05 June 2011

The FWS Armory: The Gauss Gun

Combat in science fiction is often fought with a variety of weaponry. Everything from plasma rifles in a 40 watt range to mythical laser swords. But, what realistic weapons will our soldiers of the future be using? Many wrongly assumed that combat in the 21st century would be fought with laser blasters and nuclear weapons. However, the majority of weapons on the battlefield are the same or very similar to weapons used forty years ago. Besides the familiar laser blaster, there are weapons based on propelling sabots via magnetic fields. These are nothing new in the realm of Sci-Fi, and continue to day to appear in sci-fi works, but the difference, is that military organization and companies are spending major R&D dollars to bring these weapons of the future into today. Often authors have featured Gauss guns, but often mix up the Gauss gun with the Rail gun. Per the mission statement of FWS, we are going to try to clear things up with the Gauss gun and exploring how a future military organization might deploy such a weapon. On a personal note, out of all kinetic energy weapons (KEW) systems, and the Gauss gun is my favorite.

What is a Gauss Gun?

First off, Gauss guns go by many name: Mass Drivers (much
larger, used for space transportation), Centipede Gun, Magnetic Ladder Gun and if superconductive, a Quench Gun. The name Gauss is named for Carl Friedrich Gauss, who developed the math behind the use of magnetics for acceleration around the 1830's. However, real credit should belong to Kristian Birkeland, who attempted to develop magnetic weapon around 1900. The basic operation of a Gauss gun seems simple enough...a ferromagnetic slug is push/pulled through a series of staged charged Magnetic coils.When the slug reaches the middle of the coil, it is switched off, and the next coil powers on to pull the slug down the barrel, this is known as switching. The slug will increase speed during this push/pull, and depend on the number coils, called stages.  

Gauss Guns verse Rail Guns
These two different types of magnetic weaponry are often confused. Oddly enough, most Rail guns in sci-fi are actually Gauss guns, such as in Metal Gear Solid. Rail guns used two conductive 'rails' to propel the sabot, while Gauss uses coils, and Rail guns generate a great deal of heat via electricity and fiction. This causes the need for the rails to be replaced. Rail guns are being currently experimented with by the US Navy, and have shown to generate high velocities, while most of the military coilgun projects are still attempting to get off of the ground, due to their lack of producing HV speeds.

Advantages of Gauss Weaponry
  • Silent: since there are no moving parts, and no chemical propellant, the Gauss gun is silent
    during firing, making it prefect for a sniper rifle, like in the Cyrsis games.
  • No Muzzle flash: Once again, no chemical propellant moves the slug down the barrel towards its enemy, so there is no need for a sound suppressor, or the telltale gun flashes to zero-in an enemy's position
  • No moving parts: the Gauss gun could be sealed against all manner of environments, making it prefect of off-world warfare, and less prone to break downs.
  • High-Velocity Slugs: The big push for Gauss based weaponry is due to it's projected ability to generate the pull/push for a slug traveling at above 3,000 meters per second (m/s). This would makes a relative small slug able to inflict massive damage, much like the kill vehicles used by the US missile shield system.
  • More ammo, less weight: Any military that uses Gauss weaponry would notice that everything from tanks to infantry could carry more slugs for their Gauss weapons than conventional chemically-propelled weapons. With the sabot being the only item needed, and not a bulky shell filled with gunpowder, more carry could be carried, with less weight and space.
Disadvantages of Gauss Weaponry
  • Power: the biggest drawback to deploying a man-portable Gauss gun for infantry or Special Operations is the power requirements for these guns to fire slug at HV speeds. 
  • In-Field Service: While not having moving parts, the Gauss gun does have a great deal of electric wiring, could this weapon be 'ruggedized' for field work? And could the portable Gauss be serviceable by in-field by soldiers without degrees in electrical engineering?
  • Charging-up Delay: Real Gauss guns require a buildup to full charge, which is a delay, and delays can be deadly in combat. One can see this in the (mostly bad) movie Demolition Man, when the magnetic hand weapon takes time between each shot.
  • Coil Failure: The US DARPA experimented with a 48 stage mortar...what if one or several of those coils failed with a live 81mm mortar round in side the tube. While the need for a mutli-stage coilgun to push/pull the projectile up to HV speeds, every stage as to be switched on and off at the right moment. That is a lot of ifs for a weapon system.
  • Projectile Saturation: This is when the magnetic field cannot increase the magnetization of the projectile, resulting in loss of speed and effectiveness of the weapon.

Real-World Gauss Guns
 If you have the talent, knowledge, and some ability, you too can build a Gauss gun of your very own! Homebrew coilguns are common on the internet, are mostly one-stage (limiting the kinetic punch of the slug) and are single-shot. I have only seen one that was a rapid-fire model, but had limited lethality. A number of this homebrew coilguns are of the "bolt-action" type and do break glass, wreck model aircraft and wooden boards.
There was a model of Gauss machine gun featured in a 1933 Popular Mechanics, a story was written about an "smokeless, noiseless machine gun". However, as we all know, there was no Gauss machine guns in WWII, upon digging around the internet, it seems that the Gauss machine gun did not work. DARPA experimented with a 120mm Gauss mortar that used 1.6MJ to fire and a current 81mm that may be used in the replacement to the HUMMV, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. The Chinese are working on a defensive Gauss gun, and the US is planning on a EM aircraft Catapult for the next their carrier class, the Gerald R. Ford.

Military Uses for Gauss Weaponry

Armored Power Suits/Mecha
You now have 20 seconds...
Walking tanks, or mecha, could be a natural platform for mounting powerful magnetic launchers, and serve as front-line artillery support to infantry units, were tanks or fire-bases could be unitized. A 25mm Gauss rifle is used by my American APS unit in my book Endangered Species, as a DMR, anti-artillery/missile defensive system, and anti-material rifle.

Infantry Portable Cannon
Recoilless rifles are the closest thing to Gauss guns in the modern military, and in my own MSF works, this is how futuristic armies deploy magnetic weaponry, via crew-served cannons. This portable Gauss cannons could, in theory, be used against hardened urban targets, mechs, and of course, tanks. Infantry units could have each soldier carry several slugs, like present day LAW rockets or machine gun ammunition.

