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Thoughts on Gun Evolution

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Nightcrawler, Sep 20, 2003.

  1. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Well-Known Member

    I've been thinking about something. As gun technology advanced, the weapons themselves have (generally) gotten less complicated. I mean, think about it.

    Compare a modern car to a car from the 1920s. The modern car is much more complicated, and has computers and whatnot in it.

    Then compare an AK-47 to a Thompson. The AK is lighter and is mechanically simpler, AFAIK. You see this with a LOT of gun designs. The newest ones have fewer parts and so forth.

    It strikes me as something akin to backwards evolution. Does it really take that long to think of the simplest way to accomplish what you want, or are there factors I'm not considering?

    I mean, look at all of the contraptions they used for early semiauto rifles, before the Garand was refined, then compare that to the guts of a FAL.

    Granted, the later designs are based on experience gained on the earlier ones, and I'll bet that counts for a LOT.
  2. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

    Big difference between guns and cars: Modern guns aren't expected to shoot faster for longer while burning less powder and emitting no powder gasses, and play your CD's and keep you air-conditioned while they do it. Conversely, cars are not expected to run after lying submerged in freezing mud for a week. ;)
  3. RWK

    RWK Well-Known Member

    Changes in systems are either revolutionary or evolutionary. To illustrate, manned, power flight experienced a revolutionary change through the development, wide spread utilization, and further advancement of gas turbine (jet) propulsion. However, the technological changes in automobiles during the same (50+ year) period have been fundamentally evolutionary; notwithstanding the incorporation of microcircuits, pollution abatement, statistical-process-control manufacturing, and so forth, the FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPT of a 1950s car is much like today’s.

    I respectfully suggest small arms have experienced a VERY long succession of frequently brilliant EVOLUTIONARY changes during the last centuries. For example, when one visits the NRA Firearms Museum here in Fairfax County, Virginia – and it really is worth seeing – it is easy to establish that the long-history of firearms has essentially been evolutionary – THE BASIC CONCEPT (GUNPOWDER, IGNITION SOURCE, CHAMBER, BARREL AND PROJECTILE) HAS BEEN GREATLY IMPROVED UPON BUT REMAINS INTEGRAL TO TODAY.

    I believe we are on the cusp of a REVOLUTION change in small arms. Practical “Directed Energy†(e. g., the Airborne Laser and certain Antiballistic missile defenses) weapons are now being fielded. I suspect that within the next century use of man-portable directed energy weapons will become pragmatic and affordable. This will denote the first REVOLUTIONARY advancement in small arms in centuries, replacing:
    1. Gunpowder with electricity
    2. Projectiles with focused, wave-borne energy
    3. All the hardware (chamber, barrel, etc.) with an entirely new system

    We may not see this in common use during our lifetimes, but history teaches us that REVOLUTIONARY technical innovation are further evolved to become smaller, better, cheaper, more practical, more widely used, and so forth. Why would directed energy weapons not follow this macro-trend?

    Best regards -- Roy
  4. IAJack

    IAJack Well-Known Member

    I believe..

    In gun creation not evolution!
  5. Baba Louie

    Baba Louie Well-Known Member

    Well, the auto vs gun comparison might hold some validity... maybe.

    I'm thinking back a couple of years tho to the iron tube stuffed with powder and ball, some type of wooden holding device and a horse for locomotion.

    Faster is better, comfort is good as is reliability (read less maintenance).

    I do appreciate the evolution of both transport and shooting devices.

    Weed out the un-necessary frills, bells and whistles, keeping it simple and lightweight (good to a point... wait till S&W scandalizes the new 500 into some snub type carry all day, shoot it never, just because they can).

    Accuracy is good too.

    As RWK notes... I'm hoping the Star Trek phasers or DUNE "sonic" hand-helds come out in my lifetime as well as the George Jetson big bubble top flyers... but I'm not going to hold my breath.

