The future of firearms


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monotonous_iterancy
May 19, 2013, 01:21 PM
For centuries firearm technology had been improving. Yet by the early 1900s, most of the current technology we use was in place. Semi-autos, DA revolvers, hammer blocks, center-fire cartridges, magnums in the 1930s, polymer stocks in the 60s.

Now we seem to have hit a wall. The AR-15, the most popular rifle in America, is a 50 year old design. Almost all semi-automatic pistols work off the design John Browning invented over 100 years ago.

What do you see in the future of firearms? Who are the innovators today?

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beatledog7
May 19, 2013, 01:46 PM
The most useful innovations these days are in materials, not mechanisms.

The future? Firearms designers are few and far between for a good reason--there's no profit in new and unproven designs. The profit potential lies in making guns incrementally smaller and lighter and making ammo incrementally faster or better at expanding.

Pushing a hunk of lead through a tube using chemically induced gas expansion has quite likely reached its pinnacle. The future of small arms probably lies in some completely new (for personal arms applications) technology. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on either magnetic propulsion of a projectile or directed energy with no projectile at all.

Solo
May 19, 2013, 01:48 PM
Phasers.

Vampire Bears
May 19, 2013, 01:58 PM
Firearms are a mature technology, and I suspect that we won't see much of a change until a fundamentally new type of cartridge is developed. I can imagine electronically fired caseless ammo being released commercially in the not-too-distant future. But I can't imagine it catching on with the military due to the 'electronically fired' part.

On the other hand, I expect that electronics will continue to be integrated with firearms to the point that within the next 100 years guns won't work without batteries. This kind of exists, I mean this rifle (http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/05/15/184223110/new-rifle-on-sale) decides on its own when to fire after you pull the trigger, so it's not too much of a stretch to imagine a firearm programmed not to fire at its owner...or one that tweets every time it's used or that can only be programmed to shoot at people after its owner takes a mandated safety course/psych evaluation.

steven58
May 19, 2013, 02:11 PM
Flintlock muskets were a "mature firearms technology" that remained relatively unchanged for several hundred years before the invention of the percussion cap. The British Land Pattern Musket (AKA "Brown Bess") were a standard British service arm for over 115 years.

Some change is evolutionary, some revolutionary. At this time self loading cartridge arms are at a plateau in development until the next great leap in technology occurs. Currently there is no small arms system more suitable for storing energy and imparting it on a target than those using the metallic cartridge.

General Geoff
May 19, 2013, 02:13 PM
The next big leap in small arms (and weapons in general) will be some sort of directed energy weapon. Battery technology is not mature enough to support such designs yet, but since much other new technology relies on batteries as well (especially electric cars), that hurdle is being well-researched and funded.


Electromagnetically propelled projectiles are on the cusp of being implemented as crew-served platforms, but require a nearby powerplant to supply power.

bigfatdave
May 19, 2013, 02:14 PM
We're in a pretty good place with materials development.

The next step will be in propellant and/or sighting (my guess, anyway)

NFA prevents some developments in the PDW field from being practical, as well as sound supression.
A magnetic launch would be quiet, wouldn't it? Something to think on.

SabbathWolf
May 19, 2013, 02:20 PM
Phased Plasma Rifle - 40 watt Range.
:D


I really want one of these though......


http://i1312.photobucket.com/albums/t532/479WAbd/aliens_zps399a2f8a.gif

monotonous_iterancy
May 19, 2013, 02:42 PM
Would energy weapons be fun at a range? For some reason, I can't picture them being so.

About them being used for defensive or hunting purposes, would they be allowed, or banned as a "dangerous and unusual weapon"?

TCB in TN
May 19, 2013, 02:55 PM
I imagine that we will soon see self contained "brass less" ammo. There are a lot of "hobbiest" out there playing with magnetic guns, the main limits now are their batteries, so I expect to see thing happen in that area soon. I think we will see new designs in ergonomics. Perhaps more guns like the Kriss, and Rhino, with the barrel dropped to reduce recoil and improve accuracy.

