In 1965, a James Bond film was released with the title Thunderball.
This was the fourth film featuring the MI6 superspy, and the number of gadgets and high tech equipment used by Bond had been growing in number and sophistication ever since his first movie in 1962. With Thunderball, all caution was thrown to the winds. If it could be depicted on screen, then the producers and director gleefully worked it into the script.
Although I could type away at this keyboard for hours in an attempt to give the lowdown on the neato gear on display, I would like to narrow things down a bit and mention the climactic underwater battle in the third act. It occurred between SPECTRE, the world spanning terrorist-for-hire criminal organization Bond often had to tangle with, and a brand new branch of the US Navy known as the SEALS. As the SEALS had only been created two years before, in 1962, this presented a way to gain much needed positive press.
All kinds of underwater weaponry was on display, from propeller driven scooters to spear guns to waterproof grenades. If you haven’t seen this film, and you are a fan of action movies, you need to go rent a copy forthwith.
The SEALS may have participated in a movie depicting fictional British spies and an equally fictional organization bent on blackmailing world governments with stolen nuclear weapons, but the all too real Soviet Union was well aware that they suffered a serious vulnerability when it came to guarding against sabotage conducted with underwater demolitions. The only weapon they had to equip their own frogmen for undersea protection was a simple knife, which they judged as being completely inadequate to fend off the expected horde of SEALs that were sure to appear if the Cold War ever turned hot. With this in mind, Communist weapon designers turned their efforts towards developing underwater firearms.
The first that I am aware of is a four barrel pepperbox handgun called the SPP-1, which was adopted in 1971.
It took a few years after the handgun appeared, but the USSR eventually got around to developing an underwater assault rifle called the APS.
As you can see, dear reader, the APS employs the same dart concept that proved to be successful for the handgun, except that the ammunition is more powerful since it is fired from a long gun.
It has been more than 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, and both of the firearms mentioned above are still being manufactured for export. I don’t know if anyone has had a chance to employ one of these bad boys against an aggressive Great White, but I would surely like to see any video footage of the encounter if they have!
The reason why I am taking everyone on a walk down Memory Lane is due to this article from Popular Mechanics. It seems that lionfish are an invasive species with extremely few natural predators, an extremely high birth rate, and which are extremely destructive to any marine environment they can reach. The only effective population control that has been found to date is for humans to get in the water and spear the spiny fish.
So what is going on in the Popular Mechanics article that caught my attention? The lionfish are being hunted by a Glock handgun that has been modified to cycle underwater.
Please note that standard ammunition can be used to shoot the fish, although the people in the video are careful to point out that they were using lead free, non-toxic ammunition in order to preserve the reef as much as possible. They are also careful to mention that lionfish are delicious, and so the meat was not wasted.
I was never interested in spear fishing for some reason, but I wouldn’t mind shooting some fish. I don’t know why that is.
The underwater battle in that movie was truly amazing. And I’m really pretty astounded that Connery didn’t drown during the filming, considering he did most of it without scuba gear.
IIRC Ian Fleming did write the novel ‘Thunderball’ with an idea that it would be made into a movie . . . and actually Wikipedia goes into all that.
Damn the Internet it takes all the fun out of trivia!!!
Anyhow ‘Thunderball’ was a fun movie, and I believe at the time was the most expensive Bond movie to date, and as someone said you can see every dollar spent on the screen.
Interesting piece on the R/L underwater firearms, all of which would look right at home in a Bond movie.
Can’t not mention one R/L bit of kit which showed up in the movie, and which when I first saw it looked waaaay too fantastical, was the Sky-hook retrival system . . . now that was cool. Not sure I’d want to retrived by it, but it cooled seriously cool.
First, James, you get yourself a barrel…
Yeah, was a BIG JB fan, as a kid.