25 March 2011

The FWS Armory-The Return of the Bullet

FWS is creating a new ongoing series about the weapons of military science fiction. In the first offering, we present, the good old chemically propelled projectile firearms that we know and love and been killing with since the arquebus.
-"Lt, what does Pulse Rifles fire?"
-"10mm explosive tipped caseless, standard light armor piecing rounds."

When the future of warfare was considered by early sci-fi writers, the domainate theroy seemed to be that energy-based weaponry would be the future of weaponry. They must have reasoned that if mankind could travel to the stars, then why would there not be a ray-gun in their hand? This view was even more reinforced by Star Trek and Star Wars into the minds of the general public.Then, in 1986, ALIENS was release, and besides becoming one of the groundbreaking classics of military sci-fi, it caused writers to rethink the future of weapons.

The 1980's
From the time of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it seemed that  every pulp sci-fi characters used some sort of raygun, then in 1977, Star Wars gave us the laser blaster coupled with very cool special effects, and then everyone expected to see a blaster from then on.
Then something changed in the world of sci-fi weapons...
At the outset of the 1980's, major studios released Outland and Blade Runner. Both showed the use of conventional bullet-firing weapons. In Outland, Sean Connery's character uses a 12 gauge shotgun when dealing with some hitmen.The director, Peter Hyams, said "there won't be a ray-gun in sight." Bold choice for an era when audiences wanted to see colorful deadly energies flashing around the screen. Some critics say that Outland's use of shotguns doomed the film to failure.
The other major early bullet-fring gun in sci-fi was the 2019 Pflager Katsumata Detective Special handgun, which maybe either a .44 or .357, Harrison never reloaded it on-screen. The prop-gun was constructed from a Steyr-Mannlicher Model SL and a Carter Arms Bulldog Revolver (also used for WASP from AVATAR). The 2007 remastered version of Blade Runner clearly had the gun report remixed to sound more 'revolver-like'.
Both of these film were made by directors that do not select props on whim, they wanted to their guns to be traditional, railing against the standard sci-fi concept of the day.
In 1986, James Cameron forged a realistic United States futuristic Marine Corps based more on Vietnam than NASA. Cameron is very deliberate with his movies and the caseless M41 Pulse Rifle was an attempt (in my opinion) to make ALIENS look different than the clean futures with guns that have a stun setting. He also was presenting caseless ammunition that was not widely known by the general public, giving the viewer something else to consider besides blaster, setting ALIENS apart from the mainstream. 
Japanese Anime and Manga were also starting to warm up to the idea of using traditional firearms. In the military sci-fi Anime epic of Robotech, the human defenders' mecha used massive handheld rotary cannons, complete with brass splitting out, and even the alien battlepods used machine-guns to attack infantry.
But, the clear leader in this field is Masamune Shirow.
His Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell manga works would bring a the little-known FN P90 to Japanese and American readers, via his fictional Seburo arms company. Shirow often favors police/military hostage rescue teams, that fight in close-quarters, using guns that fire 5mm or 6mm to defeat body armor, which showed that Shirow was ahead of his time, seeing the current tread of weapon manufactures abandoning the 9mm for smaller, high-velocity bullets.
Also pushing the bullet was the pen-and-paper RPG. In the 1980's, (for those who don't remember the 80's), the pen-and-paper RPG was hot, and there was vast crop of military science-fiction themed RPGs, like Traveller 2300, OGRE, GEV, Battletech, Rrifts,and Warhammer 40,000. Because of the nature of RPGs, the gamers needed more choices in weaponry than a movie or TV show could display or need. Along with RPGs have a system for every weapon having postive and negatives.
These works would lay the foundation for future sci-fi writers to use bullets instead of beams.

