Why Did The Russian Cosmonauts Need Guns in Space?

Last updated on January 27th, 2023 at 09:36 pm

Russian cosmonauts were taking no chances in the early days of manned spaceflight. If something went wrong and they became stranded, they wanted to be able to defend themselves against possible attacks.

As a result, Russian cosmonauts have been known to carry a triple-barreled pistol known as the TP-82 on their space missions.

The gun was explicitly developed for cosmonauts. However, it was never intended to be used in space. Instead, the TP-82 is designed as a survival tool if cosmonauts find themselves stranded in the wilderness before recovery.

Unlike astronauts from the United States who regularly land in the ocean upon return to Earth, Russian cosmonauts would instead land in the Siberian wilderness, which is home to many dangerous predators such as bears and wolves.

If a cosmonaut were to find themselves stranded in the wilderness before recovery, the TP-82 would give them a fighting chance against any potential predators.

Yuri Gagarin

What was a TP-82?

The TP-82 is a triple-barreled pistol that was highly unique. It could take down wolves or bears and had an effective firing range of around 200 meters. This pistol was manually operated and loaded with a breakopen mechanism.

The gun was chambered in two different calibers with 5.45x39mm below and 32 gauge shotgun shells above, making it a very versatile weapon. The TP-82 consisted of a single trigger and two exposed hammers making it look more similar to a sawed-off shotgun than a pistol.

This unique pistol also featured a removable stock that doubled as a machete. The stock could be used for cutting wood, digging holes, or self-defense in close-quarters combat.

The TP-82 was also extremely lightweight, weighing only 2.4 kg or 4.3 lbs, including the attached machete stock. Russian cosmonauts were required to carry the TP-82 on all space missions as a contingency if they were stranded during their return to Earth.

The TP-82 was developed in the late 1970s and was first used by cosmonauts in 1981. It remained until the early 2000s when the TP-82 was eventually phased out.

Although Russian cosmonauts no longer use the TP-82, it remains a symbol of the Russian space program’s earliest days. In addition, it is a reminder of the lengths the Russian cosmonauts were willing to go to to ensure their safety while exploring the unknown.

Where did Russia’s idea to bring guns into space originate?

The idea for the TP-82 came about in 1965 when Alexei Leonov became stranded when his capsule mount functioned, and he found himself 600 miles away from his intended landing zone.

Leonov recalls being extremely worried for his safety while stranded in the Siberian wilderness and wished he had some way to defend himself.

After being rescued, Leonov brought up the idea of a cosmonaut carrying a gun on future space missions to his superiors.

The idea was met with skepticism at first. Still, after some discussion, it was decided that the TP-82 would be developed as a contingency in case another cosmonaut found themselves in a similar situation.

The TP-82 served as a reminder of the dangers of exploring the unknown and symbolized the lengths Russian cosmonauts were willing to go to to ensure their safety. Despite never being used in space, the gun remains a symbol of Russian space exploration. 

Since Alexi Leonov became stranded in 1965, the need for a gun in space became apparent to Russian officials. In 1981, the TP-82 pistol was developed as a means for cosmonauts to defend themselves if they were stranded on Earth. The gun could take down wolves or bears and had an effective firing range of around 200 meters.

Although the TP-82 was never actually used in space, it remains an iconic part of the early days of the Russian space program. It reminds us of the brave explorers willing to put their lives on the line to further our understanding of the universe.

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