Firearms tinkerer and car nut Alex fascinated the internet with his do-it-yourself steampunk gatling gun and now he has upped the ante significantly to what he says is his own homemade railgun. The contraption looks like a weapon right out of the movie District 9 and appears to work incredibly well in the test videos he just posted.

Alex’s railgun apparently operates by producing a magnetic field spread along a double helix rail system. A projectile made of a copper sleeve attached to gas-filled vacuum tube filled with neon gas then flies down that rail once the field is energized.

The result is an electronic cannon with rounds that can penetrate fairly thick metal plates and his design seems much more streamlined than other garage-built rail guns that have been popping up lately.

Alex elaborates further on his invention:

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“Its basically just a big four foot long railgun. It just plugs into a 220v outlet and charges up a capacitor bank. I’m not sure if the neon gas is actually ionized into plasma or not since I can’t see it in flight. But ionizing gas into plasma isn’t too uncommon, just shooting it is (since plasma dissipates instantly unless contained within a vacuum or magnetic field). So I don’t know how exactly its penetrating the metal (plasma burning through it or the copper sleeve just blasting through it) but ya, I’m sure railguns will be more and more portable and powerful over time, it’s just hard to store enough energy to fire multiple shots or have it compact.”

If indeed everything is as it appears, this is pretty cool stuff that sure is on a whole other level than Alex’s previous invention. And, yes Alex is right, one day we will likely see mass-production portable railguns become a reality, especially for certain applications.

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Such a system could potentially allow law enforcement and soldiers to dial down the lethality of the weapon, with low velocities used for less-than-lethal applications and high velocities used for lethal and armored piercing ones. Additionally, the ammunition selection could be much more varied and exotic than what is found with traditional firearms cartridges. They could also make guided rounds more affordable and reliable, as their sensitive electronics would not be battered by a single explosive charge upon firing.

We are still a ways off until any of this is realized though. In the meantime, we will just have to make due with the Navy’s big railgun that will be making its operational test debut next year.

Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com