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Ask Correia 3: Sci-Fi Weapons

Looks like we’ve started a tradition. In the last On Writing post I was asked this:

A New Writing Question:

Hi Larry. Here is a new writing question. What would be the best approach for writing about futuristic weapons (say 200-300 years in the future)? How does one figure out what those weapons would look like, act like, sound like, etc.? I look at authors like David Weber and can only shake my head at how they figure out weapon calibers, etc.

Are there certain limitations and factors to consider that would hold no matter when a weapon is designed?

Let’s limit it to “average” army weapons (e.g. pistols, assualt rifles, sniper rifles etc.).

Thanks,

Scott

That’s an awesome question, but I’m no expert. I’m not really a sci-fi writer (yet), but I do know a bunch about guns. And as the philosopher Ron Perlman warns us in Fallout, “and war never changes.”  (because war has always consisted of hitting giant radioactive scorpions with sledgehammers), regardless of tech, some small arm’s features are universal.

There were already some very smart responses in the comments.  From Tim P:

The last 200-300 years have seen major changes to firearms, it would be very hard to work out what the next 200-300 years will hold. It’s possible we’ll just have fancier versions of what’s used Today, or we might have entirely switched to something completely new. Probably the most important part is to make sure the ergonomics of the weapon make sense. Some of the Star Trek phasers (I think NG) are examples of doing this wrong. They where shaped in such a way that it would have been almost impossible to point them with any precision. Obviously more relevant to TV and movies that books though, but it still applies if you’re going to describe the usage of the weapon in detail.

I totally agree on the phasers.  Really, space marines will never go into combat with dust busters. I don’t care if your pistol can be set with power levels from tickle to disintegrate to hand grenade (as the plot requires), you still need to aim the damn things. And since I didn’t see any sort of targeting system built into their comfy looking space-jammies, I’m guessing they did a lot of point shooting instruction at Star Fleet Academy.

There are a few universals. You need to aim it somehow. Hitting stuff is helpful. Ergonomics are nice too. I love sci-fi where guns in the future will have no stocks but are really large.  If the show is really forward thinking, they’ll put lots of glowing lights on the weapon, because A. it looks cool. and B. you never have to wait for the enemy to spot you.

Another potential fault would be to make the limitations of your sci-fi super weapon such that modern weapons would be better. Sure your super-laser will vaporise people with a single shot, but it’s super fragile, only has one shot before it needs to sit for five minutes to recharge, and costs a fortune; why not just give your soldiers AK-47s? Obviously this is a hard mistake to make, but I have seen it occasionally

Once again, Tim nails it. I remember one series I read as a kid where they were using small arms (some sort of plasma weapon, if I recall correctly) but the barrels would get super hot and melt, and needed to be ejected and replaced every few shots… Okay, I don’t care if your pistol makes the other dude explode, if he’s got a couple of friends with rocks, you’re screwed. That is not a step up.  Realistically, if there was  a weapon system like that, and it was super powerful and line of sight capable of smoking a tank, then you would run one in a squad, with several other guys shooting guns that didn’t need significant parts replaced every few seconds.

You all may know him as the opening quote guy from Monster Hunter International, but Dillis Freeman is also a smart gun guy and writer. He also gave some great advice:

Beyond physics and the tradeoffs inherent in any man portable system, there are two questions I’ve found helpful when “designing” weapons: 1) what is the purpose of the weapon and 2) what kind of society/character designed it? In some circumstances, they are related. Is the society one where function, cost and simplicity the main goal? In that case, you might end up with something like an AK: cheap, shoddy to some, yet very reliable. The weapon’s purpose is to be sufficiently cheap to arm mass numbers, yet effective enough that it will do its job. Is the society one where harming another “excessively” or “unnecessarily” frowned upon? You could have a 22nd Century Hague convention which limited the nature of ammuniton. Or perhaps all weapons will require safety interlocks to insure only certain people could use them. Such a society would also lean heavily towards less than lethal weapons (which shows how purpose and societal background are related).

You see that now in the modern world. Many nations are currently trying to develop alternative “less-lethal” methods of fighting. The main reason being societal, because you know, killing your enemies is messy and gets on the news. I’ve seen glue sprayers, all manner of OC, sound wave thingies, paralysis agents, or even really bad music at loud volumes. Meanwhile non-cuddly countries are trying to figure out how to modernize AKs or plastic AR-18s with air bursting grenades.

