finger, going to wherever the shooter pointed.

All commands to fire the rifle are linked to the subject’s brain, so all he needs to do is think and the gun fires. The caseless cartridges feed semiautomatically through a tandem tube embedded in the subject’s forearm, and 3 rounds are available before a reload is required. The subject has a port in his forearm through which fresh magazines are inserted, though partial reloads are not yet possible. All 3 rounds must be fired before he can reload.

There are no sights, yet; because of human binocular vision, a shooter can be trained quickly to acquire and destroy a target. Within the first week of training the subjects are hitting 6-inch targets at 50 yards on the first shot. And that was before the advent of the new trainer. The training program should now speed up considerably, plus the possibility for more refresher training means higher proficiency levels will be maintained.

A rumor has spread that the subjects all have reticles etched into the lens of their eyeballs. There are no details about this or even confirmation that it’s true.

I’ve used the masculine pronoun in this report intentionally, for all subjects thus armed (a number that’s classified) are men. When signing up for the program, they must sign a release of liability, for their arm bone can never be replaced. Once implanted, the gun must remain until the subject dies. According to the Fox story, the subjects receive hazardous duty pay of up to 30 percent and, best of all, they’re excused from paying federal income taxes for the remainder of their lives. Of course, given the kinds of jobs the subjects are asked to do, lifetimes may be abbreviated.

The gun was designed for covert operations such as assassinations, security operations and those times when it’s impossible to carry a firearm into the area of interest. The “barrel” that replaces the arm bone is made from a composite of synthetic and ceramic that is constructed at the molecular level on a very specialized 3-D printer. Each shooter receives an implant that’s custom-fitted to his body. The index finger of the shooter is covered by a realistic soft flesh-like cap that blends with the natural skin. As a result, the gun is undetectable by any electronic means and without direct examination by a jeweler’s loupe. The fingertip can be shot off or simply removed, if there’s time.

The arm is actually strengthened by the installation of this weapon. It is not known if there is any pain associated with its use.

Naturally, the flexibility of the index finger is lost, so the subject must be trained to mask this fact by clever posturing. In the beginning it is said there were difficulties, such as losing the ability to scratch certain spots on the body, and the extreme necessity for the mind to be trained not to shoot inadvertently — like when shaking hands. There were some accidents before the importance of this was realized — which is where the Crosman training adapter comes in. Now, for the first time in over 15 years, it’s possible for those with the gun implant to train without firing live ammunition.

Crosman hasn’t released any technical details but I’ve been able to learn that the trainer operates pneumatically, and the number of rounds carried is greatly increased. My guess would be that a pneumatic tube is inserted where the cartridge magazine would go, and that the pellet magazine and firing mechanism are somehow included in this insert. Therefore, I’ve deduced that the caliber of the implant trainer remains at .30. My guess is the air supply stays outside the arm, which is no problem for a trainer.

This isn’t Crosman’s first rodeo in the black world (slang for the super-secret world of espionage). During WWII, they supplied the OSS with thousands of model 101 pneumatic rifles and one million .22-caliber round lead balls. The cover story for that sale was that they were given to the chiefs of remote Asian tribes to win their loyalty, though rumors of covert assassinations have always surrounded them.

Just when you thought airguns were for fun, something serious like this comes along! And the California school ruling that a person can’t make a gun with the fingers of their hands now makes complete sense.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

101 thoughts on “Airgun trainer for spy weapon”

  1. Tom,

    You were sworn to secrecy.

    Greatly appreciate you not revealing our depleted uranium round airgun ammo that is still in final stages of testing but that we’re nonetheless optimistic about releasing to your airgun followers on a limited basis.


    • Chris @ Crosman
      Since they added that PROM chip in the elbow do they now use the training system with pellets or bb’s. Oh wait I’m thinking they got to be testing the trainer with airsoft rounds. For safety reasons. But I have heard of the airsoft rounds penetrating human tissue though and having to be dug out of the person. So I guess the airsoft rounds could still be pretty realistic when testing though.

      But I guess you can’t talk about that info yet. I was just curious to know after I found out about the PROM chip in the elbow news. If you can’t say I think its cool technology anyway.