Of course it could be that there is some other major development in another area that gets integrated into firearms that revolutionizes things. Say a super powerful small compressor that allows for multiple shot high power air guns or the like.....

Lex Luthier
May 19, 2013, 02:57 PM
Electro Magnetic Pulse Grenade Launchers, Adjustable Band Laser weapons, both rifle style and tactically uniform integrated, Telescopic Vision/ Hearing Headsets, 360 Degree Individual Deflector Shields that automatically adjust to incoming weapons, Universal Language Translator headsets, Jet Propulsion Boots, Helmets with eye activated visor screens, in other words, anything Iron Man. Boy that was fun.

beatledog7
May 19, 2013, 03:00 PM
Would energy weapons be fun at a range? For some reason, I can't picture them being so.

No, they won't, at least not once the novelty wears off. If you can bring a laser onto a target--and if you can see you can do that--you can hit with a DE weapon. The key will be to hit just the target. The weapon beam will need to be preceded by a harmless targeting beam to facilitate that.

mljdeckard
May 19, 2013, 03:07 PM
I agree that as batteries become smaller and more powerful, it is much more likely that energy weapons will be the future. There is much industrial demand apart from weapons driving battery improvement.

(Caseless ammo kind of came and went already. It really doesn't solve any problems. Even if the whole cartridge burns with firing, you still have to have the full mechanism to eject one in the event of a malfunction. even in the M-1, switching from a 105 brass case to a 120 combustible case wasn't entirely a trade up; with the 105 you could hold the next round in your lap and load it in less than a second after the gun fired. With the cardboard casing, you can't have an exposed round out because it can ignite too easily, you have to leave it in the ammo compartment and wait for the door to open after each shot, bumping the time up to at least three seconds.)

Solo
May 19, 2013, 03:19 PM
No, they won't, at least not once the novelty wears off. If you can bring a laser onto a target--and if you can see you can do that--you can hit with a DE weapon. The key will be to hit just the target. The weapon beam will need to be preceded by a harmless targeting beam to facilitate that.
Just do your training in the holodeck.

Yo Mama
May 19, 2013, 04:01 PM
Nano technology seems like the most promising area to me. I asked a simular question a while back and this was an unexpected answer. Bullets having programing in them.

Bruno2
May 19, 2013, 05:28 PM
Yeah, I m with Dave. Probably sighting.

Then sometime in the near future weapons that don't actually fire a projectile. The less than lethal stuff is going full bore. Which is good and bad. It would be nice to be able to stop a crime effectively w/o killing someone. However, tha doesn't cleanse the gene pool like the old way.:evil:

JTHunter
May 19, 2013, 05:45 PM
A couple of you mentioned "caseless/brassless" ammo. I seem to remember some company releasing a proprietary system (rifle & ammo) in the last 5-8 years. It had a "shaped" charge with the bullet partially embedded in one end with an electrically fired primer on the opposite end. I think it was from a European manufacturer and it may already be off the market.

barnbwt
May 19, 2013, 09:42 PM
Would energy weapons be fun at a range? For some reason, I can't picture them being so.


Energy weapons as a shoulder-arm will never work; the energies required will quite literally blind you in an instant as the target is illuminated/disintegrated. Even in a non-visible spectrum, the reflected radiation from a shot would probably mess up you and any bystanders (though not as dramatically as the poor fool who's now a pile of ashes). The energies required will result in the equivalent of gallons of gasoline worth of juice stuffed between your fingers; I don't care how good the battery tech is, that kind of energy density will always be hazardous.

The next development, I think, will be polymer-based guns and ammunition. Expect lots more additive machining processes (3D printing and laser sintering, as opposed to wasteful milling) and moves away from ever-more-expensive metallic components. We may also see further advances in non-lethal weapons, which result in their carry being more common in lieu of firearms.

Expect few "tactile" advances regarding weapon function or layout; after all, no one will trust it or like it anyway (see any attempt to improve upon the AR15 for as many examples as you need). The use for our weapons will change, since tactics are already being rewritten from the current conflicts. In short, expect fewer soldiers with rifles, and more guys with various hi-tech comms doohickeys.