As with everything, research is key. The one thing you don’t want to do is to violate physics and common sense without very good reason. Anything projectile launcher will have recoil commensurate with the physics involved unless it’s a self-propelled round or has some handwavium going on (nothing like reading about recoilless rail guns or small arms throwing objects at relativistic speeds without ill effect on the shooter to reveal that the author either misunderstood what was happening or left out a step like “inertial dampening” when describing the scene. If the rest of the technology doesn’t reflect that such things exist, then the former answer is more likely than the latter).

Way over my little accountant brain. (but I learned my accounting on the street!).  Just remember, the mack-daddy of all sci-fi said There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Energy isn’t free, recoil sucks, and somebody has to carry the damn thing.

In all honesty, it’s important to remember that the more things change, the more they remain the same. As others have stated, we’ve reached a certain pinnacle of small arms. Most development now is evolutionary rather revolutionary, and the really revolutionary stuff (i.e. directed energy weapons) has some significant drawbacks. If Han Solo hadn’t had a very compact power source and highly effective energy projection and heat dispersal capabilities, along with some mechanism for handling considerable recoil (even energy weaons will display recoil), then he would have been carrying something a lot closer to a Glock than a blaster.

Star Wars is the ultimate example of Rule of Cool. None of the technology in Star Wars makes a lick of sense, but we love it anyway, because it is awesome. Hell, the ultimate force in the universe is a space monk with a lightning sword who fights dudes wearing bulky armor that doesn’t actually do anything, shooting guns from the hip that fire beams of energy at sixty miles an hour. That’s a neat trick, blocking blaster shots.  But if you were trying to write something realistic, let me introduce you to the FN M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, Mr. Jedi. BRRRRAAAAAPPPPP.

Ultimately, though, it’s your story. It can be interesting to start with what you want your character to have (a Smith & Glock 2.5mm coil gun firing lexan slugs with dial a yield anti-matter cores) and then say “why is this guy carrying that weapon and what kind of society and tech will support it”? By the way, here is an excellent site that goes into some of the issues surrounding sci fi weapons. http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/rocket3l.html

Dillis gives some excellent advice there. Remember when I talked about regular guns, the characters are still more important.  Though everyone knows the S&G 2.5mm is inferior to the 3mm CorreiaTech Combat Wombat.

Right now we’re using projectile weapons because they work and we haven’t found anything better. At different points in time, something new and exciting has come along,  like flechettes in the ‘70s, or caseless ammo in the ‘80s, but those inventions had drawbacks so they didn’t replace our regular projectiles.  Once something new comes along that works better, and is affordable, then we’ll switch. If you can figure out what that is and you’ve got the engineering degree to make it happen, you’ll make a lot more money selling the design to ATK than you will writing novels.

One thing that I’ve talked with length about with Nightcrawler (because he’s really way more of a sci-fi guy than I am) is the effects of armor. Armor tech for individual soldiers is advancing at a much faster pace than small arms. Really, if you were armed with WW2 small arms, you’re not lagging that far behind. (I’d even go so far to say that our modern primary advantage over a group of 1945 GIs would be Aimpoints). Heck, today we’re battling enemies using a gun from 1947 with our design from 1963, and they’re hanging in there okay. But look at the difference armor has made. Materials science has come a long way in recent years, and we’re now routinely surviving hits that would have killed our ancestors.

I expect this to continue. I think armor will get better, faster, than the small arms for the near future. There is some stuff out there right now that people are working on that will blow your minds.  So when we get to the point that it gets too difficult to drop somebody wearing head to toe, mechanically augmented, squishy, light weight, nearly magical armor, then we’re going to see some changes to small arms.  Nightcrawler’s personal feeling is that means bigger, deeper penetrating bullets, which would be an ironic reversal of firearm’s evolution over the last century.

So I suppose if I were writing sci-fi, and I wanted to invent a weapon to go along with my world, I’d just make sure it fit.  It needs to be manageable. Now if your characters are genetic mutants or wearing power armor, make it huge and stick a chainsaw on it. But if they’re still human, it needs to be manageable by a human. It isn’t going to be big, unwieldy, and stupid looking.

Shit, never mind.

I do know one thing. If you set a book a couple hundred years in the future, even if it takes place on another planet, and you gave somebody a Kalashnikov, I wouldn’t bat an eye.

The plot thickens...
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71 Comments on "Ask Correia 3: Sci-Fi Weapons"

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Dave Markowitz
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6 years 3 months ago

Jerry Pournelle has addressed this in some of his SF. IIRC, in his CoDominium universe, soldiers are still armed with rifles, but intermediate power assault rifles have been discarded in favor of full power battle rifles due to the development of “Nemourlon” body armor which can defeat rounds like 7.62×39 or 5.56×45.

