The Ultimate Pulse Rifle Article

First of all, dear readers, apologies to those of you who are thinking: "Bloody Hell, not another Alien article!" Sorry, but for aredent "Alienites," yes, it's the Pulse Rifle - again. I've been asked to do this by so many people, so let's rock...

By Mike Howard

Following my last article on weapons of the movies I received a most informative letter and some mind-blowing pics from a nice gentleman called Ed Maggiani who kindly educated me (slapped my wrists!) concerning the Pulse Rifle. I did get a few things wrong about this gun! So let's set the record straight once and for all:

The main body of this piece of hardware was the M1A1 Thompson Sub-Machine gun - 1921 .45 cal. to be precise. With a magazine capacity of 30 rounds at a very high rate of fire it is a very formidable weapon in itself. The 30mm grenade launcher mounted underneath the barrel was actually a 12 guage Franchi Spas-12 auto-loading shotgun. Its innovative ability to function as an auto-loading or pump action shotgun at the touch of a button surely led to it being chosen to complete this compact package of destruction.

A personal friend of Mr. Maggiani named Steve Dymszo was responsible for the building and crafting of the superb replica featured in this article. Here's how it was made:

Construction & Functions

An all aluminium receiver was constructed to exacting specificatons utilizing the original blueprints of the Thompson sub-machine gun. An aluminiun frame was chosen in place of the usual steel to as to keep this project totally legal under American law. Otherwise the project could have been regarded as "the construction of a destructive device." All internal and external components were purchased and fitted then black annodized. A new hand grip was required so one was sculpted and cast in resin. The retractable slide and barrel housing hood also needed to be machine from aluminium and slotted to match the existing slots on the SPAS-12 gauge housing (it's getting very technical Mike!).

A ball detent was used to provide a secure two-position lock. Once the main body was finished, both the barrel housing and foregrip of the SPAS-12 were fitted to the gun. Incidently, the barrel housing and foregrip had to be installed backwards to duplicate the look of the actual pulse rifle used in the movie. Next a shell injection port needed to be milled out of the shotgun barrel housing. The charging bolt was then installed within the Thompson frame. Depressing the trigger causes the bolt to move forwards unless the fire selector has been set to the safe position. With all the component parts finished in the sub assemblies this was then encased within the main frame housing. Since this was not commercially available, precise measurements were calculated from available still photos and the Aliens video. The housing is also solid aluminium, fabricated in two identical halves.

An integrated circuit chip illuminating the LEDs, was then fitted within the housing. This is used to dispay the number of of rounds remaining in the mag. (simulated, of course!). The entire system is switched on and off by depressing the tigger on the grenade launcher. One pull turns the system on and an additional pull de-activtaes it. The circuits are usually in the off position to conserve battery and LED life. Additionally, special instructions are programmed into the circuits so that if system is on the insertion of the magazine into the ammo well instantly activates the readouts and displays "00." This then rapidly counts up and stops at 95 (why not 100?). Two 30mm high explosive thumb-press activated grenades were also machined out of aluminium stock and fitted with a two-position click button. They were then fitted with protective pop-off caps to allow insertion into the shotgun feed tube. The pulse rifle replica weighs in at 16 pounds and is mostly fabricated with of machined aluminium, steel, brass, plastic and resin, as were components of the actual firearms. It has a total length of 32" and will function in exactly the same manner as the originals used in the film with the exception of chambering a live round (downer, eh Mike?).

Presently a simlulated firing mechanism is being considered for installation to the system. This will consist of an internal, battery operated glow-plug which, when activated by the trigger, will ignite a wad of flash cotten. This combustion within the barrel causes a fireball to blow out of the tube, simulating a launched grenade!! This is not the kind of thing we make here on our kitchen table, lads (or is it?).

Aliens Sidearms

In the film, when the Pulse Rifles are slung the marines fall back on their military sidearms and the other weapons of choice thry keep hands for "close encounters." The Heckler and Koch VP70Z is an 18-round magazine-fed 9mm semi-automatic pistol which fires three-round bursts. Much of the receiver is constructed of hard plastic and has only four moving parts. When in "machine pistol" mode it is capable of firing 2,200 rounds per minute - ample firepower to handle ANYTHING encountered on a "bug hunt!" The VP70Z is not a design prop. It is, in fact, a "collectors armoury" replica pistol!

Traditionally our earthbound military forces have carried their own personal weapons of choice into war, one favourite being the Remington model 870 mark II 12 gauge 7-round shotgun used by corporal Hicks in Aliens. This was originally chosen by the USCM back in the 60's) as the most reliable combat shotgun during trials. It has remained in military service ever since.

And finally...

My new-found friend helps run a company which produces replica weapons we would all like to own, all fully licensed or pending! My thanks to Ed Maggiani and Steve Dymszo for contacting me and supplying the above information and shots. I've already enquired how much the pulse rifle is (don't tell the wife, Mike - I promise to stop drinking Jack Daniels. Well... to think about it anyway).


This article has been transcribed from Sci-Fi &Fantasy Models magazine #6. This information has been shared here for your information and reading pleasure, however this material remains copyrighted the original author, Mike Howard.