Anti-Material Rifle
Remember the Cobra Assault Cannon from Robocop? That could be the power of a handheld Gauss cannon, and about the most man-portable that a coilgun could get. Like current military 12.7mm and 20mm 'sniper' rifles, the Gauss anti-material rifle could be used to take out all manner of soft and hard targets, more over, this would make the concept of an HV EM weapon system workable for Special Operations Forces and infantry, because of its mission specific use, and they would not be depending on the rifle for their main offensive/defensive tool of war. 

Gauss "Shotgun"
If you remember my flash-fiction Custom, than you read about portable Gauss cannons being loaded with flechette (dart) shot. This could also, if the fast-dump storage device could be fashioned small enough, be made into something similar to a modern shotgun. The hand-pump could be used to charge the capacitors, and delivery one blast of all manner of nasty ammunition. I think Corporal Hicks, said it best, "I save this for close encounters..."

Space Warfare
In the MSF bible, the 1996 ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manuel by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, he talks about the use of the Sulaco's railgun cannon in space warfare. According to the text, while particle/laser beams and missiles are the preferred method of taking out a enemy ship at combat ranges, the killer-blow is the magnetic propelled round. While missiles and DEW beams have counter-measures, a slug traveling at hyper-velocity, punches through a starship's hull, and no armor is thick enough to repel a HV shell. However, railgun sabots could be avoided, since they do move at the speed of light, and be shot down with defensive lasers. In my own book, Endangered Species, during the hard science orbital space battle, the human warships use 'Gauss shot', a volley of magnetically launched pellets to incepter a enemy missile.

Gauss Tank-based EM cannon
The M50 ONTOS tank
Tanks would be a natural platform of planet-side deployment of Gauss weaponry. The applications of this technology would allow a tank to carry more ammunition than a current MBT, via just the sabot being needed, not the propellant. Also, this could make sabots much smaller than the 105mm/120mm in current service. We could see tank Gauss slugs being closer to WWII tank shell sizes, like 66mm, 75mm, and the dreaded 88mm. I am personally convinced that the M808B MBT Scorpion 90mm HV cannon uses Gauss technology.  

Mounting a portable Gauss cannon to a HUMMV or other off-world Jeep-like vehicle would enhance the tactical capabilities to counter armored vehicles and hardened buildings in urban settings...and it would be really cool.

Heavy Space Launch System
Another use for Gauss technology, along with railguns, is as a launcher platform , known as Mass Drivers. The use of Mass Drivers is to propel payload into low-orbit for pickup, or launch rockets without the telltale signs of a chemical booster launch. It as been rumored that the Viper launchers from BSG are some form of Mass Driver.

Why are Gauss guns NOT in military service?
The main reason that Gauss guns are not being mounted to HUMMVs or on attack helicopters is that the moment, we cannot seem generate EM fields to produce a slug going at above 3,000 m/s. Most homebrew Coilguns are only able to get their slugs up to about the feet-per-second of a paintball gun.In addition, most of these hobby Gauss guns are tied to a major power source, like their local power grid. But all these reason pale in comparison to another real-world reason, the simplicity of modern weapons.When I was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, at the part when Washington D.C. gets hit with a EMP, and all of the soldiers' red dot sights go down, you know what still worked? The gun itself. It is amazing to think that a modern assault rifle does not require any form of electricity to operate, just a bullet, springs, oil, and a human. Even airsoft and paintball guns require batteries and/or a gas source, but not a good old AK-47, it can operate in the cold thin air of A-stan, just fine. At the moment, the US military's battery operated gear, like the PEQ2, HUD scopes, and NVGs, causes Soldiers and commanders to be concern with their battery supply in the field, just watch HBO's Generation Kill. Something like a Gauss gun would require more batteries and more resupply. At the moment, the chemically propelled projectile is still king...well, until the aliens try to conquer us.  

Examples of Gauss-based weaponry in Science-Fiction:

Eraser (1996)
The EM-1 was a magnetic-based weapon that fired aluminum rounds at the speed of light (HAHA!) and mounted a X-ray scope. It was most likely a Gauss gun in operation.

Gundam and other assorted Anime/Manga:
I am a huge Japanese Anime/Manga fan, been that way since 1979, and the field is littered with the use of magnetic weaponry. Some of it is Gauss, yet is called railguns...sign. There are simply too many to list...

Bubblegum Crisis:
One of my all time favorite Anime series, is the 2031 Bubblegun Crisis, and Priss is my one of my favorite ladies of Sci-fi...One of the weapons mounted in Priss first-gen hardsuit is a needle gun, that appears to use magnetics to fire, most likely Gauss...


One of the best things about growing up in the 1980's was playing old-school games like Battletech and destroying your enemies with a crushing Gauss round. It was bitchin'! This was also my introduction to term and use of Gauss guns.

Starcraft series: the Terran Marine C-14
Much is made of the 8mm spike Gauss slug firing main gun of the Terran Marines...but from an article I read (link below), it appears that the developers of the game fail to realize what a Gauss gun is or how it works...I've seen shell casing eject when the C-14 is firing. Seriously, read the article in the link below it does not disappoint.

The first time I'd ever heard the term 'coilgun' was when I played Quake 2...when the cannon is fired, there is actually a corkscrew pattern that trails the slug! Man, I miss the NIN soundtrack and the nail gun from the first Quake game...

Crysis 1 and 2
I have yet to play these FPS games...which I plan on correcting, but the Crysis games do use a portable Gauss sniper rifle and surprise! It seems to be actually based on real scientific behavior of a real Gauss gun! 

The HALO series:
Countering the Covenant's plasma-based technology, is the UNSC's magnetic-based weaponry, and Bungie actually did research into the operation and use of a Gauss gun in a futuristic military weaponry, like the Warthog 25mm Gauss cannon, to the massive MAC gun mounted on warships and planetary defense stations. I fucking love HALO...

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:
In this classic of early sci-fi, a lunar rebellion uses a Mass Driver catapult as a massive weapon to force Earth to grant their freedom. Most likely, this is one the first uses of a Mass Driver as a piece of off-world space-based artillery

Wing Commander (Game)
In the mid-90's I played all of the excellent Wing Commander games, and one of all time favorite weapons to use against cat-alien fighters was the mass driver. According to the Wing Commander wiki site, the Mk. 30A was a Gatling Mass Driver gun. Sweet! Man, how did that movie suck?