      Up date us if you can. Thanks

  2. WOW, now I understand why the kid who chewed his pop tart into the shape of a gun caused such an uproar!?! Learnin’ ta not scratch the itch will be tough as well as findin’ a really good friend ta pick yer nose. Come home safe Mr. BB.

  3. I would like to know how the training for latrine exercises was developed before crosman got involved and allowed for training without using live ammo. Hopefully the trainees did not forget to unload their arm before the required release of bodily fluids and solids was required, and subsequent personal hygiene was performed.

  4. It’s a dangerous time of year to be gullible. I should have just spent the day shooting my pyramid Air big bore break barrel. Alas, I had to got online.

  5. I wonder if there’s much of a market in aftermarket mods for the guys that have these installed? I’m envisioning an elbow replacement that converts the trainer into a completely self contained multi-pump pneumatic: to charge the weapon, the user grabs his firearm wrist with the other hand and pumps his arm (bending at the elbow) from 2 to 18 times.

      • BB, I’m afraid you got your info completely wrong on this one…including the pneumatics system.

        I heard Terri Gross on NPR interview Edward Snowden from an undisclosed location (but which was assumed to still be in Russia). According to Snowden, the Spy Gun will not fire .30 or 22s or even .177s. The Crossman airgun you are detailing will actually only fire pinhead sized uranium beads that are laced with small holes. The beads are soaked in waxy ricin. Because of their tiny size and weight, they pierce subderminally with ease and almost no pain on the part of the victim–similar to the pressure of an umbrella head lightly pressed against the skin. Death occurs within 24 hours in most victims, but no later than 36 hours in all victims (pigs being the human analog for testing purposes).

        Anyway, the pneumatics of this gun (you got that part right…there is one and it does replace a portion of the pointing finger) are based on a plastic tube running directly from the right lung (in right handed shooters (left lung visa versa) through the shoulder, down the humorous, around the olecranon (elbow), along the radius (NOT replacing it; why would they do that?), through the phalanges, and finally to a small Lothar Walther barrel rodded through the core of the pointing finger.

        Again, according to Snowden, trained assassins could build a pressure of 9 foot pounds by simply exhaling through their finger. However, under the duress of a cough, they could exert as much as 12.5 foot ponds of pressure. That might not sound like much, but the miniscule pellets could pierce pop cans filled with water at 50 yards. Needless to say, the guns were banned by the British even for clandestine work on the basis of their power alone. Interestingly, Snowden said that Crosman had petitioned the government to allow them to release a modified version for commercial use (pneumatics and barrel outside of the body) but withdrew their request when it became clear that California would require an orange cap to be worn on the fingertip of users-and possibly that the entire arm be dyed pink.

        Next time, do your research. God, shoddy reporting irks me like nothing else.

  6. You must not of heard of the latest up date about the ARM gun. They now placed a PROM chip in the elbow so when the hand shake begins it it sends a signal to the eye reticle and it scans the the object in its line of sight to determine if the gun should fire or not.

    They are still having problems I heard with programing the chip. It all depends on who programs the chip to tell the gun if it should fire or not. Something about if they are a spy or counter spy. They haven’t got that part figured out yet. But they have had good and bad test results. And they are even willing to keep testing.

    I guess we will see how that all ends up.

  7. Actually, MI6 were there in the 1960s, inspired by James Bond they felt they had to have some similar gadgets and so approached BSA to design something very similar. In this case the arm was left intact and a carbined Airsporter was simply strapped to the skeletal sturcture of the forearm below the skin and muscle. It had to be an underlever of course, the skin would not stretch far enough to permit cocking a break barrel. The Airsporter was chosen over the Webley MkIII as the latter was simply a copy of a German gun and this needed to be all British. Unfortunately agents objected to having to make an incision in their own arms to get a dart (relied on dart projectiles) into the taploader and so it was discontinued after only a few years. Very collectable these days, occasionally found on auction sites.

  8. I understand the only actual implant done so far was on an astronaut who barely survived the crash of his experimental aircraft at Edwards. Rumor is they gave him other implants too!

    • chris in ct
      Seriously you must not of heard. They tested this thing on one of them cable shows a while back.

