Space is getting more and more dangerous these days, with Russia and China standing up to weaponize space. Of course, astronauts and other space travelers have carried weapons into orbit before, though they may never have carried anything like this triple-barreled shotgun-machete.
American astronauts would have no use for such a thing. Soviet Cosmonauts, on the other hand, might need it very badly. Not to shoot American capitalists in low Earth orbit but rather for use against bears.
Before the days of the reusable Space Shuttle program, making re-entry required a capsule that would protect the crew of any spacecraft on re-entry. For this the Soviet Union developed the Soyuz, a spacecraft mounted on a Soyuz rocket. Its re-entry vehicle was (and still is) a capsule, similar to the ones the United States used during the Apollo Program. In Apollo, the capsules splashed down into the ocean and were retrieved by the U.S. Navy. The Russians’ capsule usually falls back down to Earth in Central Asia.
There’s a problem with that, however. Russia is a big country. The Soviet Union was an even bigger country. There’s a lot of space such a capsule could get lost in – and one eventually did.
It’s a terrible idea to fire a firearm inside an oxygen-rich kinetically weightless environment, and all astronauts and cosmonauts no doubt know this very well. But the triple-barreled TP-82 Survival Pistol was never designed to be shot aboard a ship or in the vacuum of space. It was included in the Soyuz survival kit for use on Earth. In 1965, one cosmonaut found out why.
Alexey Leonov – the first human to do a spacewalk – landed his capsule in forests of the snow-covered Ural mountains, some 600 miles off target. Luckily for him, he carried a 9mm pistol that would protect him from the beasts in the untamed wilderness. His fears of landing off-course caused him to lobby for a survival weapon that would be included in all Soyuz capsules. What he got was the TP-82, a weapon that could hunt, take down large predators and fire off flares. But wait, there’s more: The weapon’s buttstock was also a large machete that could be used as another survival tool.
But the survival weapons didn’t show up overnight. Leonov and his partner in the Soyuz capsule that day, Pavel Belyayev, spent two nights on the ground in the Urals, cold and fearful of large predators. They weren’t able to be rescued for two full days before a ground crew could ski out to them in the deep snow and heavy forest canopy. Leonov’s fear of being stranded among brown bears never left him, however. Nearly 20 years after the rescue, he became second in command of the cosmonaut training program in 1981.
He used this influence to develop the three-barreled pistol and make it standard in Soyuz space capsules.