Guns, blades and bombs are often the center of physical combat. Many writers do an excellent job of devising interesting sounding new weapons and equipment. Blasters, phasers, disrupters, lightsabres, ect. However, many writers do not consider the full impact of the weapons in a combat environment. A weapon that fires once and takes a minute or two to recharge before it can fire again is little better than a seventeen hundreds era musket. The bearer of that weapon will be in big trouble if he/she must face someone with say, a bolt action rifle which can be fired much more frequently. Even worse if they have to face someone with a submachine gun.
How would Luke Skywalker, armed with a light saber deal with an attacker armed with a mac-10 or Uzi? What about two attackers armed with Uzi’s?
In devising a ‘new weapon’ a writer must consider how it is better than what we have today. Is it easier to fire, easier to kill or wound, easier to maintain, is it better in different environments.
Let’s consider the weapons today. Most are projectile weapons, they propel a projectile at the enemy. When this projectile hits a target it inflicts damage. The damage varies on the type of bullet and its velocity. For example a 22 caliber bullet can hit a person in the head, skim the skull and ‘pop’ out the back of the head without penetrating the skull. A 22 can also fail to penetrate muscles. A .50 caliber round can tear a person in two.
As technology advances so do weapons and the projectiles fired from them. When guns were first invented they fired metal balls, now they come in all shapes, sizes and materials.
Why would a handgun be better than a laser? If the objective is to kill the enemy then the handgun would probably be better. Several things must be considered.
When a projectile enters the human body it leaves an opening that blood can exit and blood loss can kill an enemy. The opening also allows diseases and germs to enter the wound and infect the body. The projectile may pierce a vital organ which can also cripple or kill the target.
Since the body is over sixty percent water a round entering the body can create ‘waves’ depending on the velocity and size of the bullet. These waves can create hydrostatic shock and disrupt the normal operations of organs. The military and many police agencies teach the double tap method, two rapid shots to the body. What this does is create two ‘waves’ in a human body and when the ‘waves’ collide they cause additional internal injury and a higher chance of death. It has been said that someone hit by a double tap suffers the same amount of damage as someone who has been shot four times. A dum-dum is especially designed to expand in the human body and amplify the effects of hydrostatic shock.
The type of round and its size have a big effect on hydrostatic shock. A large caliber round, or an expanding bullet create more of a cavity as it passes through the human body. When that cavity is ‘sucked’ closed by the rest of the body and the sudden ‘vacuum’ a hydrostatic shock wave is created.
In addition to hydrostatic shock, the bullet can lodge in a human body and increase the chance of infection and death. Removing the bullet can further threaten the target’s life.
Some bullets have different effects. For example, the 5.56mm (NATO) and the 5.45mm (WARSAW) rounds have a high velocity and when they penetrate the human body they are more likely to ricochet off bones but remain inside the skin. A great deal of internal injury can be inflicted. This can be a lot better since it does not necessarily kill the enemy. If an enemy soldier is wounded then he must be evacuated and cared for, which can become a massive drain on enemy resources.
A laser on the other hand would burn a whole in the target, cauterizing the wound. The subject would not bleed to death, suffer severe hydrostatic shock or be at risk from infection. The advantage of a laser could be that it is invisible (certain spectrums only), is line of sight (don’t have to worry about windage and elevation) and it could be used to ‘slice’ a target in two (if weapon design allows). At lower powers it could also be used to designate targets for other munitions or determine range. Overall, a laser would not be as dangerous as a projectile weapon which would likely be cheaper and easier to make. Lasers can also be easily defeated by mirrors. Protection against bullets is much heavier in some cases.
Another advantage of projectile weapons is an electromagnetic pulse (like from a nuclear explosion) will not fry the electronics of the weapon.
If a ‘new’ weapon is used the writer should consider what effect it has its target and what people could do to defend themselves against it. How would the weapon effect vehicles and equipment?
