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If you’re familiar with popular video games like Fallout and Quake, you’ve probably seen a Gauss rifle, also known as a coilgun. While Gauss rifles are actually a thing in real life, they’re not all too common and are usually pretty expensive. Now an advanced weapons startup Arcflash Labs has built an alpha version of a handheld Gauss rifle that could be yours for $3,375.

But what exactly is a Gauss rifle and what sets it apart from a railgun? Even though both guns use magnetic accelerators, their working principles are different. Simply put, a Gauss rifle is a linear magnetic accelerator that consists of back-to-back electromagnets that carry a metal rod to the end of the barrel with less energy compared to a railgun. While a railgun features two magnetic parallel rails for magnetic acceleration and offers more precision.

The future of the rifle

Called GR-1, the new semi-automatic Gauss rifle’s 10 round magazine is capable of launching 1.2-inch-long (32 mm) metal rods at a speed of 167 mph (75 m/s). The futuristic rifle has a weight of 20 lbs (9 kg) and Arcflash Labs claim that it is the world’s first handheld Gauss Rifle. 

The GR-1. Source: Arcflash Labs

While GR-1 is exciting to look at, co-founder of Arcflash Labs, David Wirth told Vice that he sees it as a demonstrator more than a viable weapon, for the time being. “We’re mainly selling it to enthusiasts and researchers who want to see what the technology can do. It’s just an alpha test.” 

The company has previously unveiled two other railguns that use Gauss but agree that they can’t compete with a Winchester or a similar gunpowder weapon just yet but is very ambitious. Wirth told Vice that “the capacitors are really the limitation,” and added, “the mass of the GR-1 is more than half capacitors and that’s just dead weight.” About the future of the Gauss rifle technology, Arcflash Labs’ Wirth said that “We expect energy density to exceed that of traditional firearms in roughly 20 years.”

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