January 31, 2024
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The Pyro-15 from Mountainside Outfitters occupies an interesting niche amidst the modern pantheon of cool-guy toys President Biden very likely wishes you couldn’t have. The Pyro-15 apes the AR-15 in general morphology and could accept common black rifle accessories should you feel so inclined. However, the Pyro-5 isn’t a gun. It’s a flamethrower. In Joe Biden’s America, the wrong barrel length or firing mechanism on your firearm is adequate to get you ten years in the big house. Guns are forever being sullied, limited, restricted, prohibited, and despised. By contrast, unless you live in California or Maryland, the Pyro-15 ships straight to your door. If you call one of those two states home and could tolerate a little friendly advice, I would just quit my job and move. Let’s get one thing out of the way right from the beginning. This is a question your spouse will invariably ask when you meekly inform her that you are planning to add a Pyro-15 flamethrower to the family arsenal, “Why exactly does anyone need a flamethrower?” You may not need a flamethrower. There hasn’t been an American who needed a flamethrower for defense since 1945 when the Marines won the Battle of Okinawa. You don’t buy yourself a flamethrower because you need it. You buy a flamethrower because it is just so flipping cool, but there are agricultural uses as well.
Big Screen Cred
The year is 2179. Ellen Ripley has been floating in deep space aboard a lifeboat for 57 years. When she was fortuitously found and awakened she related an insane story about giant bloodthirsty monsters with concentrated acid for blood. She claims that one of these creatures killed the rest of her crew. She alleges that she barely survived by destroying her ship, the Nostromo, and blasting the animal out of an airlock. Her first questions once she is awakened concern LV-426, the forlorn planet where they allegedly discovered these horrific creatures. She is mortified to find that the planetoid has been occupied by civilian colonists and their families for years and that it is being terraformed into an inhabitable world. The colony is now called Hadley’s Hope. However, contact with the colony has recently been lost. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation sponsors a rescue mission that includes a team of highly-trained US Colonial Marines aboard the USS Sulaco. Upon their arrival after hypersleep, things go immediately sideways.
The Marines do what Marines do—they ruck up and charge into Hadley’s Hope to rescue the colonists. They find the colonists’ personnel trackers all clustered together underneath the atmosphere processing station, an enormous fusion-powered installation that creates breathable air for the entire planetoid. This is also the warmest place on the rock. As Ripley, company representative Carter Burke, and Marine LT Gorman monitor the progress of the team into the processing station, Ripley has a revelation.
“Lieutenant, what do those pulse rifles fire?”
“10 millimeter explosive tip caseless. Standard light armor piercing rounds. Why?”
“Well, look where your team is. They’re right under the primary heat exchangers.”
“So, if they fire their weapons in there, won’t they rupture the cooling system?”
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Burke interjects, “Ho, ho, ho. Yeah, she’s absolutely right.”
“So? So what?”
Burke continued, “Look, this whole station is basically a big fusion reactor, right? So you’re talkin’ about a thermonuclear explosion and adiós, muchachos.”
LT Gorman is clearly out of his depth. He gets the team leader, Gunnery Sergeant Apone, to stop the advance for a confab. Gorman sheepishly directs Apone to collect magazines so his Marines cannot damage the heat exchangers. Apone reluctantly does so, leaving his team with their handguns, a single cut-down shotgun, and their handheld flamethrowers, called incinerators, for use against whatever hostiles they might encounter. As you might expect, a lot of bad stuff happens at that point. As Gorman loses total control of the tactical situation, he radios Apone, “I want you to lay down a suppressing fire with the incinerators and fall back by squads to the APC, over.”
By now the fight is fully evolved, and Marines Vasquez and Drake unlimber their gyro-stabilized M-56 Smart Guns and rip apart the countryside. What results is honestly the coolest bit of combat science fiction ever put to film. If you read this magazine, and haven’t seen the epic 1986 James Cameron film Aliens at least three times then I’ll be hanging onto your man card until you can rectify that. I personally own two copies on Blu-Ray. The first is in case the Internet dies and I can’t stream the movie online. The second is in case I accidentally break the first one. The real stars of the movie are not Ripley, Hicks, Hudson, and Newt. For guys like us the real attraction is the M-41A Pulse Rifle, the M-56 Smart Gun, and the M-240 Incinerator Unit. I delve into such detail on this incredible movie today simply because the Pyro-15 from Mountainside Outfitters really is a splendid stunt double for the M-240 Incinerators used in the movie Aliens.
The Pyro-15 is built into an AR-15 chassis. The pistol grip, buttstock assembly, and forearm are standard AR fare, while the upper and lower receivers are custom. There is an electrical safety switch on the right side of the lower receiver. The trigger and magazine release operate just as one might expect. The Pyro-15 accepts a rechargeable battery underneath the forearm. The fuel tank feeds through the magwell and locks in place using the standard magazine release. The gun uses rechargeable batteries for power. These are the sorts of rechargeable power cells used by cordless power tools. You can specify DeWalt, Makita, or Milwaukee battery formats.