Interestingly, he wrote this a couple of decades before the introduction of stuff like our current body armor with SAPI plates, etc.

Dave
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Dave
6 years 3 months ago

I agree that the most likely near term solution to the effectiveness of modern armor will be the return of full size battle rifles.

perlhaqr
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perlhaqr
6 years 3 months ago
I do know one thing. If you set a book a couple hundred years in the future, even if it takes place on another planet, and you gave somebody a Kalashnikov, I wouldn’t bat an eye. That could be an interesting setting for a novel, actually. Get a universe that has (or had) something like Pournelle’s Co-Dominium BuReloc dumping people on hostile planets without much care for their survival. Most everyone has the tech to make AKs, and they work pretty good on unarmored people. The universe has space ships and the sort of “nearly magical armor” you speak of,… Read more »
Ted
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Ted
6 years 3 months ago

The guy’s gotta get out of his supersuit sometime… Or else that’s gonna be one smelly supersuit. heh.

Kneil
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Kneil
6 years 3 months ago

Or someone will drop a rock, a wall or a whole buildng on him. Or run him over with a truck or waste him with an IED. Or snipe his weak spots and let him bleed out.

That’s gonna be a pretty short, short story.

Julie
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6 years 3 months ago

Simon R. Green addresses this in his Deathstalker books. He’s got energy weapons that are only good for a few shots before they need to recharge, and the government has actually EFFECTIVELY outlawed projectile weapons–and so the aristocracy has become proficient in swordsmanship. It’s like he said “I want swordplay in this, because that would be AWESOME AND TOTALLY COOL, dude, but, shit, it’s in the future, so how do I handicap my weapons so my characters need to use swords too?”

shdwcaster
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6 years 3 months ago
One of the other things Green did in the Deathstalker books was state that the advent of personal shields had rendered projectile weapons ineffective. It actually seemed like a fairly reasonable progression to me, even looking at the modern day armor evolution that Larry talked about above. Shields > bullets, so we create disrupters, which are > shields. Of course, disrupters have that pesky recharge time, so we go back to swordplay because it’s frikkin’ cool, but after three hundred years, nobody carries a personal shield because they’re pointless against disrupters and swords, so projectile weapons > unarmored targets, and… Read more »
Julie
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6 years 3 months ago

Aha! I’d forgotten the tidbit about the shields. (Let’s face it, these books are absolute monsters. And I’ve only read the first one.) And that makes way more sense than “effective outlawing of projectile weapons,” because we all know how well THAT works in real life.

Gabe
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Gabe
2 years 1 month ago

totally ripped off from Dune.

perturbed
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perturbed
15 days 8 hours ago

Except that Dune has that pesky little catch where lasers intersecting even a personal (man size) defence shield will trigger a nuclear explosion and engender feedback which destroys the laser platform.

Dillis
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Dillis
6 years 3 months ago
I’ve been quoted on Larry’s blog. He even said I was smart. I can die happy. 😉 A few quick additional thoughts. 1) If your setting calls for space travel, remember that shipping tangible objects is expensive, while shipping information is free. You could easily end up with a planet light years away, using AKs or 1911s because the people brought the plans with them for those items, along with Brownings, M16s, etc. Perhaps they have the plans for a Correia Combat Wombat, but they haven’t built the industrial base to support it. 2) Give your weapon some limitations or… Read more »
dyingearth
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dyingearth
2 years 2 days ago
The limitation on tech is touch upon in Prince Rogers series (Webber & Ringo). The Bronze Barbarians are using futuristic gee-wiz ceramic bead gun that’s electromagnetic induced explosive shot. Too bad you’re dropped into a stone-age society with no way of getting resupply. meanwhile, Prince Rogers, an avid big game hunter with his really expensive cartridge rifle (with easily reloadable cartridge, also very expensive) just keep on shooting at whatever hostile the planet throws his way. By this time in the technology, Prince Roger’s rifle is only sensible for those idling rich that want to do it the old fashion… Read more »
Blast Hardcheese
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Blast Hardcheese
6 years 3 months ago
As someone who works with someone who works on modern armor, I would say that modern personal armor technology is beginning to plateau a bit, simply due to the weight. The poor grunts now have to tote around 25+ pounds of Kevlar and ceramic, never mind all of the NVGs and radios and GPS and batteries…oh yeah, and their gun and ammo too. Whatever comes next is going to have to either give much better protection for the same weight, or give the same protection but be much lighter. ‘Smart’ materials like shear-thickening fluids might be part of the solution.… Read more »
Greg
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Greg
6 years 3 months ago

You want Kalashnikovs in the future? You should check out the War World novels that were set in the CoDominium universe.

