Jump to content
Sturgeon's House

The Plateau: Next Big Leaps in Small Arms Tech?


Alex C.
 Share

Recommended Posts

This morning at work I was showing a coworker with a mutual interest in small arms a photo of the Steyr-Roth I posted in the small arms thread, and another coworker who knows next to nothing about firearms asked if it was worse/less lethal than a modern firearm. Well, if you were in a room full of aficionados, some might argue that modern pistols are more lethal due to capacity, weight, reliability, cartridge power, etc., but on the other hand a portion would argue that the changes have been somewhat insignificant.

Compare this to other military innovations, such as the difference in aircraft, tanks, ships, and so on relative to today and you see that these have evolved to a much greater extent. While obviously we have fancy alloys, self loaders, and improved propellants nowadays, you see the venerable AK rifle soldiering on with "improved" replacements being put off or deemed not cost effective.

 

Forgive the simplified narrative above, but do you think we have reached somewhat of a plateau in small arms tech? In the past there have been definitive points that changed everything; Flintlocks, the self contained cartridge, smokeless powder, self loading firearms, and so on, but we have been waiting for the next big technological leap for decades.

 

What could be the next big leap the bridge the gap between now and phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range? I suppose the obvious answer would be caseless ammunition, but that has its own set of issues that seem to present more problems than it solves.

Of course, it is very possible that we may never see another "Lebel moment" again, but that is disappointing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm shilling for better integration of the gun and various electronic/optical components.

 

A firearm with a built-in power rail, power supply, processor and self-recharge facility (think shaky torch thing on the bolt) would make it a hell of a lot easier to mount various optics and electronic gizmos (from computerised sights to flashlights) than the current setup of slapping self-contained units onto a frame.

 

I also wonder how things like electronic triggers, timing, priming and so on (which I imagine would be easier to implement given a the power supply setup described above) could change things. I mean, look how electronics changed cars

 

But I also freely admit then I know nothing about firearms beyond a bit of time with revolvers and bolt-action rifles. More experienced hands will have to weigh in here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The problem with integrating power supplies is weight and of course that they run out of juice. You might think that they could install some kind of magneto, stator, or alternator type system that uses some kind of component of the action cycling to recharge the supply, but you have to take into account that firefights are rare for most military men equipped with a gun. Even an infantryman may never actually see a real engagement during his time in.

 

But it is undeniable that optics technology has come a long way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It might seem crazy but I think we are already experiencing the "next phase" of small arms development what with the integration of every manner of accessory being included with guns. Hell, we have 120-year designed Marlin 1895s chambered in a 140-year old round 45-70 coming off the factory floor designed with rail systems. And just witness how shooting looks different today than it did just 20 years ago

 

At the moment, this tactical phase has spawned the monstrosity of 16 pound ARs which are as fat and bloated as the men who build them. But miniaturization and specialization might give you standarized red dot scopes that have night visions, laser sights and designators which can give you the dope on range and wind speed along with an array of illumination and dazzle effects fitted into a svelte 1 or 2 pound package.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The problem with integrating power supplies is weight and of course that they run out of juice. You might think that they could install some kind of magneto, stator, or alternator type system that uses some kind of component of the action cycling to recharge the supply, but you have to take into account that firefights are rare for most military men equipped with a gun. Even an infantryman may never actually see a real engagement during his time in.

But it is undeniable that optics technology has come a long way.

True, but the scope et al still needs power. I figure that dealing with one battery is probably simpler than dealing with a bunch of tiddly ones.

Plus you get to imagine a future where soldiers spend a few minutes every day jerking their rifles off to keep the battery topped up :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If a package the size and weight of an EoTech 512 could present you with wind speed, range, and calculate suggested holdover and windage all the while running off of two AA batteries, I would say we would have a hell of a breakthrough, but cost effectiveness would be the real issue there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If a package the size and weight of an EoTech 512 could present you with wind speed, range, and calculate suggested holdover and windage all the while running off of two AA batteries, I would say we would have a hell of a breakthrough, but cost effectiveness would be the real issue there.