What about the weapon’s ammunition capacity? Why would the military (usually very traditional) turn away from older, battle tested weapons toward something else? What does the new weapon have to offer that the old kind can’t compete with? Is it a military weapon or can civilians get one?
Military units may employ new or special weapons within a unit to supplement the abilities of other weapons if it can do things current weaponry cannot. For instance, it would be great to equip every trooper with rocket launcher but the weight and ammunition requirements make it impractical. It would also be too dangerous in close quarters like house to house, or room to room fighting.
Here is a list of different weapons, most of which are not available today. Much to my disappointment!
ACID PUMP: Like a squirt gun this expels acid at the target. Acid can be either a chemical acid or nano-bot destroyers. It would be very similar to a flame thrower.
ARC MORTAR: A weapon that uses the magnetic field to ‘arc’ an energy beam onto an enemy that is hidden from direct view.
BEAMER: A generic term for a weapon that shoots a beam of energy.
BLASTER: A generic space opera weapon with various effects.
BLAZER: A different kind of blaster.
CHEMICAL: Uses a chemical reaction to propel a projectile at the target. An regular 20th century gun is a chemical weapon (uses gunpowder).
CONVERSION: This converts what it hits into raw energy.
DESINTIGRATOR: This can disintegrate part or all of a target, reducing it to component atoms.
Dial-A-Gun: This weapon has different features and capabilities depending on the setting.
ELECTRO: This uses electricity to stun or kill the target. Damage will be like burn damage.
ELEMENTAL: Uses the elements, earth, wind, fire, water to damage the target.
ENERGY DISRUPTOR: This disrupts a person’s or items energy field.
ETHER GUN: Effects a target’s soul or ethereal self. Or it travels through the ether to damage the target.
FISSION: The opposite of Fusion this has to do with separating atoms.
FLAMER: A chemical weapon, this would be excellent for attackers. The psychological effect on defenders is also worth considering. Although a flamer could be an energy weapon it probably be easier to make a chemical one. A flamer could be so hot it could melt through all but the toughest metals. As an area effect weapon it would be superb.
FLETCHETTE: Fires a volley of razor sharp needles that slice a target to ribbons.
FORCE BLADE: A hand to hand weapon this uses an forcefield to cut.
FREQER: A frequency weapon that projects electromagnetic radiation to damage the target. A potentially versatile weapon.
FUSION: This employs the fusing of two items to create a dangerous effect.
GAUSS: A variation of a railgun, a gauss weapon uses magnets in the barrel to propel a projectile at the enemy. This would have several advantages. There is probably no muzzle flash, and there is no expended shell casing. The lack of shell casing means the weapon is more enclosed and less vulnerable to dirt and environmental conditions (like rain). Caliber would also have less effect on its operation. The disadvantage is that in addition to requiring ammunition, it would require a power supply.
GRAVITON: This device disrupts the gravity of the target, tearing it apart.
GYROJET: This weapon is a projectile weapon that fires bullets that are like self propelled rockets. The range would likely be better and velocity superior at longer range. At shorter ranges the velocity and penetration would likely be reduced because the projectile has not fully accelerated.
HEAT RAY: A somewhat generic weapon it inflicts burn damage.
HERF: This weapon is not designed so much to kill people as it is to kill electronics. This is available today by some police departments to disable vehicles. HERF guns are High Energy Radio Frequency weapons that transmit radio frequencies. See the section on Electronics for more info.
HYDROSHOCKER: A weapon that causes hydroshock in the target. It would likely be harmless against non-organic targets.
INCINERATOR: Neat name. It would likely use some mechanism to inflict burn damage on its target.
ION/PROTON: This uses ions or protons to create a lethal effect.
LASER BLADE: This is a hand to hand weapon that uses a controlled laser for a cutting edge.
LASER LANCE: Like a laser blade this is a longer version.
LASER: This uses a concentrated beam of light to burn the target.
MICROWAVE: This uses a very high powered microwave beam to ‘cook’ the target’s water molecules. It is possible to fire through walls.