Demolition Man
An H&K G-11 is mocked up to be a some sort of  portable Gauss Rifle, called ""Magnetic Accelerator Gun" in the film. It is noted for being powerful, but off-set with a recharge time, and being a crappy film to boot.

District 9:
The Prawn Repeater Rifle is most likely a Gauss Rifle based on the design and damage

The new 2008 Turok game, while not that great, did have a Gauss "pulse" rifle...wish this game had been better...something things from childhood should stay there.

Fallout 3:
Type the word 'Gauss gun' into google images, and this damn game pops up...I have not played it yet...but it seems that Gauss rifles are throughout the entire Fallout series.

Half-Life series:
It seems that there are few Gauss-based weaponry in the series, like the Tau cannon. I've played (too) much Half-Life, and I don't really see the buggy-mounted cannon being Gauss...damn it! Now, I've gotta play HL2 to check out! Curses!

Babylon 5: 
the Centauri fleet used Mass Drivers to bombard the Narn homeworld back to the stone age in episode The Long Twight Struggle.

X-COM: UFO Defense: 
From various sites and searches, it seems that the human X-COM forces use Gauss weaponry to fight the aliens, which makes me think that the Stargate people may have got their ideas for the railguns used in the series from here...hmmm.. 


Here is a site with homebrew Gauss Pistols:

Here is one of the best articles ever written on the Starcraft Terran C-14 Gauss Rifle:

Here is the link to Battletech Wiki page on Gauss Rifle:

Video of a Rapid Fire Coilgun:

Video of a Rifle-based Coilgun, which is one of the best examples of Gauss weaponry:

One of the coolest and best looking Gauss rifles:


  1. While the actual firing of a gauss weapon would be silent/noiseless, the slug will almost definitely make a big noise.

    Speed of sound is 1100 ft/sec. Compare this to an AK47 muzzle velocity of 2300 ft/sec and you can see that for a gauss weapon to do even equivalent damage you will have a sound barrier cracking boom everytime you fire.

    One of the SF ideas I have seen about gauss weapons that I really liked (in one of Niven's known world short stories) was the ability to dial up and down the velocity of a gauss weapon. Unarmoured targets? Low velocity will have less recoil and save batteries. Armored targets? Just up the velocity....

  2. Yes, you are correct on that...I forgot to mention that the slug would be supersonic, especially when the dlug would be traveling at around 3,000-3,500 m/s. I had a rough draft of this blogpost with the "dialed" power output fitted to a sniper rifle. I should have not posted it at 0600hrs...
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Good article!! You covered most of the possibilities and issues with gauss weapons. Firearms do have the advantages of simplicity and not relying on batteries. I've wondered about how an electromagnetic or laser weapon could be EMP-proofed. If a single EMP would fry your weapon, it would be of little use in all-out war.

    High-velocity slugs could do far more damage due to their high kinetic energy. The ammo would only be the actual slug, not a big shell. However, the weight savings of the smaller ammo would be offset by the heavy power source. Like laser guns, until a portable high energy density power source can be made, man-portable gauss cannons will remain a fantasy.

    One very interesting idea of powering a gauss gun is the EPG cartridge. Explosive power generators are a type of pulsed power generator. These can be used as EMP bombs. EPGs provide very quick pulses of intense energy- exactly what a gauss gun needs. An flux compression generator consists of an explosive charge inserted into or around a coil of conducting wire. The wires are charged from an auxiliary power source and the explosives are detonated. The explosion causes the the coil to generate a brief but intense fluxed magnetic field. The magnetic field is used to produce current in the coil, which can be fed to a device or capacitors in the split second before the wires are destroyed.

    If these EPG's could be made compact and efficient enough, they could be integrated into portable weaponry. EPG cartridges would behave much like modern day cartridges in a gauss gun. The bullet and power source would be integrated into a single cartridge. The "Gauss Bullet" could then be loaded into a magazine and handle much like an ordinary gun. When fired, the explosives in the EPG would give the round the initial "kick" and then energize the coils. Alternatively, the EPG's might be stored in a magazine and detonated separately. I do not know if flux compression generators could be made small and efficient enough to do this, but it seems a logical outgrowth of flux compression generator technology.

    If portable batteries of similar power to what laser weapons would need are available, then they might provide more streamlined operation than EPG's - no explosion, ejected casings etc. I would prefer gauss cannons with powerful batteries. However, the EPG cartridge idea is interesting. Think about it- you wouldn't need to wait for the weapon to charge up!

    The switching problem will have to be solved too.. the coils need to turn on and off very fast so for the projectile won't lose energy. Ruggedizing gauss guns is another question- a weapon that works in the laboratory or test range but fails in the first hour of combat would not be desirable. Obviously, gauss guns have a ways to go before they are practical man-portable weapons.

    -Christopher Phoenix

  4. I really like the idea of a man-portable Gauss Cannon with the power of an anti-material rifle. I always did like the 50. Caliber sniper rifles made by Barrett- and a Gauss Assault Cannon would be even better. The gauss shotgun is a neat idea. Perhaps future gauss weapons could fire a wide variety of rounds at differing velocities. This technology might supplant firearms someday.

    It seems that Gauss weapons could fire a wide variety of projectiles at differing speeds. You could dial your weapon down to subsonic speeds to be stealthy, or fire bursts of flechettes like a shotgun. You could have a hyper-velocity cannon that shoots through armor.

    Eraser really got it wrong when they described the rail-gun as firing projectiles at near the speed of light. I enjoyed Demolition Man- but I was pretty sure the weapon was a particle beam weapon. The screen did say magnetic accelerator weapon. Well, SF writers keep getting gauss guns and particle beams mixed up. It is kind of annoying.

    By the way, the Tau Cannon out of the Half-Life series is not a gauss weapon. It is a particle beam weapon that fires blasts of Tau particles- particles similar to electrons, only heavier and unstable. Originally the makers of Half-Life envisioned the Tau Cannon as a hyper-velocity projectile weapon and named its file "Gauss Gun", and when they changed the Tau Cannon to a particle beam weapon, they neglected to change the file's name. A a result, some gamers still refer to the Tau Cannon as the gauss gun. It fires yellow-white bursts of Tau particles- that isn't a gauss weapon!! The beams look like lightning that follows a straight line.

