4.5 mm Underwater Pistol SPP-1: A frogmen’s best friend

Author: Ian Hogg

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4.5 mm Underwater Pistol SPP-1 is an underwater pistol designed for underwater use by combat divers. Such weapons have been in the inventories of major armies for some years but are not publicized, and the first such weapon to be seen at an international arms exhibition was the Russian 4.5 mm Underwater pistol SPP-1, first shown in 1992. Conventional firearms do not perform well underwater for various technical reasons, and thus the design of this pistol is quite unlike any weapon used on land.

Design

The Underwater pistol SPP-1 has four barrels arranged in a block to be tipped down to expose the breech end for loading. The round of ammunition is a drag-stabilized dart 115 mm long, the rear end being secured inside a cartridge case of fairly conventional shape. Four rounds are held together by a clip so that the whole clip can be handled as one unit, and the four rounds are slipped into the four barrels.

4.55 Underwater Pistol SPP-1M
4.55 Underwater Pistol SPP-1M (Photo: Russian State Arsenals)

The barrels are then folded down and locked to the breech, which contains a self-cocking firing mechanism that fires each round in succession for four pulls of the trigger. The cartridge contains a piston which, when the powder explodes, is driven forward and launches the dart from the barrel; the piston is stopped by the bottle-neck of the cartridge so that no gas escapes into the water.

Effective range

The darts are sufficiently accurate to strike within a 150 mm (6 in) circle at 100 meters range when fired in the air, and the short-range underwater accuracy is said to be comparable. The effective underwater range varies according to the depth and water pressure; at five meters, the dart has a lethal effect at a 17 meters range, while at 40 meters depth, the effective range is only six meters.

The darts can penetrate all types of wet or drysuit, face masks, and helmets at these ranges. And, of course, they can be used as self-protection against the more dangerous types of fish and mammals liable to be encountered during underwater activities.

The Russians have also developed a 5.66 mm underwater rifle using a dart cartridge. With approximately double the pistol range, it is a semi-automatic weapon that uses a similar mechanism to the AK-47 rifle.

Technical specifications: 4.5 mm Underwater Pistol SPP-1

Manufacturer: Russian state arsenals
Type: multi-barrel repeater
Caliber: 4.5 mm Special
Barrel: about 8.25 in (210 mm)
Weight (empty): 33.5 oz (995 grams)
Magazine capacity: Four rounds
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