divemedic
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6 years 3 months ago

Best infantry weapon ever? John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. However, the real genius wasn’t the weapon- it was the “Brain Pal”

Man, I loved that series.

the Northwestern Diamondback
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the Northwestern Diamondback
6 years 3 months ago

Uh, on modern guns in a future setting… wasn’t that pretty much the entire Arms Locker aboard Serenity in “Firefly/Serenity”? Like River playing with a Desert Eagle. (Was it even gold-plated, too? I don’t remember, but it seems like it was.) And then there’s the proto-Abomination in the form of “Vera”…

moose1942
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6 years 3 months ago
Nice post. I am so glad that the OICW (The weapon in the picture) was aborted, it’s an affront to all that is holy. John Moses Browning, George Patton, and John Garand all agree. I gave the aliens in my contemporary sci-fi book “Alone: King of One” coil guns, and gyrojets just to be different. In another sci-fi story that takes place in 2042, “A Girl and Her Bot” I gave the lead male character what amounts to an improved .45 auto. “Blade dropped his cigarette and crushed it with the heel of his boot. He absently checked his weapon,… Read more »
Ted
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Ted
6 years 3 months ago

Ditto moose, thank God that thing and the XM8 died on the birthing table. Of course, it was after we dumped a couple of dumptrucks full of money into a burn pit to try and make them live….

I like how you thought out your designs and stuff for your book and layed out the how’s and why’s. Cool stuff.

WHMorgan
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WHMorgan
1 year 4 months ago

On the other hand, the XM25 is apparently alive and kicking, and the South Koreans have their own version of the ACIW (with a bolt action grenade launcher instead of an auto) so perhaps the idea will survive and eventually prosper in some form.

Scott Deering
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Scott Deering
6 years 3 months ago

My favorite future/sci-fi guns include the:
1. The Lawgiver pistol from the Judge Dredd (multiple firing modes!) comics/movies.
2. The snarky, trash-talking sentient pistol from the Death’s Head book series by David Gunn.
3. The Mortia Rifles from the Starship Trooper movies.

-Scott

Joe in PNG
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Joe in PNG
6 years 3 months ago

I’ll add a couple of my favorites:
1) The X-Ray laser rifle from “The Mote in God’s Eye”. There’s no cover from a xaser.

2) The Standard FORCE Assult rifle in “Fall of Hyperion”. Lasers, particle beams, projectiles, and gernades in one handy package.

3) Also from the Hyperion books- the Deathwand. No beams or bullets. Just point, click, and the target falls over dead with a scrambled brain.

Dillis
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Dillis
6 years 3 months ago
Try the willygun from the Sten series by Alan Cole and Chris Bunch. It uses a laser to propel a very tiny anti-matter pellet. Zero recoil, high capacity, and with a punch like a grenade. The Sten series is excellent, by the way. It should be in every scifi/military scifi fan’s library. There is discussion about why they don’t use powered armor. Something along the lines of “when you run out of power, the armor will stick protect you. Right up until the moment someone puts sharpstick A up waste disposal hole B. Hilarity ensues.” 😉
johncwright2001
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johncwright2001
2 years 4 months ago
My favorite is a ridiculous gun from a ridiculous space opera. Allow me to quote: Menelaus was confident. He had a Krupp 5 MegAmp railgun with a 250 IQ that fired two pounds of smart shot and a nine-meter globe of effective counterfire. The main slug could dance and jink like a drop of mercury on a skillet. The pistol, a six pound behemoth, was only good for one shot. Most of the mass of the gun was in the packed chaff, which consisted of hundreds of spinning, irregular bits of self-propelled interceptors. The computing technology needed to hit a… Read more »
dyingearth
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dyingearth
2 years 2 days ago

My favorite ridiculous gun in any fiction is the main character’s ludicrous gun from the manga series Blame!. It’s call Graviton Beam Emitter. It’s a square phaser looking weapon that has 4 settings. Lowest setting hits an armor piercing round that’s about the size of a very small needle. Highest setting is planet busting energy blast. It’s not meant to be use by human.

