Tech Talk

Tech Talk Episode 5: Top 15 of 21st Century Weapons

In the latest episode of The Debrief’s Tech Talk, hosts Josh Rutledge and newly promoted 4-Star General Stefan Gearhart of the GI Joe branch of the military (where they use lasers) take a closer look at the top 15 weapons of 21st-century warfare.


As usual, their unique combination of intuitive insight combined with a marginal grasp of the actual facts make for an entertaining show that will feel like it was only 57 minutes of your life wasted, and not the 59-plus minutes of actual run time listed on YouTube.


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First up is a handheld, non-lethal weapon known as the Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response rifle. Or put more simply, the PHASR.

“I wonder if somebody comes up with the acronym first, and then they fill in the letters?” Rutledge asks of the seemingly forced acronym.

“Who does that?” Gearhart replies. “Because, if that’s a job in the military, SIGN ME UP!”

In truth, the weapon is a focused, strobing light emitter that serves to confuse an enemy and halt their advance without killing them.

“That’s what’s hitting the person in the face is this kind of really intense strobe light,” explains Rutledge, “which is causing them to say, ‘you know what, I’m going to rethink my life choices. Maybe I don’t want to sell these death sticks in this underground bar.’”

Unfortunately, it appears that this particular PHASR will not make Romulans or Klingons “phase” out of existence with a single blast. However, before firing, it is okay to say “set PHASRs for stun!”

2 The Smart Bullet

“I’ve got my smart lights,” quips Gearhart. “I’ve got my smartphone. I guess I didn’t get the memo that I needed a smart bullet so I can send messages as I’m trying to murder someone.”

“Nope,” replies Rutledge, with a look on his face that says nearly every conversation with his co-host starts more or less the same way,” that’s actually not what this is.”

Instead, he explains, a smart bullet is a bullet that can change its trajectory to hit its target after it has been fired. At least, that’s what I think he meant to say, but the discussion on what makes a smart bullet smart took like half of the entire podcast, so I’m not sure. (The discussion does include an impression of Emperor Palpatine by Gearhart, which in and of itself is worth the time investment)

Examples may include a gun in the movie “Wanted,” as noted by the co-hosts during the pod, or even the cartoon gun used by Eddie Valiant in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which Josh reminded himself of after recording the show, proving that timing is everything.

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3 The Vomit Gun

Yep. The Vomit Gun is exactly what it sounds like it is, and the discussion between our bemused co-hosts about it is hilarious. We won’t spoil any of it here.

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4 XM-25 Smart Grenade Launcher

“Also not for sending messages,” Rutledge clarifies just as Gearhart appeared ready to drop another “smart” joke.

Instead, he explains, “it’s a computerized, magazine-fed, semi-automatic grenade launcher which uses 25mm x 40mm airburst grenades.” He also explains that this launcher can program when the grenade will be detonated. Yikes.

(Note: this section includes some really cool footage the guys tracked down, so it is worth watching. It also includes a discussion on Batman’s morals when it comes to killing people, robots, vampire aliens, or something called para-demons, as well as the ethics behind his selective use of Kryptonite only when Superman is ‘bad’. So there’s that)

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5 The Corner Shot

First of all, no. This is not a discussion of the bar once owned by Minnesota Fats.  In truth, the corner shot is exactly what it sounds like: a gun that can see and shoot around corners.

“The mechanism looks kinda like a rifle stock,” Rutledge explains. “But you take a handgun and you mount it in the front of the device. And then this is remote-controlled via a pistol in the back of the device.”

The Corner Shot also includes a camera and LED screen, so users can see around corners while remaining safely concealed. This discussion leads to a startling insight as to why Gearhart was referred to as “Jesus” for an entire summer. That’s not a joke.

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6 TROPHY Active Defense System

To explain how this system works, Rutledge references a weapons system of the same name used in the game Call of Duty. For those of us who don’t game, he then explains that it is a sky-facing, tank-mounted phalanx that is designed to detect, track, intercept, and shoot down airborne threats like mortars or RPGs, essentially creating a hemisphere of safety above and around the vehicle.

“TROPHY is designed to form a beam of fragments which will intercept any incoming heat threat, including RPG rockets, at a range of 10 to 30 meters from a protected platform,” explains Rutledge.

“Very cool,” Gearhart replies. Very cool indeed, sir.

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7 Javelin Missiles

One of the more successful systems deployed by the US military in recent decades, the Javelin is designed to be launched vertically, then descend toward its target from above.

“Kind of like a lawn dart,” said Gearhart.

In a flashback to their time in Webolos together, and nearly every conversation since, Rutledge briefly acknowledges Gearhart’s crude, if not completely inaccurate observation, and then simply moves on. I think I’ll do the same.

