People who've witnessed Metal Storm's stacked munitions technology have a tendency to walk away with a look on their faces like they've just seen the future of tactical firearms. The concept is really that innovative and revolutionary.
Metal Storm's stacked munitions don't have to be fed into the weapon. Each round is lined up one after another in a barrel or removable sleeve and fired sequentially by an electronic signal that is initiated by a trigger pull.
Metal Storm's technology was first used on multiple launch 40mm grenade systems for the military. Then a few years ago, the U.S. Marine Corps asked the company if it could scale the technology down to the size of a 12-gauge round. What the Marines wanted was a smoothbore fin-stabilized breaching round that could be launched from up to 30 meters away to blow out a door.
Metal Storm delivered a very successful round. And that caught the attention of the Office of Naval Research. ONR wanted a lightweight 12-gauge accessory weapon that could be attached under a primary weapon such as an M4. That's when Metal Storm went to work on the MAUL.
MAUL is an acronym for Multi-Shot Accessory Underbarrel Launcher. Metal Storm has developed two versions of the weapon: the under barrel MAUL and a separate gun complete with folding shoulder stock.
Both MAUL configurations are incredibly lightweight, tipping the scales at just over two pounds while loaded. The MAUL itself is made of aluminum and weighs 1.8 pounds, and the removable carbon fiber sleeve is the launch tube for the projectiles. So there's no fixed barrel, which makes the MAUL very light and very easy to carry. The disposable carbon fiber sleeves of stacked munitions weigh three to four ounces each and hold three to five rounds.
In addition to its light weight, another selling point for the MAUL is that it can't jam. The MAUL doesn't cycle rounds so there's very few moving parts on this gun-just a trigger, a safety, and a munition tube release.
"There's no cartridge; it's basically caseless ammunition," explains Arthur Schatz, vice president of business development for Metal Storm. "The powder, the primer, and the electronic coil are all incorporated in the tail of the round and everything goes downrange."
Currently, Metal Storm makes two rounds for the MAUL, a blunt impact less-lethal round and a very lethal 12-gauge slug. But Schatz says the company is interested in developing a series of munitions that will offer a broad range of capabilities.
"As soon as we have the funding, our next round will be a breaching round," Schatz says. "We have been approached by a number of police departments and we have shown it to some SWAT teams, and they all think it would be a great breaching tool." It will take about six months to develop the breaching round and about a year to get it certified safe and ready for the market.
It's too soon in the development process to judge whether the MAUL will become a popular law enforcement weapon. After all, a lot will depend on pricing and availability of the guns and the munitions. But Schatz says he can't wait 'til the company has enough guns to start sending them out to agencies for testing.
"When we show the MAUL to police officers, they really like it," he says. "They are totally fascinated by it. When we put it in their hands and let them test fire it, they are really impressed. But until we give it to them to use in the field and we get feedback about what works and what doesn't, we won't know how they really feel."