The entrails of this rig are just freaking brilliant. The Pyro-15 uses an automotive fuel pump for pressure. The twin igniters are adapted from those used in industrial furnace systems. They don’t actually spark until the fuel is streaming between the electrodes. The final package weighs about five pounds empty. To run the Pyro-15, you mount up a battery and mix your fuel. Experimentally determining the optimal fuel mixture is half the fun. Pure gasoline produces massive plumes of short-range bright yellow fire. Adding about 40% diesel fuel by volume thickens the mix for longer ranges. Enterprising pyromaniacs online have experimented with a variety of concoctions to obtain longer range and stickier results using weird stuff like rubbing alcohol and acetone. The fuel tank is hexagonal for a reason. You can set the tank on the appropriate facet on a flat surface and have the refuel port facing up rather than off to the side. This makes refueling a snap. The Pyro-15 is quite simple. Once you run the gun dry you can leave the fuel cap cracked someplace where you don’t have to breathe the fumes and the mechanism is essentially self-cleaning. The manual of arms will seem familiar to anyone who has ever run an AR-15.
I actually got paid to do this. Wow. The performance of the Pyro-15 downrange is driven by how spunky your battery is and how you’ve mixed your fuel. The exit orifice is tiny, so the gun produces a laser-thin stream of flaming gasoline. It is simply that without a thickening agent the gas aerosolizes into a massive gout of flame. The Pyro-15 shoots straight, but it is an area weapon system. You also have to be ever mindful of the wind. It is indeed tempting to unleash this monster from the hip and spin 360 degrees while singing along to Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, if you have a stiff breeze this could be a really bad idea. Particularly if you’ve thickened up your fuel, you really don’t want this stuff falling back down on you. The ignition process was curious. I tried mixing a little old motor oil in with my fuel to thicken it up, but the stream would not ignite reliably. Pure gas will light off right out of the gun. The greater the proportion of diesel the thinner the stream and the later it ignited. I would estimate the typical range from my outings at about 20–25 feet. Supposedly some enterprising pyromaniacs online have used proprietary fuel mixtures to coax up to 40 feet out of it. Once I was done I just wiped everything down, cracked the fuel cap, and left it in the workshop to air out. After burning several tanks of fuel through the Pyro-15 I did need a shower. I smelled like an oil refinery.
So, what’s it really good for? I honestly wouldn’t want to charge across the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945 humping a Pyro-15 portable flamethrower from Mountainside Outfitters. However, I really cannot imagine a set of circumstances under which I’d want to charge across the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945. Those awesome old guys were better than am I. While you could indeed conceivably use the Pyro-15 to clean out a hostile pillbox, that’s not its mission. The Pyro-15 could conceivably sit loaded for an extended period ready to fire with the flip of an electrical safety switch. As such, it could conceivably have defensive uses…if you don’t mind utterly incinerating whatever it is you wish to defend. As the island-hopping campaigns of World War 2 ended some 78 years ago, and there are much better home defense options available today, that pretty much rules out the tactical applications. What’s left is even better.
Anything that needs burning would be amenable to the Pyro-15. Use it to start the bonfire in the backyard for your kids’ sleepover and be prepared to be the most awesome dad in the universe. Shooting excursions, Independence Day celebrations, and barbecue outings are all suitable venues. It is also cool to just go out in the driveway and shoot fire into the sky. There is also the case for controlled burns in dry environments which save lives and property but get together with a local fireman if you have concerns about your rural property during those weather conditions. For agricultural uses, like burning up a football-sized hornet’s nest on the back 40 because your children are highly allergic to bee stings, well it would do the job better than any Orkin man can (more entertaining anyway and save you a couple hundred bucks). Gasoline isn’t as cheap as was once the case, but it is not as expensive as ammunition, either. A couple of gallons of gas will fill your onboard fuel reservoir many times. The two-gallon backpack tank is available if you really need to burn up a whole lot of stuff.
The Obligatory Safety Tripe
Fire is actually pretty easy to understand. It is fuel, air, and heat. Subtract any one piece of that equation and you don’t get fire. I have studied the Pyro-15 in detail, and it seems quite safe if used as directed. However, it would be a cast iron mess in the hands of stupid people. You do need to be mindful of the wind. Firing into a decent headwind will tend to push the conflagration back onto you. Likewise if you fire it straight up into the air. It goes without saying, but you need a clear head to play with the Pyro-15. Like firearms, flamethrowers and drinking alcohol just wouldn’t mix well. The fine folks at Mountainside Outfitters are lunatics, and their Pyro-15 is undeniably cool. Several companies make flamethrowers these days, but the Pyro-15 actually looks like a gun and is quite easy to manage and maintain. In the eyes of Uncle Sam, these things are tools rather than weapons. That makes them easy to obtain.
That’s all just as well. The Pyro-15 is undeniably fun, but you’d have to be pretty darn stupid to sit still if somebody was chasing you with one. So long as basic safety dicta are adhered to, the Pyro-15 should be fairly harmless. However, it will add a whole new dimension to your holiday celebrations. Be careful, don’t burn up the house or scorch the family cat, and have a great time turning a little gasoline into a lot of fire. ‘Merica! The MSRP for the Pyro-15 is $1,200. Spare fuel tanks are $200. A two-gallon backpack fuel tank is $400. Visit MountainsideOutfitters.com for more information.
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