This is actually a standard issue weapon for the system security within this universe…

John C Wright
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John C Wright
2 years 1 day ago

My favorite ridiculous gun in any fiction is the wave-motion cannon whose bore is the bow of the great starship Yamato, called Argo in the American version, from STARBLAZERS. Now, that is a gun!

jabrwok
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jabrwok
2 years 1 day ago

That was cool, but it was like Voltron’s sword: as soon as they unlimber it, the show was over. Makes you wonder why they ever bothered with anything else!

perturbed
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perturbed
15 days 8 hours ago

Because while it’s charging up, the ship is otherwise utterly defenceless. You keep it for hard targets that cannot punch back; in other words, fire suppression and air supremacy (or its equivalent in a 3D space battle) must first be achieved.

perturbed
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perturbed
15 days 8 hours ago
The ultimate expression of this idea was E.E. Doc Smith’s Lensman series, which had the Sunbeam, a system of grids and nets which would tap the energy output of a star. Star Wars: The Force Awakens either stole or separately developed this idea (but as Arthur C Clarke once said, E.E. Smith holds ALL the original Star Wars patents). However, Smith’s weapon was more realistic in that it could not cross inter-systemic distances the way SW Ep VII’s device could, and while it could be swung about within limits, burn its way swiftly through even a planetary level defence shield… Read more »
Nathaniel
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Nathaniel
6 years 3 months ago
One thing I would remember that a lot of sci-fi gets wrong is that rifles are rifles and pistols are pistols. I think it was Star Wars that claimed that one of their blaster rifles was less powerful (but more accurate) than their blaster pistol. Even for weapons so far removed from modern firearms as to be completely different, the rifles are rifles and pistols are pistols statement should hold true: a larger weapon will generally have more capacity for destruction than a smaller one, even if you’re shooting phased plasma bolts in the 56W range. Soldiers won’t go into… Read more »
Joe in PNG
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Joe in PNG
6 years 3 months ago

Don’t forget possible cyberization of the soldiers themselves. Imagine direct connections between the gunsight and the brain’s visual cortex. Or some means of augmenting the soldier’s strength with implants- which would allow heavier and more powerful weapons. Then, combine the two with an aiming program where the soldier just picks his target and the implants do the rest- really, really quickly.

For an example, just watch Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex sometime.

Sam
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Sam
6 years 2 months ago
I thought Vernor Vinge had some nice ideas for near future in “The Peace War”. He has a smart machine pistol or assault rifle (don’t remember which) firing smart bullets: the bullets have fins for some steering ability, the gun can sequence targets and pick a suitable time to fire, the shooter waves the gun back and forth towards the targets–spray and pray brought to a new level. He also has the bullets being less effective than dumb bullets, perhaps due to lower velocities to make the steering effective (IIRC). In the scene this shows up, the targets weren’t aware… Read more »
Nick Sharps
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Nick Sharps
6 years 3 months ago

This is my biggest complaint with the Halo series. It’s 500 years in the future and they are still using weapons that are outdated today. The M5AB assault rifle is an M4 without the benefit of attachments, the Scorpion is slower than an M1 Abrams, and the alien weapons are pathetic (plasma does not shoot in globs of slow moving, ineffective energy).

Oh and my 3mm CorreiaTech Combat Wombat keeps jamming, any suggestions? 😛

Joe in PNG
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Joe in PNG
6 years 3 months ago

Yeah, get rid of that Irridium plated sissy pistol and get a Smith & Glock.
Correia Tech’s really gone down hill ever since they got bought out by Highpoint & Koch.

John
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3 years 1 month ago
I had a similar discussion with a close friend about the Halo series. Especially with the zoom feature for the pistol was gone later from the video game series after the first one. My friend said that was a major dislike for him. I agreed, but mentioned a possibility: the humans were fighting an interstellar war against a technologically superior foe. Humans were losing badly. Maybe they had to resort to less sophisticated weapons to replace those lost in the field as resources were getting harder to come by. I could be wrong and the game designers made a boo… Read more »
kunkmiester
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kunkmiester
6 years 3 months ago
Keep in mind that the main reason we have guns so well developed is that we’ve been fighting a lot. Remember also that we tend to fight the next war like the last one. Also remember that materials development doesn’t need to parallel weapons development. Imagine that an alien race doesn’t fight often. Bows work well enough to hunt, and there’s little need for an easy to use weapon for conscripts. The gun will get little attention as a novelty until it’s reliable enough to replace the bow, which might take centuries. This will also affect tactics, and sword and… Read more »
Brad R. Torgersen
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6 years 3 months ago
I remember in the 1980’s when the “future” of the semi-automatic infantry rifle, was the bullpup configuration. I also remember that the Uzi was the favorite weapon of all cocaine kingpins in Miami and Beverly Hills. Later, crack dealers loved the MAC 10. No, i didn’t want a lot of television. Whatever gave you that idea? (smirk) Considering that I just came off annual rifle qualification at Camp Williams, a few practical things come to mind. 1) Ammunition is heavy. Especially MG ammunition. Even if your future weapon is a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range, the battery… Read more »
WHMorgan
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WHMorgan
1 year 4 months ago

Re: #3 – advanced materials are apparently already dealing with heat issues in projectile weapons, if rumors about the M60E are true. There will always be required maintenance, but sealed systems and advanced materials may reduce both fragility and required maintenance.