The only "game changing" development for firearms on the immediate horizon is probably an outright ban on their possession by civilians (we're nearly there already; the US is one of only a few hold-out nations who trusts their citizens with real weaponry)

TCB

Bruno2
May 19, 2013, 10:12 PM
I would really be surprised if defense distributed hasn't kicked around a plastic cased polymer projectile. If you think about it what would it hurt if the case was plastic? Besides not being able to reload the case I cant see why it wouldn't work.

General Geoff
May 19, 2013, 10:16 PM
Energy weapons as a shoulder-arm will never work; the energies required will quite literally blind you in an instant as the target is illuminated/disintegrated. Even in a non-visible spectrum, the reflected radiation from a shot would probably mess up you and any bystanders (though not as dramatically as the poor fool who's now a pile of ashes).

Not necessarily; a person using a sufficiently powerful laser type weapon would need only to wear protective glasses to filter out whatever wavelength of light the laser utilizes. The majority of the energy dumped into/onto the target would be transformed to heat, which should not pose much of a radiation problem to anyone more than a few feet from the target.

Zardaia
May 19, 2013, 10:44 PM
Maybe somebody'll come up with an altogether new and better form of powder. More powerfull/efficient yet still cheaply mass produced. That'd open up possibilities. I don't see energy weapons or rail guns being miniaturized to the personal weapon lvl in my lifetime, much less cheaply enough to were mass civilian ownership would even be an issue. By energy weapon I mean actual burn through lasers, not just blinding.

monotonous_iterancy
May 19, 2013, 10:50 PM
I don't picture energy weapons as disintegrating things, I picture them as being lasers, or bursts of focused energy that can burn or blast a hole in a target similar to bullets, but without the hindrance of things like gravity or wind on point of "impact".

I don't see them as being any fun recreationally because they seem too "perfect". I can't imagine there being much of a challenge in hitting a target.

barnbwt
May 20, 2013, 12:04 AM
I don't picture energy weapons as disintegrating things, I picture them as being lasers, or bursts of focused energy that can burn or blast a hole in a target similar to bullets, but without the hindrance of things like gravity or wind on point of "impact".


That's funny; when I picture them that way (i.e. realistically) they seem even more horrific than firearms in their function--3rd-degree-burn cannons :what:

Not necessarily; a person using a sufficiently powerful laser type weapon would need only to wear protective glasses to filter out whatever wavelength of light the laser utilizes
Yup, just like the laser cutters used for metal work; operators in the vicinity have special tinted/polarized lenses that protect their eyes. What are the odds you'll have your eyes on when things go south in a dark alley, though? Or is vision-damage going to replace the hearing damage we're so willing to accept as a consequence of unexpected self-defense?

Lasers can also be reflected (regardless of spectrum); maybe not enough to completely protect the shootee, but enough can be thrown back at the shooter to injure or disable them, as well. Imagine body-armor that throws your bullets back at you; would you be inclined to draw down on such a person? ;)

I wonder if such a wound would bleed as profusely, due to cauterization. Or if it would be as jarring to the system, due to the burning away, as opposed to severing of nerves. 3rd degree burns often are painless, as the nerves are destroyed before they can transmit to the central nervous system. A laser-shot person may not go into shock as easily. Obviously, if the wound is grave enough it won't matter, but still, for guys who fret over .40 vs .45 caliber cross sections, a 10 micron laser hole is gonna be a tough sell :D

If I had enough power on hand to shoot a laser, I'd want a rail-gun. Proven projectile tech, without the mess. Get a 10gr pin going Mach 7 or thereabouts, and you no longer have to worry about penetration (or cleanup :D). A high-speed railgun is the closest thing we have to a video-game style plasma gun at the moment (the projectile is actually encased in plasma when fired at that speed). I'm still not comfortable with having 40kwh in my hand, but hey, we hold a couple hundred grains of gunpowder in a magwell, so why not?

