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Low tech still relevant today.... someday obsolete?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by leadcounsel, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. leadcounsel

    leadcounsel member

    Jun 5, 2006
    Tacoma, WA
    Occurred to me that in our fast pace world, there are few "low tech" items that are still relevant. In an age where items are quickly replaced with new and improved and many inventions come and go...

    Forbes listed the rifle/gunpowder. as one of the top 10 inventions of all time, along with the wheel, wristwatch/time keeper, printing press, etc.

    And despite technology, it will likely not be in my lifetime that the good ole' sidearm, rifle and shotgun are replaced by cheaper AND more effective tools.

    Now, that could all change... imagine if defensive technology outsurpasses firearm technology. Imagine, for a moment, an era where personal etheral or invisible shield style armor (like an energy field) is widely and cheaply available for public consumption. Of course it is science fiction to some degree to believe that a shotgun slug or a .45 ACP could be deflected due to their kinetic energy... however it's not impossible that someone could come up with a design and improvements to the point where every-day people, or criminals, could carry a near weighless energy field which protects them from all sorts of injuries from fast moving dangers, such as cars, bullets, etc.

    Would that make the firearm obsolete for self defense purposes...? An interesting thought...
  2. JoeMal

    JoeMal Participating Member

    Jun 30, 2009
    Sticking with firearms instead of shields, how about a plastic (CHEAP plastic...I know what you're all thinking Glock haters) 'gun' that shoots a regenerating laser of some sort? Maybe this laser could even be dialed up-down in power and diameter to mimic .22LR, 9mm, .45ACP, etc? Can still hit targets, can hunt, even self defense...just not using typical guns or ammunition.
  3. sv51macross

    sv51macross Member

    Dec 7, 2009
    A man-portable energy shield would still have to obey the laws of physics, and the wearer would still feel the net kinetic impact of the deflected or absorbed rounds.

    I think that we'll still have projectile weapons for at least another 100 years, likely more. Laser and 'plasma' weaponry require such massive power storage that we will not get that kind of energy-dense batteries for awhile. Even then, we may still have projectile weapons for really long range stuff as lasers and plasma bolts would exponentially diffuse over distance. I think that for the most part, human weaponry will end-up looking like the weapons lineup from Halo. We'll have levitating ships and energy-reinforced armor before 'classic' directed-energy weapons.
  4. Rail Driver

    Rail Driver Senior Member

    Apr 16, 2010
    Tallahassee, FL
    Sounds like the "shield belt" in the Dune series... fast moving objects (knives, bullets, etc) are stopped or deflected and slow ones get by. Personally I don't see a lot happening in those areas for the immediate future due to several things including power management and miniaturization technology. While it would be nice, we're simply not there yet. At the rate the computer/technology industry is evolving, I'd say we're at least a couple decades from flying cars and power armor.

    HGUNHNTR Senior Member

    Nov 17, 2006
    Of the inventions you listed, firearms and ammunition have difinitely undergone the least evolution...makes you wonder what is next.
  6. wh!plash

    wh!plash New Member

    Oct 15, 2010
    Whether its more practical than a regular firearm or not is up for debate, but the pulse laser thing is definitely on its way.

    For instance, this video. This one is fairly well-documented on the web. Home made, lightweight, handheld, and rechargeable battery powered. It already completely penetrates 8mm or 10mm plastic instantly. Its not hard to imagine a version in the future that could penetrate pretty far into soft tissue. Not to mention, lasers aren't exactly science fiction for things like welding and surgery.

  7. rodregier

    rodregier Participating Member

    Aug 5, 2007
    Halifax,NS Canada
    An engineering tag line I've enjoyed over the years goes something like this:

    They have minaturized many things, but they have yet to minaturize the watt.

    Portable power sources are a serious constraint on some of the gee-whiz technogies that are evolving.
  8. MacTech

    MacTech Active Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha
    Farscape had an interesting take on DE weaponry (directed energy, that is)…

    Peacekeeper "Pulse" weapon technology uses a magazine filled with highly volatile vegetable oil (Chakkan oil, derived from the turnip-like Tannot root) pulse weapons fire superheated blobs of Chakkan oil, hot enough to glow yellow

    "Freeze! or I'll fill you full of .....little....yellow....bolts....of light?!?"

    As an interesting bit of scifi trivia, the Tannot plant is highly invasive, taking over entire ecosystems, and it's flesh is psychoactive, causing mental impairment and addiction, peacekeepers "donate" Tannots to developing cultures, get them addicted to it, and as the plant takes over the ecosystem, turn that developing race into a slave race for harvesting Tannot root, which they use to create Chakkan oil for their pulse weaponry

    Using an oil based biofuel to create a DE weapon is certainly a novel way to look at it, and this technology would be within the realm of feasibility here…

    True, technically a pulse weapon is still a kinetic energy weapon and not a true energy weapon, but it does kinda' solve the energy density issue with true DE weaponry
  9. geekWithA.45

    geekWithA.45 Moderator Emeritus

    Jan 1, 2003
    SouthEast PA
    I think you have to qualify what you mean by "obsolete".