    I had not heard of the gauss mortar. It is a good idea- subsonic gauss guns will be hard to locate! Not all gauss guns need be hyper-velocity. The ability to dial your guns muzzle velocity up or down depending on the threat would be useful. Some of us might prefer to blast our targets with hyper-velocity bullets regardless of what armor it has, however! It is 2011- where is my Hyper-Velocity Gauss Assault Cannon?

    As always, thanks for the awesome post.

    -Christopher Phoenix

  5. Somebody called SF writers out on their lack of faith in directed-energy weapons. Her is his web page: http://jordan179.livejournal.com/147737.html

    He has a point- it is a bit silly to have a star-faring humanity in the 25th century wielding weapons based on designs that have existed since the 1950's and 1960's. Lasers do have technological issues such as atmospheric distortion, blooming, lack of power supply etc., but assuming that these purely engineering difficulties will remain eternal barriers is silly.

    I do have to point out that the star-farers could carry highly advanced projectile weapons (hyper-velocity bullets!! heat-seeking darts!! antimatter-catalyzed nuclear rounds!! smart bullets!! live insects!? Well that is a bit far-out.) or something even stranger. Not everything has to be phasers and blasters. Of course, laser rifles don't really resemble blasters. Just pointing out that whatever future humans carry will probably be far more than a simple slug-thrower.

    And this is an example of how silly modern day stories portraying interstellar soldiers carrying guns frozen in time somewhere between 1950 and 2000 will look in a few hundred years. Not mine, I borrowed it.

    Rommel peered through his field glasses. The British had deployed on the rise, he saw. It would be a rough battle, but there was no way to go round.

    "Attack!" he ordered.

    Panzer III tanks rumbled forward. The metal monsters were equipped with stupendously huge lances, and even the plate armor of British knights could not stand before them. Their armor, in turn, was proof even against longbows. Such war wagons had broken the French pike phalanxes on the Meuse, and bid fair to win for the Reich at El Alamein now.

    Suddenly the lead tank slewed out of formation, treads unravelling. The cry went up, the one every tanker dreaded ...


    The panzers were helpless, wallowing. And at that point the British reserves charged.

    "For St. George and England!" cried Montgomery, standing atop the lead Sherman, whirling his mighty claymore ...

    Ha ha ha!!! :-)

    -Christopher Phoenix

  6. The idea of a hot-swappable batteries for a Gauss rifle is prefect! My only concern with such a thing is weight...infantrymen are always getting loaded down with more and more kit. I think Gauss guns will be support weapons and/or mounted on vehicles.
    In another one of my novels, I had two characters discuss why they still use bullet-firing guns even in the 27th century. One of the characters talks about the cost of FTL drives, off-world colonization, and is there a need for anything better...modern assault rifles are very good at what they do, and without batteries to boot. I think we when push out, is when the bullets will be replaced...and that's a maybe.
    I looked deeper into the Tau cannon, you're right about that, Mr. Phoenix.
    Thanks for all the comments and reading!

  7. I didn't mean to appear critical of using bullet-firing guns in science fiction. This is a very good trend and shows that modern SF writers are thinking more deeply about the tech in their stories. Some older SF writers though that because a certain technology was newer, it must be superior to older technology. Energy weapons are more "advanced", therefore some SF writers thought energy weapons must be superior to bullet-firing guns. This pattern of though is common in the "Star Trek" spin-offs, where force fields are used as windows, airlocks, and walls even though boring old glass, walls, and airlocks don't disappear when you turn of the power.

    However, I do think future guns will have improved designs. Future assault rifles will be made out of lighter, stronger materials, have higher capacities, shoot more powerful ammunition etc. even if they are based on the same technologies we have today. Eventually, even more exotic weapons may be available.

    It will be a long time before practical ray-guns will be developed, and even then some people may still use slug-throwing guns. However, think about batteries for a moment. Batteries are a means of storing energy. Modern guns store their energy in a powder charge. Batteries have a bad connotation today, suggesting unreliable technology that needs to be recharged often. Future batteries based on nano-technology will have much greater power and capacity. The amount of energy needed to power a laser gun isn't to absurd- todays energy storage tech is absurdly limited. A quote from a discussion on laser pistols: "The only object I can find on hand with a rated energy storage capacity is (don't laugh) a can of soup. It contains 200 "calories" of chemical energy in a form extractable by human metabolism.

    Which is actually quite a lot. If you could efficiently extract that
    energy fast enough to power a laser, you'd be set. Most energy
    storage methods are within the same order of magnitude of J/kg,
    determined by the magnitude of energy involved in chemical bonds.
    Soup, batteries, flywheels, propane, etc. are not greatly dissimilar
    in the amount of energy they can produce per unit mass."

    The main problem with laser pistols, gauss rifles, and other futuristic energy-driven weapons is the lack of a super-battery. However, for electric cars, personal air vehicles, or super-suits to exist you will need super-batteries, thus raising the question of why coil-guns, lasers, and plasma guns aren't used as weapons. You could have a setting in which ray-guns exist on higher-tech planets, but remote colonies use more traditional firearms because they don't have access to the technology needed for ray-guns. Of course, their slug-throwers could appear pretty exotic compared to 20th century guns.

    On the other hand, chemically powered slug-throwing guns are very reliable and effective. If you were going to live on "Planet of the Prehistoric Alien Creatures", a bullet firing carbine might indeed be the best choice, if not the only choice. I don't believe in excluding realistic ray-guns from SF, and in certain settings they may make sense. On the other hand, slug-throwing guns are going to be with us for a long time. I like futuristic assault rifles, so this won't be a problem for me- although I do like ray-guns as well.

    Are the SF revolvers coming up next? I am looking forward to that post. Those old reliable slug-throwers just won't go away- revolvers have been making all men equal since Samuel Colt's original 1836 design. One design I like is the Mateba Auto-Revolver- it looks like something out of Bladerunner. Thanks for the awesome posts!!

    Christopher Phoenix

  8. William here...blogger is being odd...
    Nano-batteries...hmmm...nice bit of work there!
    I think one of the reasons, according to firefly website, that the old style guns were in used was so that settlers would not have to rely on the government for supplies.
    The amount of advancement we have achieved in cell-phones and other portable devices is amazing, just look at the ipad, it very ST:TNG!
    DEW systems are come closer...
    One of the most interesting weapon out in MSF is the MP-35 of the Old Man's War, that uses nano-blocks to load the weapon. I am preparing a whole post on military nano-tech in the next few months.
    The Revolvers is in two posts...still writing it at the moment and just added a special on the Blade Runner pistol! One of my favorite guns of all time.
    Thanks for your thougths, always nice to know someone is reading!