Oh, yeah, it's gotta somehow be EMP proof, too, or your battery will "chainfire" in your pocket when subjected to such an impulse :eek:

TCB

justice06rr
May 20, 2013, 02:04 AM
As they say, if it ain't broke don't fix it...

Nothing wrong with the current technology now. Manufacturers will just improve them (better materials, lightweight designs, etc) but I doubt introducing anything new and revolutionary will come out and replace current guns and ammo.

Sure, rail guns and lasers/phasers are great. But realistically they are very expensive and would depend too much on electronics and battery life which is the biggest downfall.

macomb2013
May 20, 2013, 02:36 AM
In next 10 years, probably polymer ammunition. I would imagine bullup eventual replace m4,maybe ak at least in America,since now days the trend is making your rifles as compact as possibles for close quarter combat.

Garak
May 20, 2013, 03:27 AM
I think the next step will be eliminating human error from aiming, meaning computerized sights and guided bullets. The technologies already exist. Also, all kinds of less than lethal weapons for police use.

xxjumbojimboxx
May 20, 2013, 03:36 AM
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/63/194377722_236e095129_m.jpg

xxjumbojimboxx
May 20, 2013, 03:39 AM
whoa.... when someone said new catridge, I came up with a crazy idea...

Ill report to you in five years when im rich

xxjumbojimboxx
May 20, 2013, 03:41 AM
nevermind, google told me it exists already... It's called a coil gun, it uses electromagnets to propel bullets down the barrel.... Too bad., I thought i was awesome.. I should probably think before i post at close to 3 am :)

mnrivrat
May 20, 2013, 04:39 AM
I reluctuntly post this, but do believe a future will see the individual right to have advanced arms disappear.
That would make the development of small arms almost stagnate as more and more conflicts are fought with air power and other means ,to a level that small arms for military usage will be current technoligy cleaned up by advancements in optics and other rather minor changes that are on the testing grounds already.

Hunting and civilian use of weapons will revert back to old school such as bow/arow, and black powder style arms.

You may not like it, or even agree with it, but that's what I perdict the next 100 years will bring. The path of todays world society seem headed in that direction.

Then again I could be wrong ,and we all will have that pulse laser blaster good for dropping a flying nat at 2 miles. :neener:

rugerdude
May 20, 2013, 08:21 AM
More efficient manufacturing processes and materials. Stronger, more durable polymers or composite materials potentially even having a metal-like feel to them. The 3d printing age has just begun and already people want a stronger polymer, this may help spur R&D in that direction.

I'd like to say we'll see some design innovation in firearms but new whiz-bang stuff doesn't catch on very easily. We'll be using the M16 platform (though hopefully with the next model being piston-driven) for another 25 years at least. Consider the fact that we've been using the M2 machinegun since the 1920's and you realize that my statement is hardly a risky one to make.

Optics will see the advent of new reticle designs, illumination methods, and better electronic range-finding and elevation/wind correction scope designs.

Thermal imaging and night-vision should steadily improve as well, but this doesn't mean that much to civilian shooters.

Polymer-cased ammo potentially as well.

content
May 20, 2013, 09:52 AM
Hello friends and neighbors // Here in the East, I think there will be a decrease in outdoor shooting ranges, causing an increase of indoor shooting ranges, creating an upsurge in pistol caliber carbines and rifle caliber handguns.

The increase in food costs may cause more folks to hunt as well as have a home garden so I believe the need for common bolt action .30-06, .30-30 rifles and such will remain pretty much the same.

Varmint hunting at night will allow quicker/cheaper NV advancements .. so many folks will have NV capable optics.

The Double Barrel Shotgun will take over the HD market world wide.:D

T2K
May 20, 2013, 10:19 AM
I believe that if the USSR / Warsaw Pact had not fallen apart, West Germany would have replaced the G3 with the G11 which fired a caseless round?

Smart munitions are clearly something which will be used more and more by militaries around the world. But AK's will be around the next century too.