      They had it in a gun vise testing it. It was still a proto type and supposedly they didn’t have any volunteers yet to have it implanted. Even with the tax rebate. But the dang thing was pretty impressive.

  9. I was going along with all of this for the couple of paragraphs, but when I hit the third paragraph I woke up a little more and looked at the dateline. Got to get over to PA and see what they have going.

    • RR
      I wonder what flavor the pellets will be this year. I heard last year there was some good recipes that came about with last years flavored pellets. 🙂

      I know, I know I’m already ask’n for forgiveness.

  10. I was told once by a former diplomat that before the collapse the soviets were working on a similar device, but it was a railgun. There were at least two great problems that they had not worked out before my source had to retire. First was that the human body could not produce enough power to fire the projectile unless the operator was in a state of extreme rage. Second was that the recoiling operator was actually far more destructive than the projectile. I have no idea what came of the project, if anything, after the USSR collapsed.

  11. You got me BB, it was several paragraphs before I realised the date.

    I only wish I could upload a picture of the spaghetti orchards here, now in fill bloom and putting the magnolias to shame,


  12. RR your right, the ethics or moral contestings couldn’t stop this not now a days. I was thinking good thing the forearm has two bones, one for the action one for the tube mag! It would have to be a very clean system as cleaning may be difficult. Good luck with all the fools today!

  13. The 30 percent increase and tax free life doesn’t seem fair to me since you not only lose the ability of using said finger to scratch certain anatomy parts but you also lose the ability to pick your nose but more importantly you can’t flip the bird to anyone for the rest of your life!!!


  14. But then why limit this to the index finger? There are other parts of the body that are pointable. I immediately thought of the ballerina and her toes. In fact, that’s what it’s called, “En Pointe.”
    Oh, wait, you thought I was referring to some other body part? Shame on you

  15. My sources tell me that the power source is actually methane gas which is collected by a tube in the man’s butt. It is then compressed by a Bio-mechanical pump located in his belly which is operated by doing crunches- the contraction of the muscles is sufficient to operate the pump and fed to a reservoir in the forearm. The gun is fired by the subject placing a lighted cigarette in a small hole in his forearm. “Kaboom”! Game over. The package comes with a fine leather case containing matches, cigarettes and an initial supply of four cans of baked beans.
    Another great April 1st blog from the master.


  16. Hey Ya’ll,Wulfraed brought to mind a gun last night, I mentioned it but it was so late that I don’t think many of you saw it.
    B.B.Do you suppose you could do a blog on some of the more unique designs of historical significance, while you’re on the road next week? You could do this off the top of your head, and some valuable knowledge and interesting discussions would definitely be rewarding. The Webley Fosbery would certainly be near the top of the list of replicas I would be interested in seeing in production!

  17. When firing, one must be sure his finger is straight, least he blow his finger off! Unless they could perfect it to shoot in a curved barrel, then you could shoot around a corner. HA…You didn’t get me this year B.B. But I have to admit, you got me good last year with the PA big bore break barrel that was very cheap. I guess cause you told me what I wanted to hear!! LOL. Bradly

  18. I realize that it’s April fools day today but there is a shred of truth here. I have seen a polish air pistol that is used by the Polish military for pistol marksmanship training. I almost bought one from a military surplus store. I have a Chinese air rifle used by the Chinese military here to train troops in basic marksmanship. I also know the U.S. Army uses air rifles for competition marksmanship events and we have used an air rifle (low powered) for training in riot crowd control. My unit was the aggressors and we used one to simulate a sniper. It stung when the guys got hit, but with all the riot gear they were not hurt. Also the army uses Airforce airguns for pest control in Afghanistan on our bases. They use them for safety purposes and are not required to fill out all kinds of paperwork when they take a shot. So yes, air guns do in fact have a place in our military, but not as a super secret spy weapon. It could be possible to load a hollowpoint with Ricin though if you really needed somebody dead and sniper shoot somebody with something like a Condor similar to the old soviet umbrella gun that inserted a tiny ricin filled pellet under the skin, but a bit more aggressive. They’d know they were shot and would go try to get medical aid, but with the pellet laced with ricin they would be a walking dead person.