  9. Hello, William! A big reason why the people in Firefly did not use laser guns was because that kind of weaponry was not legal for ordinary people to own. The real reason, of course, is that Firefly was a western in space, so they would use western-style guns. :-) A lever-action rifle can actually shoot very fast- some people refer to them as cowboy assault rifles. The real question is not "How fast can your gun shoot," it is "How fast can you fire accurately?"

    Tonight I am going to watch The 6th Day- the movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character is illegally cloned. A lot of SF explores the social consequences of a certain technology, like Gattaca, Strange Days, and The 6th Day.

    SF is very powerful at exploring how humans interact with technology, and what the benefits and dangers might be. Many times these predictions come true. Larry Niven wrote about organlegging- kidnapping someone, stealing their organs, and selling them illegally to provide transplants to wealthy people- and now I have heard reports of this crime occurring in Mexico. Cheerful.

    The trailer of The 6th Day showed Arnie and the bad guys using some sort of directed-energy pistol. I'm not sure what manner of directed energy weapon it is supposed to be. I saw a bluish blast shoot out of the gun and strike the target, destroying it. Somewhere someone said it was a laser, however these guns does not behave like lasers. The guns resemble some sort of particle/plasma projector. Bluish blasts shooting out and hurting people- looks like a pulse of vaporized aluminum. It is named the Fwoosh Gun because of the sound it makes- kind of like calling slug-throwers bang guns.

    Naming all ray-guns directed energy weapons it technically accurate but misleading. It would be like calling all modern firearms "bullet guns". A directed energy weapon could be a laser weapon. It could be a particle beam. Perhaps portable firearms and pistols would shoot packets of ionized aluminum. Perhaps masers or sonic weapons are used. Writers need to use specific language when they describe weapons in SF. No one would be satisfied if the writer says the soldiers use "bullet guns". They shouldn't be satisfied if the writer says "directed energy guns" either!! In fact "directed energy guns" is worse because their are so many kinds of directed energy weapons.

    I'm still waiting for those damn nano-batteries, but Michio Kaku showed us a lab in the Lightsaber episode of Sci-Fi Science where a researcher was growing carbon nanotubes- for military applications, of course. These carbon nanotubes grow very quickly and can be used to create batteries that could store tremendous charge- just what a "Fwoosh Gun" needs!!

    Christopher Phoenix

  10. Well, I didn't see The 6th Day after all- Itunes only had the movie to buy, not to rent, and it is cheaper to buy on Amazon. Maybe someday else.

    I looked up organ theft on wikipedia. It seems that the reports of real organ theft have turned out to be rumors- or did they? Crime involving smuggling of organs has happened, but not stealing of organs from kidnapped victims. It seems to be a logical that when drugs enable organ transplants between any people that there will not be enough to go around and someone is going to end up a liver shy...

    Hopefully this will not be the case. Research is ongoing on the subject of re-growing organs. Someday soon it will be possible to use someones DNA to grow new organs for them- their organs, made from their DNA, not organs donated or stolen from someone else. Almost any organ (other than the brain!) could be grown and used to replace damaged parts. This would be a boon to critically injured and crippled space marines.

    The amount of advancement we have achieved in portable electronics is amazing. Laptops, Ipods, Ipads, etc. are very powerful for their size. In the near future we will see wearable computers, digital screens that fold up, retinal displays, augmented reality... Future soldiers will be able to carry a fold up screen to display maps and other information. Future space explorers could have PDA's with sensing devices- tricorders? There might even be digital augments on guns- fire control systems, neural interface etc. LIke the smartguns out of Aliens!!

    However, batteries have not improved much. There have been some advancements, but the same issue that kept Edison's electric car from being accepted over Henry Fords internal combustion engine still plagues electric cars today. What is needed for future technologies like electrically powered Personal Air Vehicles is better energy storage. Perhaps laptops could come charged with all the energy they would ever need- or they could recharge themselves using solar energy or movement. An electric PAV could transport you to your destination. Robots could roam freely. Ray-guns could be common. Soldiers could wear super-suits. The key to the future- the super battery!!

    Christopher Phoenix

  11. I remember the horror of gangs running around stealing organs from unluck victims in the 1987 Max Headroom series...

  12. Just saw something neat on Next Big Future (http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/06/darpa-z-man-program-to-enbale-wall.html).

    DARPA's Z-Man program will enable soldiers to climb on walls without using ropes or ladders. They are developing biologically-inspired climbing aids to let soldiers scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials. In 2010, DARPA demonstrated a fully loaded soldier(300 lb.) wearing detachable pads (magnets and microspines) scaling 25 foot walls built from mission dependent materials.

    The microspines and magnetic switching concepts enable strong reversible adhesion using van der Waals forces or by hooking into surface asperities. The materials and concepts were scaled up into a novel climbing aid optimized for efficient human climbing. The demonstration proved the technical feasibility of an unloaded soldier to climb vertical walls of multiple surfaces constructed of typical building materials. This has never been done before and significantly outperformed the current state-of-the-art.

    Fear future soldiers climbing your walls and blasting you with hyper-velocity rounds form their gauss "pulse" rifles in the dark!! They can climb the highest walls and see in the dark with sophisticated thermal sensors. These soldiers have learned from geckoes and spiders. Our insect friends will no longer have the advantage on us!!!

    I'm going to cover my evil fortress of evil with teflon. I'd like to see the marines climb on that. : ) If the teflon is too expensive, you could always try a medieval solution to unwelcome soldiers crawling on your walls- pour boiling oil on them.

    On the other hand, you could escape the organ-stealing gangs by climbing the wall of a high building. If they've cornered you in a dark alleyway, you can climb the walls like a gecko- that would be a lifesaver. Not to mention that it would be fun!! I can predict a bright future for this technology. When your Personal Defense Weapon runs out of bullets, just climb a wall with you wall-climbing suit.