The 1990's
Paul Verhoeven opened the 1990's sci-fi films with Arnold Schwarzenegger using bullets to bloody effect in Total Recall and this, like his later Starship Troopers and previous Robocop, Vernoeven used convential firearms for his beloved ultra-violence to ensue. This would open the 90's to being a period when bullets started to overtake energy beams in major films, Manga, and Anime. This decade saw the three major science-fiction works that had soldiers using bullets in Space: Above and Beyond, Ghost in the Shell, and Starship Troopers.
In SAAB, the US Marine Corps of 2063 uses the M-590 assault rifle that fired a standard NATO 7.62mm round  and modified 9mm Glock pistol. Most every weapon used in the series was a conventional firearm, save for the shipboard and alien weaponry. The TV show and military concepts were ahead of its time, and this gun may have given rise to the MA5B rifle in the HALO games.
Ghost in the Shell got the big screen animation treatment in 1995, and gun designer Mitsuo Iso retrofitted several real-steel guns for the world of 2029 Hong Kong, such as the CZ-100 handgun, the Mateba Model 6 Unica, the Jericho 941, and the carbine (see in the picture) is a combination of the FN F-2000, FAMAS, and FN P90. With Ghost in the Shell being a massive success, it allowed the concept of ballistic weaponry in the future to be seen to a wider audience (especially me). The Japanese creators and animators took notice, and one can see a upswing in the use of firearms in Manga and Anime after 1995. 
When Paul Verhoeven finally brought the founding classic Starship Troopers to the screen 1997, he abandoned both the 1987 Anime and the 1958 book interruptions of futuristic weaponry. Instead, he gave the Mobile Infantry the 7.62mm firing Mortia bullpup rifles. When seen on-screen, the unleashing of a hail of lead at the monstrous bug armies, complete with ejected brass, working bolts, muzzle flashes, made for a bold visual style.
Conventional firearms where used in the 1997 sci-fi classic, the Fifth Element, and the big screen verison of the British dark comic Judge Dredd. As the 90's closed, the Stargate SG-1 TV show pitted small human teams using MP-5 SMGs (later, the P90) against energy-wielding enemies, of course, this was done mainly due to the contemporary nature of the humans. Stargate would broadcasting the 5.7mm P90 to a much wider audience.

The 21st century
Most early sci-fi writers would have thought that by the 21st century, our soldier would be frying their enemies with laser instead of bullets. In reality and fiction, the new century is firmly planted the flag for bullets over beams. For the majority of science-fiction works in the 21st century, traditional firearms are featured, like HALO series of video games and books, the new Battlestar Galactica, the Killzone video games, the APU suits of the last two Matrix films, Avatar and Firefly.
In one of the biggest military sci-fi movies in the 21st century (so far), Avatar, the human company RDA personal weapon of choice is the CARB (Cellular Ammunition Rifle Base). The CARB allows a base 6.25x35mm carbine to be configured into several versions, and along with attachments to be mounted. The heavier RDA offensive system are also chemically propelled projectiles, from the AMP suit to the mounted machine guns.The trend of chemically propelled weapons contines with the big-budget Terra Nova FOX TV show.
In these first images of the show, we can see that the humans that have travel back into time, are using some sort bullet-firing carbine against the dinosaurs. The return of the bullet mae an appearance in the Japanese live-action version of Space Battleship Yamato movie, the marines and crew of the Yamato are using a dressed-up version of the H&K G36C, over the laser-pistols of the original 1970's anime classic.
However, the best example of the sea change from blasters to the more traditional firearm is when comparing the new Battlestar Galactica and the classic Battlestar Galactica. In the classic 1978 series, the Colonial Warriors used a very-Star Wars blaster, then in the 2003 new Galactica, the marines, pilots, and crew of the old Battlestar use the FN Five-Seven (5.7mm) pistol with a micro-grenade launcher.
This trend in science-fiction will be the use of bullets over beams for sometime.