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8 Metal Storm

Arguably one of the coolest systems the guys highlight in this video, Metal Storm is as impressive as it sounds.

“That sounds like a sweet wrestler name,” Gearhart notes with enthusiasm, before shifting to his arena announcer voice. “Coming to the ring…METAL STORM!!!”

“We don’t get nerdy here at all,” adds Rutledge after explaining how Metal Storm could also be a combination of different X-Men.

In actuality, Rutledge explains, Metal Storm is “a rapid-fire system that doesn’t require a reload or a belt-fed system in order to fire multiple projectiles.” Unrelated, but I knew a guy in college who could do the same thing.

The guys also explain how the Australian inventor of Metal Storm was offered something like $100 million dollars from China to bring them the system but he turned them down. So, good on ya, mate.

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9 DARPA Cyborg Moths

Apparently, this is a real thing. It involves attaching a microchip with a camera, microphone (and other sensors, I guess) onto a moth and using it as a spy device. For real.

“It gives a whole new (meaning) to being bugged,” Rutledge quips while making the same “that was funny, right?” face that his wife hates.

The rest of this segment is also one of the funniest and serves as a good reminder of why The Debrief pays these guys as much as we do to put on this show. Bravo, gentlemen.

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10 The Rail Gun

In what has become one of the trademarks of The Debrief’s Tech Talk episodes, the guys’ discussion of the rail gun proves that they only read the UFO articles on our site, and not the other 98% that aren’t UAP related. (Side note: I do the same thing, except for the weekly newsletter, and Tim’s coverage of the war in Ukraine. It’s killer stuff filled with inside looks I don’t read anywhere else)

For instance, their efforts to explain how a railgun works are reminiscent of my grandmother trying to tell a joke….all passion, no punchline. (Another side note: That is also rumored to be the title of Gearhart’s upcoming comedy memoir)

They also failed to mention that the U.S. Navy, which has spent the most money by far on railgun development, recently shelved the entire program, a story covered by The Debrief.

Fortunately, the segment is saved by some intense video of railguns in action. I watched that part like four times.

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11 Hand Held Rail Gun

Yes, The Debrief covered this one, too. No, Josh and Stefan didn’t mention it. Oy vey. At least the segment is really funny and informative. Woo hoo.

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12 Active Denial System

“So, the Active Denial System: the system deployed by women everywhere for me during high school,” Rutledge quips, trying to bring the audience back from Gearhart’s 20-minute diatribe on why he changed his background this far into the show. (Don’t worry, dude. The three nerds who made it this far into the pod are so high they didn’t notice. Seriously. I just asked them.)

“This is also called a heat ray,” Rutledge explains, giving a hint as to the actual microwave radiation technology that allows the ADS to not only ward off his pubescent sexual advances, but offer authorities a non-lethal crowd control system that causes pain, but not permanent injury. Those high school turn downs, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Trust me.

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13 Airborne Laser

“This is actually a laser system that gets mounted under the belly of a plane,” Rutledge explains while pulling individual hairs out of his nose to see if he can make himself cry.

The duo also explains how the threat of rockets bringing down commercial airliners means that these systems may be mounted on civilian airplanes, and not just on military aircraft. Again, cool video found by Rutledge in this segment. I mean, lasers.

14 Laser-Induced Plasma Effect Weapon

The guys were saying that this system uses a plasma ball to allow for communication or something like that, but I kinda zoned out when I thought I heard someone calling my name from a ball of light. But from the parts I heard, it sounds insane. So is the rest of the hosts’ discussion, including how Moses may have spoken with a grey alien. Listen to it.

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15 The Drone Gun

“Is this a gun that has a drone,” asks Gearhart with way too much enthusiasm considering his host is basically unconscious by this point, “or a drone that has a gun?”

“It’s a little rifle system that provides a safe countermeasure against wide-range use of drones,” Rutledge counters as he rubs the sleep from his eyes and slips his old-timey monocle into place. “When disruption is triggered, the drone will respond via vertical, on-the-spot landing, or return to its remote controller or starting point.”

While unconfirmed, reports indicate that Gearhart’s spouse has a similar device she can use on him.

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It’s an APP: My Biorhythms

In the final segment of this episode, the guys discuss an app called “My Biorhythms.” Since this is a science site, I really should object. But since I am also tired after writing about the above 15 weapons systems (FIFTEEN! REALLY?!), I won’t waste your time on how biorhythms aren’t real. I mean, life is short, and the guys really seem to like it. So, good on ya, Josh and Stefan. And another great show. Keep ‘em coming.

Learn more about Josh and Stefan at 

Follow and connect with author Christopher Plain on Twitter: @plain_fiction