The Gun Doctor

“The Krummlauf & The Corner Shot”

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Gun Doctor!

Researching for this week’s episode I stumbled across and old article in Popular Mechanics about the first attempt at making a gun that shoots around corners.

The Krummlauf is a perfect example of Germany’s late-war obsession with impractical secret weapons to turn the tide of World War II—which actually had the effect of diverting critical resources to outlandish ends. It is a curved barrel device that was clamped onto the end of an MP-44 rifle to allow soldiers to shoot over obstacles without exposing themselves to return fire.

Development of the Krummlauf began in 1943, when early testing was done to attach a curved 20mm barrel to an 8mm rifle. The idea was to use the curved 20mm section as a sort of trough to redirect the bullets. It was assumed that a curved barrel that was actually the same diameter as the bullet would cause too much stress and friction to work—but that notion was disproven in later tests. It turned out that a standard diameter barrel actually worked much better.

Two different versions of the Krummlauf were made. One had a 30° bend to the barrel and was intended for infantry use. The other had a much more severe 90° bend and was intended for mounting in armored vehicles. The Krummlauf would give the crew a way to shoot at enemy soldiers trying to approach the vehicle with explosives.

The infantry model is more commonly seen today. Its barrel was a total of 14 inches long, with a 4-inch straight barrel, then a 5.5 inch curved section, and then another 4.5 inches of straight barrel. It included a large mirror to allow a soldier using it to see where the gun was pointing. A front sight was mounted on the end of the Krummlauf, and a rear sight was located just behind the mirror.

U.S. military testing after the war showed that bullets usually would break in half when fired through the device, making it useless for anything but very close ranges, which actually was its intended use.

A series of vent holes were drilled into the initial straight section of the barrel to relieve some of the gas pressure as the bullet entered the curved section, although this did not prevent the device from having a service life of only a few hundred rounds.

The Krummlauf was a failure, in part because the barrel quickly wore out, but more fundamentally because it was unrealistic to expect that such a minor gimmick—even a hundred of them—could help turn the tide of the war in favor of Germany. Although the United States and Soviet Union scooped up a variety of German “wonder weapons” after the war, the Krummlauf wasn’t one of them, and the concept went away for the next fifty years.

Ironically, the next corner gun concept came from Israel. In the early 2000s, Israeli counter-terrorist unit commander Lieutenant Colonel Amos Golan introduced his invention the Corner Shot.

Corner Shot was designed to do much the same thing as the Krummlauf, allowing troops (and SWAT teams) to engage targets from behind cover, but with several marked differences.

Unlike the Krummlauf, Corner Shot doesn’t try to turn the bullet but instead turns the entire weapon. Corner Shot is essentially a hinged chassis, into which a pistol such as a Glock, Beretta 92, or another handgun is installed. A video camera is bore sighted to the pistol, providing a live feed to the shooter, and a built-in tactical light provides illumination in dark spaces. There is a separate provision for installing a visible aiming laser.

The Corner Shot chassis essentially turns the pistol into a shoulder-fired carbine, with a twist: at the press of a button, Corner Shot can tilt left for right, allowing the shooter to remain behind cover while observing the camera feed. A trigger extension runs from the handgun itself to a separate chassis trigger and pulling the trigger on the Corner Shot fires the handgun. A separate trigger locks the firing mechanism, and the installed pistol can still use its own separate trigger. Another press of the button locks the pistol into the forward-firing position.

Corner Shot has many of the same applications as the Krummlauf, including use by vehicle crews against enemy troops outside the vehicle they are riding in. Unlike its predecessor, Corner Shot is only supposed to be one of many tactical advantages that a ground force has going into battle, not a gimmick borne of desperation.

Corner Shot is a great example of moving past a failed answer to a problem and tackling it in a new and unique way. The system has reportedly already been used in counter-terror operations of the post-9/11 era, and the growing urbanization of modern warfare will probably ensure that it, or something like it, will continue to serve ground forces worldwide for decades to come.

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For the Gun Doctor I’m Tim Bivins