 

Obviously cost is always an issue. Using the revolution of telecommunications as an example, you have gadgets doing stuff today that would be unheard of even ten or five years ago and in places never before imagined. In the seven years that I've spent fishing on the edge of the tundra in South Naknek, Alaska, I've gone from using a phone card and standing in line at the cannery pay phone hoping to place a call to my folks to using 3G Internet and texting from our fish camp 7 miles down the beach. 

 

The firearms industry is a far lower societal priority than telecom but there are still clever guys working on this stuff and I wouldn't put it past someone putting together something like what I mentioned in the next decade or so.

 

On the other hand, I could go all doom and gloom and say the next phase in firearms development is relearning how to make blackpowder from your own pee...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You posed the question, but what do you think will be the next leap?

 

Well, I think the answer to that is obvious:

arx160_08031005.jpg

:P

 

Uh, so "I dunno" is the correct answer, but I can give you more to go on than that. I somewhere between "think" and "hope" lightweight cased ammunition will shake out in one way or another, though I doubt LSAT will succeed for various reasons, at least not without some modifications. As the other guys have said, electrical integration with small arms will continue to increase, though probably more slowly than some would like. Optics will get better, but we're a ways off to having magical EOTech-sized rangefinding/wind compensating/Tracking Point-style optics, if only for reasons of power consumption. 

The thing is, there's not that much difference between an M4 and a sci-fi blaster. The M4 is accurate - more accurate than the guy holding it - reliable, has select-fire, it's light... So any improvements over that will be incremental and requirements-based because something like an M4 just doesn't leave that much to be desired. The big change is maybe the ammunition, I mentioned lightweight cases earlier, but you could perhaps do something fancier with the projectiles depending on the laws and production constraints.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, I should also say that one obvious non-rifle-related thing that will be a big improvement in the future is safer high explosive throwers at lower levels of organization. The French have basically implemented this with rifle-grenades, but those leave a little to be desired, so I expect other technologies to trickle down as well. XM25 was an attempt at this, I couldn't tell you how successful or unsuccessful it was, but reportedly the Army is still working on it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Sturgeon - more weapons, firing HE-projectiles with flat trajectory, will appear in future. It is a progression - from individual weapons, that do "point" damage to weapons that deal "areal" damage. Our SFs use GM-94 a lot, and from what i get, weapon in size of assault rifle, but power of 40mm grenade launcher would be even more popular. In fact, Chinese use dedicated 35 mm light grenade launchers as infantry weapon like DMRs.

Those weapons would be more complex, so not every soldier will be armed with it.

Caseless ammunition will not bring any serious improvements. Better sights/smart scopes will be more helpfull than caseless ammo, IMO.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Caseless ammunition will not bring any serious improvements. Better sights/smart scopes will be more helpfull than caseless ammo, IMO.

 

Not besides weight and bulk, no.

I challenge anyone who is skeptical of caseless to actually get a hold of a G11 round sometime (it's not as hard as it sounds). They are teeny weeny little things, despite being about as powerful as 5.56mm.

Not saying caseless is going anywhere, but the benefits are very real.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You'll see a lot of improvement in the manufacturing and materials side before you'll see any kind of effective, man carried beam weapons.

From the folk I've talked to the major issue with nifty sci-fi weapons (pulse lasers, ECT, rail guns and so on) is energy storage. For a quick-and-dirty comparison, check out the size difference between a 1KJ capacitor bank and a cartridge which gets over 1KJ of energy at the muzzle:

 

Edit: let's try another image. 2.2KJ bank this time

 

uGS0eHHh.jpg

 

This is at least an order of magnitude difference in terms of energy density.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the folk I've talked to the major issue with nifty sci-fi weapons (pulse lasers, ECT, rail guns and so on) is energy storage. For a quick-and-dirty comparison, check out the size difference between a 1KJ capacitor bank and a cartridge which gets over 1KJ of energy at the muzzle:

 

 

 

This is at least an order of magnitude difference in terms of energy density.

 

Yeah, pretty much what I said.  The science exists, it just needs to be developed into something that can be made, and can be practical.

That's materials, and manufacturing.  Those improvements will be developed on existing tech, long before it's tried out on pew-pew lazor stuff.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...