"Bullets over Beams"
The choice that an military science fiction creator makes about the weapons used (and not used) in their work speaks volumes about their fictional universe. How the characters and readers will interact within this universe, and somewhat about the author themselves So, why the big switch? Some sci-fi creators, like Peter Hyams, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott used the bullet to contrast their early films from the juggernauts of Star Trek and Star Wars. Bungie used bullet-firing weapons in both the Marathon and HALO series to contrasting the massive technologically gap between mankind and their enemies. This may also be the reason, that the Stargate series used traditional firearms, even after mankind has access to direct-energy weaponry.
James Cameron's Avatar had a superior human force, the RDA using conventional bullets against the Na'vi. In the technical manual, James Cameron's Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide, the reason behind the use of older-style weapons by the RDA on Pandora, is the planet's odd magnetic fields screwed up the more advanced magnetic-based weaponry.
When it comes to Anime and/or Manga,like Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed, Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, some use sound military reason, like Ghost in the Shell.  In most cases, the choice comes off as an attempting to mimic to the John Woo/Quentin Tarantino influence.With films like Starship Troopers and the Fifth Element, the reason could style, or money. Retrofitting a futuristic casing on a blank firing prop-gun may be less costly than special effects.
One of the RN's I work with, Gene stated to me, "the reason may be, that the slug thrower is more esoteric than a laser weapon or particle beam to the reader, because your imagination tends to work best when there is element of reality. Most people when they talk of violence, are overwhelmed with how guns work today, with gun control, school and church shooting and even personal experience. It effect your life in real ways that you can see. Also,if it isn't broken why fix it? Why switch to an proven laser technology, when a ballistic weapon works? Just look at the AC-130 gunship, the Army as the money to mount an airborne laser on a C-1330, but the AC-130 Gunship still effective on the battlefield."
One of my friends, David, who also works with me at the hospital, and is quite the sci-fi academic, said this: "Slug-throwers are simple, foolproof, and proven...simply, they work. Readers have a disbelief with Direct-energy weapons, there too expensive and unproven."

Why I chose "bullets over beams"
99% of my Hard Military Sci-Fi, the soldiers carry some sort of kinetic energy weapon.

Here are my three reasons:
1. The truth is bullets are much easier for a writer: I can read accounts of soldiers describing of what incoming sounds like, what shooting a human with a gun can do.
I work in an Trauma ICU, I've seen what a bullet can do.
I play paintball, I can take that experience and help write combat scenes, and what a weapon feels like during those times. I have been shooting since I was 8 or 9, I know what a gun smells like, feels like, and how it behaviors. I can go onto youtube and watch a certain caliber fire and read how it behaves.
I don't know what a laser or plasma rifle feels like, how it would behave under combat conditions. What soldiers think of using them, or what they sound like being fired at you. You have to know someone with a massive and expensive degree for them to truly understand what a weapons grade laser be like in firm reality.

2. The Bullet still works: It is my belief that the future armed forces will, for the next few hundred years, will be using chemically propelled projectiles...because of one reason...they work.
Since the bullet took the armor off the Knights of Europe, there has been a tug-of-war between the gun markers and the armor makers. This battle continues today, when modern body armor defeating the smaller pistol rounds.
The arms manufactures answered with  rounds like the 4.6mm and 5.7mm.
At this point in human technological developed, there is not a reason for a government to sink money into personal portable energy weapons.
If we ever get off Earth...and colonize, the steer expensive of that will forfeit the cost of developing some direct-energy rifle, especially if the government's needs are being met by the old style weaponry.
The last reason for my own MSF not having much in the way direct-energy weapons is the amount of damage they deal out. Most sci-fi  gets DEW painfully wrong. Even HALO, with it's loads of games and books lessen the effect of supra-heated hydrogen bolts impacting on human flesh.

3. The grim reality of Directed Energy Weapons: When a writer actually researches DEW and their effect on the battlefield, it gives pause to using them. The only three films, that I know of, fully demonstrate the horror of the impact from either a plasma bolt or laser: Terminator, War of the World (2005), and Predator.
In Terminator, when Kyle and Ferro are moving through the ruins to attack the Skynet ground H/K. Ferro is hit by the tank's heavy plasma cannon, turning into a pink mist with charred clothing.
Here is a quote for the Terminator 2029 website to explain why:
"Wounds from plasma weapons would be akin to severe burns with most organic material of the primary wound site being vaporized.  Fluids would flash to steam, organic material would turn to ash and most direct hit plasma wounds would be fatal in nature"