Greenmachin3
May 20, 2013, 01:52 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LjnhhtHojM

No more chemical explosions. Straight electricity. I think that video shows the beginning of the next stage of firearms.

Cosmoline
May 20, 2013, 03:32 PM
It's all about the propellant. After black powder was taken as far as it could go, the last great surge in innovation took place in the 1880's through the 1910's with smokeless. Since then we've been operating in the era of smokeless powder. We are not going to see any huge changes in firearm tech until and unless the propellant system changes.

A variety of concepts are in development, but so far none has shown the practical abilities of centerfire smokeless cartridges. Most of the prototype designs fail in one respect or another compared with the standard system. They don't get rid of heat well enough, for example, or they require too many bulky bttys.

Queen_of_Thunder
May 20, 2013, 04:09 PM
All changes will occur in ammuntion

c4v3man
May 20, 2013, 06:56 PM
I think caseless ammunition will be the next big thing, despite it's problematic history. The benefits make sense at least on a battlefield, although I can't see how it would necessarily benefit us peasants. If anything, I'd imagine it'd bring about much shorter expiration dates on ammo, and eliminate the possibility of reloaders rolling their own.

I would like to see an electronic trigger assembly, not necessarily for defensive weapons, but again the benefits for a competition gun would be nice. I'd also imagine it would radically improve the trigger feel of bullpup rifles if made reliable enough. I'd imagine there's probably several NFA regulations that will prevent them from being produced for civilians, but it'd be nice to see regardless.

barnbwt
May 20, 2013, 07:14 PM
There are electronic triggers, but they are designed with mechanical elements that either slow down their operation (a hydraulic piston slowly depresses the trigger) or have some linkage still linked to the user's finger (I'd guess that means the sear is electric, but the disconnector-reset is still done by your finger moving). I'm sure both are expensive at any rate.

The benefits make sense at least on a battlefield, although I can't see how it would necessarily benefit us peasants.

Until we invent a firing chamber that doesn't absorb heat from the rounds fired, caseless actually makes less sense on the battlefield, and more sense in bolt-rifles. The G11 would cook off after only a small number of rounds (quickly attainable given it's 3000rpm cycle speed). Not to mention that a pile of caseless will always be a hell of a lot more dangerous to have around than flash-proof cases.

I'm thinking more and more it'll be optics. We've revolutionized iron sights with the new dot setups (reflex and red dot), I think auto-compensating/calculating scopes are next. That and cheap night vision (how old is that technology at this point?)

Here's a nifty concept I'll just "throw out there" to the wolves amongst us: Modular receiver that splits vertically at the magwell and ejection port instead of into an upper/lower. Would allow for any length magazine and cartridge to be used with a barrel/front-er swap, limited only by the width of the magwell and ejection ports. Anyone think this would go over like a led zeppelin?

TCB

swalton1943
May 20, 2013, 07:17 PM
Non-projectile weapons, sonic stunguns, phasers, nural tinglers, read sci/fi; they will tell you about the possibilities. Stunguns are a perpetual fave.

mac66
May 20, 2013, 07:28 PM
Everything we have now is just a matter of variations on the same thing, a ignition source, propellant and projectile. Unless someone figures out how to change the laws of physics future firearms will just be more variations of the same. The point being someone is going to have to find an energy source adaptable to personal weapons that make firearms obsolete.

JohnBiltz
May 20, 2013, 09:03 PM
What have always in the past been the game changers were the ammunition.
Match lock
flint lock
percussion caps
Minnie ball
brass cartridges
smokeless powder

The next big thing will be ammunition driven just like all the others.

JRH6856
May 21, 2013, 12:20 AM
Caseless ammunition could become a really big thing. But now that California is requiring all new firearms incorporate microstamping it could face a legal hurdle. Caseless ammo doesn't leave anything that could be stamped so look to Cali to require all ammo to be microstampable--that is have a case.

Of course, caseless ammo is really nothing new. Percussion arms during the Civil War used consumable paper cartridges, but they required separate percussion caps for ignition. The new improvement would be incorporating the ignition system into the cartridge.

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