Everyone knows the early Russian cosmonauts were a bunch of hardcore, space-faring, death-defying badasses. But did you know they also packed a tripled barreled pistol/machete in space? Well, they did.
Ever since 1967, space has ostensively been a weapons free zone. Back then, the UK, US and Russia signed the Outer Space Treaty which stated no weapons of mass destruction can be mounted in space. This means sense to me, I mean space is deadly enough without throwing a bunch of machine-guns, nukes and halberds up there too.
Despite this, conventional weapons were still permitted and from 1981 to 2006, Russian cosmonauts travelled with a TOZ 82 pistol. But, despite your sci-fi fantasies, the weapon wasn't supposed to be used against aliens or other astronauts in gratuitous zero-gravity gun-fights. The gun had the slightly less exciting purpose of protecting crews from critters once they arrived back on Earth.
Cosmonauts, like their modern-day NASA colleagues, primarily returned to Earth in the Soyuz capsule. Usually, these crafts are meant to land in large wilderness areas, such as Siberia or the Kazakh steppes. However, occasionally they would land off target and the Soviet space agency became concerned the weak cosmonauts could become a tasty exotic snack for bears and wolves, hence the introduction of the firearm.
The TOZ 82 consists of two smooth-bore shotgun barrels, and a single rifle barrel. Furthermore, the detachable stock of the weapon also doubles as a machete and a shovel, making it a versatile survival tool in a disaster.
Fortunately, as far as we know, the TOZ 82 has never been used for this purpose. Despite this, firearms still remains part of the official survival kit, even after the formation of the International Space Station. Before each departure of a Soyuz, the review committee votes on whether to place a weapon aboard, however, since 2006 a firearm hasn't been flown into space once. Considering the physical and emotional stress of being aboard a claustrophobic space station for months at a time, this seems like a good idea to me.
Do you think it's a good idea to put a gun aboard the space station?