here is a link to the information: 
In Predator, when Blaine is hit by the Predator's shoulder mounted energy cannon, he blown open. When Dutch and Mac inspect the wound after their deforestation activity, they talk about the wound being "fused" and "cauterized" , and the lack of powder burns. While the energy bolt is mostly likely incorrect, the damage is not.
When seeing the level of damage that a single bolt from an energy-based weapon, it leaves the author limited room to have their characters survive major armed engagements without looking a piece of burned toast, or chucky salsa. Say that you have a combine arms engagement in on a open battlefield with infantry and tanks in support, the moment that the tanks open up with their plasma machine-guns and/or main gun, the blazing hot plasma bolts would burn a path through their own infantry then scourge the enemy troops that are in the open.
Even if they didn't all become pink mist, their armor would be blackened. That's before a direct hit by a plasma round!
The tripods that invade Earth in the big-budget verison of War of the Worlds, they take aim at Tom Cruise with some sort of DEW beam. The effect of these alien weaponry to burst humans into a dust (desiccation effect) from the extreme temperature. All round, humans explode from being swept by these heat beams.


The GryoJet Gun
Gryojet weapons fire about .51 caliber micro-rocket, the gun was noted to be more silent than a convention firearm, and the Gryo-Jet rocket-slug would buildup speed over the flight of the munition, and transfer more impact force. According to claims, the .51 rocket was more devastating than a bullet of similar size, longer ranged, no recoil, and was lighter than a typical .45 pistol. About a 1,000 were made, and some were taken to Vietnam due to the concept and the gun was claimed to work in all manner of environments (space, underwater).
The reason that theses guns did not become new weapon of choice was due to the real-world tests on the Gryojet, which were not good. According to wikipedia:
"Versions of the Gyrojet that were tested suffered from poor accuracy, cumbersome and slow loading, and unreliability (at best, a 1% failure rate was suggested; users quote worse figures, with many rounds that misfired the first time but later fired)"
The US military tested them in the early 1960's and they did not perform to the level of their cost. The company that made them shut their door due to new new gun laws and poor reviews, making the gryoguns a collector's items. They sell for about $1000 and if you wanna fire it, it'll cost a Franklin. While Gryojet concept failed in the real-world, it lived on in the Battletech pen-and-paper RPG, being used an infantry weapon.

The H&K OICW XM29 (Deutschland)
 Hecker&Koch parented with the US Army's Future Force Warrior project to develop a magazine-fed multi-munitions launcher, coupled with cut-down G36 5.56mm rifle fitted with some advanced optics. This concept, called the XM29 was tooled around with throughout the 1990's only to the cancellation in 2004 due to several issues. The smaller 25mm grenade was not effective as the 40mm, the weight, and expense. If one looks at the XM29, they can see the other issues: size and complexity. Cleaning this after a sandy patrol or even in a foxhole while taking incoming would be a bitch. The Army did not want a repeat of the battlefield failures of the M-16 in Vietnam. Also size of the gun would make this difficult to go from a foot patrol to house clearer in close-quarters. Some of the research fueled the development of the M4 carbine.

The H&K G-11 Caseless Rifle (Deutschland)
The H&K G-11 was going to be the next standard rifle of the West Germany Army in the late 80's, and to be the first caseless rifle in military service in the world. The 4.73x33mm caseless round was encased in a block of propellant, and the magazine of 45 rounds was loaded from the front, and cocked the weapon on a crack on the rear. The G-11 was to be the base platform from a light machine gun and pistol, but sadly, when the wall fell and the merger of West and East Germany took place, the money for the G-11 project was needed elsewhere. The gun was tested during the US Army's Advanced Combat Rifle program in the late 80's. There are rumors that the G-11 was also under  consideration for a light-weight light machine gun in 2004, but nothing as come of it. The G-11 is a weapon that can be used in the Call of Duty: Black Ops game.  

AAI Flechette ACR (America)
AAI corporation developed a 5.56mm flechette round firing from combat rifle based around the M16A2 (it is the one on the bottom of the picture) for the Army's Advanced Combat Rifle Program in the mid-1980's. The aim of the ACR Program was to fit a next-gen combat rifle for the US Army and replace the aging M16. The Army liked the idea of a flechette round, due to the lethal ballistics, flatter flightpath, and ability to pierce body armor. However, the ACR project moved in different ways after the tests, developing a cheaper alternative: an upgraded M16...we call it the M4 carbine, and the Special Purpose Rifles.

