The quest for greater firepower


If you were to just glance at it, the gun on top looks like a fairly normal FAL rifle. Turns it isn’t. What it is however is an interesting historical example of the military’s constant quest for greater firepower.

Ever since the first hand-cannon, the militaries of the world have been trying to figure out how to get their troops to shoot faster, more accurately, and carry less weight all the same time. As the musket gave way to the minie ball, which gave way to the trapdoor, etc, for a while the gun pictured above was viewed by someone, somewhere as the future of infantry weapons. Here’s the Salvo rifle, an experimental project dreamed up by some eggheads, somewhere.





  1. I’m reminded of a product pitch from the game Borderlands 2:
    “Vladof! You don’t need to be a better shot, you just need to shoot more bullets!”

    It does make you wonder, though– how did the SALVO folks figure out that stray rounds hit more enemy combatants than aimed ones? It’s not like you can tell by looking at the bullets themselves.

    1. Gunracer, the answer is that a study of battle casualties showed bullet hits randomly distributed. If aimed rounds predominated, there would have been a greater percentage of torso hits, and there was not.

  2. The kicker with the Olin SALVO rifle was not just that it had two barrels; each barrel was chambered for a duplex .22 cartridge. One trigger pull launched four projectiles.

  3. A friend worked at Colt on the 1960s Salvo Squeeze Bore project. Can’t remember if it was .308 or .50 cal but the “bullets” were made of a pile of “cones” for lack of a better word. Passing through the barrel would squeeze the bullet causing the cones to separate becoming multiple projectiles. He told me about it 30 yrs ago so memory is a bit fuzzy. I think they were used in machine guns on river patrol boats in Vietnam.

    1. Salvo Squeeze Bore (SSB) was the brainchild of Aussie-expat Russell S. Robinson. The version that received field testing was in .50 BMG. The cones were squeezed down to .30 caliber in a modified two-piece barrel.. The initial portion was conventional, while the extension had a long tapered bore. Colt played with several variations of the concept, including 7.62mm NATO, 9x19mm, and .45 ACP. Robinson was also credited with the ArmaLite AR-13, which was was reportedly a multi-barrel volley gun using SSB cartridges.

  4. So let me get this straight. Random shots were responsible for more injuries because the enemy was aiming poorly. From that odd assumption they concluded that rather than aim better so that more shots would be effective, they should purposefully scatter the projectiles. But if we were already aiming poorly, wouldn’t taking aim out of the equation cause more misses? Another example of how bean counters should never be in charge of weapons procurement or tactics.

  5. Bullet hits randomly distributed can be more easily explained by the fact that they targets on question did not remain stationary.

    1. What Chris said. If the information was about static stationary and immobile targets then the Salvo idea would be a good one. (but why not use large volume shotgun shells instead of the salvo concept?)

      1. AAI submitted a 12 gauge shell loaded with 32 flechette for both the SALVO I and SALVO II trials. The drawback to shotshells will always be range, recoil, weight, and low capacity.

  6. RE: Paul from Canada November 25, 2013 at 21:04:

    And teh problem with analyzing battle casualties, and assuming that arms and legs were hit approximately as often as torsos is that THEY AREN’T LOOKING AT THE WHOLE DATA SET.

    Actually, a truly random distribution of hits would ALSO have shown a higher percentage of torso hits, and head hits about as frequent as leg hits (due to exposed surface area). It ignores the casualties who WERE NOT analyzed, because they were DRT (Dead Right There) and thus not evaced in a timely fashion. (Similar issue when analyzing battle damage to bombers in WWII to figure out where to up-armor them. They only got to look at the ones that came back AND weren;t co0mpletely destroyed on landing. And again,l the same issue has plagued bayonet casualty analysis in WWI using hospital admissions, and helmet coverage in Iraq using only patients who were evacuated to hospitals.)

    Project SALVO _also_ didn;t differenciate between aimed rifle fire, suppressive fire, recon by fire, and machineguns conducting area denial. . . because they COULD NOT really tell from teh data they had if particular casualties were a result of rifle shooters shooting badly, or a machinegunner dumping half a belt at a suspicious sound in the jungle. MOST rounds (even by rifle shooters) were expended in unaimed fire for suppression or “flushing the game” than were expended in deliberate aimed fire. But that doesn;t mean that increasing the shot density would make suppressive fire more useful, ESPECIALLY not if it (as Project SALVO did) effectively eliminated effective aimed fire.

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