NEEDLERS: As a projectile weapon these would likely be very light hand have a very high magazine capacity. Because the round is very small it will likely have a lesser effect than traditional weapons unless it delivers some kind of poison. Penetration will likely be poor and depending on how the projectile is propelled down the barrel the range will be lacking. This would be a good ship to ship weapon because ranges are usually not that good in a space ship’s corridors and penetration can depressurize the vessel or destroy valuable components. The value and availability of armor should be carefully considered. Boarding Marines won’t be armed with weapons that are useless against enemy Marines.
NEURO: Affects the targets nervous system.
NEUTRON: Uses neutrons to kill with.
PARTICLE ACCELERATOR: as the name implies it accelerates either it’s own particles or that of its target to achieve a lethal effect.
PHASER: A generic space opera weapon.
PLASMA: This type of weapon would use superheated gas.
PULSE: This weapon would likely be an energy weapon that uses pulses of energy to inflict damage on the target. It would probably be similar to a regular projectile weapon in terms of firing capability.
RAIL GUN: This uses a magnetic field to accelerate a metal projectile down the barrel. The projectile could be anything from a sliver of metal to a grenade.
QUANTUM DISRUPTER: Sounds like a dangerous weapon.
SLAZER: Like a wiregun, this shoots a wire (molecular strand) at the enemy. Weights at the end can cause the strand to wrap around the target and cause additional lacerations.
SLOW SPEED PROJECTILE: This device, using a form of anti-gravity, stops at battle screens and slowly enters the screen to accelerate and kill the protected target.
SLUGTHROWER: A regular bullet loaded gun.
STASIS: This puts the target into stasis
STAT PENETRATORS: Like a gyrojet, these are rocket assisted projectile that are propelled using magnetics like a rail gun. These would be a superior version of the gyrojet because the initial velocity could match the final velocity.
STUNNER: as the name implies it is not a lethal weapon. How it achieves its affects varies.
TAC BLASTER: Tactical Blaster, a heavier version of the blaster or something entirely different.
TANGLER: A non-lethal weapon that traps the subject in a restrictive material. Delivery and characteristics would vary but the range would likely be short. An important thing to consider would be how it is removed. If a spray is used then why don’t all criminals carry some with them?
TASER: Variations of this exist, from a gun that is connected to its projectiles to an independent projectile. The Taser is a primarily non-lethal weapon that delivers an electric shock to disable the target. The biggest disadvantage of this is not knowing what will kill or disable a target and the range. The projectiles must be able to deliver a ‘punch’ and that requires a power source.
WIRE: This fires a strip of wire from a spool.
Another weapon variable is the settings it can use. Settings will increase the versatility of the weapon and make it more appealing to users. For example;
ARC: This uses a field to arc the beam so it can hit a target that is not vulnerable to direct fire weapons. This would probably be hard to fire with a great deal of accuracy.
AUTOMATIC: This would fire several shots with just one trigger pull. This would drain the powercell or magazine more quickly.
OVERCHARGE/OVERLOAD: A possible option on military weapons it can likely be dangerous to the wielder or damaging to the weapon. It would be best for attacking more heavily armored targets, like tanks and aircraft.
PULSE: Similar to single shot on a chemical weapon. Fires one shot per trigger pull.
SPREAD: This beam spreads out to cover a wide area, like a shotgun. It would most likely be more effective at closer ranges.
STEADY: A continuos beam, like a visible laser light. This can allow a target to be ‘cut in two’. It would also make it easier to hit a target but it would probably drain energy very rapidly.
SYNC: The weapon is synchronized with another weapon to create some kind of increased or special effect.
VISIBLE/NON-VISIBLE: This can render the beam invisible (so the enemy can’t find the shooter) or visible so it is more likely to suppress the enemy and mark his location for other shooters.
ZAP: This would be a setting to destroy nanobots that are disassembling something or someone. It would be low powered enough to be non fatal to the target but lethal to the miniature destroyers.