The Steyr ACR (Austria)
Another flechette firing rifle in the US Army's ACR program was the Steyr ACR. The ACR borrowed a great deal from their advanced AUG rifle, the ACR held less round (24 vs. 30) than the AUG, but had a bottom ejection port. Some research online as revealed that the Steyr ACR prototype would not been selected, due to its extreme cost...some information points to the base gun costing $15,000! The other issue facing the adoption of the AAI and/or Steyr ACR prototypes was the US Army and most likely the entire NATO would have to switch over to the flechette ammunition...causing much expense and supply issues if World War III broke out.   

The redevelopment of the M-16/M-4 (America)
The 5.56x45mm round that as been used in the M-16/M-4 since the 1960's is currently under fire from firearm expects and soldiers. Arms company have been responding with retooling the M16/M4 platform to fire a number of rounds, from 6.8mm, .338, 7.62x43mm, .50 Beowulf, .458 SOCOM, .264 warrior magnum, 6.5mm Grendel, and even 6.25mm PDW concept. None of these have been formally adopted by the US military, however, some SPECOPS groups have been rumored to using one or all of these at different times.

FN P90 PDW and the FivseveN pistol (Belgium)
In the mid-80's, FN was working on a new theory in weaponry, the Personal Defense Weapon or PDW. The concept had been pioneered by the H&K MP5K, and but with body armor able to withstand 9mm rounds, FN developed an entirely new bullet, basically a cut-down 5.56mm, coupled with a bold new design.
Today, the P90 is becoming the new PDW of choice for the US Secert Service, SWAT units, SPECOPS units, and close protection contractors. The gun as become a favorite on the new Battlestar Galactica and Stargate.  
The FiveseveN is the embodiment of Mr. Shirow M5 5mm pistol weapon concepts in Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. Shirow's little workhorse pistol could be used like a PDW, defeating hostiles in close-quarters. The same could be said of the FiveseveN, its 20-round magazine and specially developed bullets allow it to be a PDW.

H&K MP7 (Deutschland)
With FN getting all the attention of its forward thinking design for the P90 and 5.7mm round, H7K reponsed with its own PDW and new HV round: the MP7 and 4.6x30mm bullet. This PDW was developed for the same reasons as the P90, and there is a pistol verison in the works as well. With the success of the P90, the MP7 is still trying to gain wide spread acceptance, however, with terrorism, there is always work of a good PDW.
The FN F2000 (Belgium)
The 'double loop' design of the P90 was used to create a new 5.56mm assault rifle. The weapon features a sealed body that prevents dust and mud, also the ejection port spits brass out of the front, to allow ambidextrous users.

The "Family" Concept in modern military weapons
Starting in the 1960's with the original concept for the M16 and the Stoner-63, there were to be different verisons based on a base model. This as been carried forward in the H&K XM8, the FN SCAR rifle, and the IDF TAR-21. Modular Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell, and the CARB rifle from Avatar.  

PAPOP (France)
The PAPOP assault rifle is similar to the H&K XM29, combining a smaller grenade launcher to a 5.56mm bullpup rifle. The 35mm grenades will be fed via a two-round magazine, and there are plans for several verisons of the rifle, including a camera on the end of the gun that will fed into a HUD. Once again, much of this is similar to the US Army's Future Land Warrior program. To see the ability of such technology, some of the Ghost Recon games feature the technology.   

Daewoo XK-11 (South Korea)
This is yet another H&K XM29 clone, using very similar technology. However, the air-burst grenades can be targeted via a laser range finder that is tied into "ballistic computer". The idea is allow the smaller 20mm grenades to be shot through windows and such. Some of these have been sold to the export market on a trial basis.

Around the Corner Shooting
 The as been a concept since the Nazi developed an flexible barrel for the STG-44 assault rifle. This is the latest verison that comes in a number of calibers and attachments. The Israelis are interested in the this for close-quarters work, and since there is a video camera attached it could be used for evidence gathering, no word on if it is Blue-Ray.
This weapon is mostly likely will be used by SWAT teams, rather than military, and the cornershot does have less-lethal munitions.
At the present time, there is no ipod connectivity for the cornershot. Sorry.