    There are two distinctly different types of obsolescence:

    The first indicates something that is no longer effective in a modern environment. Examples: muzzle loading naval cannons vs aircraft/carriers, charging with edged weapons in formation, and so on.

    The second indicates something for which there is a more effective alternative available for the cost.

    For example, the derringer is obsolete as a defensive weapon. That doesn't mean you can't shoot a bad guy with it. What it means is that if you want to lug around a pound of stuff, you can have a lot more shots, a much better trigger, and a magazine style reload.

    Similarly, my first computer still works fine, rendering wireframe drawings at speeds in which you can actually see individual pixels being plotted. My phone is a lot better at that sort of thing.

    I think we're going to see a lot of the 2nd type of obsolescence, and not so much of the first.
  10. Zoogster

    Zoogster Senior Member

    Oct 27, 2006
    leadcounsel said:
    We are already near that point already for civilian legal arms.

    The implications are huge, the 2nd Amendment was meant to create balance by keeping all people vulnerable to one another. To deter tyranny, because the people themselves are a threat.
    Once that is gone the intent of the 2nd Amendment is defeated.

    This is why things like armor piercing projectile bans are so unconsitutional.

    Throughout human history both weapons and armor intended to defeat them have been in a constant technology battle to keep pace.
    From heavy cloth armor, to leather armor, to chain mail, to plate. The weapons that were best against bare tissue were less effective against those wearing certain armor, so they gave up some effectiveness to gain the ability to defeat armor. Weapons that could readily remove limbs, and inflict maximize damage to a torso, but could not defeat armor were replaced by arms that did less damage to bare tissue, but concentrated force to punch through armor.
    You see different arms based on the armor of a given ancient culture.
    Those with less armor were still using weapons that maximized soft tissue damage, while those that used a lot of armor were forced to move to things that concentrated force on an armor piercing point or relied on concussion.

    Likewise firearms and body armor go through the same progress. As higher levels of body armor becomes standard, military forces that face other military forces wearing body armor will need to rely on weapons that defeat said body armor. Whether it is by punching through the armor, or relying on other incapacitating effects.

    Laws intended to limit progress of one are a threat to the intent of the 2nd Amendment.

    Currently armored exoskeletons are the most likely technology that will make most civilian small arms and civilian legal rounds ineffective.

    They will allow someone to wear what would currently be prohibitive amounts of body armor, which weigh more than a regular person could wear.
    When you consider that current level IV-V body armor that can be worn stops up to most battle rifle rounds, just imagine what armor too heavy to even wear can be created to stop.
    Most civilian legal small arms using legal projectiles will be defeated.
    This will allow the government to deploy people that can act with impunity, immune to most civilian legal small arms.
    Currently the primary limiting feature is battery technology, which is constantly being improved (with huge amounts of money in researching better battery technology for the electric car market.)
    So that limitation is temporary. Even with that limitation, short duration raids, paramilitary SWAT type raids and similar things can utilize such technology.
    As it goes more mainstream it will also get cheaper, more parts of government will have them, retired models from the military will be given to police like they currently do with firearms, etc
    While civilians will be stuck in the past, limited by the law to old small arm and projectile technology.

    Here is some examples of such armor, now imagine most of its carrying capacity being used to support fully enclosing body armor.
    Not only can they wear body armor, but it would allow the firing of weapons that currently have prohibitive recoil. Say a minigun for example, like the terminator:
    Small mechs slightly larger than the human inside are going to used in the future.


    Raytheon Sarcos:

    Lockheed Martin HULC:

    And others...
    They are coming.

    Your puny civilian legal small arms and projectiles won't deter the tyrants of the future.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  11. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Senior Elder

    Dec 29, 2002
    Los Anchorage
    I've been hearing this for many decades. You can easily find Popular Mechanics articles from fifty years back with soldiers flying around via jetpacks and such.

    In reality, what we've seen is the high-tech military forced to fight low-tech wars over and over and over again. So instead of creating supersoldiers who are immune from ordinary small arms using 19th century technology, we end up with soldiers overloaded, overheated and with restricted mobility. These "mech" suits are really just attempts to permit a human to carry an absurd amount of gear. Lord help them if a bearing goes out, a pebble works into a joint or the power system quits. It would be better to reduce the gear. Or get a horse.