    Christopher Phoenix

  13. Wall-climbing suits...hmmm...That deserves a blog post! That would change the battlespace from X/Y to X/Y/Z! Vertical warfare!
    This would be much better than Jet-packs, special ops troopers could use these rather than noisey ropes. I am working on a post about the future of personal equipment of soldier...I will add this! Thanks Mr. Phoenix.

  14. You're welcome, William. I keep an eye out for futuristic military technologies. DARPA gets into a lot of crazy things. Sometimes their plans are stranger than fiction...

    I would not use a jet-pack if I wanted to sneak up on someone. A wall climbing suit would be much better. I am still working on those teflon-coated walls for my secret fortress. Maybe I will build an under-water base. How might future soldiers fight underwater? Perhaps with sonic weapons, futuristic super-cavitation torpedoes, and those cool guns Captain Nemo's crew had- the ones that shot leydan balls. I love 20'000 Leagues Under the Sea.

    Jet-pack troopers would have truly X/Y/Z warfare, but they might present easy targets. Of course, truly useful jet-packs don't exist yet. You would not a compact, high-energy density power source. Michio Kaku grouped super-suits, flying cars, jet-packs, and ray-guns in the same category. They are all technologies waiting for the super-battery. Jet-pack troopers with ray-guns, wearing super-suits and spending shore leave driving fast flying cars all will thank the super battery, hand-held fusor, Naqahdah, etc.

    I look forward to your post on wall-climbing suits. It is a neat technology. Kind of reminds me of the Spider-Man movie- that scene where we see a close up of Peter's hands growing tiny hooks to grip the wall. Insect man!!
    Now all I need is a sticky hook to grab bad guys with, so I can winch them up to the ceiling.

    Christopher Phoenix

  15. hi, my name is ryan, and I am researching gauss weaponry, cause I am attempting to make my own, and I have found many things, that can be purchased over the internet, that is very close to many sci-fi writers imagine of. there are a lot of technology that is actually as strong and futuristic as the sci-fi writers imagine of. For example, a ni-cad battery is what many people used for portable units, and when the lithium ion battery came out, it really made things such as the ipad possible, now, look at the size of the battery in an ipad, and read the voltage output, and maH, lithium ion compared to ni-cad, is really amazing, and, if configured right, a battery, made up of lithium ion, or lithium polymer cells, arrayed properly, has the ability to make a battery as strong as a 12 volt lead acid battery in the size of a soda can, now, that makes me wonder, why do we still use lead acid I cars? its a pretty terrible source, its toxic, its large, its really like comparing a bow and arrow to a...well... a gauss weapon, the reason y they still use them is cause of simplicity, i would imagine, and they have been around for many years, and are trusted by many more people than a lithium ion battery pack, the technology is already out, it is just either not trusted enough, to much of a price tag to make, or concealed by the government, and another thought, the military is always ten years ahead of the public in technology, it has to be, in order to hide it from other countries or enemy's, now... they may already have made a ray gun, or other form of weapon as that, but, the good old fashion gunpowder and slug concept, is actually not a bad source, compared to a ray gun, you can still make a ton of damage with an explosive round, and can ignite items on fire with tracer rounds, a plasma gun is really only a burning material, that's what a plasma is, and plasma guns that have been made now, and videos i have seen about them on YouTube, i have concluded, that no matter what, there is a gunpowder round that exists that can do more than that ever will, so, in my personal opinion, a plasma rifle, such as the ones in halo, wouldn't be the best choice, but, imagining that there is another planet, with different starts on technology and what not, compared to ours, and this is just a personal thot, but imagining they have the same time line as we do, and concentrated more on metals than fire as cavemen, they would have discovered electricity first, before a firework, they might have been able to make a working light bulb before gun powder, and that's y the idea of another life form, such a the covenant in halo, have plasma rifles other than a powder and slug charge, that's just a thought however,

  16. sorry, I had to make two posts, lol

    it doesn't seem to far fetched, and if we do have alien invasions in the near future, they might actually have a tough time dealing with a barett 50 cal sniper rifle, i mean, that thing is accurate to 2 to 3 miles! Its portable, and can fire as fast as the user can reload it, an m-16 would be tuff to fight against to, and that weapon has been used for a long time, i believe that if we have a hostile contact with another life form, they wouldn't be concentrating on combat with hand held weapons, they would either just send down viruses or other forms of warfare other than face to face urban or rural combat, and they also would probably concentrate more on defense more than their own weaponry, they would figure out what would defend them from our weaponry, and, if aliens do invade, they would be very ignorant to just go on, trying to take over, cause, they would not know our technology, and would not know our weaponry, and know if their defense's would be able to deflect our weaponry, so, they would most defiantly take time in learning what we have, but, that's off the topic, i was just answering the fact of an invasion in my personal opinion, lol, sorry, but back to the technology and gauss weaponry, im making, well, attempting to make a fully automatic coil gun, that has a 3 stage coil system, and, i am personally going to array lithium ion batteries and i have calculated, that with the proper array, i can pull out 1 amp, at about 12 volts, 1 amp is kind of a lot, and at 12 volts, it is a very strong, sturdy power supply for a coil gun, so that power supply isnt to much of a problem, and is also very compact, the endurance of the weapon is a problem, i mean, if i was being shot at with about 20 or 30 AK-47"’s i defiantly would not want the coil gun, i would rather have an M-4, or other weapon that is used in modern warfare, i would choose that, cause, if i drop it, or if it is shot, it would still work, and ya, you can make a coil gun to be strong, and simlify the weapon so that solders in combat could be able to easily operate, and work the weapon, however, it isnt trusted as much as an M-4, its really just the solders choice of weaponry, in a recon mission, or a stealth mission, it is a very good weapon, and, personally, i think that they will come out with on for the military very soon, a gauss weapon, that is very reliable, adjustable, and also universal, practical, and trusted, would be used very soon, thanx for the post, oh, and the can of soup idea, thats also another good idea, but, i believe that people are looking for a power source that is rechargeable, and does not need a fuel or form of consumable material, but, the can of soup, would actually be an amazing power source, and if you can concentrate it, and use the calorie's, in some way, and convert it into heat or electricity, it would be a very large power source, but that technology doesn't exist...yet. thanx again for the post, and im sorry for my cave men like grammer, lol, and spelling many words incorrectly, but, from what i have learned from making the coil gun, has really put a lot of thought about why isnt this weapon in the military yet? and the posts have gave me a new look on why, i didnt think of how well a bullet shell works compared to a lazer gun or coilgun.