  6. C.R.Sam

    C.R.Sam Moderator Emeritus

    I'll take Tamara's take on it. :)

  7. FireInTheHole

    FireInTheHole Well-Known Member

    Does the geniva (sp?) convention cover man portable microwave guns that cause the target to burst like an over-cooked plum? :D

    Personally, I think that if man portable EW become practical, there will still be some use for projectile weapons.

    Think about it.

    Just how effective would a laser be on incapacitating someone anyhow? Wouldnt the beam flash cauterize the wound?

    How well will that hi-tech EW penetrate a foot thick brick wall? (in real life, not starwars) Apply enough kinetic energy and penetration is a non-issue.

    Now an EW coupled w/ some sort of under the barrel DU explosive penetrator..... *drool*
  8. Grey54956

    Grey54956 Well-Known Member

    Energy weapons create a whole new batch of problems. Firearms will be the weapon of choice for many, many years.

    Firearms have a few very basic strengths that make them excellent weapons:

    1.) Gunpowder is reliable and predictable.
    2.) Cartridges can be stored almost indefinitely.
    3.) Firearms are easy to use and maintain. The meachanical workings are easy for the common man to understand.
    4.) Not subjest to electronic interference.
    5.) Cheap and easy to manufacture.

    Energy weapons will have a lot of problems:

    1.) Fragile systems.
    2.) Damaged by EMP devices.
    3.) Common grunt will not be able to understand workings of weapon
    4.) Batteries, batteries, batteries.
    5.) Did I mention batteries.

    The amount of energy necessary to cook a man, or burn a hole through one is immense compared to the energy necessary to punch a bullet into him. This is due to the fact that we are mostly water, so we suck up lots of heat without taking alot of damage. There are energy weapons today that can make you feel uncomfortable by heating the moisture in your skin, but as soon as you get out of the way, you quickly recover and can fight again.

    Anti-missle laser weapons are absolutely huge and cumbersome, resulting in their being mounted in large aircraft, or in defense bunkers. I strongly doubt they will be man-portable any time soon.
  9. RWK

    RWK Well-Known Member


    Do you remember drawings of early – hundreds of years ago – firearms: very cumbersome, very ungainly, very large, very inaccurate, and very primitive? Add more than a half-millennium of investment and evolution and we have today’s small arms. I believe the same pattern applies to virtually every field of human endeavor, when ingeniousness and resources are properly applied. Further, we have many contemporary examples of this pervasive pattern: heavier-than-air flight over the last hundred years, telecommunications, structures and materials, medical science. The last is very long – HOWEVER, THE PRINCIPAL IS PRECISELY THE SAME.

    The constraints you discuss re directed energy certainly exist today. Who is certain, however, that a century from now batteries will be the land warriors power source, or optic trains will not be ruggedized, or systems will not be easy to understand and to operate? How simple were radar systems for our military forbearers in 1940? How durable were early jet engines in 1950? How maintainable were early armored vehicles in 1930? All of these systems – and so many others – were enhanced by systemic innovation and investment.

    This same “revolutionary followed by evolutionary†approach will certainly apply to directed energy weapons as well.

    The advantages of eliminating the projectile and replacing it with wave-borne energy are clear. Resources and time – and I do mean lots of both – surely will be required, but technological advancement will prevail.

    With repects and regards - Roy
  10. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    In a manner of speaking, firearms can be considered directed-energy weapons themselves. The energy is just carried to the target in a little piece of metal. BTW, if the energy is transferred to the target in 2 milliseconds, then even a little .223 (55 gr @ 3250 = 1.75 kJ) delivers energy at a rate (power) of 875 kW.

    Not many HOUSE-SIZED lasers can deliver 1.75 kJ per pulse, or average 0.875 MW for as long as 2 milliseconds! Only the largest chemical lasers (ABL, THEL, MIRACL) and some REALLY big solid-state pulsed lasers (NOVA, NIF) can even touch that. And the firearm is all-weather reliable, man-portable, and self-powered.

    Man-portable beam weapons have a LONG way to go . . .

