As a rule, guns aren’t taken into space for two reasons. Firstly, a gun can easily punch a hole through the thin metal wall of a spacecraft and kill everyone inside. Secondly, going into space is expensive and every piece of kit costs a small fortune to take up there so just a handgun could cost upwards of $25,000 to bring up with you. This can be replaced with something of much more value such as food, water, or equipment. In the early days of space exploration, the Russians did bring guns with them, in this article we’re going to explore why and look into the three barrelled weapons issued to Soviet cosmonauts.
Sorry to disappoint, but the Soviet cosmonauts weren’t armed to fight off extra-terrestrial threats. Instead, they carried weapons in the event of a crash landing. Since it was impossible to accurately predict where they would come back down and it could take days for them to be recovered, they were armed with weapons to shoot bears, wolves, and other predators lurking in the wilderness of the USSR. and survive in the wilderness when they came back down to earth. However, the weapon’s lifespan was shortlived as the Soviets quickly figured out how to aim the landings more accurately.
What Guns Did Soviet Cosmonauts Carry?
The pistol issued to the Soviet cosmonauts was the TP-82 (ТП-82 in the Russian language). This was a triple-barrelled Soviet pistol that was carried by all cosmonauts on early space missions. It was intended as a survival aid to be used after landings and before recovery in the Siberian wilderness. The TP-82 could be used for hunting, to defend against predators and to create distress signals. The detachable buttstock was also a machete that came with a canvas sheath.
The upper two shotgun barrels used 12.5×70 mm ammunition (40 gauge), and the lower rifled barrel used 5.45×39mm ammunition developed for the AK-74 assault rifle. The TP-82 had a large lever on the left side of the receiver that opens the action, and a small grip-safety under the trigger-guard that resembled a secondary trigger.
The TP-82 was the result of cosmonaut Alexei Leonov’s concerns after being stranded in the Siberian wilderness when his Voskhod capsule malfunctioned. He feared that the 9mm pistol that was provided in the survival kit would be ineffective against the Siberian wildlife, namely bears and wolves.
TP-82s were carried regularly on Soviet and Russian space missions from 1986 to 2007. They were part of the Soyuz Portable Emergency-Survival Kit. In 2007, the media reported that the remaining ammunition for the TP-82 had become unusable and that a regular semi-automatic pistol would be used on future missions.