One of the best hard science sites on the web

The best research gun site on the web

This is an account of an American soldier in Vietnam bring a Gryojet pistol to the jungle

1980's video of the H&K G11, Steyr ACR, the AAI ACR, and the Colt ACR:


  1. Another science fiction work that focused on conventional firearms as opposed to directed energy weapons was the TV series Firefly. Of course, that's to be expected with a show that was meant to be a Western in space.

    That 'verse does have handheld laser weapons, but they are notoriously impractical/unreliable (in one episode, the bad guy has a laser pistol that fires maybe two or three shots before the battery is drained), that everyone just uses weapons that shoot bullets.

  2. I loved Firefly very much!After watching the episode, "Heart of Gold", I did some research, and on one of the Firefly fan sites they talked about the lack of DEW...they said that the people wanting to get away from the central gov't, so they had to live off of the grid, and that meant to abandon the advanced weaponry that was "impractical and unreliable"
    I should have mentioned Firefly more than I did...opps...
    Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. Oh, and I thought how firefly handled the appearance of the laser was very cool...few sci-fi do that.
    I miss Firefly.

  4. I so miss Firefly too! I only just watched it and I have to say it was one of the most amazing sci-fi shows i have ever seen. I was happy to see the realistic firing of the laser. It is nice to see a laser weapon that fires the way a real laser would (a tight beam that instantaneously travels from the weapon to the target) instead of the Star Wars type laser, with slow bolts of energy lancing across the battlefield. Its rather disappointing when sci-fi becomes more fi then sci.

    Live Long and Prosper!
    -A Proud Nerd

  5. Hi, Desert Scribe...

    The bad guy fired more than 2 or 3 shots- he fired an extended shot with a duration of several seconds cutting through the building, fired one shot killing Nandi, and than fires 3 shots at Mal during the chase. The extended shot probably consumed most of the laser pistol's battery, similar to how full auto fire can quickly burn through a soldiers ammo. This wasteful usage of the laser's battery pack doomed Rance Burgess, causing a his weapon to run dry when he needed it most. He was a bad shot, anyway. How can you miss with a laser pistol? There is no recoil, no muzzle blast, direct line of sight firing...

    A real laser pistol would probably cause messy wounds, causing the fluids in human tissue to flash to steam and rip tissue apart. Any flammable object would ignite when hit by the laser. A real laser will make an tight beam that instantaneously travels to the target and may be visible or invisible, depending on the wavelength of the laser and atmospheric conditions.

    Dr. John Schilling is of the opinion that a real laser pistol will fire a series of intense laser pulses in a shot, each pulse creating a steam explosion and a small crater when it hits flesh. A 100 pulses, each carrying the energy of 1 joule and spaced at 5 microsecond intervals, can due similar damage as a bullet with an output energy of a bit over a Kilojoule. If you don't delay the pulses, a cloud of steam will interfere with the beam, absorbing some of the energy.

    I have not seen mentions of pulsing the laser in other discussions of man-portable lasers. One laser engineer says that a 1000 watts of power is more than enough to do some real harm to a human being, and another says such weapons will be very messy- burning deep wounds into human flesh. One thing is certain- a ray-gun needs powerful portable battery pack to work.

    Christopher Phoenix

  6. From the movie Predator:
    Dutch: [examining Blains body] No powder burns. No shrapnel.
    Dillon: The wounds all fused, cauterized. What the hell could have done this to a man?

  7. It's unlikely that a wound caused by a directed energy weapon will be cauterized- the intense heat will explosively boil standing fluids in human flesh, creating an explosion that rips tissue apart.

    If a CW (continuous wave laser) hits human flesh, it causes terrible burns. If the radiant energy reaches 400 J/cm^2, the water in human flesh will explosively boil and the target will be flayed to the bone. Those Martian heat-rays are pretty nasty- still the most realistic energy weapon in SF.