Re: #4 – I think you’re extrapolating too much from the modern military with which you’re familiar. Troops in the past were trusted with – and required to carry – loaded weapons both on and off duty without a load of regulations and ROE. Of course, the penalties for misusing weapons were draconian enough to be deterrent.

perturbed
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perturbed
15 days 8 hours ago
E.E. Doc Smith’s equivalent of the squad automatic weapon – or possibly the heavy machine gun – was something he called the semi-portable projector. The need for a tripod mount for any normal human to use it implies it’s at least on the level of a water-cooled .303 Vickers… anyway, these exist in a world where beam transmission of energy is a thing, so getting them their power is not an issue unless the people transmitting it are killed or the targets succeed in re-establishing their shields and interrupting the power beams. The benefit is that it will punch through… Read more »
Julie A
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Julie A
6 years 3 months ago
One sci-fi weapon that’s been missed in the discussion is the Babylon 5 PPG. I’m not well-versed in the science of guns, but the reasoning for the weapon was to have something that will hurt a person, but not burn through the outer hull of a ship/station and cause all the air to leak out into space. So instead of bullets it shoots plasmafied helium (sort of like a superheated airzooka). The ammo were little pressurized ‘caps’ of helium, that would run out like a clip or magazine of regular ammunition would. And it looks more or less like a… Read more »
Dillis
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Dillis
6 years 3 months ago
The PPG was an interesting concept, and you are correct in that JMS definitely thought about the problems of projectiles for “social” work in space. Unfortunately, any weapon based on plasma is pretty much a nonstarter. Plasma is essentially highly ionized gas. When it hits standard atmosphere, it rapidly cools and disperses. A potentially better option is the pulsed energy projectile. Basically, you use a laser to flash the top layer of your target (clothing, skin, possibly even air if done properly) into plasma, which results in a concussive blast. At low levels, you get disorientation (like a flashbang). Mid… Read more »
kunkmiester
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kunkmiester
6 years 3 months ago

You can probably pump enough energy into a plasmoid to go a few meters. How big is your space station, and how far do you really expect to shoot? Ten or fifteen meters is probably plenty for close in work.

Lasers share a similar problem with the plasma gun–air is bad for the beam. It will take kilowatts to get a weapon with a few hundred meters of effective range.

Dillis
Guest
Dillis
6 years 3 months ago
The key difference is that lasers are coherent while plasmas are the embodiment of chaos. A highly energized plasma is going to be incredibly hot, which increases the dispersion factor. That situattion is aggravated by the fact that while lasers are effectively charge neutral, plasmas consist of charged particles, each of which desperately wants to get away. So, the more energy you pump into a plasma, the more it tries to shred itself. To create a weapons grade plasmoid, you need either to 1) create some form of extremely powerful, self-contained magnetic/gravitic/[insert buzz world here] field or 2) expel the… Read more »
LittleRed1
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LittleRed1
6 years 3 months ago

Thanks for all of these ideas, warnings and reminders! I’m in the process of working out more details for a reptilian race and along with “what makes it go bang/ how does it kill the enemy” I’m also trying to figure out biomechanics. The reptiles had almost become bi-pedal, then returned to being preferential quadrupeds who can still walk/run on their hind legs if really, really necessary. That requires some interesting hardware modification for slings/holsters/ armor/ sighting mechanisms. I can see I’m going to have to go back and mull some things over a bit more. Muchas gracias, seriously! 🙂

Dillis
Guest
Dillis
6 years 3 months ago
If they are predominately quadruped, you can always run (no pun intended) with heavier weaponry mounted in remote operated turrets on the back. The aliens then become the equivalent of four-legged AFVs. There was a roleplaying game years back that had an uplifted Tiger such as setup with an ocular targetting display. Visually, it was impressive and led to quite a few “what ifs” of my own. The reason for going from biped back to quadruped will be interesting and hopefully get the reader to understand that evolution isn’t stagnant (we’ve tried to take ourself out of the evolutionary path… Read more »
LittleRed1
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LittleRed1
6 years 3 months ago

Ah, great idea! I’ve been concentrating on the light infantry aspect thus far, but I will certainly see if “walking tank” style weapons will fit into “my” world. And if not, why and what other options they might use. Thank you for the suggestion.