    Plus there are the enormous costs. The DOD is going to have a pretty violent wakeup call right soon on that front. Hopefully someone remembers how to pack a mule.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  12. armoredman

    armoredman Elder

    Nov 19, 2003
    proud to be in AZ
    Another trip back to science fiction, the great Sten series, where a Guards instructor muses about going after low tech natives with tracked fighting suits, and the natives discovering how to disable them, and inserting spears into waste vents to kill the soldier inside.
    If our tech becomes so worthless as no pose no problems to the ruling elite, we'll make changes.
  13. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Apr 24, 2008
    Hot and Humid FL
    Mr. Spock, set your phaser on "stun"..... :D
  14. Manco

    Manco Participating Member

    Dec 28, 2009
    You may be over-generalizing here--whether "high-" or "low-" tech, things are what they are, and if something still gets the job done, then it doesn't matter when it was created or when it developed the fastest. The latter depends on whatever science happens to discover and how practical it turns out to be in the real world--there are tons of variables involved, and hardly everything can be developed at the same pace at any given time.

    Firearms are a technology--one that happens to still be effective a fair amount of time after its creation, but it's not a natural phenomenon, it's a technology. Actually, it's still a relatively new technology on the overall timescale of humanity's existence--some things get replaced quickly while others don't (which usually means that they can't be, at least for a while). We still use knives, for example, because they still work about as well for most purposes as anything newer or more elaborate.

    I think what most people have in mind when thinking about "technology" is electronics, but that is a very specific field, and furthermore it involves information more than physical effects such as putting holes through people. The reason that advancements in things like electronics have been and continue to be so rapid is that there is so much relevant scientific knowledge waiting to be exploited by engineering and refining fabrication methods and things like that.

    However, the same is not necessarily true of everything else, including high-energy applications such as putting holes through people. The main problem is that we're generally still limited, for practical reasons, to chemical energy, whether it's in the form of gasoline, smokeless powder, or electric batteries. In fact, many of the advancements in "technology" (i.e. electronics specifically) are made possible by reducing energy requirements, but that is not an option for something that would replace firearms entirely. Let's face it, explosions are an inherently efficient way to convert chemical energy into destructive force, which is why things like firearms and bombs remain useful. That's simply the way the universe is, and making things more complicated or "high-tech" isn't going to change the fact. The only way to justify future technologies replacing firearms is if they are either more effective (which would probably require something other than chemical energy) or more practical (such as being equally portable and effective but more quiet), and I think we're still a long way from achieving either of these goals, let alone both.

    That's right, cost is another consideration that I tend to lump under practicality. And you're almost certainly right that it won't happen anytime soon. It could happen someday, but we'd probably have to know a lot more, in terms of science and technology, than we do now. We could do virtually anything if we could only solve the energy supply problem in a practical way, but it's a difficult fundamental problem to solve (to say the least!).

    Just ask NASA why after all these decades since Apollo we have yet to travel to the stars. The path that humanity took to the Moon was extremely rapid after we finally developed controlled atmospheric flight, but since then we've hit a proverbial "brick wall" because of the energy problem--we can only go so far with chemical-powered rockets, and all of the known alternatives are not yet practical in every way that we need. I've had this very discussion with some people who insist, without a shred of evidence, that sending astronauts to other planets should be easy and cheap by now due to the advance of "technology," but there is much more to the subject physically than the little electronic gadgets in their pockets (which may themselves hit a "brick wall" someday).

    World peace...DAAAA-HAA-HAA-HAAAAAAAA!!!! ;)

    But seriously, one thing that probably would quickly lead to firearms becoming obsolete is an electric battery that is just as energy-dense and as capable of supplying power on demand--in a comparably compact package--as smokeless powder. That will take some doing and probably a lot more time (indeterminate at this point).
  15. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Elder

    Jul 30, 2006
    Johnson City, TN
    Other than materials and manufacturing methods, firearms have evolved very little for well over 100 years. Almost every one you can name uses operating principles or mechanisms developed around the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.
  16. Maple_City_Woodsman

    Maple_City_Woodsman Member

    Jun 15, 2011
    That's not really how lasers work.

    Different 'diameters' probably wouldn't be any more or less effective unless the difference in size was extreme. Lasers don't 'poke holes' in things, they burn through them.

    Thus such a weapon would likely cauterize the wound, as we see today with the use of current laser scalpels and medical Co2 lasers, which are currently used to cauterize blood vessels in some types of procedures.

    In a sense, there would be even less room for error in shot placement with a laser pistol. Such a weapon would have no secondary damage from projectile expansion or energy transfer, as well as little or no loss of blood pressure to help incapacitate the wound-e... NOW account for the fact that even a powerful laser would likely take significantly longer to penetrate than even a 'slow' round like a 45, and you may have trouble getting nice clean penetrating wounds.

    Basically, lasers suck as anti-personnel weapons unless they are just obscenely powerful or surgically placed.