    A pulsed laser "blaster" will fire an intense pulse of laser light, which will super-heat anything it hits. In dry materials like metal, wood, or plastic, it will drill holes. Wet materials will be a different story. The beam pumps a lot of heat into a target all at once, and in the case of water, the fluid will flash into steam. Organic tissue is mostly water.

    So a laser carbine will not make neat little cauterized holes in people. Instead, when the laser beam hits skin and the viscera underneath, the water in the tissue will boil and explode into steam very messily, ripping surrounding tissue apart and possibly spreading third degree burns over much of the surrounding tissue.

    In fact, with laser weapons, it is likely most wounds will be ragged and messy, created by mechanical, not thermal effects. If a laser fires a sustained shot that damages flesh through thermal effects, you will likely see the so-called "popcorn effect", where flesh is cooked until it bursts.

    I suspect most infantry lasers will fire short intense pulses. The real key is to make deep enough wounds to kill- unlike SF movies, where a single zap makes someone fall down dead (unless they are an important character), real lasers have to create deep wounds to reliably incapacitate. Real laser wounds will probably bleed, like knife wounds.

    Here is a link to a site where some people simulated the effects of a laser on flesh- it is pretty gruesome, so be warned. It is just special effects, but is based on actual studies of how intense lasers damage flesh.



    Christopher Phoenix

  8. Just read that, and the reaseach is interesting...so many things with realistic DEW systems, I can see why we, as a planet, have been using bullet KEW...so much easier..

  9. Death rays are actually really complex. First off, until the invention of lasers, creating deadly beams of light was though to be impossible. That didn't stop inventors from attempting to create electromagnetic, sonic, and particle beam "death rays" all through the early years of the 20th century.

    The most famous and intriguing is Nikola Tesla's "Teleforce". Nikola Tesla's main inventions were the entire polyphase AC electrical system, tesla coil, and groundbreaking research on radio waves. He also claimed he received signals from Mars, attempted to transmit electricity without wires, attempted to create an electrical flying machine, and designed a death ray with the purpose of making war obsolete. Now, as then, some people might consider him a crack-pot- but a lot of his more outlandish ideas are mainstream today. SETI embodies some of the same techniques he used to try to receive signals from Mars. Tesla's research on DEW (transmitting non-dispersive energy through natural media) foreshadowed later attempts at creating energy weapons like SDI. Tesla was simply ahead of his time.

    Tesla's "Teleforce" was a macroscopic charged particle beam projector, but unlike our standard definition of particle beam, Tesla's weapon did not project subatomic particles like electrons, protons, or ions. The "Teleforce" operated by building up a massive electrical charge, ionizing mercury droplets or small particles of tungsten vapor, and then projecting these atomic bullets at extreme velocity- 48 times the speed of sound. The particle gun's beam would be one atom thick and self focusing in the atmosphere. This weapon would focus immense energy on a tiny point- enough to shoot down a group of bomber planes or cause an entire army to fall dead in their tracks. You can read more about "Teleforce" at this article:

    Tesla, however, resisted calling his device a "death ray" as it projected macroscopic charged particles, not electromagnetic waves. He also explained that a "death ray" would quickly disperse due to the inverse square law- twice as far from the projector, the rays would now be four times less intense. This is only true with point light sources- coherent light from a laser does not obey the inverse square law. That is why a laser gun could project a lethal pencil thick beam of intense light.

    Teleforce set me thinking- what if a handheld gun projected a blast of macroscopic charged particles, like ionized tungsten vapor? Perhaps this is how "laser guns" like what we see in SF shows could work- since the ionized blast superheats the air, we can see it. Since it has kinetic energy, it can penetrate deeply. This is similar to the pulse-guns from Gridlinked. Unlike standard plasma guns, which project ionized atoms as well, these macroscopic particle guns would be primarily kinetic energy weapons- albeit ones with microscopic bullets.

    As for actual death rays, like lasers, we still need very efficient laser tubes and compact power sources to make them practical. Ray-guns represent a much more advanced technology than we have mastered at this point in history, and as you pointed out in your article on bullets vs beams, the impact of a DEW is not pretty. You could simply be burnt to a crisp.

    Christopher Phoenix

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