Doug Northcote
Guest
2 years 2 days ago

Think that the game was “Battlelords of the 23rd Century and Dillis is totally right it was really neat.

The game was pretty good but never caught on all that heavy. I believer its still in publication.

The food for thought in it was dang well done in many ways. And flawed in others.

EgregiousCharles
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EgregiousCharles
6 years 3 months ago
Ah, physics and recoil. Unfortunately many people who invoke physics haven’t actually worked any of the most basic equations. Recoil is based on conservation of momentum; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Momentum is mass * velocity. Double the velocity means double the recoil. Potential damage of a projectile is based on conservation of energy. Energy is mass * velocity * velocity. Double the velocity, quadruple the damage potential. Double the velocity and halve the mass, double potential damage without any recoil increase. Energy isn’t everything because actual damage is based on energy plus how efficiently… Read more »
Scott Deering
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Scott Deering
6 years 2 months ago

Here is an interesting link about new bullet designs I thought that you might find interesting.

http://www.barking-moonbat.com/index.php/weblog/high_tech_hunting_bullet/

Thanks for taking my writing questions on your site; the responses have been very helpful.

Scott Deering
scott_deering@hotmail.com

Nicholas
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Nicholas
6 years 2 months ago

Hey Correia, I was thinking about how you said a weapon should fit into it’s society context and I realized that referring to a hypervelocity weapon by it’s size like the 2.5 smith and glock doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Since the energy of these weapons depends on how much you put into them, a 2.5 mm projectile could be accelerated to the point it’s equal to a matter/antimatter reaction or just enough to give it enough velocity make it outside the barrel.
As such, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on power output like 2.5 megajoules?

Nathaniel
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Nathaniel
5 years 10 months ago

Necromancer comment! Oh crap, it’s Hood!

This article from the Star Wars wiki has some hilarious details:
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Slugthrower

The problem with blasters is that they’re very guilty of sucking compared to modern weapons, like AK-47s.

One excerpt says:
“Slugthrowers. I hate ’em. But they’re easy to maintain. Day or two in the jungle and your blaster’ll never fire again. A good slug rifle, keep ’em wiped and oiled, they last forever.”

Apparently, the Imperial military never plans on fighting in inhospitable environments.

Fluffy
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4 years 2 months ago

And I’m pretty sure bullets go faster than the blasters. If you can see the projectile coming at that speed, well… pointless. Which reminds me-In Star Wars and Warhammer 40k, despite the latter’s fantastic futuretech lasers and plasma weapons, kinetic weapons are still used as sniper weapons. I like Dan Abnett, but I did not understand why they’d use a laser sniper rifle. I know it has a lot of range, but wouldn’t it be easily detectable?

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[…] (author of Monster Hunter International, Monster Hunter Vendetta, Monster Hunter Alpha, and so on) post I happened across from a year or so ago. It was basically some writing advice about SF weapons that I’d somehow […]

Shade
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Shade
4 years 9 months ago

A good example of a future weapon that seems likely is the assault rifle from mass effect it’s ammo is a block of metal that it shears off in gun to the right size to reach the target propelled by a mass changing energy field. To me that seems like a logical weapon based on the technology they have available.

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Fluffy
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4 years 2 months ago

I, the Fluffy (It’s a nickname from my best friend) have decided to add in a suggestion about actually drawing those guns for art and stuff. Look at real guns, and possibly a few well-designed ones from videogames. Don’t rip off the design, but just look at how a person is supposed to hold it, (Correia’s advice about shooting guns also works, so you can get a feel for it) how they’re supposed to sight it, anything else you can think of that makes it feel believable.

Jake
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Jake
3 years 10 months ago
That is an approach that several designers have taken. I know someone knocked the Halo weapons above, and someone else mentioned Ghost in the Shell more positively already, but the weapon designers of both of those series apparently did their homework when designing their characteristic guns – not “who needs ergonomics when you’ve got style?”, but “where does the bolt go when cycling?” and “what does a trained soldier executing a magazine swap look like?” Of course, both of those have their downsides. Masamune Shirow definitely sides with the acceleration side of energy = mass*acceleration. His guns tend to fire… Read more »
Mark McClenny
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Mark McClenny
3 years 11 months ago
No one has mentioned the fact that most weapons are developed for military members. You can demonstrate the new Correia Combat Wombat for an Army procurement officer and the first thing he will ask you is “A. How much does it cost and B. What does it do that we should use it to replace the M9 or SOCOM?” Governments don’t like to spend millions of dollars to develop new weapons as well as millions to retrain soldiers in their use and change logistics to supply new ammo for them unless there is a VERY significant improvement in performance. Governments… Read more »
Scott Deering
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Scott Deering
3 years 10 months ago
Ok, this might be a long response but here it goes (lots of thoughts converging): 1. Let’s try a scenario; humanity has encountered an unfriendly alien race that is significantly harder to kill than a human being with either an armored shell or a body mass and or physiology that requires a lot more damage to put it down. Let’s say the alien is a nasty cousin of a mating of an armadillo and a sabre tooth tiger. What kinds of tech changes would this require based on what we have now and would those changes focus on particular areas… Read more »
FLUFFY
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FLUFFY
2 years 9 months ago

There were also gyrojets in the sixties. But some of you probably haven’t heard of that, so you know how that went.