    A FAR better way of improving on current weapons IMO would be to improve projectile design with high-tech materials, and boost propellent performance with new chemicals:

    I imagine something like a 'smart' plastic which could be used as a bullet core, allowing a bullet to expand far more than possible with lead and copper, and expand at the appropriate time, after achieving good penetration. This would allow smaller and lighter bullets to achieve far larger wound channels than conventional bullets of the same diameter, while still reaching adequate penetration - Less recoil for the same would cavity volume.

    Powders could be tailored to achieve delayed, or profiled expansion with new chemicals - allowing more gas volume, and higher velocity, for the same chamber pressures. Imagine a two-part powder that burns at a conventional rate until the bullet has jumped a few inches, and then flares producing a large volume of gas - the pressure would be abated by the additional volume.

    With those kinds of advances, even 'weak' cartridges like the 32NAA or the 5.7 FN could become very very potent, ushering in a world of low recoil, flat shooting cartridges that still packed a huge punch.

    IMO firearms just work too well to abandon the concept anytime soon. Maybe something 'better' will be possible in 1,000 years, but in the next few hundred I would expect to see development of better and more lethal cartridges.

    I could also see some kind of electrical weapon, like a sooped-up taser becoming available in the distant future, but inventors would need to extend the range substantially AND make it wireless AND repeating without reloading. But as another poster said, such a weapon would require a battery so small and so potent that it is nothing more than a distant pipe dream here in the 21'st century.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  17. SFsc616171

    SFsc616171 Member

    Jul 21, 2010
    In the light of SF, even in the original movie production of "Dune", with their energy shield protection ... "Take note! The slow blade penetrates the shield!" Old-tech Fairbairn-Sykes blades still rule!
  18. Zoogster

    Zoogster Senior Member

    Oct 27, 2006

    The primary reason for a lack of travel is the massive expense.
    The moon mission and related expenses were justified, during the Cold War. Much of the same technology was applied to ICBMs, so every advancement in going to the moon was in fact a part of the arms race. It was essentially a program that helped to perfect ICBMs, but because it was interesting and captured the imagination of the nation, the public supported the massive required cost to go to the moon.

    They have had the space station for along time, and at any point they could have sent several separate rockets carrying a spare rocket.
    Assembling a rocket or other vehicle in space, that never had to use most of its payload getting out of earth's gravitational pull.
    Once in space fuel goes a lot further, because there is no atmosphere to fight and limited gravity to overcome. Long periods of time require no fuel, just using momentum. They have done such things with exploration vehicles, using gravitational pull of other planets to loop around and gain whatever speed they want.

    Such a thing could easily go anywhere within our solar system.
    The largest challenge would be supplies and the length of time. Creating an environment where they can grow more food, and recycle most things. With only limited consumable resources. But with a bunch of healthy people put in isolation for months ahead of time who have a team of doctors looking for any problem, taking blood, insuring no disease, they have many options.

    Any problem the crew could not solve during their multi year journey would also lead to their death as they would not be able to return, which could sour the public to the concept.
    But they could easily take a manned flight to Mars or anyplace else. The funding required would simply be tremendous.
    A significant portion of the economy aka GDP would go towards such projects. That means a lot of peoples' taxes would not be reinvested into things in country, but would be launched out into space.
    That is what cannot be justified, launching a large portion of the budget out into space instead of spending it on the nation. But space travel anywhere in the galaxy has been entirely feasible for awhile.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  19. Vaarok

    Vaarok Participating Member

    Dec 13, 2006
    Just throwing it out, a laser in the proper wavelength would theoretically produce one hell of a steam explosion.

    The whole debate of firearm tech falls into the principle of "if it's stupid and it works, it isn't stupid"- there presently isn't a better way of transferring kinetic energy from point to point to inflict harm. Used to be you hit somebody with a rock, then a sword, then an arrow, now a bullet.

    As for packing a mule, Big Dog...

    I think the bigger, scarier thing in warfare should be drones. Meat's going to be obsolete simply in terms of reaction time. Every time I see Terminator or a Cylon Centurion or whatever blazing away and missing wildly, I cringe. Imagine an aimbot with insta-gib. With good target-recognition software, hitting the target is just math, and machines do math far quicker and better than meat.
  20. blindhari

    blindhari Active Member

    Jan 11, 2009
    A group was organised by Heinlien, then in the Navy, to predict Navy needs after WWII. The report was given to Nimitz.
    Nuclear Navy
    Nuclear submarines with IBM submersible misssle
    Nuclear aircraft carriers
    Navy pilots must lead way to space (check where astonauts mostly came from)
    All missle fighters
    Ship to surface, subsurface, ship to ship missles
    Group consisted of Lester Del Ray, L Sprague DeCamp, Rober Heinlien, Issac Asimov as I remember.

    Guess what Nimitz did with the list.
    Try reading Starship Troopers by Heinlien with an open mind


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