      • Actually it is all true about military using air rifles. The Polish WZ1970 is what I was talking about. Only thing that is speculation here is the part of using an air rifle for assassinations. Ricin is one of the most powerful toxins in the world and has no antidote. So imagine something like a metalmag with ricin packed around the metal tip fired from a Condor with shrouded barrel. All it needs to do is break the skin and get the toxin into the victim’s blood just like the old KGB umbrella gun where the agent would approach a victim and accidentally bump the victim with the umbrella which would pop a tiny cross drilled metal bead packed with ricin under the skin.

        Oh, and I do not do the April fool stuff. I simply shared a little knowledge based on the idea of an airgun as a spy weapon which in the case of the KGB ricin attack is technically a spy airgun of sorts.

        • Yeah John, I was joking with you. I know it’s all true and the ricin/umbrella story. See my retort to BB above where I was hinting at the same time. Was just playing, didn’t want you to think I was actually questioning you.

          • April 1 is always the bane of my existence since facts are often taken for some prank. I like to give knowledge where I can. Kind of hard to do in April 1. I’m thinking of getting one of those polish pistols for historical reference now, maybe do a write up on it at some point. They are supposed to be very accurate.

  19. I thought there was talk about the final version of the ARM gun was going to shoot 3 ice bullets that was stored in a ice tray magazine.
    That way after the ice bullet penetrated the skin it would melt and open up the wound channel and the bullet would not be able to be traced back to the arm gun.

    You just never know what could be next.

  20. I’ll admit, I got to the fourth paragraph before my B.S. detector swung to full scale. The ironic thing is, if you know anything about DARPA and some of the ill-advised and or just plain nuts research programs they’ve declassified and admitted, the ones they kept to themselves probably make the Crosman arm gun seem logical and sane.

  21. Pretty good, B.B., you had me for a few paragraphs even with a subject like this. All I can say is a quote from the superhero Wolverine after he uses his titanium claws that are fused to his skeleton and punch out through the skin of his hands for use. Someone asks if it hurts, and he says, “Every time.”…


  22. You had me for about 4.5 paragraphs… Through that point my thoughts were that this was sort of “current technology” capability equivalent to the COBRA novels (Timothy Zahn, I believe).

    But the reticle on the eye led me to recall what day it was (which I should have remembered sooner given I’d just gone through MIT’s Open Course Work page, which was full of Unicorn stuff — like “Uni-standing Uni-certainty” which borrowed an illustration of the Mane Six from My Little Pony playing poker [Rainbow Dash is cheating, Twilight Sparkle is worriedly studying a book as she’s lost her tiara and is down to four coins, etc…])

  23. BB,
    Unrelated question about new air rifle choice here-I’ve got now: a tuned rws 34 in.177, an hw 95 in .20, a Marauder .25 cal., all great shooters and keepers. I want to add another springer , maybe.22 either AA TX 200 or Walther LGV Master (wood stock/great price maybe $150 less than TX.) Will scope for target, plinking and some, maybe hunting …which one, which caliber? or TX in HC? Thanks Tom, you are the man. Steve

      • Click on all the models on the banner above the photo here:
        Read the “sights” description on each model and I think you’ll deduce that the Ultra models have the barrel weight. The Ultra has nothing to do with power nor stock material. (The webpage lists five LGV power/caliber SKUs in each model style for different markets.) You tested the 16 Joules (.22) and 23 Joules (.177) powerplants, it seems, and I think that’s all that’s available in the U.S..

        I found your SGN articles and blogs about the LGV to be very helpful, but made a different selection. I chose the classic features of the Master in .177. (Wood, no barrel weight, and target sights.) I’m very happy with it.


  24. i just hope he don’t scratch his head and in anger at the mosquito that stung him, he shoots himself in the eye thus eliminating his accuracy. must be from a 007 movie. april fools day bb,edith and all

  25. Wow,

    You all have gone completely beyond silly to grossly insane!

    Seriously, I have designed a gun which is implanted into the tongue. It shoots tiny dagger shaped bullets laced with highly modified pure cane sugar which causes death in a matter of less than 30 seconds!

    This gives new meaning to the phrase “sharp tongued devil”!

    And don’t forget, DO NOT lick your lips!


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