Unit 14
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Unit 14
2 years 9 months ago

One possibility could be that a magical enemy has the ability to neutralize energy weapons but not firearms. Another possibility could be that firearms are found to be superior to energy weapons.

WHMorgan
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WHMorgan
1 year 4 months ago

David Weber’s “Hell Hath No Fury” Series – magic weapons vs modern small arms.

Gippy
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Gippy
2 years 4 months ago
SciFi weapons would logically face the same requirements as current weapons. How much does it cost? How hard is it to make? How smart does the user have to be to perform basic PMCS? How much does it weigh? How much does the ammo, or power pack, weigh? What does it fire? What is it designed to kill? Body armor. Body armor tech follows right along with weapon tech. Same logic. How much does it cost? How hard is it to make? How smart does the user have to be? Ect…. Point being armor gets developed to defend (at least… Read more »
Dees
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Dees
2 years 4 months ago
I think the new argument of larger bullets with more energy to defeat body armor that is becoming more easily available, as we are essentially moving into an era similar in theory to when weapons like the falchion and warhammer were increasing in popularity. Technology in both medical techniques and armor have advanced to the point that people are surviving the “wounding weapons” that gained in popularity with larger scale guerilla or low tech irregular forces being the main threats. In the modern battlefield, the average soldier wears enough body armor that the typical 5.56/5.45 simply isn’t doing enough to… Read more »
gold iphone 5s release
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2 years 3 months ago

What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively useful and it has
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steveha
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steveha
1 year 4 months ago
I was interested in the Gyrojet and I read up on it. The big problem it had was accuracy. When the projectile is self-accelerating, even a tiny imbalance will send it off target, and of course the farther away the target the more the projectile will deviate in flight. With 1960’s technology, it was hard to make each little projectile so perfect that it would fly true; and even if they got that right, if a gust of wind nudged the projectile, it would still be accelerating and would deviate more than an inert bullet would. All of the above… Read more »
Doug Loss
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Doug Loss
1 year 4 months ago
There were a few problems with the GyroJet. First, it didn’t reach its maximum velocity for some distance from the launcher, meaning that it didn’t have enough kinetic energy to penetrate close targets. That made it fairly useless for a handgun-style launcher, where the accuracy would be limited by the short barrel for most longer ranges. The GyroJet rocket exhaust ports didn’t fire straight back but slightly off-set so the rockets would spin in flight, just like a bullet from a rifled firearm. Second, for the riflle-style launcher, the rocket exhaust gases were ported very near the firer’s face, causing… Read more »
steveha
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steveha
1 year 4 months ago
Disclaimer: I’m a dilettante; I’ve read a bit but don’t claim to be a military expert of any sort. About the XM25 grenade weapon: When I first read about the OICW, I was very dubious. It seemed like a lot of money and I wasn’t certain the grenade round would work. And don’t the soldiers have enough weight to carry around already… do they really need an 18-pound weapon? The OICW is dead, but the grenade round does work and the troops liked the XM25: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XM25_CDTE#Deployment_to_Afghanistan The XM25 design is being tweaked after a double-feed incident, and the project is… Read more »
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[…] “Star Wars is the ultimate example of Rule of Cool. None of the technology in Star Wars makes a lick of sense, but we love it anyway, because it is awesome.” http://monsterhunternation.com/2010/05/14/ask-correia-3-sci-fi-weapons/ […]

Oldfan
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Oldfan
24 days 6 hours ago
I vaguely remember a short story- maybe by Sprague DeCamp- that had an interesting take on future weapons. A guy ends up on a planet full of dangerous animals, but he’s got the classic sf disintegrator rifle. He discovers, however, that even though this gadget completely evaporates elephant size carnivores with one shot, because it makes no noise and leaves no traces, the animals never associate the shooter with danger and keep on coming, so he switches to lower tech. Not sure about the author, although DeCamp did write “A Gun For Dinosaur, ” which is built around what you… Read more »
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