Issue 22 XMatter X15 Flamethrower – From the God Bless America Files Iain Harrison Join the Conversation Who Wouldn't Want Their Own Personal Flamethrower? It's considered journalistic best practice, endorsed by such august bodies as the New York Times, that any article on flamethrowers must start with the industry-approved, classic George Carlin quote. But as they're a bunch of whiny, metrosexual dickweasels, we'll instead invite you to consider why anyone might think it would be a good idea to stroll onto a battlefield with 3 gallons of pressurized napalm strapped to their backs. Seriously, if you saw an enemy with a flamethrower, wouldn't you want to lay on the trigger and send 200 rounds of 4-bit hate his way — just to see the resulting ambulatory Roman candle? The flamethrower has always been what my former countrymen might refer to as a “comedy weapon.” Ungainly, difficult to use effectively from the prone position, cursed with a limited range and long reload time, it was retired from U.S. service long after other countries decided that if you really needed to use flame effects to dislodge a dug-in force, then liquidizing their lungs with a thermobaric warhead was a far cheaper and more effective alternative. What flamethrowers are really great for, though, is panty wadding. You see, despite a lack of any incidents of criminal misuse of a flamethrower, our betters in the media seem to have latched onto the launch of several new consumer models as the perfect opportunity to wax lyrical about their potential dangers. No doubt a hack politician or two will be along shortly to bask in the limelight cast by their adoring useful idiots and announce legislation to save us from this evil menace. Cue Senator de León in 3, 2, 1… Shorts, check. T-shirt, check. Eye pro, nope. Looks like we've got absolutely nothing that OSHA would approve of. But it's OK kids, we're professionals. Despite all the hoopla and hand wringing, completely absent from news media reports has been objective analysis of whether the XMatter X15 and its ilk are, in fact, any good. Maybe mainstream journos don't like the idea of getting their hands sullied by icky weapons. Or maybe they just need to nut up. We requested a test unit from XMatter owner Quinn Whitehead and hot footed it to our local gas station for err, ammo. XMatter The XMatter X15 flamethrower closely follows the principles first used in the German Flammenwerfer Kleif of 1906. A large tank containing flammable liquid is pressurized by a smaller propellant bottle, causing the fuel to be expelled through a nozzle, and a torch attached to the nozzle ignites the fuel as it heads downrange. Simple, effective, and heavy. The X15 uses readily available commercial products to achieve the same effect. An aluminum 20-pound CO2 tank is adapted as the fuel container, with a pressure gauge attached to its valve. Normally, the valve would control the flow of gas leaving the tank — in this case, it controls propellant entering it. A hose fitting attaches to the tank's base, delivering pressurized fuel to the nozzle, which is controlled by a squeeze-operated valve on the lance. If you think this bears an uncanny resemblance to a pressure washer wand, well, there's a very good reason for that. Fuel is ignited by means of your standard, garden variety Bernzomatic blowtorch — press the piezo igniter to fire the torch with the left hand, squeeze the pistol grip with the right, and you've got yourself a flaming good time. The driving force behind its 3.3-gallon capacity is a 20-ounce CO2 paintball tank, which pressurizes the main tank to an indicated maximum of 1,000 psi via an unregulated pigtail hose. As the pressure gauge pegged when we first opened the CO2 valve, tank pressure may well have been a lot higher than this — our paintball tank was rated to 4,500 psi. The whole shebang is strapped to an ALICE frame by means of a few threaded hoops bolted to the frame crossmembers. One niggle about the design that we hope will be addressed is that there's no easy way to vent pressure once the system is charged. If you find yourself with unexpended fuel and want to transport the X15 in a vehicle to the next piece of real estate to suffer its fiery wrath, you have the choice of either relying on the trigger safety to prevent a fuel ND or gingerly unscrewing the main valve body, neither of which is ideal. There's no equivalent drill to reinserting the mag on an empty chamber. If the manufacturer were to incorporate a dump valve into the charging line, then the propellant bottle could be shut off and pressure bled from the fuel tank. Let's talk about fuel. We have a few easy options when it comes to lighting things up, namely diesel, gasoline, or a combination of both. Straight gas is the most volatile, but it disappears in a quick poof of flame as it streaks towards the target. We found diesel to be impossible to light unless it was doped with the addition of the manufacturer's recommended 10-percent volume of gas — so don't even try. XMatter was kind enough to send along a baggie containing a thickening agent, which when mixed with gas and added to diesel, creates a syrupy compound, prolonging burn time and allowing the fuel to stick to your target a little longer. Rounds Downrange Before heading out the range we enlisted the help of a good friend — let's call him Sam — who also happens to be a firefighter paramedic. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, while it's a projectile weapon, flamethrowers are slightly outside of our wheelhouse and having someone around who treats burn casualties on a regular basis seemed like a good idea. Second, anyone who's been around first responders will attest that firefighters are some of the biggest pyromaniacs alive, and if our buddy found out we'd been launching burning napalm without him, we could end up being stabbed in the throat. Although the admonishment to “RTFM” could have been coined with us in mind, the possibility of becoming visible from low earth orbit made us deviate from our normal SOP and follow the included directions rather closely, and nervous jokes were made as Sam volunteered to hit the trigger first. Throwing the not inconsiderable weight on his back, Sam lit the torch, then squeezed the valve at the front of the X15's pistol grip. A jet of flame 50 feet long spewed from the nozzle, followed in quick succession by a rolling black cloud of greasy smoke and maniacal laughter from the both of us. There's something about a flamethrower that brings out the big kid in all of us — who hasn't grabbed a can of their mom's hair spray and a lighter in their misspent youth? Forty seconds worth of pyrotechnic fun later, the main tank coughed and spluttered, letting us know it was time for a refill. By our calculations, this thing gets about 14 cackles per gallon, or five guffaws per liter, should you favor the metric system. So should you add one to your shopping list? Let's get this out the way first — $1,600 is a lot of coin to drop on something that looks like it came out the plumbing department of Home Depot, held together with hose clamps and zip ties. Then again, you may want to consider that, should you be of a DIY mindset, the X15 has been tested ahead of time and has a proven track record in the marketplace. To date, no one has needed to answer the riddle of, “What has two legs and goes woof?” We can vouch that the X15 fulfills its design intent of setting stuff on fire. We can also attest that it's a lot more fun than an evening at your local comedy club, and will definitely produce more laughs. Its greatest value, however, lies in pissing off panty-waisted muppets, and for that reason alone, it's priceless. XMatter X15 Flamethrower Caliber 1⁄8, 3⁄16, and ¼-inch tips included Dimensions 14x14x26 inches Weight (Empty) 49 pounds Capacity 3.3 gallons MSRP $1,599 URL www.throwflame.com Explore RECOILweb:Belgrade Military History MuseumMeanwhile in...Thailand?Poseurs who teachColonial Williamsburg Opens Musket Range NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. 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