In this week’s episode of WGW, we’ll be diving deep into the world of strange guns meant for undersea usage, exploring the wonder of the five-barreled, dart-projecting H&K P11. One part pepperbox revolver, one part submarine, this waterborne weapon is one of H&K’s most furtive, covert designs.
Where you’ve seen it:
Angelina Jolie sports one of these H2O handguns in the movie Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life.
Like all the coolest guns in history, the H&K was one only a few very privileged people were supposed to know existed. First produced in 1976, H&K designed the P11 specifically for the German army’s “Kampfschwimmer,” or combat divers, and kept it highly classified. For a while. Exact numbers produced aren’t known, but everyone, it seems—from the Israelis to the French—seems to have them now.
The P11 is battery powered/electric actuated using a battery pack located in the grip. The entire pistol is of polymer construction and weighs 42 ounces loaded—a little less than a loaded 1911. The inside of the barrels and the projectiles are protected from salt water by thin diaphragms, which are punctured by the rounds as they exit the barrels. Since the barrels aren’t rifled, they don’t stabilize the projectiles—relying on the cartridges’ fins for stability. Once all five cartridges have been discharged, the unit’s barrel “pack” must either be discarded (if in a hurry) or returned to the manufacturer to be reloaded (if used in training).
The P11 fires 7.62mm x 36 “caliber” mini solid-fueled finned rockets approximately four inches in length. A prerequisite of this projectile: it needed the power and accuracy to penetrate a diving mask at up to 15 meters. Ouch. It delivers that and more: above the water, though inaccurate, the rocket can travel 98 feet. Below the water, it can reach distances of up to fifty feet and still be lethal.
The one thing that comes to mind with the P11 is that, if James Bond and his buddies had been armed with these during the epic underwater brawl scene in Thunderball, the fight would have been over much more quickly. It’d definitely be a big hit at a pool party.