    As a side note, I have seen accounts of a prototype that uses an ultraviolet excimer laser to ionize a needle-thin path of air to a human target, coupled with a high-voltage pulsed-power system to deliver an incapacitating charge to the subject via the plasma "wire" created by the laser (presumably ground return is used for the return path, unless a dual-beam laser is used). Think Air Taser without the wires.
  11. Norm357

    Norm357 Well-Known Member

    Does the geniva (sp?) convention cover man portable microwave guns that cause the target to burst like an over-cooked plum?

    Better yet, could I get it in a shoulder holster?:D
  12. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    I have a hunch this will happen much sooner than most of us believe, and I doubt batteries as we know them today are going to be the means used to store energy.
  13. DMK

    DMK Well-Known Member

    I think that the biggest improvements have been in ammunition. Ammo today is non-corrosive, burns cleaner, more efficiently, and the bullets are of better design (probably due to the advent of computer design and simulation). Many old design weapons can take advantage of ammo advances (ie. some older style designs are still around, but with shorter barrels) and some of todays high-tech weapons have been designed with the newer ammo in mind (ie. FN P90/FiveSeven, M-16, AK-74, etc).
  14. XenaduKhan

    XenaduKhan Member

    You should understand that cars are being asked to do more and more all the time. A/C, traction control, air bags, power steering, electronics, better engines to get more milage and lower emissions, etc.

    Use modern technology to build the complete exact equivalent of the original ford model T and it would be an extremely simple build.

    Firearms, compared to cars and computers, are much further along and have gone through many more refinements. Any technology, as it matures, will accumulate features and do more until you hit a point where the basic tech does everything it needs to do. Then you will see the tech get simpler, easier to use and manufacture, and cheaper.
  15. XenaduKhan

    XenaduKhan Member

    In regards to batteries: we are already starting to see chemical cells replace batteries... i.e. the laptop power systems, set to go on sale in 2004, that run of chemical fuels that can be refilled easily. (alcohol based fuels mostly i think.)
  16. FireInTheHole

    FireInTheHole Well-Known Member

    By the time we have the battery technology available for EWs maybe somebody will invent a decent Gauss Rifle.

    50gr steel jacketed EFMJ traveling @ 10,000 ft/sec..... heheheeh
  17. Politically Incorrect

    Politically Incorrect Well-Known Member

    Besides the use of plastic and eletronic primers, I don't see much new technology in guns. Use of gas to operate the action is a century old along with the lock breech system for use in pistols.

    Most everything has been an improvement or varation of old technology.

    Will there be advancement on technology? Of course, but will it be as significant as the past 100 years? I'm not so sure, but I guess quite a few people believe so. It will be interesting.
  18. Preacherman

    Preacherman Well-Known Member

    We might, of course, see a coming together of old and new technologies. For example, one of the more significant developments in laser technology has been the "bomb-pumped" laser - a nuclear weapon, which in exploding is used to power a laser generator. The beam lasts only for a fraction of a second, but its power is immense, more than sufficient to destroy a ship-sized target if it hits the right spot. This is still in development. Now, if we could use a significantly smaller explosion to power a significantly smaller (but still deadly) laser, why couldn't this be contained in a cartridge? We'd still have the BANG!, but the projectile would be replaced by a laser or other projected/directed energy beam. Since there's no recoil to speak of, the autoloader concept as we know it today would perhaps be unsuitable - revolvers, anyone? :D
  19. FireInTheHole

    FireInTheHole Well-Known Member

    I believe what you are refering to is called an "X-Ray laser". Dont know the specifics, but the laser is actually the particles from the nuke itself... unlike many of the chem lasers used today. I for one wouldnt volunteer to shoot a handheld nuke. (too small for critical mass anyhow)
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2003
  20. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    The nuclear-pumped X-ray laser concept was basically a small nuclear weapon surrounded by dozens of independently pointed rods, probably made out of metal, that were turned into plasma by the intense photon radiation from the bomb and began to "lase" at X-ray wavelengths, producing a (brief) intense X-ray beam along the axis of the rod. Conversion efficiency was only a fraction of a percent, but when you have 10^15 watts to work with, the power output was still monumental.

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