Brandon gave me the green light this week to step away from zombies for a moment and focus on this influential piece of science-fiction gear. Named for the electrical pulses that ignite the primers on its caseless cartridges, the M41A Pulse Rifle was the standard issue weapon of the U.S. Colonial Marines in the 1986 actioner “Aliens.” And when you consider that James Cameron, the movie’s director, was both an avid shooter and a stickler for detail, it’s no surprise that the M41A seemed so plausible in a near-future setting.
It supposedly fired 10mm caseless HEAP rounds, of which it held 95 in its high-tech magazine. But the real appeal was its under-barrel, pump-action 30mm grenade launcher that was said to hold three rounds in the tube. Seeing that every rifleman in the movie was also a multi-shot grenadier made one think “Why aren’t we doing this now?”
Cut to a few years later when our real military's OICW program called for exactly such a weapon. I have no evidence that the directive was inspired by the movie “Aliens,” but it’s not unreasonable to think it might have been. Life has imitated art under less likely circumstances.
Check out this video of a live-ammo-firing M41A built by Lage Manufacturing. The "rifle" portion fires 9mm Parabellum ammunition from a 50-round Suomi magazine, while the "grenade launcher" fires 12-gauge from a two-round tube.
Pat Kilbane is best know for his three-year run on Fox's Mad TV, and recently authored The Brain Eater's Bible, a zombie field manual available in hardcover from Amazon and as an iPad app from the iTunes Store.