  17. Thanks for the comment and research Ryan! Welcome to FWS!
    The movie Battle: Los Angeles shows us that some healthy doses of 5.56mm can be lethal, no matter what planet your from.
    Gauss guns are not yet a military reality, however Rail guns are being tested for the US Navy and appear to be on track for depolyment. For Gauss guns to become a reality, there would have to be the need...and I imagine they would fielded as the big gun for tanks and portable anti-armor weapons for the infantry.
    Thanks for posting

  18. Hello Ryan, and welcome to FWS! It is quite possible that an actual alien invasion force would be immune to bullets. When you are flying from star to star, you will encounter quite a bit of debris (micrometeoroids, space debris, etc. ) that could damage or destroy your ship- like the movie Pitch Black, where bits of a comet or meteoroids punch through a commercial star-ship, perforating unfortunate passengers in suspended animation. Outer space is like a shooting gallery- the space shuttle has had its main windows damaged by bits of space debris. Imagine waking up from cold sleep to find your chest perforated and air leaking from the ship before you die horribly- that is what I would not like about suspended animation. You might never wake up, or worse wake up to find that something went terribly wrong- and that you are dying slowly.

    The aliens would probably have developed some shield, like the deflectors in Star Trek, that would keep their ship form being destroyed by space debris. When a star-ship travels at near-light-speed, dust grains will have the force of atomic weapons, kicking up lethal x-rays as they pass through its bulk-head- and crew- at near-light-speed. Induced cosmic rays- protons the ship is hitting at near-light-speed- could fry the ship. Real star-ship designs often include schemes to keep the ships from being fried by induced cosmic rays and smashed by dust grains. These shields might be useful in warding off human weapons.

    In order to survive the dangers of deep space travel, the alien ship might be so well shielded that a turbo-laser is the only way to penetrate its armor. Interstellar space is probably pretty dirty, filled with comets and dust grains and who-knows-what-else, so this shielding would be quite necessary. And remember- aliens would have harnessed the power of a star to power their ship and propel it across space. We are probably screwed if they show up- do you think we could fight of an Imperial Star Destroyer with our present state of technology?

    You could argue that alien shielding would be of little use to aliens on the ground. This is ignoring the fact the aliens could exterminate us from orbit with energy weapons- or simply hurl a relativistic impactor at us from a great, safe distance- perhaps they won't leave their ships at all. Then again, if ground combat was necessary, they could use robotic drones. Assuming that ground combat is necessary, and robot drones are not available, the aliens body armor may be much better than ours. We are now working on much better bullet-proof vests- like dragon skin, and alien tech will be better. I have even seen a project creating bullet-proof SKIN!!! They are mixing spider webs into skin to create bullet-proof skin. Maybe the aliens are naturally resistant to bullets. It is probably time to create a lethal microwave ray-gun to kill alien grunts...

    Of course, more powerful guns- like rail-guns- might work on the aliens. Present day guns don't send their projectiles very fast. Just because an alien is immune to bullets doesn't mean they are immune to kinetic energy.

    Christopher Phoenix

  19. On the concept of plasma guns, Ryan, they are in some ways a flawed concept. Most plasma guns in SF shoot slow moving blobs of hot gas. In reality, these blobs would expand and dissipate, coming to a stop due to collisions with air molecules. StarDestroyer.net has a very good essay on why plasma weapons are infeasible- the plasma will bloom, the plasma has to be contained and propelled, the plasma does not have enough momentum to keep moving through the air, etc.

    I suspect that MIke Wong has his own reasons to hate plasma guns, however- he doesn't want people to conclude Star Wars blasters are a type of plasma weapon. Compared to phasers, particle beam weapons that cause chain reaction in their target, causing it to break apart into a shower of neutrinos, plasma based blasters would be very primitive. Plasma pulse guns became obsolete in the first episode of Star Trek Enterprise... why didn't the creators of Star Trek Enterprise just use man portable laser weapons?

    Some plasma guns in SF shoot very fast moving bolts and streams. They still need a lot of containment- wikipedia has a whole article on plasma weapons that outlines various containment schemes. I have seen a few real weapons projects that resemble plasma guns, but nothing man portable. Shiva Star was a plasma launcher of sorts, and Casaba-Howitzer would have speared its target on a lance of nuclear fire- plasma. It seems that there is realistic way to use plasma weapons- the "plasma particle beam" approach, in which case the "plasma weapon" resembles a net-neutral charge particle beam weapon. Needless to say, plasma weapons require more power than any handheld device can supply, highly focused magnetic bottles, and linear accelerator, and some means to hold the plasma together once it has left the gun. Plasma guns are "scientifically difficult"- I won't go so far as to say they are totally impossible, but I will say the generic blob of plasma gun is rather unrealistic. The idea of launching the plasma bolt through a magnetic accelerator is a feasible idea, but the plasma will still dissipate unless means of containing it can be found.

    By the way, I used the can of soup example to show how primitive our battery tech really is. I was also demonstrating that ray guns will not require unfeasibly powerful power supplies- the energy of a can of soup would be enough, if it could be extracted and used to power a laser. I didn't say that space marines would stick a can of soup in their gun, however entertaining that image is. Ray-guns are not remarkable just because of the energy they use- it is the rate at which they can deposit that energy. In all fairness though, you will need a very powerful battery to get the kind of destruction SF ray guns demonstrate.

    If you ever have seen a video of a laser burning through metal- or read about the LHC beam dumps, you will have a little more respect for directed energy weapons. The military today has succeeded in generating a hundred kilowatts of laser power and overcoming blooming to destroy small drones, bombs, etc. The real problem is that current devices are too huge and inefficient to be portable, and they don't have the power to blast a target to bits. Current "heat rays" only cook an airframe till it fails, or heat a bomb till it goes "pop". We are not capable of creating lasers to cause near-instataneous incineration like HG Wells heat rays, or instantly fatal death rays like pulp SF stories I used to read. Hand held ray guns and phasers remain pipe dreams- but that does not mean they are impossible forever.

    Admiral William D. Leahy, then Chief of Staff to the President, had this to say about the atom bomb: "That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives." (The Truman Memoirs) A short time later, an atomic bomb vaporized a hundred thousand people.

    Christopher Phoenix

  20. The best work on plasma weapons is Chris Shields' Terminator 2029 website, which gives a detailed plan on how the plasma weapons work in the Terminator movies, including see shell casing eject in Terminator 2.
    Oddly, I wrote the original article on Trek wiki on the Enterprise plasma handgun, the EM-33...

  21. The Star Trek Enterprise writers were staggeringly unoriginal in terms of weapons. The "phase-plasma pulse rifle" has been a staple of SF for a long time. Plasma guns in works like The Terminator fire high-velocity streams of star-hot plasma, unlike the slow blobs presented in Babylon 5 and Star Trek Enterprise- which is far more realistic.

    In Star Trek Enterprise, they first armed the crew with plasma pulse pistols- and them jumped directly to "Phase Pistols", phasers with low blood pressure (stun and kill, but no disrupt or vaporize settings), despite the fact that anyone who watched the original series know the precursor to phaser weapons were hand lasers. We don't see any hand lasers or laser rifles ever in Star Trek Enterprise. Several times we were confirmed that lasers were the precursor to phasers. In "The Cage", the landing party uses hand lasers, and later a large laser cannon. In "A Private Little War", Uhura wonders why the Klingons didn't give the natives more advanced weapons, like automatic firearms or old-style hand lasers. (No, I didn't need to reference Memory Alpha to cite those examples- I remember Star Trek TOS that well) : )

    I would have like to see the laser rifles that were the precursors to phasers in Star Trek Enterprise. Given sufficient advances in nano-batteries and ultra-capaciters, we could have our own rudimentary laser rifles of 100 kilowatts before 2050- maybe. Right now, the capacitor equivalent of an AAA battery is a 6in. by 2in. can. According to John Schilling, laser rifles will use a pulsed laser action to create steam explosions and penetrate the human body. Perhaps a laser would need to do this, but perhaps not. I do not know how much power continuous wave laser needs to burn a hole in a human body- info is lacking, although I have heard that the vehicle mounted Electro-Discharge Laser could penetrate a human easily.

    According to the Encyclopedia of Science, Gene Roddenberry's originally intended the Phaser to be a combination of a laser and particle beam weapon. Thus, a discharge of accelerated electrons could stun an opponent, or a large discharge of coherent energy coupled with heavier particles could vaporize something or someone. This would be a substantial improvement over laser pistols, and also explains how phasers are descended from laser weapons- the phaser added a particle beam to the beam.

    Given a few centuries, such a development is likely- although the discharge of such a device would not be neat, tidy, and bloodless like it is in Star Trek. Vaporizing a human would make a large cloud of hot vapor, and an ash pile would probably be left behind- unless the weapon fired special "disruption particles" that disrupted atomic nuclei into a show of neutrinos.

    Christopher Phoenix

  22. Maybe I should began work on my very own laser rifles and phaser pistols. I seem to have a working explanation for their behavior, at least.

    The Laser Rifle Mk 1 (aka the Mercury Laser) will use advanced nano-batteries and ultra-capacitors to hold an immense charge. The ultra-advanced 99% efficient solid-state laser will convert this charge to a coherent energy beam. The rifle will boast 100 Kw of power, enough to burn through anything or anyone. Each burst of laser radiation will be lethal up to a range of a few hundred meters, and capable of dazzling or blinding beyond that. Earth's first working laser rifle!!

    The Laser Rifle Mk 2 (aka Photon-Scorcher) is an improved version. It holds more charge, fires faster, and requires less cooling due to advances in its power supply and capacitors. The Photon-Scorcher boasts new features- it has a reflex aimsight, stun setting (fires discharge of electrons down beam), and fan beam. This laser can cut you in half or char you to ash. An elegant weapon from a more civilized age...

    The Laser Pistol Mk1 is a more compact version of the laser rifles for use as a sidearm. It has less power, but is still quite powerful enough to kill.

    The Phaser Mk1 is a revolutionary new weapon, and a step beyond simple laser beam weapons. The Phaser fires a beam of light that can have a variety of effects, from stunning to vaporizing an enemy. The Phaser is a combination between a particle beam and a laser. The stun setting fires a discharge of accelerated electrons. The kill setting fires a stronger discharge of accelerated electrons to kill. The disrupt/vaporize settings fire a powerful beam of coherent light coupled with a discharge of heavy particles to vaporize someone or something.

    Mercury Laser Arms (the inventor of laser guns and Phaser rifles) is confident Phasers will become the standard weapon for space explorers- especially once the more powerful Phaser Mk2 and Phaser pistols come out, instead of those primitive slug-throwers. : )

    Christopher Phoenix

  23. Just to clarify. Gauss technology was introduced in the sequel to X-Com:UFO Defense.

  24. Thanks for the clarification and you are correct, I should have checked that better.

  25. Well, honestly, I think railguns will find a us in the military before Gauss guns. But I like Gauss guns and they really need a god power source, maybe like in Fallout, MICROFUSION CELLS! They would get spent after a couple of shots because there lifetime is pretty small, after all, fusion can't be contained for long in a tiny space.

  26. Sci-fi loves those micro-fusion/fission cores don't they? Yep, I agree and so does the US Navy, rail guns will be a reality in a few years!

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  28. One of the Gauss applications I haven't seen ever documented is the device used in Snowcrash. I have no idea if the physics described in that book were valid, but the overall concept was interesting. The gun in that case actually had a backpack of metal filings, and the particles were accelerate by either coil or rail, not sure. Personally, I would think that there would be particle remnants that would heat up and gum up the barrel, but not sure.

  29. I will have to research that Gauss gun! One of the issues of accelerating metal filings would be integrity of the metal itself being propelled at high velocity. If the metal projectile was not strong enough, it would create an metal powder. Thanks for sharing this example!

  30. One benefit to Gauss weapons over chemical firearms on vehicles is the boon reactivity of your projectiles. You don't have to worry about your magazine detonating, since it's just inert projectiles.

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. Correction: The Tau cannon from Half-life is not a Gauss gun, it is a particle accelerator weapon that fires Tau particles.

  33. The recharging is not true, I have seen a man fire a real life gauss rifle 20 times. It destroyed four cans, a laptop. And the gauss rifle`s muzzle velocity was a .22 LR caliber!! You guys are stupid..